Before School
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The sun had not yet risen, birds chirped and the spring breeze rustled the leaves of the trees. Not a lot of people have woken up yet and those who have are either out jogging, walking their dog, cooking breakfast, or setting up their store for business. Among them, a boy had just woken up from a full night of sleep for the first time in a while.

I opened my eyes to see the ceiling of my room, my body felt refreshed after sleeping a full night. I didn't get to sleep like this back in Mirkaz, well; I didn't need to sleep a full night after ascending to Saint-tier, in fact, I didn't need sleep at all after ascending. As a Saint-tier I didn't need to sleep, I only sometimes visit the Dream Realm to collect my thoughts and plan stuff out. In the Dream Realm, I only have my thoughts and nothing else; it's the place I go to when I need to clear up my mind a little.

I got up and stretched while letting out a yawn; I glanced at the clock on my desk and saw that it was 5 am. I decided to go for a walk so I changed into sportswear then headed downstairs. There, I peeked into the living room and saw that no one was there and figured Mom hasn't woken up yet, then I headed out the front door.

The sun still hasn't risen, but it wasn't that dark so I started walking to the park that I passed by last night. I basked in the quiet atmosphere and cold spring breeze while thinking of a certain someone from my childhood, my childhood friend. I've known her ever since I could remember; our moms were high school friends so since we were born within months of each other, our moms pushed for us to be friends even before we said our first word; at least that's what Mom told me.

"Ah, Ren! I almost couldn't recognize you" On the small bridge, an old lady's voice came from behind me.

"Oba-san, Good morning. Are you out for walking Kouhei today?" I turned around and recognized the old granny with a dog on the leash, so I greeted her. She lives a few streets down from our house and she runs a small family restaurant with her three children. I often go there on weekends with my one guy friend.

"Yes, there wasn't anything to be done at home so I took Kouhei on his walk. I don't get to go out that often anymore; this body is getting weaker by the day. Come visit me sometime when I'm bedridden" The old granny said and joked while rubbing her back.

"I don't think you will be bedridden anytime soon though" I said with an awkward smile on my face.

"Haha, that's what the doctor says. Anyway, I won't bother you anymore, you have school today right? I'll be heading home now, come by the store sometime" The old granny said while walking off with Kouhei.

"See you this weekend then, Oba-san" I waved at her while mentally making a plan for this weekend. I turned around and resumed my walk; I didn't bump into anyone I know for the rest of the walk and started heading back home once I made around through the park. On my way back, the sun had risen and the sky started to brighten up.

I walked in through the front gate and found that Dad was out by the front door, smoking. He and I made eye contact and he finished the rest of it before speaking.

"Don't ever try smoking, Son" Dad said with a raspy voice while putting the cigarette bud into a palm-sized metal container.

"That's rich, coming from you. When did you start smoking again?" I retorted and asked while walking towards the front door.

"Recently; I've been stressed out about some stuff" Dad answer while looking off into the distance.

"Wanna talk about it?" I asked while looking at him from the side, I already know what the answer was going to be though.

"No, it's something I don't want you guys to get involved with" Dad said and his eyes grew a little distant.

"Alright, whatever you want. Just remember that we're a family, you can rely on us some time too" I said while opening the front door.

"Haha, your mother's right about you becoming a sweet talker" Dad laughed and commented, his eyes were bright once again like before.

A smile appeared on my face as I stayed quiet while walking through the front door.

I took a peek into the living room again and saw that Mom and Hana were cooking breakfast in the kitchen. I looked at the clock on the wall and saw that it was 5:40 am, so I decided to go upstairs and take a shower before getting ready for school.

After the shower, I checked my bag and saw that I already had everything ready, and then I set it aside before I went and grabbed my new school uniform from the closet. After getting it out of the closet, I first put on a white long-sleeved shirt then the long gray pants with a belt. I put on a red neck-tie before finishing it off with a blue blazer that has a silver pin on the left pocket. I put on a pair of socks after putting on my uniform

I straightened up any wrinkle on it by casting [Tidy-up] on myself; this is a spell that cleans off dust and unwrinkles your clothing, it's a lower-tier spell than [Clean] since it only targets clothing but it's still fairly useful if you're in a hurry.

After casting [Tidy-up], I cast the light magic spell [Mirror] on the wall to check my appearance. [Mirror] reflects light and acts just like a mirror so when I looked into the [Mirror], I can see the image of me on the white rectangle on the wall.

I saw the figure of the avatar I created, 1.7m tall with black hair that's been swept to the side and dark blue eyes in an unbuttoned blue blazer worn on top of a white buttoned shirt and long gray pants. I confirmed that everything was in order.

I put my hand in the side pocket of the blazer and swept my hair up while floating a confident smile onto my face. After a few seconds, I turned my head down with my face slightly red in embarrassment.

"As I thought, I still can't act like one of those pretty boys in shoujo mangas without getting embarrassed" I muttered to myself while covering my face in embarrassment.

"Guess I'll just stick with a normal smile then" I uttered while looking back up at the [Mirror], this time with a calm smile on my face.

"There, that looks more like me" I commented while staring at my own face for a few more seconds before canceling [Mirror], turning the wall back to normal.

I went over to grab my bag that's next to my desk then took a quick glance at the clock and saw that it was 6 am on the dot. I slung my bag on my shoulder and headed downstairs.

I walked into the living room to see that Dad was sitting on the sofa watching TV while sipping on some tea. I laid my bag down next to the sofa and sat down next to him.

"Anything interesting on the News?" I asked while pouring myself a cup of tea.

"Not really, there's never anything crazy going on in this city" Dad complained.

"Isn't that a good thing?" I retorted.

"It is, but everyday life just feels so lackluster" Dad said, he sounds like a bored teen.

"Well, let's change the channel th-" As I suggested on changing the channel, the word「Breaking News」(in Japanese) flashed across the screen.

「This just in, famous Child Actor Achika Miri found missing from her room at Grand Illustrious Hotel this morning at 5:34 am. Police suspect it to be a kidnapping orchestrated by some of the newly hired staff members. Suspects are currently being interrogated at the mo-」

"Whoa, looks like something interesting is finally happening" Dad said, very much interested in this apparent kidnapping incident.

"Is that how you should be reacting to this?" I asked while staring at Dad with narrowed eyes.

"It's the only big thing that's happened this year; of course I'd be interested. Also stop looking at me like that; it's giving me the chills" Dad commented while shivering a little.

"Anyway, the kidnapping of a Child Actor; sounds pretty serious, being famous sure is troublesome huh?" Dad commented while changing the channel to some cooking show before standing up saying he was going to take a shower.

I watched the show since I don't have anything else to do and currently I don't have a phone to go on the internet. I also asked Mom and Hana if they needed any help but they said no, so I just kept watching the cooking show while waiting for breakfast to be finished.

Dad woke Mitsuo up and they joined me about 15 minutes in, Mitsuo said he likes my new uniform and announced that he wants to go to same high school too when he grows up. Dad and I, just chuckles at this and he told Mitsuo that he needs to be good to get into the same high school as his Nii-san.

"Boys, breakfast is ready. Dear, can you set up the table?" Mom called out to us while carrying some dishes over to the dining table.

Dad went to set up the table while I helped carry over some of the dishes. Mitsuo got up and sat at the table first, Hana went to grab something from her room.

Fast forward two minutes, everything was set at the dining table and we all sat down. After everyone was seated, Dad looked around before speaking.

"Since everyone's here now. Let us begin!" Dad declared.

"""Itadakimasu!"""

We all started eating after saying the magic word.

There were a variety of different dishes, all from different cultures. There were Italian dishes, English dishes, Chinese dishes, Japanese dishes, etc.

This is quite normal in our house; Mom cooks all kinds of dishes because she wants us to experience the difference in food culture. She works as a Culinary Professor at an International Culinary school in this city, she researches food from different countries and would use us as guinea pi- I mean taste testers whenever she comes across an interesting dish. Some are hit or miss and some get put on our family cookbook; yes we have a family cookbook.

We ate while chatting about some stuff, eventually Dad brought up that he would be late working today and wouldn't be back until morning the next day because there was a big project that's about to hit the deadline; his boss had called him last night and asked him to help out.

"Ren, I won't be able to buy you a new phone today. I'll give you some money so buy one for yourself when you get off school" Dad said while looking my way.

"What's the budget?" I asked.

"40,000 yen, you can keep rest after you buy the phone" Dad said.

"Alright, I'll drop by a store on my way home" I said while finishing the last of my rice before picking up my bowl to wash it. I glanced at the clock while washing to see that it's 6:55, I then put away the bowl and chopstick and went to grab my bag before getting the money from Dad.

"I'm heading out now" I said from the hallway before walking to the front door, put on my shoes and headed out the front door.

I walked toward the same direction as earlier this morning at a leisure pace. The sun was fully out now and there were more people out and about, I can spot a few people wearing the same uniform as me going in the same direction.

Kurimo Academy is about a 15-minute walk from my house so it's fairly close by; I'm a little early since the ceremony starts at 7:30 so I can take it easy. I take in the warmth of the sun and spring breeze as I walked past the park. As I came upon a 4-way street, I sense the presence of a certain someone. A smile appeared on my face as continued on at the same pace I was going and made a right turn.

Our eyes met, warm feelings well up in my heart. Those silky long black hair that flows with the light breeze, those light blue eyes that shines under the morning sun, and that gentle smile that I've seen so many times. It was her, my childhood friend, Izuno Asahina. She is my first love and the main reason I came to Earth.

Initially, I just wanted to see her and spend time with her again. But now, seeing her after 10 years, I knew deep down why I had come back.

"Morning, Hina" I greeted her with a wave.

"M-morning, umm…." Asahina returned my greeting awkward look on her face before asking "Who are you?"

I froze for a second and realized she hasn't seen my new makeover yet. Well my hair is just shorter; I don't know why she doesn't recognize me when my own family almost didn't comment on it at all.

"It's me, Ren. Do I really look that different?" I asked with a bitter smile. It kinda hurts having the girl you love ask you "who are you?"

"Ren!? No way! You look like a completely different person compared to two weeks ago!" Asahina exclaimed, surprise coloring her face, hand over her mouth and all.

"I just cut my hair short; does it really change my appearance that much that you didn't even recognize me?" I retorted while my face twitched a bit.

"It's not just your appearance; the presence you give off is totally different from the gloomy aura you gave off before" Asahina said, looking me up and down.

"Was that last part necessary?" I retorted.

"The presence you give off is like that of a[riajuu]that would toy with a maiden's heart" Asahina continued with her analysis, completely ignoring my retort.

"The word you're looking for is playboy, and it's kinda rude calling someone a playboy straight to their face" I said with my face still twitching a little, I felt a little agitated.

"Well, whatever. Let's head to school before we're late" Asahina said, putting an end to the subject before turning around and proceeded to walk.

I just sighed and calmed down before catching up with her.

We walked and chatted along the way, it wasn't any different than how we usually talked. We just talked about recent happenings, my broken phone, her friend that got dumped by her boyfriend, my endeavor at the library, her trip to that new mall last week with her friends, and some other stuff. You can clearly see the difference in how we spend our time; she spends it with her friends while I mostly spend it alone.

'Speaking of, even on Mirkaz I was the same. I only spent my free time with the guys, Mel and Lily, my students, or my familiars. I usually went out exploring by my lonesome because it was easier that way. I'll try a little harder to be more sociable from now on, I guess'

"By the way, Ren; did you see the news about Achika Miri?" Asahina asked while leaning forward to look at my face from the side.

"Yeah, something about a supposed kidnapping. The suspects are the newly hired hotel staff, right?" I said while also slowing my pace to be a little behind her.

"Yeah, to think someone would plot a kidnapping on her, go through with it, and actually succeeded!" Asahina said in amazement while straightening her back.

"I'm sure they'll find her soon" I commented nonchalantly.

"Why is that?" Asahina asked while tilting her head to the side.

"I mean it's not confirmed yet that it's actually a kidnapping. For all we know, she could've just wandered off somewhere without telling anyone" I explained my "reasonably sound" theory.

"There's no way a little girl could just sneak past all the cameras in that hotel without being noticed. Your theory is absurd!" Asahina denounced my "totally plausible" idea.

"Wanna bet on it?" I provoked her with a confident smirk on my face.

"You're on! There's no way you're right about this" Asahina accepted with a cute smirk on her face.

"Your loss then. Hmm…what should I make you do?" I pondered while staring off into the distance.

"Why are you so confident about it? I'm starting to even doubt my common sense" Asahina asked while doing a small hair flip.

"Just a hunch" I replied.

"Really? That's it? I thought you would give a detailed explanation on why you think that way" Asahina said, exasperated by my half-hearted reasoning.

"Well, we don't really have time for that since we're here now" I said while stopping at a stoplight and looked forward.

"Ah, I didn't notice" Asahina said after seeing that we are almost at the front gate of Kurimo Academy.

A row of sakura trees lined up on both sides of the path towards the school building, some petals were falling and riding along with the wind. While other students were walking towards the school building, the two of us stood there between the rows of trees admiring the pink sakura petals slowly descending from the branches onto the ground.

"So beautiful…" Asahina uttered in admiration.

And without any warning whatsoever, I said a line that many would be too shy to say to their crush. But, my feelings were not some flimsy crush; it was something that I have held onto every day since that fateful moment. My feelings have survived for over 10 years and it's about time I acted upon it. Thus, I uttered it with confidence…

"Not as beautiful as you…" I spoke loud enough for her to hear before promptly walking off. The wind blew and sakura petals fluttered. I didn't stay to see her reaction as I was quite embarrassed. But, I did catch a glimpse of her softly muttering to herself "What did he say?".

I smiled to myself, face still a bit red, and continued to walk towards the school building, leaving Hina behind. Spring has just started, and I have taken a step towards one of my goals.

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