* * *
After her visit to the Liam family’s manor, Reina eventually did not visit Ethan again.
“No… I couldn’t go.”
If she had a conscience at all, why would she go look for him again? How dare she show up with her shameful face after saying all those crazy things…
“Ahhhh… I wanna just delete my memories…”
Her eyes… No, her ears. Did someone stuff her ears? How in the world did she interpret Ethan’s reactions so inaccurately and carelessly?
“What is even the point of living a second life, Reina Chantra…”
Walking while hugging a book close to her chest, Reina heaved out a sigh that’s heavy enough that would have sunken the ground.
“I’m feeling depressed now like this… But of all times, Paul isn’t here.”
Two weeks had already passed since she hadn’t seen Paul. He had to go because another epidemic had broken out in the countryside.
“I’m sorry for treating you like a hungry spiraea, my friend… I’m so lonely without you.”
She never imagined that she would be so lonely without him.
“Haa… I miss you, Paul.”
Pouting, Reina sniffled once.
Then, as she was trudging through the classroom threshold and went outdoors, at that moment—
“I miss you, Paul… huhu~”
A familiar voice mimicked her right then, sounding so whiny. She knew immediately.
“Do you really miss me?”
“Oh my gosh!”
When the familiar zesty scent of fruits wafted in the air, Reina got startled and inadvertently dropped the book she was holding.
“Reina, you missed me that much, too?”
Reina stared blankly at her friend as he suddenly appeared in front of her. On the other hand, Paul walked up to her and pinched her cheeks, stretching them from side to side, then he laughed.
“It’s been a long time since I saw this stupid face.”
“Powl, iz zat reawwy yew? (Paul, is that really you?)”
Her pronunciation was all messed up because he was pulling her cheeks, but that didn’t matter right now.
“Yep, it’s me.”
Paul answered back with that characteristically sly tone of his, and Reina soon felt all choked up with emotions.
Like a little buffalo that had lost its parents, Reina rushed towards Paul and ambushed him with a hug. The sweet fragrance of lychees became thicker.
Glancing down at the young woman who was whining like a little baby sister, Paul’s eyes went wide for a moment, but he smiled immediately after.
He patted her shoulder gently.
“Did you have a nightmare because I wasn’t by your side?”
“Uwaaaah…! Paul… I missed youuuu… I’m sorry about everything…. waahh…”
“From now on, I’ll be good… No, I won’t treat you like my underling anymore…”
“Waaaaah— I’ll even make you delicious food once a week…! No, I’ll make you lunchboxes… uwaaah!”
“Yeah, huhuu… I’m really really sorry Paul… I really didn’t know how precious you are.”
“Yeah, exactly. You didn’t know how precious I am, Reina.”
Reina spoke as though she was confessing her long-time transgressions to Paul.
Roughly speaking though, she was lonely without Paul beside her because everything was just so boring.
“Wooow, your eyes became frog eyes.”
When she finally calmed down and stopped crying, Paul pulled her off him for a moment and wiped her face.
“Hiic… Do a healing spell on me.”
Her grumbling request made Paul burst into laughter. Nevertheless, he flicked one finger and then a cool sensation brushed against her red hot eyes.
“Mmh… But Reina. What do we do.”
Watching his friend take out a handkerchief so she could blow her nose, Paul scratched his cheek and smiled awkwardly.
“Huh? What’s up?”
“I’m here to apply for a leave of absence.”
Unknowingly speaking stiffly, Reina stared at Paul with a bewildered expression.
“A leave of absence?”
Was that kind of thing possible in the academy?”
“Yeah… The epidemic is worse than expected, so I think I also need to be officially dispatched.”
As Reina’s expression became even more so shocked, Paul glanced at her furtively and asked back.
“Should I just not take a semester off?”
When he tilted his head to the side and asked her tenderly, Reina’s tears started to rise again.
She wanted to listen to her heart and answer, ‘Yes!’
‘But how can I…’
People’s lives were on the line. Besides that, despite being a student of the academy, Paul would have to set aside his studies due to this matter. That’s exactly how serious it had become.
“Hiic… No, don’t do that. My loneliness is important… But people’s lives are more important.”
But what’s up with her tear ducts right now. They weren’t getting the memo.
“Hmm… Really? Is that really okay?”
“Should I really just take a leave?”
Reina glared at him furiously when he kept asking the same question arbitrarily.
But after that, Paul patted Reina’s head.
“You’re all grown up, my Reina.”
“The heck, you’re just a little older…”
Of course, it’s true that he’s taller than her… and his body was as lean as a wild beast’s… and he’s got a lot more mana than she had…
“Yeah, it’s okay, so just hurry up and go. Aren’t you busy?”
“Ah, that’s true. But, um… Did you eat lunch yet?”
At the same time Paul asked, Reina’s eyes welled up yet again. I guess we’re best friends for a reason, she thought.
“You rascal, you… How did you know I haven’t been eating properly lately…!”
Paul smiled at her and wiped her teary eyes.
“I’ll apply for my leave of absence quickly, then after that let’s go to the cafeteria and eat together.”
Excited now, Reina smiled and nodded vigorously.
‘I have a friend, too! I have a friend to eat together with!’
Who in the world could look down on Reina, saying that she had no friends?!
‘I have a friend too! I’m not an outcast!’
And so, that day.
Merely gaining a lunch buddy was, to Reina, the same as salvation itself.
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