"So, you have a little brother. I'm an only child so I don't really know what having siblings is like" Iniji gave a light chuckle while picking up some notebooks and putting them in his basket.
"Hito-kun and I don't really get along half of the time, but we help each other out when it counts. Actually, this mo-" Hiro opened up a bit about his family life but quickly stopped when he realized he was only talking about himself this whole time.
"S-Sorry! I've only been talking about myself an-"
"What are you apologizing for? I'm interested in you so don't feel hesitant to tell about yourself, we're friends and I want to know more about my friend" Iniji turned to face Hiro and gave a bright smile.
"…Thank you, it's nice to hear that someone else other than Ishia-san wants to know more about me" Hiro smiled at Iniji before they both turned back to pick up the things they need for school.
It was silent after that exchange; like a nice and peaceful silence after a heavy storm. This silence didn't feel awkward or uncomfortable, it's reminiscent of the silence you can find in the library where only the slightest bit of sound from the flipping of pages or the scribbling of pencil on paper.
"...Speaking of Ishia-san, I don't really know that much about him other than he's kind, gentle, smart, and popular. What about you Monoa-kun?" Hiro broke that silence by bringing up Ren.
"Well, I've only met him today as well so I don't really know much more than you. However, from what I picked up on from my conversation with Namaii-san and Izuno-san, he's kinda laid back most of the time but if he gets mad that's when he becomes cold" Iniji talked about the things he heard.
"Cold? I somehow can't imagine it" Hiro turned around and raised an eyebrow at this piece of info.
"I know right? Even when he found out I was making fun of his speech, he only pressured me a bit. But while I was out of the classroom, I ran into someone who used to go to the same middle school as him and asked him about it" Iniji seemed to shiver a bit just recalling it.
"Was it that scary to hear about?" Hiro took notice of Iniji's slight shaking.
"Well, this is what I heard from him. It was 3 years ago…"
I was waving at them from a few meters away. Her two friends blushed a bit and stopped in their tracks. Hana frowned and her eyes narrowed.
I walked up to them, still smiling slightly. The two girls seemed to have snapped out of their daze before turning to Hana and firing off question after question in a hushed tone. I could still hear them clearly though.
"Hana-chan, who's that handsome guy?"
"What's your relationship with him? He smiled at you"
"Is he single?"
"What school does he go to?"
…I did not expect their reaction; I severely underestimated how interested middle school girls are in love. Well, it's too late now; I just have to end this quickly and go buy the phone.
"Hana, fancy seeing you here" I said after getting closer to them.
"What are you doing here, Ren?" Hana stared at me intensely.
"I need to buy a new phone since, you know" I wryly smiled before turning to look at her friends, who were now hiding while peeking from behind her.
"I assume those two are your friends from school" My words seemed to cause them to squirm a little before they both whispered to Hana.
"*Introduce us, Hana-chan*"
"*Yeah, we can't do it on our own*"
"Sigh…" Hana sighed while closing her eyes. She looked back up to me and stared for a few seconds, seeming to be thinking about something, before gracefully taking a step forward and turned to her friends.
"He's my older brother, Ren" Hana gesturing to me with her right hand, her voice was a bit monotonous.
""Eh…?"" Their eyes widen as shock colored their faces, their mouth agape, and their eyes going between Hana and me.
"First-year high school student, Ishia Ren. Nice to meet you" I winked and smiled while giving them a two-finger salute.
"Wait! Wait! You two are siblings?"
"No way, your hair and eye color are completely different"
"Yep, we get that a lot. I got our mom's hair color while Hana got our dad's" I explained while putting a hand on Hana's head.
"Don't touch my head" Hana tried to move my hand with both hands but I stayed firm.
"Come on, you used to love my head pats when you were little" I teased while giving her a smirk.
"Stop treating me like a kid, I'm in my third year of middle school now" Hana complained and started to slap my arm.
I decided to retract my hand before she hurt herself trying to attack me; as my hand separated from her head, I could see a small tinge of loneliness in her eyes which tempted me to continue giving her head pats but I stopped myself.
"Anyway, please continue to take care of my sister" I turned to the two girls and bowed slightly.
"Ah, of course"
"But, she's the one who has been taking care of us"
They both also bowed before correcting me, which just showed how close of friends they are.
"Anyway, I need to go buy a new phone. I also have friends waiting for me, so let us meet again" I smiled before walking past them.
"Oh, I almost forgot" I half-turned back to them before continuing. "Hana, I'll be cooking dinner tonight so you don't have to worry about it" I smiled brightly before turning back and continued walking.
"Um, see you next time Ishia-san"
"We'll make sure Hana-chan gets home safely"
Hearing them, I waved at them over my shoulder without turning back. I mean, even if she got attacked by some thugs I'm pretty sure she can wipe the floor with them, after all, she has a black belt in karate. Well, I also have a black belt in karate before the summoning since Dad pushed for us to learn it when we were younger.
I now have the Advance Skill [Unarmed Combat Mastery], which I picked it up while adventuring from some of the other adventurers at the guild. I also have [All Weapon Mastery] which I got when I inherited the Sage legacy.
Anyway, I walked on for several more minutes before spotting the store. Just by looking from the front of the store I could tell it was very big, all kinds of electronics were displayed. To quote me from yesterday, 'You name it, they have it'; but I digress.
I stepped close and the door opened automatically. I scanned around for a second and spotted a glass counter before heading over there.
Onii-chan disappeared into the crowd, I sigh in relief. But that momentary peace was only an illusion as Saya and Emi quickly rush towards me.
"Hana-chan, why didn't you tell us you had such a cool brother?" Emi questions me with teary eyes like I betrayed her. I don't know what to tell her, Onii-chan wasn't always like this. He just changed all of a sudden like he had decided to impress a certain girl, which if it is true, then as your friend I would advise you to not even try as you will be fighting a losing battle.
"Yeah, Hana-chan, how could you keep this secret from us? As an apology, answer us, is he single?" Saya made a pouty face, which is cute and all, but the last part kinda ruins it.
"Sigh, ask him yourself. Come on, we're going to be late for the movie" I sigh before turning around, trying to end this topic. I don't want to see my friends getting heartbroken and by my Onii-chan no less, but I can only delay it for now as these two are very stubborn and will probably try to come over to meet him at our house; I just know it.
""Hey! Don't change the subject"" The two shout and follow after me. They keep pestering all the way to the movie theater; geez Onii-chan, why did to have to get all cool now of all times?
On the ground floor at the central area of the mall, in a popular fast-food chain by the name of "Wicked Stick"; two high school boys in the same uniform sat beside each other at a table in the corner. The smaller boy was playing the new popular open-world RPG gacha game "Chronicle Impact" on his high spec phone while the other boy watched him.
Iniji was currently fighting a weekly boss and was slowly dying because he didn't bring a fire character to a fight with the Frost Dragon King to offset the freezing debuff. He tried to show off his skill in the game but was completely wiped by the boss before it even entered a berserk phase.
[Maybe you should, I don't know, BRING A FIRE CHARACTER NEXT TIME!] These words popped up on the screen after he died. Iniji slumped down on the table in shame, slightly dying inside.
Hiro just awkwardly laughed with a strained smile at Iniji's failed attempt while trying and failing to comfort him.
'Ishia-san, come quickly, I don't know what to dooooo!' Hiro screamed internally while keeping up outside appearance.
Iniji continued to dispair for a few more minutes before his phone rang; an unknown caller was calling him. He reluctantly picked up the call and put it on speakerphone.
"Hello? Who is it?" Iniji's voice was as deflated as his appearance right now.
"*Hey, Monoa-kun, where are you guys?*" Ren's voice came from the other side of the phone, it was very clear in fact.
"You can ask Akirou-kun; I'm currently questioning life at the moment" Iniji spoke in monotone while turning to look at Hiro with hallow eyes before handing over the phone and went back to having an existential crisis.
"*Akirou-kun, what the hell happened in the thirty minutes I was gone?*" Ren had a deadpan look on his face while standing in front of the electronic store.
"Ehe, I don't really understand but you need to get here quickly. Monoa-kun is chanting some kind of demonic chant, here listen" Hiro squeezed out a dry laugh and held the phone close to Iniji.
"*Alright, tell me where you guys are*"
"We're in a Wicked Stick on the first floor in the central area"
"*I'm pretty close to there. I'll be there ASAP*"
Ren hung up the phone as Hiro tried to tend to Iniji.
I walked into a Wicked Stick, which is also another name for a material called Cursed Wood in Mirkaz, and spotted Monoa and Akirou seated in the corner. I rushed over to see Monoa slumped on the table mumbling some nonsense, I could hear every word clearly but it's nothing but gibberish.
"Akirou-kun, how long has he been like this?" I turned to Akirou, who looked very worried.
"Well, it started 15 minutes ago. At first, he was just slumped on the table, then he started muttering in fragmented words just like what you heard over the phone, and now this" Akirou frantically briefed me on what happened.
I turned back to Monoa and stared at him intensely while using [Appraisal] to check his condition, and what I found was quite a surprise as this was the first time I've seen it personally. I sighed and turned to Akirou with a calm expression.
"Akirou-kun, can you go order the three of us some food?"
"But, what about Monoa-kun's situation?" Akirou spoke worriedly while glancing at Monoa then back at me.
"Don't worry, I'll fix him right up. Go on, I can handle this" I flashed him a reassuring smile, showing him that everything is under control.
"O-Okay then, what do you want?" Akirou instantly stood up after seeing my smile.
"I'll have their extra spicy seafood mushroom pasta, a plate of roasted wings, and a vanilla milkshake" I listed some of the things I got last time I came.
"Alright, what about Monoa?" Akirou's gaze trailed back to Monoa as a worried look surfaced.
"Just order whatever you think he would like, take it as a test of how well you know him" I said the first thought that came to mind, this idea is kinda strange as well since they've only met like an hour and a half ago.
"Alright, I will not disappoint" Akirou did a military salute before marching off to the battlefield.
"God speed, Recruit" I muttered absentmindedly before turning my attention to Monoa. There wasn't really anything wrong with him aside from something on the Abnormal Status page that I have only ever seen appear in my predecessor's memory.
Monoa Iniji, 16 years old, Student / Indie Developer, [Temporary Status - Extreme Dread - 2 minute left]. As I said, this was my first time seeing a Temporary Status firsthand that was induced through non-magical means and wasn't intentional.
Temporary Statuses are very special in that once the time limit is up; the target will turn back to normal without any side-effect whatsoever. It was a very intriguing subject as there are multiple ways to make it appear on someone. One is using magic spells, another is in the form of a curse, another one is through a physical or mental trigger, and lastly by accident.
What happened to Monoa was the last one; he experienced great negative emotions and accidentally fell into this state. I'm kinda impressed he could pull this off, not that it's a good thing to happen but it is extremely rare. I didn't expect to witness one in my early years.
'Also, I'm pretty sure him being an Indie Developer was supposed to be a secret but oh well' These idle thoughts fleetingly ran across my mind as I sat down opposite Monoa and waited for him to come back to his senses.
I glanced out the glass window, taking in the view of people going about their days. Suddenly, my head ached a bit and I got the feeling that something was going to happen today, something bad. However, this feeling vanished without a trace in a mere instant; my intuition was telling me to prepare for something troublesome.
"Sigh, whatever. I'll deal with it when it comes" I muttered to myself and tossed those thoughts to the back of my mind since I didn't sense any impending doom coming so how dangerous could it be.
'I wholeheartedly trust my intuition, if it says there's no danger then there's no danger. After all, I got it as a present from my predecessors when I got to King-tier; it has never betrayed me so why would it do so now?'
While these thoughts went through my mind, I took my new phone out. It's a pretty new model, so the original price was kind of high at 50k yen, but I got there when they had a 20% off deal on this model so lucky me.
I have some free time so I connected to the Wi-Fi and proceeded to start installing all the necessary apps like Re-Watch, Chat-Up, Diskuss, Red-Bird, Site-Bot, Webnovel, some other apps, and some simple games. I could still remember my log-in details so didn't have to remake new accounts, which would have been a pain. I also took the chance to install Chronicle Impact as it sounded interesting from what I heard. After that, I placed the phone on the table and wait for all the apps to finish installing.
And with near-perfect timing, after I put my phone down, Monoa's eyes started to regain light a few seconds later. He sat up straight and rubbed his head a bit before noticing me.
"Oh, Ishia-kun. When did you get here?" Monoa tilted his head with a slight smile; I don't think he remembers being under the effect of [Extreme Dread], which was good, I guess.
"What do you mean? I've been here since the start. We've been waiting for Akirou-kun to return, don't you remember?" I put on a fake puzzled expression while giving the fabricated story I came up with in the spur of the moment.
"Wha? No, WE were waiting for you" Monoa turned serious at my words.
"What are you talking about? You're acting kinda weird…" I doubled down with my acting and put on a face with slight concern coloring it.
"…eh?" Monoa looked around trying to find Akirou before his face now showed slight panic as he started to believe my bullshit story.
"Are you okay? Maybe you should drink some water to calm down first" I handed him a glass of ice water that was already here when I arrived, while my face grew more concerned.
"*Gulp* Hah…hah…" Monoa downed half the glass before holding his head in both hands while thinking intensely. He remembered something different from what I said so he's questioning himself, normally you would trust your own memory over what someone else said but since I put up such a convincing act, he slowly started to believe he remembered wrong.
Before Monoa fully accepted that he might have memory problems, Akirou came back with a tray of drinks.
"Ah, Monoa-kun, you're finally back to normal. I was really concerned, what happened to you?" Akirou sat down beside me while setting the tray down.
"…What do you mean?" Monoa cleared his mind as a shadow covered the top part of his face, his voice barely audible, looks like he caught on to my ruse.
"Oh, well…" Akirou began to brief him on what happened while I took my vanilla milkshake and started sipping. 'Still pretty good' I thought while taking more sips.
"…And that's all" Akirou finished off before reaching for his boba tea. Monoa was just shaking with his head facing down. This continued with Akirou looking on with confusion on his face and me still taking light sips from the milkshake.
"YOU!" Monoa suddenly looked up while pointing at me, his hand trembling from anger as could be seen on his flushed face. I put the milkshake in my hand down and….
"Hahaha…" I started chuckling with my shoulders shaking.
"How dare you!? How dare you play me like a fiddle!?"
"Hahaha…I thought it would be amusing…Hehe"
"I'm gonna get back at you for making a fool out of me!"
"Be my guest, I'll wait"
While this was happening, Hiro was in the background looking very confused by this.
'What the hell happened?'