4. Shadow and Snow
“Ara,” feigning surprise, “Ohayo Gozaimasu, Spica-no Tomori Kaicho-sama,” said Chikaru.
Smiling wanly, “Lulim-na Minamoto Kaicho-sama,” Shion returned the formality, inclining her head to the side slightly. I can play this game too, Chikaru.
Matching pace, the two jogged in companionable silence for a bit, before Shion broke it by slyly saying, “You know, sweat doesn’t look so fake when you don’t spray it on.” She gave Chikaru a sidelong look with a smirk on her face.
Chikaru laughed in delight. “I could never hide anything from you, Kero-Kero-chan.”
“Mou! You know I hate it when you call me by my baby name.” Shion exclaimed, not sounding exasperated at all. In fact, some of the years between them melted away, and it was as if Chikaru and Shion were still chasing frogs in Kindergarten.
“So…to what do I owe this pleasure, Chikaru-san?”
“My, can’t a girl simply catch-up with a friend without having an agenda?” Chikaru said coyly.
“Not you, so-called Shadow Empress of Astrea. I’m on to you Chikaru-san. Spill it.”
“You’d save yourself and Rokujo-ojou-sama a whole lot of grief if you’d just focus on the reason behind Amane-san’s lack of motivation instead of bludgeoning her into submission.” Chikaru dove in without preamble.
Chewing her lip, Shion admitted, “Yeah, the straightforward approach, seems to be lacking.”
It was Chikaru’s turn to give Shion a sideways glance. “Seems to be? You antagonize a lot of people, and, inadvertedly, yourself, with your frontal-attack-solution-to-everything-stubbornness and it leaves you blind to the subtle elements that affect the situation…or to those that aim to foil your plans.”
Shion picked up on the thread of suggestion in Chikaru’s words.
“Should I be watching my back? Is it someone close to me?”
Chikaru beamed at how quickly Shion caught on to subtext, and appreciated the opportunity to converse with someone she could match wits with.
“There are Five Stars of St. Spica, being one yourself, you know this full well, but not all of them believe that Amane is the only viable candidate. By refusing to consider others to represent St. Spica, you are treading on the ambitions of others…even of those who already occupy positions of influence,” Chikaru baited. She wanted Shion to connect the dots herself. She wasn’t disappointed.
“Momomi and Kaname…” murmured Shion. She did have a feeling about those two, but brushed off her misgivings, relying on their loyalty in the past.
“How well do you know those two?”