It's already night and the mother didn't come from work.
Ethan doesn't know anything. I am worried.
Where is she?
Should I go find her?
But where should I go to find her? Mother never told us about her workplace.
I am staying to look after Ethan. Even if I don't like him, he is my brother.
Ethan recalled the day and let out a sigh. If only he tried to probe for more information about her work, his mother might be together with him and Mio wouldn't be so broken.
The officers couldn't even find her, not a trace. One even said my mother didn't work anywhere.
As if my gentle mother will lie to us for years.
It's 4 AM and I can't sleep.
The worries are eating me…
I don't want to go through that again.
It's been a week and my mother is still missing. My monster father is fucking around somewhere.
Ethan and I are skipping school. He puts on a strong face for me. Cooking, cleaning, he is doing everything alone.
But I heard him crying in his room.
I am a pathetic sister.
I don't know what to do.
I just shut myself in my room.
Ethan delivers food to me with a soft smile. I want to punch his face… I want him to feel my pain and let him despair.
She was utterly broken when mom disappeared.
Ethan flipped another page.
I can't take it anymore. My mind is getting more twisted.
I will end up hurting Ethan if I stay here.
I am going outside.
I need a break from this place. I see silhouettes at every corner…
Give me a fucking break!
I packed everything including this diary. My card had enough money to last years.
At least the monster didn't lack money.
Ethan didn't see me because I snuck out at night.
This hotel I rented is really cozy.
I forgot the cash and couldn't buy clothes since most of the local shops don't accept cards.
I need to go to the bank.
I don't wanna leave this room.
I am queuing at the bank. I heard people talking about stuff and realized my embarrassing mistake.
I could have ordered things online!
I am an idiot.
Fuck, I might as well get the money.
Seven suspicious men entered the bank…
The heavy bags on their back don't suit them...
I also saw Ethan entering the bank with his precious childhood friend, Celia.
I hid from them...
Ethan's hand flipping the page froze. Onii-sama, a respectable address for big brothers in Japanese. Mio used to address him like this before, a long time ago.
"Onii-sama?" The voice asked again.
Ethan stiffly raised his gaze to meet Mio's face glowing with a smile, contrary to her eyes gleaming with a dangerous glint.
He gulped his dry saliva. Mio used to have a spare key for the house, which he completely forgot.
I am dead…
Ethan shut the book and raised his hand with a friendly smile.
"Yo! Where's my surprise?"
"Surprise, surprise," Mio repeated, "Onii-sama, did no one teach you to refrain from touching a woman's belongings?"
"I… am sorry," he apologized and placed everything back into the bag. "It's my fault."
Mio hung her head. "How much?"
Ethan tilted his head at her question. "How much what?"
"How much did you read?
"Till the bank."
Mio covered her face and collapsed on the couch. "Ughh… you read I used to hate you?"
Ethan nodded, which she didn't see. "I kinda knew it back then… about your complete disregard for me. I just didn't care."
"I know that."
"I am sorry." Mio tugged at his shirt with a trembling hand. "I am sorry for hating you before, so please don't leave Mio."
Mio lifted her head, showing her tear-stricken face.
The shadow of a young girl flashed behind Mio. She held onto a woman's hand with a smile.
Ethan blinked his eyes. Was he hallucinating? He ignored the image and focused on pacifying his sad sister.
"When did I say I will leave you?" He raised his voice in fake anger. "Don't go around assuming things on your own."
"Onii-sama…" Mio mumbled, her lips curving in an innocent smile. "I am not hated?"
"Goodness, stop acting like a little girl." He brushed her hair, messing up her elegant hairstyle. It didn't affect her smile in the slightest. "Why would I hate you for something that happened ages ago? Believe me, I also didn't like you that much before. So we are even then, right?"
"Un." She nodded busily. "Understood."
Even though he was the younger one between them, he always had to act like the older one.
She will lock me up somewhere if I let her be the older one.
He couldn't forget the numerous tragic endings in the yandere dating simulators recommended by Andrew. He devoted much of his time to prevent them at all costs. If it weren't for them, he would be locked up in a dark dungeon with Mio all over him.
"Onii-sama." Mio drew closer and leaned on his side. "Can we stay like this?"
"Just call me Ethan, like always," he said, sliding his hand around her shoulder. "And I don't hate to... cuddle with Mio."
It's cold after all and she feels warm, Ethan muttered to himself. Only times like these reminded him of Mio's growth in various places.
"Onii-sama is also warm," Mio murmured with a smile.
Ethan averted his gaze and took a deep breath. His erratic heartbeat refused to calm down for some reason.
Mio giggled and snatched the remote to turn on the television.
Bright golden letters covered the screen.
[Sleeping Chaos, the first VR MMORPG.]
As they faded, a blond man in a tight suit appeared, holding a mic in his hands.
"Rising Dragon Corps. just made a groundbreaking announcement. The dream of all gamers, the first-ever VR MMORPG finished its beta testing. Chairman Ray says the public can buy the product at the end of this month."
The siblings blinked their eyes and pinched each other's cheeks.
"Is this a dream?"
"The pain is real, Onii-sama."
The announcement came out of the blue and smacked the gamer duo in their faces.
"Wait, what if we get trapped in there like a certain story?" Ethan grimaced.
The black-haired protagonist would have no way to save his heroine if he had no plot-armor.
"I honestly wouldn't mind living in a fantasy world with Onii-sama." Mio fiddled with the remote. "I would donate everything to charity if it happened." She gave a complicated smile. "Am I weird?"
For a moment, Ethan imagined it. A cozy house alongside a deep river where he and Mio lived, far from the polluted air of the city.
Ethan wryly shook his head. "No—"
Trrrring! The loud noise of the doorbell interrupted him.
Mio looked toward the door and clicked her tongue. Judging from her expression, she knew the visitor.
Ethan rubbed her head and made for the door. For safety measures, he peeked through the keyhole.
"Ethan, open the damn door. Your father, Andrew, is here," Andrew yelled.
An unknown brunette on his left and a woman with plum-colored hair on his right. Ethan knew her since elementary school.
Celia… What is she doing here?