All Strings Attached

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Chapter 16: Friends?

~Arika’s POV~

 Arika felt close to turning back and running to her room so she could hide for the night. With her excitement from learning what it means to blush and watching Vira act bold, she was caught up with things and failed to act accordingly.

 She released his arm and stood in Suni’s line. It was long, but moving quickly.

 Vira tapped on her shoulder before speaking. “How long has she been working here?”

 Arika sighed. “Since dawn I guess? It’s a bit worrying since not even a cold would stop her from working. Hopefully, her mom’s here to help…”

 “Are all of your friends as strange as this ‘Suni’ girl?” Ivy asked.

 Arika laughed her fingers as she sheepishly laughed. “To be honest, Suni is my only friend. I don’t get along well with other royals and Suni was the only one here willing to befriend me. Kinda sad, huh?” she grinned.

 “Yeah, that is pretty sad–” Vira stopped as Ivy jabbed her elbow into his side. “B-but having one friend is better than none!” He held onto his side.

 “Well said, my prince.” Ivy cupped her mouth and whispered to Arika. “He doesn’t have many friends either.”

 “Hey! I heard that!” Vira shouted.

 Arika laughed before hugging his arm tightly. “Oh Vira, my poor baby! Don’t worry, I’ll be your friend!” She looked up at Vira who seemed embarrassed.

 “I thought we already were?”

 His question made Arika stare at him with wide eyes. “I-I guess so.” She smiled. “I want to be friends with you and Ivy!”

 “Ha! You’re that desperate for friends, huh? I’ll do my best to see you as one. Depending on how much Vira can tolerate you.”

 They continued waiting in line until it was finally their turn.

 Arika saw Suni looking close to collapsing as her mother was working on another batch.

 “Suni! Mama, she needs to take a break!” Arika called out to her.

 Suni wearily looked up at Arika, waving her hand dismissively. “No no… I’m fine…” she forced herself to get up and picked up a woven basket decorated with black and green bows. Suni placed it on the counter. “For the lovely couple… enjoy…”

 “Suni? Seriously you need to take a seat before you die from exhaustion!” Arika handed the basket over to Sin-Vira before walking towards the side of the booth, she dragged the woman back and plopped her on a stool. “You’re grounded from working until the evening!”

 “You’re not my mom!” Suni argued.

 “Nah. I second Sibylla’s decision. Take a break, before you break.”

 “Mama! You can’t do this by yourself!”

 “Then I shall assist in Suni’s place. If I am allowed that is.”

 Arika looked back to see Ivy’s hand raised.

 “I’ll take any help I can get! C’mon back here and I’ll show you how it works!” Ivy did as instructed while Arika got a cup of water for Suni.

 Looking out, Vira was staring back at something going on. But she couldn’t see what.

 Suni drank down the water before wiping off her forehead. “Okay… I’ll take a break. Go have your fun with your little date… I’ll be cooling down. Thanks for caring.”

 Arika gave Suni a tight hug. “Of course I’ll always care. We gotta take care of each other after all!” She released her friend before leaving to join Vira’s side. “You have to try the bread, Vira! Suni worked hard to make us something this special!”

 “Since Ivy’s going to work for them, you can have her bread.” Sin-Vira reached into the basket and held out the lime-tinted roll.

 Arika stared at it. It’d be a waste eating something she couldn’t taste, but turning down the offer would only make him suspicious.

 “Sure! I suppose I shouldn’t completely starve just to eat later!” She took the bread and took a small bite. As usual, it tasted like nothing, but she could feel the passion baked into it. Which brought her comfort.

 Vira took a much larger bite and within seconds ate the large roll. “The bread is so crisp and the middle is creamy and sweet! No wonder everyone wants this!” he exclaimed while licking the lime cream off his fingers.

 “Then you can have the rest of mine. The center of it is my least favorite part. It’s too sweet for me.” Arika held the barely eaten bread out to Vira who reluctantly took it and ate it as well.

 “Thanks, I guess. But the way–” he pointed past Arika. “What’s an eating competition?”

 Arika turned around to see a woman holding a large sign above her head. Reading: ‘Food Competition! Teams of three required!’

 “Oh. Some booths like to just race people on who can eat the fastest. Usually, the food is pretty filling.” She looked back at him. “Seeing you drool like that, I’m sure you’re interested in joining?” She giggled.

 Vira covered his mouth before lowering his hand. “I might have a slight interest. Can we see it?” He asked.

 Arika walked Vira towards the booth. “I’m not sure if you can participate solo, but we can ask!” She tapped on the sigh-holding woman who looked over to her. “Excuse me, is there still time to join?”

 The woman lowered her sign as she gave Vira a nasty look.

 “Yes. But a team of three is required. So unless two other players are interested, you can’t join.”

 Just as she spoke, Arika heard some men arguing. Two were supporting a sick man who seemed close to collapsing.

 “You choose now of all times to get sick? How are we supposed to win now?”

 Arika felt it was too much of a coincidence, but would take it.

 “Excuse me, gentlemen? Are you in need of a member? Because I have someone in need of two!” Arika explained.

 Both men looked at each other before dropping their supposed friend.

 “Where is he!?” They shouted in desperation.

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