Standing next to a vending machine, sipping from a can of black coffee was a boy in Kurimo Academy uniform. There were dark circles under his eyes, presumably from lack of sleep. He was currently waiting for a friend to arrive so they could walk to school together.
Iniji rubbed his eyes to get them to focus while letting out a yawn. Last night, he was so engrossed in his work that he ended up only going to bed after his dad came to check up on him at 3 am. Luckily, his house is only 20 minutes away from school but he had to wake up at 6:30 to prepare for school because he and Hiro had agreed to meet up at 7 am; 30 minutes before homeroom started.
Iniji was barely hanging on to his consciousness right now with the help of the caffeine. His eyelids felt heavy, his mind was a bit blurred, and his head swayed slightly from left to right. He closed his eyes for a moment but it snapped open again because he felt himself falling, but that was all in his head.
"Man, this is starting to get worse. I might just pass out any minute now" Iniji muttered to himself in a low tone while taking the phone from his pocket, looking at the time it was 6:55 am, almost at the agreed time.
While he was checking the time on his phone with tired eyes, someone called out his name but he seemed to have not heard it. A tall figure swiftly approached him from the side.
"Monoa-kun! Can you hear me!?" Hiro shouted as he got closer, he had noticed Iniji's tired face and thought he had fallen asleep while standing up.
"Ugh… Huh?" Iniji's attention was snapped back to reality, he turned to the source of the voice and saw Hiro's concerned face.
"Are you okay?" Hiro was relieved that Iniji was at least conscious, after what happened yesterday Hiro became a bit concerned about Iniji's health.
"Ah…Akirou-kun…I'm fine..just a bit tired" Iniji spoke in parts but at least it was words that came out rather than pure gibberish.
"Didn't get much sleep? How about I carry you to school?" Hiro half-jokingly suggested with an amused smile.
"That'd be great…I feel like I might..collapse at any moment…now" Iniji didn't see a problem with that as he might very well just lose consciousness while walking and fall face-first into the concrete sidewalk; plus Hiro has a pretty big frame so piggybacking someone with a small stature like Iniji probably shouldn't be a problem.
(A/N - Akirou Hiro is 169cm and Monoa Iniji is 144cm)
"…Alright, if you're okay with it. Let me carry your bag for you too, it'll be easier to walk that way" Hiro was stunned for a few seconds at Iniji's nonchalant attitude about this but promptly ignored it since the person himself was okay with it.
Like that, Iniji handed his bag over, finished his coffee, tossed the can into a bin, before getting on Hiro's back under the watchful eyes of other students and passersby.
"You're very light Monoa-kun" Hiro commented, he barely felt weighted down at all.
"It has been like that since I was young; Natsu-nee has always teased me about it" Iniji, in his half-awake state, blurted out some personal things and even mentioned Natsumi.
"Uhh…Okay…" Hiro, who doesn't know who this "Natsu-nee" was, just ignored it and started walking to school; they were currently 9 minutes away from school.
The garnered a lot of attention on the way to school, which made Hiro a bit uncomfortable but he powered through it. Iniji had already fallen asleep just half a minute into the journey so it was only Hiro who had to endure the stares they were getting.
Kurimo Academy, Front Gate
I met up with Hina along the way and we walked to school together just like yesterday. Hina had an irritated look on her face for more than half the whole walk here, the reason for that was something on the news channel this morning around 6:24 am.
I had just finished breakfast with Dad; the others came to the living room around that time as well and Dad went to take a shower before going to bed. I turned on the TV and switched to the news channel just in time for the news reporter to announce that Achika Miri, who was assumed to have been kidnapped, was found in front of a primary school yesterday evening.
I quickly took a picture of the TV screen and sent it to Hina through Chat-Up with the text 「Called it」 in bold lettering and even a starry text bubble added for extra flare.
After we met up, Hina hadn't said anything the whole way to school; this might have something to do with the smug look I gave her when we saw each other.
I mean, wouldn't you do the same?
「Are you still angry?」 At one point I asked because I sensed that she has calmed down; though I couldn't see her face since Hina was facing to the side, probably to avoid seeing me.
「…」 Hina remained silent, but that's all I needed to pick up on her emotions at the moment.
'She's embarrassed, her face is probably flushed right now' I thought while casting [Heat Sense] and confirmed that Hina's face was a few degrees hotter than normal. I reflexively smiled at this, the levelheaded and cool Hina was embarrassed; you don't get to see that too often.
I stayed silent the rest of the way to school after that little interaction and just let her cool off some more. It's always pleasant to be with a friend you've known for a long time, even when the both of you don't talk it's not awkward at all. Only three people other than my family fit this bill, Hina, Keirou, and Namaii; although, whenever I'm alone with Namaii it never gets quiet, but that's just how she has been since middle school.
Now back to the present time, Hina and I stood in place, staring at the same thing with varying reactions. At the corner of my eyes, I can see she's showing a look of disbelief at what she was seeing while I have a warm smile bloomed on my face.
What we were looking at was a scene of a girl with chestnut-colored hair and green eyes wearing our Kurimo Academy uniform with a bright smile on her face while looking up at a tall handsome brown-haired boy with eyes of a slightly darker shade of brown wearing gray jeans and a blue hoodie, he had a helpless smile on his face.
A few seconds ago, the two of them exchanged a kiss, in front of the school gate for all to see. Well, it was the girl who initiated hence why the guy had a helpless smile that seemed to say "What am I going to do with you?"
Both Hina and I knew these two too well, they are our best friends after all. Namaii Suika, Hina's best friend, and Nijima Keirou, my best friend. I already knew about their relationship but it looks like Namaii hadn't told Hina about it yet.
「Hina, let's go and greet them」 I shook her shoulder a bit to snap her out of her daze.
「Ah! Right, Sui-chan's got some explaining to do」 Hina focused her attention on the important thing here and speed-walked to the two couples. I followed after her at the same pace, making sure to stay a bit behind her.
"Hey, you two lovebirds" I waved as they turned our way; Namaii and Keirou widen their eyes in surprise when they saw us for different reasons. Namaii was probably surprised at her getting caught being all lovey-dovey while Keirou was surprised at seeing me. He's the only one among our group of four that has not seen me since my change so his reaction was quite warranted.
"Why didn't you tell me you two were in a relationship?" Hina confronted Namaii about this while dragging her away leaving me with Keirou, who was still looking me up and down.
Us guys stayed silent, not really reacting to what the girls were doing. Keirou scanned me from head to toe while I stared back at him with a calm smile.
""…"" The silence continued on for a solid minute before Keirou asked doubtfully.
「Are you really Ren?」 Keirou looked at me with borrowed eyes, skeptical.
「You really think Hina would let some guy other than me walk to school with her? 」 I shot back a question with a deadpan face.
「…You're right, no random smut could ever handle our Pri-」 Keirou was about to say something but stopped dead in his track when he felt a cold shiver down his spine. He stiffly turned his head toward where Hina dragged Namaii to and saw a piercing glare directed right at him.
「You never learn, do you? Girls have amazing intuitions somethime」 I stared off into the distance with a melancholic expression, remembering some memories of Mel and Lily lecturing the other three for trying to sneak out of the royal castle at night to go bust down some underground slave-trading ring; I didn't get off scot-free either after the guys slipped up and hinted on where they got the info from.
「God, now you actually look cool doing that 'looking into the distant' crap you always do」 Keirou showed a disgusted expression while taking a step back.
「Thanks for the compliment」 I ignored Keirou's expression and gave him a bright smile, which made him recoil even more.
「Guh! Too much ikemen power」 Keirou shielded his eyes so as to block the image of me from his eyes.
「You look like one too, you know」 I blankly stared and stated the obvious truth.
「Except I don't act like one. Just imagining acting like Kitsuki makes me want to barf」 Keirou stopped pretending and stared at me with convictions filled eyes, stating the true feelings within his heart.
「True」 I nodded in agreement; Kitsuki acts like a prince charming all the time, it got irritating after like a month of knowing him plus his knack for dramatic pauses just makes talking to him a chore.
「Well, all jokes aside. I'm happy you finally grew out of that hairstyle, you should've done this a long time ago」 Keirou gave a genuine smile that's also filled with ikemen power rivaling that of mine. I mean… the reactions from the high school and even middle school girls in the surroundings to them were about the same; as expected of the son of two movie stars.
「Now with this look, you finally have no more excuses for not having a girlfriend. I mean, hasn't there always been someone who would love to take up that role」 Keirou smirked; he spoke in a teasing tone of voice.
「Yeah, there has」 I looked over at Hina in the distance, who's cornering Namaii with a sakura tree, and my face loosened. Keirou was a bit surprised at how direct I was being but soon the smile on his face grew wider.
「You're finally getting serious, huh?」 Keirou put both his hands in his pocket while slightly leaning forward.
「I don't want the girl I love to be taken away by some random guy now, do I?」 I tilted my head a slight bit.
「Um, I wouldn't want that to happen either」 Keirou nodded and briefly turned to where the girls were then back at me while making eye contact. Understanding what he was trying to convey, I gave a nod to which Keirou returned one back before turning around.
「Welp. I have to get to school before homeroom starts, see ya Ren」 Keirou walked off while waving over his shoulder.
「You wouldn't have to do that if you had actually woken up on time」
「Nothing I can do about that now, I'll be with you guys in a month anyway」
「You're lucky I talked to the Headmaster on your behalf」
「You trying to extort another can of ice tea from me?」 Keirou turned around from several meters away with a raised eyebrow.
「I was just saying. Don't mess up again or Miki-senpai might rip your head off」 I smirked.
「You don't have to remind me, I don't make the same mistake twice」 Keirou turned back around and went into the crowd.
I stood there looking in the direction Keirou left in until I couldn't sense his presence anymore because he was out of range. I met up with the girls and told them that Keirou left already, then the three of us walked to class together.
There were only four other people in class when we got there; Miyako, two guys who were seated in the back corners of the classroom, and a beautiful blonde-haired girl with blue eyes who wasn't here yesterday.
I looked at where she was seated then recalled the seating arrangements and the names that matched those seats. Stefan Alicia and Stefan Alexander, the two students who were absent yesterday; these two names stood out to me since they have the same last name and their names not sounding very Japanese.
And that was the end of that thought; after all, Kurimo Academy is an international school, not too out of place for there to be some foreigners. I turned my attention to Miyako, the three of us greeted her and she acted like she did yesterday but I can feel the anxiousness oozing off of her.
'Looks like she did a bit of thinking after our encounter and realized I totally knew what she was doing, and now she's worried I might expose her' I inwardly chuckled at this but didn't let it show on my face as I greeted her before going to my desk.
Sitting down, I ignored Miyako's frequent glances and took my phone out. I haven't checked if I got any replies or not yet so I'm doing it now. And not surprising at all, there were no replies. It was alright, I wasn't in any big rush or anything so I can wait.
I put my phone away and picked up my bag that I left on the floor next to the desk, I took out the magic circle notebook and a magic mechanical pencil I made last night. It's nothing special, the only function it has is automatic pencil lead restoration; basically, I don't need to buy any pencil lead.
I picked up on where I left off yesterday and continued to work on more magic circle ideas that came to me in my sleep. While I was doing this, more students slowly started coming in one by one. Hina, Namaii, and Miyako were talking to the blonde girl, Stefan Alicia. The other guys and girls had their attention locked on the four of them, both parties interested in the unfamiliar girl.
I listened in on their conversations from my seat, they asked her about the normal stuff; why she was absent yesterday, was that Alexander guy a relative since they have the same last name, what country she came from, her hobbies and interest, you know regular small talk. Her tone was a bit cold but surprisingly she was very opened to answering those questions.
'They seemed to be getting along nicely. It's nice seeing that Dad's side of the family wasn't all like that guy' I finished up a magic circle while having thought. What? You think I wouldn't put two and two together and figured out that she's related to me, was using a fake name, and that Stefan Alexander was probably that Alex guy?
I don't know what they want by getting into contact with our family, but it's definitely got to be something to do with Dad. If they come at us with hostility, I don't care if they are family, they'll be dealt with the same I deal with monsters.
Unbeknownst to Ren, the same moment he had that thought, every person in the Brusion family felt a cold shiver run down their spine. Alicia, real name Alice, felt the cold sweats running down her back and was confused by it.
'What's this sinking feeling…?' Alice felt her quickening heartbeat that just accelerated all of a sudden following that sickening feeling; sweat trickled down the side of her face. Even with this sudden flood of dread, Alice didn't let it show on her face; all thanks to her upbringing as a scion of the Brusion family. Even so, no human is perfect…
"Hmm? Alice-san, are you not feeling well?" Asahina took notice of the slight changes in Alice's body language, the droplets of sweat dripping from her face, and her slightly shaky shoulders.
"Is there something wrong with Alice-san, Asa-chan?" Suika tilted her head in puzzlement, but she knew how perceptive Asahina was so the question was more out of curiosity than of confirmation.
"Alicia-san, if you are feeling unwell, it's best you go to the infirmary. I can take you there if you do not know where it is" Atsuka offered, exuding an air of maturity as one would expect from the Class Rep.
"Haha… I do feel a bit under the weather. I will take you up on that offer, Miyako-san" Alice was quite shocked that Asahina could see through her, but she decided that it wouldn't be too bad to lay down for a while because she felt sick to her stomach and her heart rate didn't seem like it will go down anytime soon.
"I will inform Osuji-sensei about this so don't worry about being absent" Asahina smiled at Alice to reassure her.
"Thank you for your kindness, Izuno-san" Alice stood up from her seat and bowed. With Class Rep supporting her, making sure she doesn't suddenly fall over, the two made their way to the infirmary.