Maybe Kirio had noticed. He could be extremely unobservant, as he tended to focus so intently on anything and everything having to do with Himeka, ignoring everything else. Including her. Kirika tried not to think about it. It was easy, if she actually stopped thinking about Kirio for a minute. Her mind would drift to other things. To Karin-chan. Kujyou-kun. The other Himeka. That would bring her right back to Kirio, who she did not want to think about. But eventually… Kazusa.
Kirika still remembered when they first met. It hadn’t been that long ago, a couple weeks ago, really. But Kazusa was impossible to forget. Even as Kirio went on and on about attacking Kujyou-kun and finding some way to save Himeka or the rings… Kirika would remember hearing Kazusa say her name–Kirika’s name! Kazusa had known who she was before they’d ever met. It was certainly likely, as Kazusa and Kujyou-kun were…something. And Kujyou-kun had to know Kirio, and so likely Kirika’s connection to him. But it had seemed so magical at the time, Kazusa herself being magical in a way. Bunny ears and traditional clothing…she seemed out of place, out of a fairy tale, that’s why she was impossible to forget.
Kirika found herself lost in thought about Kazusa once again. Her smile as she served Kirika breakfast, the taste of the rice porridge she’d made Kirika on that surprising morning. It wasn’t anything special, but it was made by her. The way she held her hands, clasped together. Her laugh as Kirika joked about Kirio. Kirika felt so much closer to Kazusa than she had to Kirio in such a long time, it made her heart ache. She loved being around Kazusa, because she longed for that contact, that closeness she never knew she needed. But it still couldn’t fill a void where Kirio had been…that was something else entirely.
Perhaps the reason she was drawn to Kazusa was because Kazusa’s brother, Kujyou-kun (as Kazusa had explained on that morning), was just as dedicated to the god rings as Kirio. Perhaps she too felt distant from a brother who used to be her entire world. But still…there was just something about her that Kirika… She couldn’t think of a word to describe her emotions. It wasn’t possibly…
“Kirika, what are you doing staring off into space like that?” said Kirio brusquely, interrupting her train of thought.
“Oh, it was nothing,” said Kirika with a light smile.
“It’s that girl again, isn’t it?” said Kirio, giving her an unhappy look.
“Not the greenhorn goddess, the other one! The one you’ve been thinking about constantly ever since you met her in…” Kirio’s voice trailed off.
Kirika looked at him curiously, as he gave her a look of realization.
“What is it, big brother?” Kirika asked. “And before you ask again, I swear I’m not plotting with her against you.”
Kirika had more than enough of that argument. Even as much as she might want to join Karin-chan and the others…she couldn’t abandon Kirio. He was her brother. As far down this path he went, Kirika had to be with him. She had sworn to herself all those years ago.
“Oh my God. You’re in love with her.”
His words hit her like a train.
“You are, aren’t you!” said Kirio, giving her a knowing look. “You’ve been mooning over that girl since the day you met!”
“No! I’m not–” Kirika started, flustered. But…Kirio’s words seemed right in a way. Could “love” be the nameless emotion she was feeling towards Kazusa? The more she thought about it…
“Oh…oh my god…” said Kirika slowly.
“Well I don’t mind,” said Kirio, putting a very heavy emphasis on “mind,” letting Kirika knew that he did mind, but he was putting aside his feelings for her sake for the moment. “But you better not be plotting with her against me.”
“I’ve told you, that’s not happening,” said Kirika.
“It better not,” grumbled Kirio. “Now help me with this paperwork.”
“Alright,” sighed Kirika, turning back to the mountain of paperwork in front of her. Still, she and Kirio both knew it wouldn’t be long until her mind drifted off to Kazusa once again.