Princess Tsuko woked up later than usual, still feeling quite sleepy. That was because she had to attend three meetings yesterday around the Capital of Libertea to establish connections. It was tedious work, especially presenting a social front for people who did not care about her as a person but her sole authority as a princess of Shui Kingdom.
But it was one of Father’s conditions in order to attend Temple Academy.
“Princess Tsuko, please be careful as always with your surroundings. You never know when an assassination can happen.”
The knight bowed in a doting manner. His tanned face had a firm and unyielding expression. His black hair was neatly trimmed for ease of movement and to avoid it getting tangled in combat.
“Yes, Logyn.” Tsuko smiled politely, “I’ll be careful as always.”
“I will be at the designated spot after school. Until then, please have fun in class!”
This was way too predictable — to be defended by her personal guard, even inside one of the safest place in the world. But being royalty of a famous country meant her personal freedom was limited. She was used to it anyways.
Tsuko let out a sigh as she slowly strolled towards her classroom. Thankfully, it was at a different location due to the Potential and Regular hierarchy system. At least during class time, she will finally have some breathing room.
Logyn remained in his position, prostrating like a stone statue until she finally disappeared.
Fun… I wish that was the case.
I thought having a school life would actually be fun… but then again, nothing in life goes according to plan.
Was I expecting too much…?
As of now, it was quite obvious there were four subgroups divided in the F4 class.
There was the girl group — Mana, Aqua and her. They were nice to have casual conversations but not necessarily her type of crowd.
The typical boy group of Jan, Shen, and Ness. A bunch of funny troublemakers. Definitely not her crowd.
Then there was Saki, an extremely quiet girl who always disappears during break periods or off daydreaming in her own world in class. At first, Tsuko would try to invite her into the conversation but she would always shake her head. It felt like talking to a wall so she gave up.
And lastly, there was Onii and the honorary classmate Doragon. It was hard to imagine they would be involved with the rest of them, given how special they seemed.
Tsuko was not particularly surprised since there were many talented people. In a world where strength meant power, they were literal walking gold mines, waiting to be claimed by major corporations, royal families and the Adventurer’s Guild. The S-rank and a swordsman with bona fide strength seemed to be destined for prosperity.
Thinking back to her interaction with Onii, Tsuko wondered why he did not want to talk about Doragon.
At first, the plan was to exchange contact information. But the atmosphere turned unexpectedly sour, making it awkward for Tsuko to ask.
He did seem like he was having a bad day… Maybe I should try again later.
Why do I keep thinking about him?
Something about him felt different. Onii just seemed different from all the people she had interacted with. And for some reason, watching Onii was like seeing a version of her past self. Both of them had something to hide and because of that, they had to maintain a safe distance from others.
While Tsuko chose to blend in with the crowd, Onii decided to embark on the path of a lone wolf.
Temple Academy… Is this really the life I was hoping for?
Why are expectations so different from reality?
Should I have tried harder on the entrance exam and placed in a different class?
Suddenly, Tsuko’s heart thumped. She saw him. Right in front of her was Onii, walking alone as he looked down at the floor.
Now’s my chance.
“Good morning Onii, how’s your morning so far?”
As he turned towards her, his eyes were soulless and one could tell he was having a bad day.
Your expression says otherwise.
“Did something happen?”
Onii let out a chuckle and nothing more, which surprised Tsuko. Because he did not seem the type of person to express his emotions.
Did something extreme happen to him…? Or was I wrong about his personality? I wonder—
—Not wanting to overthink about the situation like she usually does, Tsuko asked for the specifics.
“Did something happen between you and Doragon?”
Onii sighed and explained everything — from Doragon’s roommate request to having an argument with his little sister. Although the situation itself was already quite perplexing, Tsuko was more shocked about the fact he revealed his personal struggles so willingly.
This already sounds like a complex situation.
And he must be really close with Amae. I don’t really understand the sibling relationship but I suppose every family is different.
I wonder what I can do to help.
Gah~ If only I wasn’t so sleepy, I can barely think right now.
Unsure what to say, Tsuko took out her AI and said in a warm voice.
“Let me know if I can do anything to help. After all, we as the F4 class should stick together.”
S***. That didn’t sound helpful at all.
Pausing for a brief moment, Onii smiled. Surprisingly, it was a smile straight from his heart, one that she never expected to see.
“Thank you, I will if the time comes.”
There was only gratitude in his tone. It felt like the two had finally breached the barrier from stranger to an acquaintance. One step closer to being friends.
Clicking a few buttons, Tsuko and Onii exchanged contact information and head to class together. And the ironic thing was that she had done it sleep-deprived.
Maybe I should start sleeping less.
♦ ♦ ♦
Onii saw Doragon and Amae standing by the fountain, possibly having a discussion. He paused. Looking from the second-floor at his building, his mind rapidly came to work, connecting the dots on this strange situation.
I’m sure I never told Doragon about Amae…
Then why are the two talking?
Doragon should not have known who his little sister was. She never asked for her name nor ranking. This must mean—
—Onii immediately dashed downstairs like a gust of wind, activating only partially of his martial skills.
“Having a cute girl as my personal maid doesn’t sound bad at all,” He heard Doragon said as he promptly arrived at the scene. “Oh my, look who it is.”
Amae noticed his presence but continued to maintain her steely gaze on Doragon. The heaviness surrounding them indicated that this was a serious conversation and outsiders should not interfere.
“Then the condition for the duel is set — if I win, then I will replace your spot at Celestial Dragon,” Amae said coldly, “But if I lose, then I’ll become your servant until you graduate.”
Wait… did Amae just challenged Doragon to a duel?
Onii could not believe he was hearing those words out of his sister’s mouth. The intelligent and strategically-composed Amae was acting on impulses?
Amae leaned toward Doragon, her gaze locking on as if there was an anger magnet pulling the two toward each other.
“You have yourself a deal,” The rivals exchanged handshakes, which indicated the fulfillment of their contract.
“I’ll send you the exact location over AI. It’ll be on this Earthenday, around 2 pm.”
“Absolutely~ I look forward to our duel, Amae.” Doragon was obviously delighted at the thought of a new challenger. “And having you serve me for the remainder of my two years.”
With a sadistic grin, Doragon walked away from Amae. As she walked beside Onii, it was as if time stopped and she glanced quickly at him and spoke in a distant voice. It was filled with disappointment.
“It seems like your little sister is even more of a man than you.”
Then she was gone.
Amae and Onii were the only ones remaining, standing in complete silence. The only sound was the water rushing out of the fountain.
Realizing the potential consequences of Amae’s decision, Onii held onto his sister’s shoulder. But she averted eye contact and looked down at the ground.
“Why did you challenge Doragon? You know that this isn’t a smart decision, especially with our current mission.”
“I know,” She said softly. “I know.”
“Little sister, talk to me.”
“Because I can’t handle it!”
Amae met gaze as her eyes were brimmed with tears, slowly forming and about to trickle down.
“How would you feel if I had a guy roommate that was naked everytime I went home?”
“How would you feel…? Because I know I can’t. I can’t control my emotions, knowing the fact she is trying to seduce you every single night. I just can’t. Thinking about it always makes me so angry…”
Her voice croaked as if she was crying out in frustration.
“I love you too much… it hurts. It hurts to know that Doragon is doing this. It hurts knowing that we lack the power to do anything.”
Onii could not respond again. That was because he would probably feel the same way. Thus, he let go of Amae’s shoulder and this time, it was him who averted gaze.
F***. What should I do…
What should I even say…?
Guilt. Shame. Hopelessness. Those feelings seemed to resurface once again.
“Big brother, about the other day, I’m sorry for being a hypocrite. Even though I told you not to fight yet I’m here fighting for my own selfish reasons.”
Amae’s navy-blue eyes seemed to flare into crimson flames as rage replaced her pupils.
“But this is something I have to do, as your little sister. I’ll defeat Doragon and become your roommate. And then after that, we will go back to the good old days. It’ll be nice if we can live together again like the times back in the Dojo or Riverside.”
Good old days…
Being roommates and living under the same roof.
Sharing a bed together.
Waking up to her smile.
Coming home to the one I love.
The thought sounded so pleasant, it almost made Onii want to get lost in it — this phantasmagorical dream.
But realistically, it was nearly impossible to attain. There were too many flaws in that logic. Too many variables that would happen along the way. Too many consequences that would result in their mission’s failure.
Although it was nice to think about and warmed his heart, attaining that ideal would result similarly to their assassination mission back in Temecula.
“This is a battle between woman. So leave everything up to me, big brother. You already know how strong I am so I won’t lose, even if Doragon’s an S-rank.”
This is wrong…
Before walking away, Amae pressed her lips on his forehead.
This isn’t how it suppose to be…
After the goodnight kiss, she smiled.
We should be communicating. Like we always do back as Duality.
It was a feigned smile. He knew her long enough to tell from an instant.
Yet, why can’t I speak my mind…?
As Amae left, Onii facepalmed himself. He could only shake his head at how weak he was.
All he could do now was hope for the best and watch on the sideline, feeling helplessly caught in the ongoing current of everchanging events.
♦ ♦ ♦
『 Amae (03/24/20): No relationship is without its conflict, even for the ideal siblingship. 』
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