Trauma Button A Paradox Live Fansite
Fan Book Story Story: Akan Yatsura

Ah, I want to sleep a little longer...

The sunlight, softened by shining through the shoji screen, shone down on Reo's face. It was such a pleasant warmth that he wanted to surrender to it and stay like that, but he didn't want to risk getting a sunburn on his fair skin. He turned over and pressed his face tightly against the pillow. Just a little bit more, just a little longer...

"... Reo."

A low voice called his name. He knew it was time to get up, but even so...

"Reo, wake up."

"Alriiiight," Reo said, pretending he had just woken up even though he had already stirred. Hokusai was probably well-familiar with this charade, and Reo himself was under no illusion that he was fooling anyone. He stretched, and only then belatedly noticed that something was amiss.

The five of them, Reo included, lived together in this old Japanese-style house. It was always lively and full of chatter, but it was strangely quiet and still today.

"... Aniki is out at the moment. Satsuki, too," Hokusai said.

Unless something was really out of the ordinary, it was customary for all five of them to eat a meal together, prepared by Zen. It was odd for both Iori and Satsuki to be gone. It wasn't odd at all for Iori to not tell anyone where he was, but Reo couldn't help but wonder where Satsuki was. He said he had some personal business to attend to.

Satsuki, are you on a daaate~? Well, who cares? I'll just relish the fact that it's quiet!

Reo hummed to himself as he got dressed at a leisurely pace, but he felt somewhat ill at ease with the house this quiet. Then, he sniffed at the air like a little hamster.

"Hey, is Zen-nii here? Shouldn't he be making food right about now?" Reo asked aloud. Not only was the sound of people talking missing; so was the smell of appetizing food, which usually hung in the air right about now. Reo checked the time on his phone; it was 12:30. It was about the regular time to eat.

"... he's sleeping," said Hokusai.

"What do you mean?" Reo said. Ordinarily, a staunch and principled person like Zen would never sleep this late. Today was shaping up to be completely out of whack. Reo took in the odd atmosphere and furrowed his brow.

"... Reo, come here," said Hokusai.

Feeling uneasy, Reo followed Hokusai to Zen's room. There, they found him lying on his futon, moaning in pain.


"Zen-nii, what's wrong? Are you sick?" Reo said, and he began to approach, but Hokusai pulled him back before he could get too close. Zen's face was pale; his breathing was labored, and his forehead was drenched in sweat.

As Hokusai told it, he had gone to the kitchen to help prepare lunch, and when Zen hadn't been there, he had felt uneasy. When he had come to Zen's room in search of him, this was what he had found.

"Zen-nii," Reo said, "are you okay? Do you hurt? Is there anything we can get for you?"

At being addressed, Zen opened his blurry eyes a little bit. "No... ugh... I'm fine... so..." he said, then shook his head a little, and his eyes slid closed again. His breathing was still belabored, but he seemed to have fallen back asleep.

"He doesn't seem to have a fever, though..." Hokusai said, looking at Reo. He expected to see Reo looking worried, but the way that he was met with the sight of Reo with his eyes wide and sparkly was actually a little amusing.

"Oh, this is bad!" Reo said. "What do we do!? Should we get him an ice pack? How do you make porridge!?" He couldn't just sit around and do nothing. He sprang to his feet and ran towards the kitchen. Hokusai followed him slowly.

As he slept, Zen was having a nightmare. In the dream, he was about to be swalloed up by a large, amorphous something. Just when dream-Zen had the thought that he was a goner--

Bang! Boom! Crash!

He was snapped back to reality by a cacophony of sound as, apparently, Reo started throwing open and slamming cupboards and the refridgerator door, knocking things over as he went. Distantly, Zen could hear Reo running his mouth, almost as if he were a little bit excited: "We don't have an ice pack. I'll just wet him a towel instead~!"

Reo came back in a short time. "Zen-nii! Here, to cool you off!" he announced, putting a wet cloth on Zen's forehead, and he wasn't entirely sure he wasn't back in the nightmare all over again. "I'm gonna make some porridge, so just hold on a second!"

And again he was off with springy footsteps. He didn't hear at all as Zen tried to call out to him: "Reo-ku... ugh, this rag..."

Hm, porridge takes a while to make, doesn't it? Reo thought. And how are you supposed to wash rice for, anyway? Aren't there any recipes you can do in, like, five minutes? I'll just search for "porridge in five minutes", and... oh, man, those sneakers are so cool~! I'll have to talk someone into buying them for me~...

As Reo flicked through his phone while on this train of thought, he heard the thudding of approaching footsteps from the front door.

"I'm ba~-- the fuck!? What the hell is going on here!?" Satsuki's announcement of his arrival got derailed by a yell of surprise as he was met with the sight of Reo playing on his phone, standing in the midst of a tremendous mess, and Hokusai standing there gormlessly with a dish that he broke in the middle of trying to wash it.

"Oi, monkey! No yelling!! Zen-nii's sick and trying to sleep it off!" Reo said.

"What? He's sick!?" Satsuki cried in dismay. "Hah?! And you're being totally useless! You don't know how to make porridge or clean up after yourself, you're just slacking off to play games on your phone!" Satsuki complained, setting himself quickly to cleaning up the mess, and delegating tasks to Hokusai as needed.

"I'm not playing games! I was just looking up a recipe for porridge," Reo said.

"Then show me your phone," Satsuki said.

"No way," Reo said with a pout, glancing away as Satsuki reached for his phone.

"You shouldn't have to Google it to know how to make porridge!" Satsuki said.

"Why not? Why should I devote precious memory space to a recipe for a porridge recipe I'm only gonna make like once? It's just more efficient to Google it every time. And besides, where the hell were you, Satsuki? Was it a date? ... of course it wasn't, you turbo-virgin."

"Shut the fuck up!" Satsuki yelled. "Zen-nii is sick, that's what matters! What are you supposed to do for a cold...? Are you supposed to cool them down, or warm them up...? Fuck! I've never had a cold! I don't know what you're supposed to do!" Satsuki put his head in his hands.

"Of course you haven't," Reo said mockingly to the agonizing Satsuki, "you're an idiot, after all, so you're immune."[1]

Hokusai, who was so large that he was having to bend over to wash dishes, spoke in a surprisingly quiet voice: "I think it's good that your immune system is robust."

But it was completely drowned out by Satsuki howling, "shut the fuck up!! What about you!? All you've been doing is running your mouth without doing anything?!"

Reo was taken aback by Satsuki's accusation; he was right on the money. Satsuki, not used to actually having an advantage over Reo in a battle of wits, immediately noticed and leapt on the moment of weakness. "Good grief. You've gotten used to being spoiled, so the only thing you know how to do is flirt?" he said with a snicker. "That's what you get for growing up a rich boy."

"Satsuki," Hokusai said, his voice low but firm enough to turn the tide of the fight in a moment. Satsuki was taken aback in his turn by how little Hokusai had to say. Hurredly, he looked at Reo, but Reo was hanging his head and Satsuki couldn't see his face. Hokusai embraced the now-silent Reo and patted his head. "Satsuki, apologize?" Hokusai urged, and Satsuki had no good comeback for that.

Satsuki glanced around nervously. "... sorry," he muttered.

After a few more seconds of silence, Reo looked up from Hokusai's chest. "Anyway," he said with the lilt back in his voice, "I bet even I could make porridge better than you, Satsuki! In fact, I challenge you to that-- let's see who can make the better porridge. But, as a handicap, you're not allowed to look up a recipe," Reo said with a smile.

"... you're on, dumbass!" Satsuki said. "I'll whoop your ass one-handed!" He had a renewed vigor and swagger to his coarse declarations, but he was very obviously relieved. The environments they had been brought up in shouldn't matter, and Satsuki knew that as well as anyone. Until they had been picked up by Iori, they had all lived with loneliness and feelings of inadequacy that they couldn't have dealt with on their own. What he'd said had been out of line, and he was very glad that Hokusai was there to stop him before he said something harder to take back.

"Porridge is nothing," Reo said. "I bet I could even make udon from scratch and still win."

"Oh, so you're afraid to fight me on equal ground huh?" Satsuki taunted.

Reo ignored him. He wandered around the kitchen with phone in hand, murmuring where do we keep that? and where would this be?, and eventually, he pulled some ginger out of their stock of vegetables in the pantry. "So... first you just wash the vegetables and peel ginger... this stuff is easy!"

"Reo," Hokusai said, "don't use detergent."

"Three tablespoons of mentsuyu[2]... How much is that? Well, whatever, I'll just put it in until it looks right," Reo said.

"Reo, that mentsuyu is triple-concentrated... ah..."

Hokusai was... well, his face was the same flat expression as usual, but Satsuki could plainly see that he was more than a little astonished at Ryo's lackadaisical approach to cooking. For Satuski's part, the egg porridge that he was making was nearing completion. It was a simple task for him; he helped Zen out with the housework on the regular.

Hokusai, so struck with despair over Reo's creative cooking, quietly admired Satsuki's quick work. However, Satsuki wasn't altogether sure yet. He tasted a bite of the egg porridge; it was really good, with well-seasoned soup stock and an understated taste so it wouldn't become overpowering no matter how much you ate.

But even so, Satsuki wasn't sure that this was really the ideal porridge. Would this really be what Zen-nii needed? He was primarily worried about the fact that Zen wasn't feeling well. Since he was a very healthy boy who had never caught a serious cold, the entire idea of being sick was out of the realm of his experience. There must be some ideal meal to serve to a sick person...

And then Satsuki had an idea. Wait, we've got it right here in the house, he thought to himself. Zen-nii's favorite thing to eat.

Hokusai watched on in stunned silence. He didn't understand much about cooking, but even he could tell that the two of them were going in wildly different directions, both of them wrong. He thought about Zen, sick in the other room, and quietly prayed for his safety. While he was doing this, he noticed his own growing hunger and checked the time.

It was time to feed the cat.

Hokusai quietly excused himself from the kitchen.


Two peoples' footsteps echoed loud. The thudding of their feet and the vibrations in the floor struck blows to Zen's already-weakened body and mind. In the midst of his physical agony, Zen felt a whole new type of dread.

With a bang, his door flew open.

"Zen-nii! Lunch is served!"

"Zen-nii! Lunch!"

Reo and Satsuki both entered the room in turn, each holding their own dishes. What on earth was that smell? A bizarre, piercing stench wafted through the air and into Zen's nose. Something was horribly wrong, and worse, both Reo and Satsuki looked completely confident. What had they brought?

"Tadaa! Reo-kun's special hot ginger udon with tapioca toppings!"

Indeed, on the surface of the bowl that Reo was holding up was a generous layer of lukewarm black tapioca balls, which felt like a rather egregious misuse of the word topping. It was difficult to see the so-called hot ginger udon underneath, but--

"Time to enjoy some real food~☆!" Reo said, thrusting the chopsticks into the bowl. As he did, udon noodles emerged from under the layer of tapioca balls with a disconcertingly... heavy sound. With a tremendous effort, Reo extricated the udon noodles and dextrously placed them atop the spoon, which he then garnished with a few tapioca balls for style. "There you go! Mini-udon!" Reo said, then blew on the spoon to cool it down. "Alright, Zen-nii! Eat up!"

Reo offered the spoon to him with a big smile on his face, but Zen found himself quite bereft of apetite. However, he was powerless to refuse such an innocent show of kindness. Determined, Reo mercilessly shoved the spoon between Zen's lips, which were slightly parted as he lay on his side.

There was no flavor whatsoever, and no matter how long he chewed, the rubbery texture never began to break down. He couldn't swallow if he wanted to. The tapioca balls and the noodle remained solid and tasteless. He would spit it out, but... Zen looked cautiously at Reo, and Reo smiled as he oh-so-benevolently prepared another spoonful of udon, waiting for Zen to finish the first bite. This was bad. He was probably mistaking this for Zen enjoying the flavor. But what was he supposed to do? Even chewing for this long, it was still like wet rubber. God help him!

Zen eventually managed to swallow the well-chewed food, and he wanted to say that he was satisfied and wouldn't be needing any more food, but Satsuki didn't wait before placing another bowl beside Zen's bed.

"You moron! There's no nutritional value in tapioca! I made a powerful egg porridge, to help rebuild Zen-nii's strength!"

Although he absolutely did not want to eat another bite of anything, the subtle scent of dashi wafting from the bowl sparked his thought-dead appetitte. Perhaps he was just impressed that, unlike the tapioca udon from a moment ago, this actually seemed to be real food. He put the spoon offered to him by Satsuki into his mouth of his own volition.

At first, it seemed to be a delicious porridge, but as time went on, his tongue was struck by an extremely odd sensation that he couldn't overlook. Hold on, he thought, I know what this is. But it can't be...

"Did you notice, Zen-nii? Yeah! You'll be feelin' like wahey! with the taste of Blue Hawaii protein powder!"

Satsuki.. please try to obscure your secret ingredients more.

Zen willed himself to swallow the protein-laden porridge and unceremoniously passed right back out.

"Zen! Which did you like better? Mine, right? The tapioca was really chewy and delicious, right?"

"Don't be an asshole! Mine's got nutritional value! Right, Zen-nii? ... Zen-nii?"

Hokusai had finished attending to the cat, and came back to check on Zen, and was greeted with the sight of the normally quite tan Zen with a face as white as a sheet of paper. Hokusai raised his eyebrows.

"... has Zen-nii gotten worse?"

"N-n-not at all!"

"Y-yeah! He's been like this since morning, remember?"

Looking between the two boys with guilty faces and the two nearly-untouched what-was-maybe-supposed-to-be-meals gave him a pretty good idea of what had happened.

After Zen lost consciousness, Reo and Satsuki couldn't help but be curious, and they tried the dishes that they had made.


"... hey, how's yours?" Satsuki said.

"What? Mine's great. How's yours, Satsuki-chan?"

"Y-yeah! Mine's awesome!"

"You gonna eat all of it?" Reo said.

"... but, you know, if I caught Zen-nii's cold -- not like I'm gonna -- it'd be kind of a waste of energy to..."

"Yeah, I totally hate to throw away such a delicious and cute meal, buuut..."

With that, they both laughed, and agreed to never speak of these home-cooked disasters ever again.

While cleaning up thoroughly so that there would be no lingering scent left behind, Satsuki spoke up again. "... but, you know, doesn't it seem like Zen-nii's symptoms are way too severe for just a common cold?"

"Yeah... it feels kind of extreme to be laying there all day hardly able to talk..." Reo said.

"... maybe it's more serious than a cold," Hokusai said, and Reo immediately went pale.

"... what should we do? If Zen-nii were to--" Reo said, but Satsuki cut him off.

"Hey! Don't jinx it!!"

"A-an ambulance-- do you think we ought to call him an ambulance!?" Reo said.

"Don't be dumb! Zen-nii's not gonna be taken down by something this small!" Satsuki said.

"Calm down, Reo. There there. It'll be fine," Hokusai said, embracing the clearly-distraught Reo.

Just then, the sound of the front door opening rang out through the air.

"He~y everyone, I'm ba-- whoa?!"

Satsuki, Reo, and Hokusai rushed to the front door and all but jumped into Iori's arms as he returned home.

"Hey, now, what's up with this warm welcome?" Iori said. "Something up?"

"IT's Zen-nii-- Zen-nii is dying!"

Iori got bodily dragged by the three of them to Zen's room, where he was still lying motionless on the floor. He gasped at the sight, then knelt down next to Zen to place a hand on his forehead.

"... Waka..."

Iori hummed in thought. "He doesn't have a fever, but those can come and go."

"He got way worse after he ate the food that Satsuki made for him!" Reo exclaimed.

"What!? It's because of what you tried to feed him!" Satsuki retaliated.

"No way!"

While Reo and Satsuki argued back and forth, Iori looked as though he was struck by a moment of realization. "Hold on, these symptoms... Seen 'em somewhere... ... that's it! No doubt about it? The first aid kit-- where's our first aid kit?"

Reo tilted his head in thought. "Where did I see the first aid kit...?"

"Uh, do we even have one? I don't know where it'd be..." Satsuki said, seeming genuinely clueless.

"Huh? Satsuki, you're always getting into fights and getting hurt, shouldn't you know exactly where it is since you need it all the time?" Reo said.

"Well, I mean, Zen-nii always gets it out of somewhere to take care of that..."

"Useless!" Reo said.

"Shut the fuck up!"

"Man, we'd all be screwed without Zen, wouldn't we?" Iori said. "Hokusai, you got any idea?"

Hokusai shook his head without saying anything.

"Alright, then! Nothin' to be done about it, so it's up to me then! I'm pretty sure I know more or less where it is. Hell, if the four of us all look for it, we'll find it in no time. The hunt is on, yeah?"


Zen, still laid out, danced around the line between dream and reality as he heard the cacophany unfolding out in the living room.

"Oi, Reo! There's no way it'd ever be there!"

"Shut up! You say that but you looked here earlier, didn't you!? You moron!"


The sound of something collapsing, and something hitting the floor.

"A-Aniki! Are you okay!?"

"... ... you're bleeding..."

"Shit, that hurts! Someone get me the first aid kit, will 'ya?"

"Isn't that what we're looking for!?"

Based on the chaos that he had yet to see and could only hear, Zen prayed that he would pass out for, say, the next three days or so.


By the time the four of them had finally found the first aid kit, it was already evening. All of them were worse for the wear, and Iori had a painful scar on his forehead.

"By the time we found it, it ended up being in a pretty obvious place..." Satsuki lamented.

"I wonder why it took us so long? It's almost like it was hidden, you know?" Reo said.

Iori threw open the wooden first aid kit, marked with a cross, and rummaged through it to find what he was looking for. "Y'know, if you think about it, really no way Zen'd keep the first aid kit somewhere hidden like that... but, ah! Found it! Here it is! Oi, Zen, take this!"

Iori took out a pill from a small bottle. He hauled Zen's motionless body slightly up, forced the pill into his mouth, and gave him a drink of water. "I figure this oughta do the trick," he said.

"Ugh... Waka..." Zen groaned. After a moment, he slowly opened his eyes, and, very gradually, raised himself into a sitting position on a deep exhale. "Thank you... I feel a lot better now..."


"Zen, you..." Iori said. "That got to you, didn't it?"

"How embarrassing... Waka, you really see right through me..." Zen lamented.

"What? What happened!?" Satsuki exclaimed. "What'd you give Zen-nii!? Tell us!"

"Mm... well, I suppose the day may come that you need to know. I suppose I'll tell you," Iori said. "That drug Zen took... I got it in secret, from a secret source..." Iori spoke with a very serious tone that made Satsuki, Reo, and Hokusai gulp nervously. And then, he said, "... and, it's stomach medicine."

What? Hokusai and Reo looked incredulous, and even Hokusai looked confused.

"And not just any stomach medicine, at that! It's..." Iori paused for dramatic effect. "Really good stomach medicine!"

"What? Zen-nii just had food poisoning!?" Satsuki said. "So what was the that that got to him!?"

"If you don't tell us, how are we supposed to understand?" Reo said.

Zen glanced at Iori, and then spoke decisively. "I owe all of you, and there's no point trying to hide it, so I'll tell you the truth. Last night, after I finished up at CANDY, I went to Bar 4/7 to return a book that I had borrowed..."


The Previous Night, Around 2:00, at Bar 4/7...

"Huh. Weird to see you here."

Yohei, the barmaster, welcomed in a clipped tone of voice around a cigarette and ushered him to take a seat at the bar. He wasn't being friendly, but he wasn't going out of his way to make Zen feel unwelcome. Two female patrons were sitting at the other end of the counter, and kept glancing at Yohei as if they were trying to get his attention.

"If you're lookin' for Saimon, he's already home sleeping 'round this time. I'll make sure he gets this back, though," Yohei said. "Now, sir, what do you want to drink? You like somethin' with a little less sugar, don't you?"

"Ah, then I'll have..."

Just as Zen was deciding on what to order, Ryu appeared in a flash of silver hair and energy right in the corner of Zen's eye. He had so many piercings that Zen could hear them rattling against each other as he moved.

"Oh, it's Mr. Macho~! Welcome. Whaddaya want to drink? You want Charismatic Bartender Ryu-kun's recommended special drink? Do 'ya?"

Overwhelmed by Ryu's energy, like a dog wagging its tail so hard it was about to hurt itself, Zen conceded. "Sure, I'll take one," he said.

The sound that filled the bar then, whatever it was, was not the sound of a cocktail being made.

"Thank you for your patience~! Behold: Ryu-kun's Whimsical Special Energy Cocktail~!"

Zen gulped at the sight of the slightly-irridescent, suspiciously-glossy liquid that was placed in front of him. He had absolutely no idea what could possibly be in this drink to make it the color that it was. I should absolutely not drink this, screamed every bit of his rational brain, but like he was being hypnotized by the bizarre drink, he slowly lifted the glass to his mouth.

"Yeah, you might not wanna drink that," Yohei said. "Most of the drinks he makes are... ... uh. You okay?"


"I can't remember anything past that... I think that Kanbayashi-san brought me back here in a taxi. I'm so sorry for all the trouble I must have caused him. I'll have to go reach out and apologize to him in the near future for causing him so much trouble..." Zen said.

At the sight of Zen's solemn expression as he explained what had happened, Satsuki and Reo furrowed their brows in frustration.

"What!? You're the one who was troubled!" Reo said. "It's the bartender's fault! You should file a claim for compensation."

"There's times, Reo," said Iori, "where even if you know you're gonna lose, you can't back down."

"Have you also been laid out by one of Maou's drinks, then, Aniki?" Reo said curiously.

"Ah... sometimes, there's times he makes drinks so good they're completely unlike anythin' you ever had before. But if you get there at the wrong moment, then this happens. One time I thought for certain I was gonna die..."

Satsuki stared, without understanding, at Iori, who himself was looking into the middle distance with an odd look.

"... well, whatever the case," Zen said, and then deeply bowed his head. "I'm very sorry for the trouble I caused all of you by getting sick. If there's anything I can do to apologize--"

The other four exchanged glances.

"... you really are an upstandin' guy, ain't you, Zen? C'mon, head up," Iori said, and Zen slowly raised his head. "We're family, yeah? We're supposed to annoy each other, help each other, and know we're good for it."

"For real! If anything, you should bother us more, Zen-nii!" said Satsuki.

"We're all happy to help more from now on!" Reo said. "... but be sure to mostly ask Satsuki to do stuff, okay?"

"What was that!?"

"... please rely on us more," Hokusai said.

"... Waka... everyone... thank you! I'm so moved!" Zen exclaimed, and in a flash, he got up and spread his arms wide to embrace all four of them at once. Iori and Hokusai managed to avoid the line of fire, but Reo and Satsuki were unable to escape and were practically pinned together in a tight bear hug. "You guys...! I'm so proud to call you... my family!!!"


"Hhhahaha, okay, Zen, that's enough. Knock it off before you kill Reo!" Iori said.


"R-Reo! Hang in there!" Zen cried.


After that, Reo -- who survived the entire encounter mostly due to Iori's intervention -- was cleaning up the mess left in the kitchen and grumbling about it. "For real... I thought I was gonna die! Should've let him stay passed out a bit longer..."

"Did you say something, Reo-kun?" called Zen.

"Nope~!" Reo replied.

"Seriously... you guys can't cook or do laundry!" Zen chided. "You're going to be in serious trouble in the future if you don't learn some life skills! Reo-kun and Hokusai-kun especially! I suppose it's my own fault... I keep spoiling you because of how cute you guys are... but no more! From now on, I will be educating you in the ways of responsible, independent, fully-fledged adults! First things first, you'll clean the entire house! Then you'll be making dinner!"

"Huh~? Doesn't being a family mean we should live together and make up for each other's weaknesses?" Reo said.

"--! Reo-kun, you can't just say things like that when it's convenient for you!"

"Ahahah... I wonder if he's gonna go drink Maou's drink again. I mean, if that drink laid him so flat even with all the training he does, then what's even the purpose of all those muscles?" Reo said.

"... I heard," Hokusai said. "That muscle training can weaken your immune systmem."

"Reo-kun? Hokusai-kun? Why are you guys not working?" Zen said.

Reo pouted. "Why doesn't Satsuki-chan have to help, anyway?"

"Because Satsuki-kun always helps around the house, and already knows how to do all of the household chores!" Zen said; just then, Satsuki was passing by in the hall and Zen caught sight of him. "Speaking of! Satsuki-kun, where on earth did you go off to today?"

Satsuki averted his eyes and looked a little bit sheepish. "Uh... yeah, about that, I, uh, I was just..."

"Hey, wait, I know!" Reo said. "Didn't our teacher say that everyone who got those red marks on that exam we did recently would have to take remedial classes on the weekends? Satsuki, don't tell me..."

"D-don't be stupid! Of course that's not where I was!" Satsuki said defensively.

"Where was it, then? Hey, c'mon, tell me where you were!" Reo prodded. "If you weren't in remedial classes, then do you wanna show us your test results?"

"Shut your fuckin' mouth!!" Satsuki said. "So what if I have to take the make-up classes!? What about you!? All you do is play games on your phone in class!"

"Yeah, but I passed the tests no problem~" Reo said. "Because unlike Satsuki-chan, I'm adorable and smart."

"What's being cute got to do with it!?"

"Ah, it seems that Satsuki needs extra training in his studies..." Zen remarked. "But rest assured, everyone! I will guide us all in the right direction! We're family, after all!"


Watching the other four have their back and forth, Iori thought back on what he had said to Zen. We're supposed to annoy each other, help each other, and know we're good for it. It had kind of just come out of his mouth on the spur of the moment, but in a way, it really was the ideal form of family as he understood it.

But deep down, he wondered if he was lacking some part of it. He thought back on the old man; Iori always pictured him smiling, every time he thought of him. He wondered if he'd been able to make up for his weaknesses, and been someone that he could rely on. And was he able to let his family make up for his shortcomings now? No; there were still too many things that he couldn't burden them with. Not yet.

THUD! Satsuki and Reo's yells were cut off by a sound like a sledgehammer, and Iori couldn't help but laugh.

The best thing was the moments when you could be happy and cheerful without thinking of anything underhanded and shady.

Ain't that right, old man?

[1] Referencing a folk belief that stupid people are immune to catching colds.
[2] A soup base; a mixture of dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar