Orisa could not sleep, but that was to be expected after their conversation. Was her choice to push Onuki the right one? Did she overstep the bonds between the two of them? She felt that what she did was right, but only if looking at a bigger picture. On a small scale, she forced her friend to go through the nightmare yet again and perhaps destroyed their mutual trust.
At a long shot, Orisa solved an ongoing issue that could lead to a disaster. It was a miracle that Onuki managed to perform fair in the Dungeon, and Orisa didn't want to take chances. If something were to happen to Onuki in actual combat, what would they do then? What if she had to carry Kanai on her back to the Infirmary? And could she perform simple bandaging or a change of clothes if needed? It was a disgustingly rational way of looking at things, but what else was there to do?
There was another reason for her intrusiveness, of course, more selfish and pathetic. Orisa could not resist what Onuki was doing to her, and her body longed for more. At fault was not only her hormonal level but a lingering emptiness left by Mirai's absence. Not only Orisa's body but her soul was looking for someone to bond with, for someone to care about and be cared back. Mirai was irreplaceable, that fact could not be changed; Onuki was not a replacement, not a substitution for the lost love. Orisa couldn't articulate what exactly was Onuki's role, but the only thing she knew for sure was that she wanted more. She wanted more of everything that had been going between them until that moment. Was that thanks to Onuki's skills at seducing people? Perhaps it was, but it changed nothing.
Because of these two reasons, Orisa had to know the truth about Onuki and also needed to share her own situation. Another point to consider was Onuki's age; despite her grown-up behavior, she was still just a kid. Back in her old life, Orisa never felt like a grown person, never acted on her age since mentality-wise she was struck somewhere in mid-twentieth at best. Even after taking into account that fact was it alright to go out for real with a kid? Indeed, the hellish life turned Onuki into an adult person at least in some aspects, but was this enough, was this alright?
She had cowardly left the room after saying her part; her excuse was that she wanted to give Onuki some space and time to think about everything. Of course, it was a pathetic excuse to comfort herself and avoid an immediate backlash.
These and various other thoughts plagued her might, so Orisa could not sleep at all. When it began to dawn, she gave up and drunk an Endless night potion to fall asleep.
Orisa's morning was not comfy, but she had to make do with sleeping in the gym. She didn't want to bother Onuki after leaving her in the most inexcusable way. To be honest, she was too afraid to go back yet.
She had just gathered her belongings and was about to stand when the door opened. It was none other than Tiana who came for a morning exercise.
"Orisa!? What are you doing here of all places? I thought you were away?" To say that she was surprised would be an understatement.
"Oh, hi~," she smiled back a little awkwardly, trying to hide everything that was on her mind. "I'm glad to see you are well, Tiana. Sorry that I left without saying a word to you in person."
"That's fine, I understand. But what are you doing here with a pillow and a blanket?"
"Would you be surprised if I were to say it's complicated?" Orisa answered apologetically, looking down and even shuffling her feet.
"Ugh, what was I even expecting from you?" Tiana rolled her eyes and grumbled quietly.
"By the way, one of the reasons I wasn't able to warn you in person about my leave was because I didn't know where you were living. Can you show me, you know, just in case?"
"I don't mind. Please, follow me then."
They arrived at a three-story building not far from the campus. When Tiana passed by, two guards posted by the entrance bowed down politely. Orisa stopped to read a tabled that was hanging by the door:
Floor one left wing: vi Durek
Floor two left wing: vas Kavenfenn
Floor three right wing: vas Flamie
By the look of it, there was an elevator in the building, but Tiana headed towards the stairs. 'What a diligent girl, exercising even while walking,' Orisa mused while admiring the girl's back and all her curves that were visible even through the robe. The effects of Onuki's evening activities were still present despite everything that followed after, so Orisa was involuntarily behaving like a hormonal teenager, which was not that far from the truth anyway.
There was a matter displacement gate instead of a traditional door, Tiana activated it with a small device and gestured Orisa inside. The moment the portal activated, Orisa heard a light ringing sound. They stepped inside the gate and saw an elderly maid already awaiting them in a respectful bow.
"My Lady, it's a pleasure to see you back so soon," she said in a slightly hoarse voice filled with tenderness and care.
"Maria, please, how many times should I ask you to stop bowing!" Tiana grumbled in frustration. "You are not so young anymore, and there is no need for such formalities anyway."
"How could I, especially while you are not alone? As for my age," Maria allowed herself a chuckle, "I expect to nurture at least one more generation of vas Kavenfenn family. But it all depends on the young lady, of course."
"Would you stop it already!?" blushing Tiana was so cute. "This is Orisa. She is my...colleague."
"I see," Maria chuckled merrily once again and bowed slightly towards Orisa. "Greetings, I'm Maria Pestoni, a housekeeper and a guardian of lady Kavenfenn."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Pestoni," Orisa activated all her communication skills, and the result came as a great surprise to Tiana who was used to Orisa's usual barbaric demeanor.
A loud growl of Orisa's stomach broke the silence. Tiana giggled like a kid, but then her stomach did the same thing.
"You don't have to repeat," Maria let out a short laugh and left to the kitchen in the furthest corner of the apartment complex.
"How was your journey?" Tiana gestured Orisa towards the table and settled herself.
"Wonderful! The person I went to meet is both my mentor and something akin to family, I guess. We had a great time together, and she also began teaching me some things related to my, well, skill build," Orisa was shining brightly during her recollection as it helped her to distance from the harsh and sorrowful evening, and Tiana even felt a sting of envy towards this happiness. "What about you?"
"Mhm, I can't say there was anything noteworthy. Orisa, I've been thinking about this matter a lot and..." she paused and gave Orisa a long heavy look, gathering her thoughts and letting out a weak sigh. "I'm sorry for how I've been treating you before. You did not deserve any of that."
Orisa gave her the same heavy look, although her gaze was that way for a different reason, 'It's a great time to make her talk. But I totally won't survive another painful discussion. Tiana, what’s with this timing?'
"I understand, so don't worry. You are a nice person, that was evident from the beginning, that's why I tried to break your wall," she lightly caressed Tiana's palm. "We all have our share of tragedy, and that's why I understand. If or when you are ready, I'll be glad to hear you out and get to know you better, Tiana. That's what friends are for, right?"
The girl smiled back weakly and nodded, hiding her embarrassment by quickly turning away. 'Oh, how cute,' giggled Orisa inwardly, trying to distract her train of thought that was constantly getting back to Onuki.
They talked about Tiana's free time some more until Maria came back with a steaming tray and began serving the table. The food looked like your typical dish from a cooking TV show, gorgeous, mind-blowing, and captivating.
"Maria, you didn't have to go all-out like this."
"My lady, you finally brought your, ahem, colleague here," a mischievous smile blinked on Maria's slightly wrinkled face. "It's a breakfast befitting the occasion, won't you agree?"
It seemed like it was Maria's little sport to make Tiana blush as often as possible. 'A master teaser, indeed,' Orisa chuckled inwardly.
When they finally began the breakfast, Orisa had to restrain herself with all her willpower, that's how good the food was. The fact that she was dead hungry added to the taste even more. By the look on Maria's face, she was pleased over Orisa's reaction. After taking empty plates back on the tray, she bowed down and left.
"Iten told me about your division choice," continued no longer blushing Tiana. "While this group is a little odd, I'm still glad that you were able to get your skills recognized despite your fighting problem."
"It all thanks to your help as well, Tiana. As I already said, you are a great person. Thank you for helping me with everything," Orisa thoroughly enjoyed a few more moments of blushing cuteness then asked with a serious expression. "What about you? I heard that you'd have to serve at least one year."
"Yes, there is a law on that regard, but I don't mind at all as I planned to do that either way. Although I don't need to start right away, so I wanted to get back to the capital and consult with my father on the matter."
"I see. Well, I know it's unrealistic, but it would be great to fight by your side again. I had a lot of fun back then."
"Indeed, it was a pleasure, Orisa. You are a capable and dependable person, and I value these traits greatly."
"I like you, too!" Orisa chuckled after making Tiana's cheeks red again. "We will stay here for a few more days, clearing the remaining floors of the Dungeon. What about you?"
"I thought about leaving for the capital in a few days as well," Tiana answered with a hint of sadness in her voice. It was evident that she didn't want to lose her first and only friend right after starting their friendship.
"There is nothing we can do about it," Orisa repeated what Rita said to her before. "So, don't be like me and leave without saying anything in person, alright? And how can I keep in touch with you?"
Tiana took out a small leather notepad and tore a sheet of paper from it. Orisa saw familiar handwriting that she had a chance to witness when Tiana gave her a note for the Treasury.
"Here is how you can mail the residence. And I'm not an irresponsible person like a certain somebody, so of course, I will come to say goodbye."
Half an hour had passed before Orisa forced herself up. The tea Maria made was delicious, and the conversation with Tiana even better, so Orisa struggled to leave the warm and comfy household and go back to her dark thoughts.
"If you are having troubles, you can always sleep here," Tiana eyed her pillow-and-blanket pack with a furrowed brow.
"No-no-no, I can't impose on you so much! But thank you for a kind offer..."
"You won't impose," Tiana stated firmly, subtly shooting a questioning look at Maria who nodded in approval. "There is a guest room designated for such cases."
"Um..." It was a tough question. After talking to Onuki and revealing her secret, among other things, Orisa was having another identity crisis going on inside her head. She was no longer sure of her right to be so close to a normal, pure girl like Tiana. "I'll think about it. Don't get me wrong! It's an awesome offer, and I would love to stay here, but I have some, well, complications, so I'm not sure if it's a wise idea. Thank you so much for the offer! And, Miss Pestoni, your cooking is superb."
They parted after a few more minutes of pleasantries and Orisa left a once more blushing Tiana with a merrily chuckling Maria. Now Orisa had to get back to the dorm for it was beyond brainless to go through the day without dropping her bed linen.
She arrived at the dorm in a dark and heavy mood and knocked on the door to their room, but there was no reply. Quickly dropping her bed linen, Orisa grabbed some of the hygiene items and her newly acquired everything-for-crafting suitcase and went to take a shower. It might have been unwise to carry all her stuff to the room with high humidity, but she didn't want to risk running into Onuki while mentally unprepared.
Orisa felt better after getting to the park. The burning guilt was still there, eating her insides, and she was dreading the moment of imminent meeting. But the morning with pure and warm Tiana lightened her mood slightly, so she wanted to spend some more time in peace and quiet. Thus, the park. To her surprise, Orisa noticed a familiar silhouette on a bench, staring at a book absentmindedly. 'I feel like a game character walking from one scripted scene to another. Can't I walk for ten minutes without triggering an event?'
Even from afar, Kanai looked lost and depressed. He sat slouching over the book with a sad expression, staring at one page with an empty gaze. Orisa's heart ached from this view; she recalled with ease how hurt was Kanai when she forgot to visit him in the Infirmary and what he told her about always being left on the sideway of the story.
She was five meters away when Kanai noticed her. At first, he stared at her in disbelief; the book felt out of his hands as Kanai stood up abruptly and started moving to Orisa hesitantly. She put down her case and opened her arms, saying with a bright smile:
"My poor lonely bro, come here."
There was no need for another invitation; Kanai dashed forward and hugged Orisa tightly, almost strangling her. On the one hand, it felt nice to be hugged by someone radiating so much happiness; on the other hand, her male side started cringing over this activity. Gender identity crisis was still there and had no plans to withdraw.
"Well-well, don't be like that, dude," Orisa chuckled while patting him on the back. "Only three days have passed since I left. Were you left alone by these baddies Iten and Clemen?"
"Oh fuck off, heartless fiend," he muttered weakly while still clinging on Orisa. "And it was almost four days by the way."
"Okay, that's enough body contact," she said almost ten seconds later and pushed Kanai away. "I missed you too. Come, let's Netflix and chill on the bench."
"What about hentai with senpai?" Kanai was getting better with each passing second; his depression now gone without a trace.
"Over your dead body, bro," retorted Orisa after pressing her butt down. "So, how was it?"
"Oh, you know, I haven't seen much of Iten since the first day. He spends all his time at Nene's place, that rascal. But well, it's more like Nene imprisoned him at her room, letting him out for a bit of training," he sighed like an elderly parent over his troublesome kid. "It's not like I can't understand, but..."
"What are you talking about?"
"Um, you see, with our new headquarter being far away from here it became evident that they'll have to break up. Or at least that's what I got from Iten's explanation. So Nene is probably keeping him locked at their bedroom or something, I guess."
"Really? Sounds sad, but perhaps this is for the best?"
It was a complicated matter; they could have agreed to visit each other once every other week or so, but it would still be rather troublesome and without any guarantee of success. Considering Nene's personality, she probably smacked a table and said something about all or nothing policy. 'It's always better to part while everything is at peak than drag a doomed relationship until it falls apart painfully.'
"Yeah, so Iten was busy trying to survive. Clemen is training most of the time, as for Onuki, I haven't seen her even once. Every time I tried to check on her, she was away or busy."
"What about you? I'm sure it was sad to be left like that, but..." Orisa quickly steered the conversation away from Onuki.
"Oh, come on. I was not THAT lonely, you know? And, well, I was reading? And training?" He kept on grumbling and pouting like a little kid. "I also trained with Dippo inside the Dungeon, so that you know."
"You what, mate!?" She almost choked on the air.
"Yeah, he is a bit freaky but actually kind of capable. And now that we have our new tags, we can go to the Dungeon freely, yay," Kanai suddenly became agitated. "Dippo helped me quite a lot, you know, taught some nice things and new skills as well."
"Wow, that's cool! Then let's exercise a bit, and you'll show me your flashy Bankai."
"Stop being such a dick or I'll Senbonzakura your sore ass."
"Wao, so scary, much danger, very sorry, so wao."
They stood up while keeping their otaku banter, and Kanai even volunteered to carry Orisa's case. As usual, it was so easy and comfy to hang out with Kanai for some reason. When they passed the park's open gate, Orisa heard a familiar voice coming from behind:
"Can we talk?" said Onuki uncomfortably.