Pyra is watching her blackcurrant juice cook on the stove when she hears Mythra enter the house, slamming the door, and Pyra gets up and goes over to the door, where Mythra is carelessly kicking off her boots.
“I hate you,” Mythra says, which would be hurtful if Pyra didn’t know she never means it, and she hands Pyra the bowl of raspberries that she had asked for earlier, ripping a twig out of her hair. Her arms are spotted with mosquito bite marks from yesterday and new little cuts from the bushes; she really ought to put some salve on those, they look itchy. Oh, and disinfectant! Also band-aids.
“Thanks, Mythra!” Pyra chirps gratefully. “I’ll try and make some dessert with the berries, if that’s okay with you?”
“Whatever,” Mythra says.
Pyra beams, but remembers to say, “Oh, and have a look at those wounds on your arms, they look like they hurt.”
Mythra hmphfs and disappears into the bathroom.
Pyra puts the berries aside in the kitchen, checks on her juice, and sits down in the rocking chair. When they were kids Mythra used to treat the rocking chair like rocking in it was an extreme sport, she used to draw on the walls and start water balloon fights. Nowadays Mythra only drapes herself on the sofa, lazes like a cat, doesn’t want to play board games with Pyra anymore. Stomps around in the bushes outside while looking sad.
Pyra’s a little bit worried, and Pyra’s friends are a little bit worried, but Mythra only hisses every time Pyra looks concerned.
It’s been this way ever since Milton died.
Mythra doesn’t have very many friends, and she acts like she doesn’t want to hang out with Pyra’s friends, or with Pyra’s boyfriend, or with even Pyra herself sometimes. And Pyra wouldn't ever force Mythra to hang out with her, even though it stings more than just a little that she doesn’t want to, because all Pyra really wants is to know that her sister isn’t lonely anymore.
Pyra has always got her guinea pigs, but Mythra doesn’t even have a pet.
All Pyra really wants is for her loved ones to be happy. And Rex, he’s happy. Pyra doesn’t know about dad, but he seems okay. Her friends are usually cheerful. Her guinea pigs seem content.
But Mythra only broods.
It’s a chilly bleak day, and after picking raspberries for Pyra because there’s fuck-all to do around here, Mythra goes and leans against the fence. It’s a sturdy, decent fence, and it’s useful for exactly one thing: leaning on it. Their closest neighbours live far out of walking distance, good , and the only animals Mythra’s seen around are seagulls, foxes and hares.
Terrifying menaces. Must be kept out of Pyra’s strawberry patch at all costs, oh yes.
There’s an especially nasty seagull that hangs around their house and screams sometimes. Mythra muses, very occasionally, in the darkest hours of the night, that she feels more kinship with that gull than with her actual family.
-The thing with barely having neighbours is that your solitude is almost guaranteed. Mythtra has sunbathed on the lawn, and smashed pots on the lawn, and never has there been a single fucking soul around to see it apart from Pyra and dad.
So when Mythra thinks she can see some idiot on a bike heading down the road past her house, Mythra’s first emotion is baffled anger. Why would anyone bike down here?
Looking at the attractions? The wilting scarecrow over there? The wheat?
The biker approaches slowly and inevitably across the vast flat expanse that is Mythra’s neighbourhood, and Mythra can’t stop staring. She definitely isn’t going to move either, not without first talking to this person.
It’s not a neighbour. Or if it is, it’s a very new one, or someone who’s never been around much. It’s a teenage girl with platinum-bleached hair, cut off in line with her chin, a yellow helmet shoved on top. She’s - god-fucking-dammit, she’s pretty.
Mythra’s baffled irritation reaches new dimensions.
“Oi,” Mythra yells, when the girl is close enough.
“‘Sup,” the girl agrees, and halts the bike right in front of Mythra’s patch of fence.
“What are you doing?” Mythra demands to begin with, but not fast enough to not notice the girl’s freckles.
“Going to work,” says the teenager. Her eyes are the golden colour of sunsets or butter, and Mythra hates it. “You just hanging there or what?”
“It’s my yard,” Mythra defends herself. “‘Work’? Where the hell do you work, interning for Farmer Hugo or what?”
“Isn’t farming a family business?” the girl says. “Anyway, there’s a restaurant-slash-hotel around here, didn’t you know?”
“No,” Mythra says, with a voice dripping with disdain and doubt. A hotel ? Out here ?
“Hah, well there is ,” says the girl triumphantly. “It’s called Best of Torna. I’m an intern at Torna; swing by sometime, won’t you?” the girl winks at her, sarcasm oozing off her, and kicks off with her bike, driving off down the road. Mythra scowls and watches her get tinier and tinier until at last she disappears behind a low hill.
When Malos called about it, Jin and Mik had literally just waved goodbye to Haze and Lora, who were going away to an arts & crafts festival in Gormott and wouldn’t be back for a month. This isn’t the only reason Jin agreed (in fact he suspects he would’ve agreed even sooner if Haze or Lora had been there to cheer him on) but it’s still worth mentioning. What Malos called about was all Patroka and Akhos’s fault, he claimed, but either way Malos was the one who proposed the idea of Best of Torna to Jin.
“A what ?” Jin had said to his phone.
“Tourist trap,” Malos had answered. “Combined hotel, restaurant, gift shop and camping grounds.”
“No,” Jin had said.
“Yes,” Malos had said.
“Why?” Jin had said, instead of, don’t you need a permit or something for that, or, what about the taxes you’ll have to do, you hate taxes , or, we get absolutely no tourists out here , or, where exactly did you think you were setting this business up now again?
“It was Akhos’s idea,” Malos had grumbled in answer, and Jin had seriously doubted it, because if it had been Akhos’s idea then it would’ve included a theatre.
Either way, Jin somehow had found himself agreeing to let them use his new house for it, since he barely lived there anyway thanks to Haze and Lora, and then they actually came over and helped Jin move his remaining stuff into his room at Haze and Lora’s (and put the pans in the kitchen, and the stuff he didn’t want in the barn) and then Akhos arranged for some builders to come over and renovate the house for the second time in 12 months, and Patroka arranged some papers or permits, and then one morning Jin woke up and realised that all his friends had somehow conned him into helping them start up a doomed business in the middle of nowhere, which also happened to be right next door.
-and now, today, Malos is knocking on his door.
Mikhail gets to be the one who opens the door, so when Jin gets there he’s already in a staring contest with Malos. And as fun as it is to watch Malos, a grown man, stand frozen in the doorway because Jin’s kid is glaring at him, Jin is feeling far too annoyed to let them continue for long.
“Malos,” he says, skipping the greeting.
“Hi, Jin,” he says. “Is that Mikhail?”
“Yes,” says Mikhail firmly, still scowling.
“Why are you here?” Jin asks. “I have a job to do.”
“Opening day!” Malos says, in smug glee. “We’ve hired our first intern, too, hah!”
Heavens have mercy. Jin thinks, a bit desperately, you can’t have an intern! They might think you’re responsible adults! “You’re actually doing it?”
Malos waggles his eyebrows. “Opening day. Move your asses, we’re going there.”
“Don’t swear around my kid,” Jin chides, but still finds himself getting reluctantly dragged along over to his house, which now has been repainted, renovated, and renamed Best of Torna . There’s tables with parasols and benches in the front yard, along with a sandy parking lot containing only Akhos’s car, Malos’s more expensive car, and a yellow bike. There’s a wooden sign over the door that’s beautifully painted, unmistakably by Malos.
The thing about Malos that makes most people so transcendently furious at him, is that he’s talented. He can cook, he can sing, he can paint, he can drive, he can argue, he can do sports, he can do math . And what really makes people hiss and fume like kettles, is that Malos thinks nothing is funnier than simply using his skills for absolute garbage nonsense. Complete clownery. The stupidest of ideas. Whatever things the people around him tell him ‘NO!!!’ to.
Like this restaurant-hotel combo.
Jin told him no many times, said ‘it’s a bad idea, you’d get no customers’ and many similar things, and yet here the fucking restaurant stands, gleaming in the sunlight. The worst thing is that Jin knows this wasn’t an impulsive decision, because Malos always carefully plans what he’s going to do next; no, this was a well thought-out idea, with logic behind it.
Jin grudgingly tells him, “I guess it looks nice.”
Next to him, Malos only gets more smug, and he holds open the door (which, by the way, has been replaced by a glass door) and shows them inside. Mikhail clings to Jin’s arm with grim suspicion, while Jin looks over what was his house for about three months, trying not to feel awed by how fast things get rebuilt nowadays.
“Welcome,” Malos says gleefully, “To Best of Torna.”
The next day, the biker passes by again.
Mythra is collecting rhubarb, which is a nasty fucking task because rhubarb is a nasty fucking too-big plant, but still she gets to the fence just in time as the biker slows down and stops next to her.
“Hey,” Mythra says flatly, and attempts to hide the enormous scissors she used to cut the rhubarb with behind her back.
“Alright,” says the girl. “What are you doing?”
“Gardening, what’s it look like?”
“Like you were tryin’ to hide a body.”
Mythra lets out one ungraceful, loud bark of laughter before she manages to clamp her dumb mouth shut. Fuck’s sake.
“And you’re going to ‘work’?” Mythra says as snidely as she can.
“Yup,” the girl says, popping the p. “Did you think I’d get fired after just one day, dumbass?”
Mythra has no choice but to say, “Yes.” Ugh. Goddammit. “What’s your name, anyway?”
Not that she cares.
“Nia,” the girl says. “What’s yours?” she dares.
They stare at each other for a second.
“Aren’t you busy?” Mythra then says, as always out here ruining her own life.
“Right, I am,” Nia says, and bikes away once more.
Mythra stares after her, scissors in hand, and mouths Nia to herself.
It took literal fucking years before Pyra finally started dating Rex, Mythra knows. She was there. They tiptoed around each other for about a year, misunderstanding and misinterpreting and mistaking, Pyra obsessing over Valentine’s day, and World Tree day, and Rex’s birthday, and a bunch of other holidays and events, and blushing, pining, waiting.
Mythra didn’t think they ever would manage to get together without divine intervention, but they must’ve been destined to be or whatever the fuck, because eventually they got together and have been happily in love since and will probably get married as soon as high school’s over.
They’re surprisingly low-key about it too; once Pyra had confessed, she stopped obsessing quite as much, and now they’re only disgustingly lovey-dovey when they’re actually physically near each other.
-Mythra is certain she can do better. Since Pyra obviously isn’t the smooth sibling, it has to be Mythra.
Stalking Best of Torna ’s newborn Yelp page is only a first step, you see.
Also, Mythra needs to know that it does, in fact, exist, and that Nia wasn’t just bullshitting her for no reason. Can’t visit a restaurant that doesn’t exist, after all.
She finds the place on Yelp, actually. Address: Hyber Road, Aletta Region, Torna . Holy shit, Mythra didn’t know they even had road names out here. The place is listed as a restaurant/diner/hotel/camping site and has a whopping total of zero reviews.
Mythra leaves a review saying the food sucks but the service is decent, 2 stars, and logs out.
Then Pyra calls her downstairs to help feed the guinea pigs, which is a rather transparent excuse for ‘Sister Bonding Time :D’ but Mythra doesn’t have anything better to do, so she goes downstairs. Pyra waits there with a bowl of food, and they go together into the living room, where the large guinea pig cage is located.
Pyra knows a ton of facts about guinea pigs and their diet, which is why Mythra never interacts with the pets beyond holding them and giving them food that Pyra’s handed Mythra for that exact purpose. Because last time Cousin Malos had been over, he’d fed Tora a sausage by mistake, and Pyra had tearfully rushed to the vet with her guinea pig. (though nobody likes Tora, anyway) Mythra’s favourite is brown, well-behaved and named Buster. Pyra claims she doesn’t have any favourites, but she always pets Poppi the most, so who’s the liar here, huh.
Pyra sometimes gets all concerned fucking therapist and wonders whether Mythra would like a pet of her own, and every time Mythra says “absolutely fucking not” because she’s afraid that the pet of her dreams, a large snake named Ophion, would just eat the guinea pigs.
-anyway, Mythra has other things to do than think about snakes.
Like not thinking about Nia.
Jin’s sitting at the bar counter in his ex-kitchen, supervising Patroka’s supervision of Mikhail drawing with crayons, when Malos makes a small outraged noise.
“Need help?” Jin asks, whipping around, very vividly remembering yesterday’s bathroom shelf incident.
“No,” Malos says grimly. He’s looking at the screen of the computer they’ve set up behind the counter as the ‘company computer’, and Jin walks around the counter to take a look at what he’s doing. He’s looking at Yelp. Specifically Best of Torna ’s Yelp page, which Jin didn’t even know existed. There’s one, not very flattering review there.
“I didn’t think you’ve had any customers?” Jin wonders out loud.
“Just you,” Malos agrees, then turns to eye him suspiciously.
“Malos, you know I always use correct grammar. And punctuation.”
“Hmm,” Malos says ominously.
Technically they’re open, but as Jin predicted, they’ve had no customers at all in the week since they opened. Jin only came here to take advantage of Malos’s cooking skills in feeding Mik, and nobody bothered to ask Jin to pay. The one intern they’ve got has apparently been hard at work furnishing the hotel rooms with Patroka and putting the campsite in order, while Akhos is busy planning… something. Jin hasn’t asked.
Either way, when the bell above the door (bought yesterday) jingles, it takes about a minute for Jin and Malos to realise that this means they’ve actually got a customer .
Patroka and Mikhail pause in whatever they’re doing to stare at the customer, who Jin recognises as one of the teenagers from the barbeque party, while Malos turns around and then says, “...Mythra?”
“...Malos?” says the teenager, equally baffled. “Oh, fucking shit.”
Appalled, Jin quickly glances at Mikhail.
“The hell are you doing here?” Malos demands, whoa rude, and Jin whips around to glare at him instead.
“You son of a bitch, you own this restaurant?” Mythra looks outraged. Jin is quick to turn his glare on her.
“It’s a fucking diner , as I’m sure you read on our Yelp page,” Malos says with a very pleasant smile full of teeth. “Ain’t that right, dearest cousin, A3gisBitch420?”
Jin is going to make them both wash their mouths out with soap.
“Dickhead,” Mythra says, one last vengeful protest, and then she slumps down onto a barstool.
Despite the initial argument, the cousins quickly settle down at a table and start talking. Patroka even gets up and takes the girl’s order, which is received by Jin, who decides he might as well make her those crab sticks with soda. He delivers the tray by himself so that he can check up on them, and the first thing Mythra says to him is, “Do you work here?”
“No,” Jin says truthfully.
“The fuck, Malos,” Mythra immediately demands. “Do you make the customers cook for you?”
“What a power move that would be,” Malos says wistfully. Then, “He’s a business partner. Smile, Jin.”
Then Mythra asks if they’ve got any interns, and Malos starts heckling her about that.
Jin decides to just leave well enough alone and goes back to hiding behind the bar counter, figuring that Malos and his extended family probably just show their love for another in large amounts of swear words.
Jin starts wiping down the counter, and after a minute Akhos shows up, pen behind his ear and a notebook in hand. “What is it Malos is speaking about?” he asks, curiously peering at the two of them.
“I think his cousin wants to know if she can date our intern,” Jin says resignedly.
“Ooh?” Akhos says, very alarmingly, like a bad omen. “Is that so? What a delightful little drama.” He pushes up his glasses. “Of course we will defend our dear intern’s honour, won’t we, Jin?”
“Nia makes her own decisions,” Jin reminds him.
Akhos hums. “Perhaps we should help them along, then.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Jin tries. Unfortunately he’s going to have to leave in a few minutes, because he’s supposed to drive to the airport and meet Haze and Lora when they finally return from Gormott, and he can barely wait to see his girlfriends and he’s sure Mik’s been missing his moms too, so Jin cannot supervise Best of Torna for long enough to actually stop Akhos or any of his schemes, but at least Jin can now say he tried.
One of the best parts of the internship is definitely Nia’s supervisor Patroka. You see, they both have excellent taste and agree on which Pokémon Nia should print out pictures of to frame on the walls in the hotel rooms. Nia isn’t sure who the actual boss here is, or whether that Jin fellow is actually employed here or not, but she honestly doesn’t give a fuck as long as she can keep on decorating the rooms in peace.
Her budget isn’t the greatest, but most things you can DIY and Nia has a vision . She has a plan . Patroka gleefully lets her do as she wishes, and it’s perfect.
-And one of the worst parts of the job is definitely Patroka’s brother Akhos.
He’s insufferable. He loves theatre, and he never shuts up, and he’s got a superiority complex, and he eats toast the wrong fucking way. Who the hell folds up their bread before eating it?
And then he puts salt on it.
-anyway, she’s getting paid, a little, so it could be worse she supposes. Her day ends around 5 in the afternoon, at which point she bikes all the way home again and eats dinner. Last night Malos made dinner for her in the restaurant though, which wasn’t so bad. Really tasty actually, which is why she feels hopeful when she makes her way to the restaurant area and spots Malos doing something with the stove.
Then she spots Akhos lighting a couple of candles, which really puts a dent in her mood - but then she sees that weirdo, Mythra, sitting at the table with the candles. With a bunch of flowers.
Wearing a tux.
And the lighting’s really dim in here, ain’t it, huh?
Nia can feel her mouth twitching, which is the fucking worst, because she shouldn’t be amused by this. In fact, this is pretty weird, and she dislikes Akhos too, who was doubtlessly the one who set this up, even if Malos and Patroka seem to be helping with it. Really, Patroka? Where did your standards go?
-and also, when did Mythra even get here?
Only one way to find out, obviously, and so Nia slides into the seat across from Mythra’s and puts on a shrewd grin. “Congratulations!”
Mythra’s eyes narrow. “What?”
“You found us,” Nia says. “Whatcha gonna do now?” She rests her chin in her hand and takes another good long look at Mythra. She’s pulled her hair into something messy that was probably supposed to be a braided bun, she’s indeed wearing a tux, and Nia really wonders where she got if from, and she’s chewing on her lip very distractingly. Nia feels distinctly underdressed in her yellow tracksuit and sneakers.
“Are you still working?” Mythra asks.
“No,” Nia says, without any snark whatsoever; oh fuck.
“Good,” Mythra says. “Wanna have a date or something?”
Oh, she’s blushing - it’s adorable. Nia clears her throat and says, “Okay, I guess. I mean, I don’t have anything else to do.”
“Yeah, uh, me neither,” Mythra says. “Duh.”
“Yeah,” Nia agrees. She takes another look at Mythra before deciding to actually say, “You look good.”
“Oh?” Mythra says and leans forward, eyes twinkling.
“Yeah, you’re moderately dashing, maybe 3 out of 5,” Nia says. “Better than the raincoat and giant scissors, good job.”
“Aw, thanks,” Mythra says, deadpan. “Your tracksuit’s very pretty too.”
“I try,” Nia agrees.
Then they play footsies, and look into each other’s eyes a little bit maybe, and Mythra smiles a little at her, until Patroka sidles up to them to take their order and gives Nia a thumbs-up behind Mythra’s back. Nia blows her a raspberry which just makes Patroka smirk, and then Mythra says something, and Nia can’t be bothered to pay attention to Patroka anymore.
Pyra first reads about the nice new restaurant in the Aletta Post . It’s run by a fellow from the city named Akhos, his sister, and their mutual friend, and Akhos says they aim to ‘bring more tourism to the area’ and to ‘provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere for the countryfolk to get together’. It sounds really nice!
Therefore she brings it up to Mythra, who actually agrees without a single protest!
“Why not,” she says. “We’ll borrow dad’s car - I’ll drive.”
“Okay,” Pyra agrees, even though they shouldn’t be driving too much without a license, but they’re always careful, so it’s okay.
The restaurant is really close to Addam Origo’s house, and the building looks pretty cute. There’s a few customers there, folks Pyra has never seen before, and also the family of four that live right next door to the restaurant. When Pyra and Mythra walk in a teenage waitress immediately approaches them, and Mythra tells her, “Hi babe, could we get a table?”
Pyra gives first Mythra a wide-eyed look, then the waitress.
“Sure,” she says. “Is that your sister?”
“Yep,” Mythra says, smiling a little at the waitress.
“Pleased to meet you,” the waitress says to Pyra. “I’m Nia.”
“Oh. Hi!” Pyra squeaks. “I’m Pyra.”
“I know,” Nia says. “Let’s get you two a table.”
They get a table inside the restaurant. There’s two other waiters apart from Nia, but Nia takes their order, and their drinks order, and gives them their drinks, and the food, and the bill, and every time she swings by Mythra says something snarky or downright rude, gosh, or Nia does, and then they smirk at each other, sharing a joke. And Mythra keeps glancing off over Pyra’s shoulder to look at Nia, and Nia keeps walking past their table, again and again.
Pyra watches all of it, and realises something.
When they’ve finished their meal - which was pretty good! Pyra would’ve complimented the cook, but somehow he’d mysteriously disappeared as soon as they were done eating - and they’re walking outside, Mythra waves goodbye to Nia with half a smile on her face, and Pyra can barely wait until they’re outside to blurt out, “I’m so happy for you!”
“What?” Mythra says.
“You and Nia! She’s so good for you!” Pyra smiles wide. “I’m so glad.”
“Gee, thanks,” Mythra says gruffly, but still her smile doesn’t vanish.
Yes , Pyra thinks firmly. Anyone who can make Mythra smile like that again, is already as good as family to her.
“We should double-date!” Pyra then realises with another burst of happy realisation. “Oh, we must!”
“No,” Mythra snaps.
“Yes!” Pyra says happily. “Me and Rex were planning to go to the beach-”
“ What beach?”
“The coast,” Pyra says, barely losing any steam. “It’s only an hour’s drive there! And we could have a picnic! And play volleyball together!”
“No,” Mythra says again, with less energy than before. “I’d have to ask Nia first.”
“Do it! Do it, do it, do it-”
“Alright, alright!” Mythra huffs, but she’s grinning. “Now get in the car already, I’ll text her later…”