I put down my phone. The doctor might arrive in several minutes. I will break her bones if she doesn't.
Mio wrung Ethan's hands.
He woke up?
I whisked over to him and took a seat on the bed.
"Ethan, how are you feeling?"
He coughed twice and sat up. He stared at us, his eyes widening as if he saw a ghost.
He ignored my call. His trembling hand reached out and touched Mio's face. "Mio, is that you?"
Mio squeezed his hand into her own. "It's me, Onii-sama. What happened?"
A look of relief washed over his face. He suddenly jerked Mio into his embrace and rested his chin on her head with closed eyes.
"I am glad to see you again…"
I was a little lost here. His voice felt as if he had met Mio after years of separation.
Just what happened to my Ethan?
Still, I was glad for his safety.
"O-Onii-sama…" Mio stuttered, her face blushing and her breath getting heavier.
This perverted woman… I envied her for being this close to him, just a tiny bit.
I decided to leave the siblings alone and focus on finding the culprit. I had my own ways, especially the things set up here.
As I moved from the bed, Ethan grabbed my hand. "Celia."
He gave a strange smile, yet I found my heart palpitating. His golden eyes carried a different air. Deep and unfathomable charm. I couldn't look away even if I tried.
He had finally found it. The something he always lacked.
Motivation. A goal. I can't describe it in better words.
"Can you wait for me?"
Wait? Wait for what? Was he talking about—
"Are you… serious?"
He nodded with a soft smile. "I am."
I resisted the sudden urge welling up in me. The urge to throw myself at him and push him down. "Why now? Where did you go? Tell me."
"Tell us," Mio corrected me, glaring at me from the corner of her eyes.
Ethan released my hand and patted the spot beside him. "First you have to promise you won't tell this to others."
"I promise, Onii-sama."
I sat near him, leaning on his shoulder. "I will never betray my friends."
Is he high— a blue window appeared in his face. Like the hologram technology my mother tried to emulate last year but turned into another waste of millions.
Ethan pointed at the window. "Can you two see this?"
Mio's hands passed right through the windows. "I can see it."
I leaned closer to read the text. Status, Ethan Carter Lvl 1, below are various parameters, active skills, passive skills, Aspects… Tenacious, Charm, and Robust… this looked like a typical RPG status board.
"The thing is…"
Ethan began his story.
It left me dumbstruck.
He went and returned from the forest in another world, where he met a Phoenix. He squeezed his hand every time he mentioned this Phoenix. The bird tried to mess with my sweetheart.
I gotta repay her back, don't I?
My small grudge aside, this whole thing sounded too bizarre. I am a sucker for the Isekai genre but this happened in real life, to my beloved man at that.
Unbelievable, despite the greatest evidence with the status window and words from Ethan himself.
And Mio, stop saying things like "I can fry the chicken, right? They taste good." "She threatened my precious Onii-sama?" "I need to kill her for the greater good."
She was a scary rival.
But I thought of another angle in this. "Ethan, do you know the reason for this? Is it a coincidence that this occurred on your 18th birthday?"
He shook his head. "But I know that this won't be the last time I visit that world."
"How can you say that?"
He tilted his head. "I just have this feeling."
"Onii-sama, what do we do? I don't want to see you like this again… ever."
I agreed with this minx for once. My beloved future husband suffered alone in another world. The mere thought wrenched my heart.
I swore to protect him like he did to me. But I could do nothing now. This unknown magic.
This is hopeless.
What if the spell broke and he never returned? My throat tightened as my eyes blurred.
Ethan wrapped his arms around my shoulder. "C'mon, stop with the long face. I survived just fine, didn't I? I will do the same if it happens again. Besides, I made a little friend over there."
I covered my face to hide my tears. "The squirrel?"
"I want to meet her."
No, I wanted to visit that world with Ethan and help him. If possible go on adventurers, where we risk our lives for each other, grind goblins in the day, and spend our nights in cheap inns. I will run a small business, which will flourish under my intellect and his hard work. We will buy a large house and have kids. Spending our retirement there.
My, how wonderful would that be. It cheered me up instantly.
My materialistic mother can't buy this warmth coursing through my chest. Nothing in the world can.
"Celia, you pervert. Stop including Onii-sama in your weird delusions."
I came back to reality and controlled my breathing going haywire. "Stop projecting on me. I just have a little cold."
Ethan didn't say anything. At least he sided with none of us instead of sticking with Mio. I wonder what his answer will be. I wasn't giving up either way. I was going to cling on to this warm feeling, even if he pushed me away.
No one can reject my devotion. Not even Ethan!
"Celia is a pervert…"
Ethan's whisper ended my delusions. Even he called me a pervert. I felt like crying on all fours now.
A knock on the door dissolved the warm atmosphere in the room.
"It's the doctor."
Ethan rubbed his ribs. "I might need some painkillers… after all."
Mio glared at me with her head pressed on Ethan's chest. "Celia, please."
This bitch… I didn't want to leave. This was the first time Ethan hugged me so intimately on his own.
Ethan sighed. "I will go then."
We both raised our voices.
I bit the bullet this time and opened the door for Miss Cruger, a middle-aged blonde woman wearing glasses.
The doctor froze near Ethan's room, staring at him with wide eyes. With cheeks tinged in red, she played with a lock of her hair.
"Ermm… are you the patient?"
This woman had never met Ethan before. So why was she acting like the picture-perfect definition of a maiden in love?
Was this the power of his Charm (I) Aspect?
I met Mio's eyes and we nodded at each other. Even though we were rivals for his affection, we both will hate if any more contenders popped up and wasted our precious time together.
Ethan nodded with a bitter smile. "I am."
"Can I have your number?"
"Miss Cruger, you got some nerves flirting with my Ethan. Mister Cruger will be really happy if he hears this."
She laughed awkwardly. "Let's start the checkup."
Another shameless woman like my mother.