Jun had taken it upon herself to seat all four of them just overlooking the center line that would separate the two duelists, whom Jun had referred to as “‘Beth” and “Captain” without ever elaborating on what either of those words meant. Melissa could infer that “‘Beth” probably meant “Elizabeth”, but Jun referring to anyone as “Captain” was utterly foreign to her.
Not that she was particularly itching to find out answers to these questions. Again she had let herself get swept up in the day, though at least this time she had a much less nebulous goal than “Just grow up, why don’t you?” or try and keep up a resolution she had already reneged and un-reneged on like it was stuck in a revolving door. She had to get through enough of the day to be reasonably sure that Hoshiko was home and could let her in.
Melissa remembered she had an outstanding message from Connor she had yet to reply to. She opened her phone and read it again:From: Connor
Hows tuesday? Not tomorrow but starting next week i mean
” she wrote back, “or should be fine, at least.
” She almost pressed SEND but stopped herself. It was a little passive-aggressive, especially for her, wasn’t it? She really shouldn’t still be mad at him, right? And she wasn’t. She wasn’t
. Delete everything, start over.
” she wrote again. That part was good. Maybe she should just send that? Melissa spent a few moments stared blankly at her phone, just focused enough to not notice Jun lurking over her shoulder.“Oh, texting a friend? You can invite them to come and watch the duel too. The more the merrier after all.”
Melissa’s phone might as well have teleported to her pocket with how fast she moved. She didn’t even say anything. She didn’t say “Nothing!
” or “None of your business!
” or anything like that. Instead, she stared forwards, out towards the duel arena.
It really was a nice view, not that Melissa was thinking too hard about where these seats ranked in the pecking order, instead trying as hard as she could to focus on the dueling grounds in front of her. You really could see everything from where they were. Which meant, of course, that everybody could see you as well.
Nobody was looking, but it felt
like they were.
“I have to go use the restroom,
” Melissa said.
It wasn’t a full-blown panic like yesterday (though it could easily have been the same restroom), she simply needed to be alone for a moment, and this seemed like as good an excuse as any. So instead of kneeling hunched over a toilet bowl, Melissa instead paced the perimeter of the room, clockwise, then counterclockwise, again and again. Sometimes, generally whenever somebody else came in but also once or twice on her own accord, she’d stop and wash her face and hands. She was fine. She was fine
She was in a mood, sure (the first step was admitting the problem), but at least with all that pacing and thinking she’d thought of a way to at least start paying Yusuji back. She pulled out her phone, saved her message to Connor for later, and made a new one:To: Jun
Hey, I decided to stop and get some snacks. Do any of you want anything?
One barrage of text messages later:From: Jun
Oh swell thanks
Just get me a soda
And maybe chips
Chips are good
And ‘Suji wants cotton candy
And get souji a pretzel
Cause it’s like him
Always bunch up in a knot
The only problem with this plan was it seemed like everybody on campus had the same idea, which meant the lines (the crowds
) were horrendous no matter where she went. And in one of these particular crowds was another problem:"Make way for the Princess of Darkness, the Emissary of the Damned, Gabriela Von Draculesti! I must observe the so-called strongest of this realm and see their mettle. This is an important duel so that I may determine the worth of your people!"
Well.“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast.”
-Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
In no sane universe would that outburst -- well, any sort of outburst, really, but that outburst in particular -- attract Melissa’s attention, but it managed to in this one. Maybe it was the way she said it that demanded further notice, maybe it was her outfit with its similar eye-catching effect, or maybe it was simply the funk Melissa had worked herself into that pulled her attention away from her own self and towards the first “weird thing” she could find.
This was the worst kind of curiosity, Melissa decided. There was no way following this girl as she ascended up to the nose-dive seats of the arena was a good idea. But she also felt like she had to do something, right? No matter what kind of person Gabriela von Draculesti was, it would probably still be nice of her to offer some better seating, right?
She was a good person, right?
Melissa postponed her snack hunt for just a moment and trailed the girl until they reached their final destination all the way at the top of the arena. Briefly, Melissa pictured Gabriela’s frustration at the idea of having to trudge all the way back down to the lower sections, but she trudged on after her anyway.
Eventually, she was within hearing distance. “Hey,
” Melissa said.
Gabriela looked at Melissa like a queen would look upon a peasant. “Is there something you require my noble presence for?”
” Melissa said, instinctively shrinking back a half-step. “I have some friends down near the middle if you’d, uh, rather perform your judgment there.
Tuesdays should work great. I'll see you next week.