If Hibiya could describe her using one word, it would be "cool". Kido walks with an attitude in her step and a permanent glare that dared you to so much as question her actions. She radiates an intimidating aura that makes both men and children alike cower in fear, knees shaking and pleading forgiveness for whatever misdeed the poor souls have committed against her. But underneath all that ice lies a surprisingly warm…"Maternal" would probably be the best word to use, Hibiya decides. Yes, despite all her thorns, therein lies a kind, caring mother-figure who cooks warm meals and keeps her dysfunctional little family together. She'd scold when there was scolding to be made, and praise where praise is due. Hibiya remembers the first time she patted him on the head, "Good job", she'd said after Momo had showed off his latest test grade to the entire dan. He blushes, mumbles "thanks", and drinks in more praise than what his parents could ever give him in the short twelve years he's been alive.
One day, as he's helping her with the dishes, he slips up and calls her "Nee-chan." Kido looks back at him in surprise, her hand frozen in place on the sink's handle. "What…What did you just call me?"
"S-sorry!" Hibiya sputters, "I didn't mean to! It's just that, you're so, um, big sisterly-like, and, um-"
"No, no!" She chuckles, no, giggles. "I…I like it. You can keep calling me that, if you'd like."
Hibiya can only nod his head absently as he puts away the last dish.
Sometimes, Hibiya questions how someone as nice as Seto can exist. Always smiling and laughing, even after coming home battered and tired from his many part-time jobs. (How many jobs does this guy have, anyway?) But his smiles never seem fake or forced, his laugh is never strained and always genuine, and Hibiya can't help but admire him for his absolute kindness. When they're both out grocery shopping together one day, Hibiya finally asks him why he works so many part-time jobs. Seto chuckles, scratching his cheek as he absently grabs some packs of strawberry-flavored pocky (Mary's favorite, Hibiya notes).
"That's simple! To help out with the expenses!"
Hibiya doesn't know what kind of answer he was expecting, but can't help but feel that Seto's answer is somewhat lacking. Seto picks up on this and lets out another chuckle; "Too normal an answer for you, Hibiya? Sorry to disappoint." But Hibiya simply shakes his head, turning to look up at Seto.
"I guess if Kido is the Mom, then you're the Dad that brings home the bacon, and Kano's the son who won't stop mooching off of you. It's all so simple, I really should have figured it out sooner."
Seto blinks a few times before letting out the loudest whoops of laughter he's ever heard from the older boy, and Hibiya can't help but fall into a fit of giggles himself. As their laughter echoes through the snack aisle, an elderly house wife walks up to them, lips pursed, she looks to Seto and says; "Young man, this is a grocery, not a playground. So if you wouldn't mind, I'd prefer it if you kept both yours and your little brother's voices down."
Seto can only nod silently, his lips trembling in attempt to hide his laughter. The older woman glares at him one last time before she swiftly turns to leave. "Pheeeeew." Seto lets out his breath once he's sure that the woman is out of sight.
"I'm sorry about that, onii- uh! I mean, Seto!"
"Hm? It's fine, fine! But, hm, I guess we do kind resemble each other! Actually, I wouldn't mind having you for a younger brother, Hibiya!"
Hibiya blushes. "Th-then…Is it alright if I call you…o-onii-chan?"
Seto's entire face lights up at that, and Hibiya's sure that if Seto had a tail, it would be wagging rapidly about now. "Yes! I'd love that!"
"The son who won't stop mooching off of Kido and Seto, huh?"
Hibiya looks up from his summer homework, no longer disturbed by Kano's sudden abrupt appearances. The (slightly) taller boy looks at him from across the table, chin cupped in both his hands and smiling ever so sweetly. Hibiya sighs, "Seto told you?"
"Nope! A little kitty did!"
"As a kitty."
"You know, instead of participating in devious acts, you could have just helped us with the groceries."
"Hibiya, I'm hurt! Devious? Me?"
Kano places both his hands on his heart (assuming he has one) and makes a pained expression. Hibiya's eye twitches. When he first met Kano, he had initially assumed that he was just some annoying teenager whose sole purpose in life was to push people's buttons. Now, Hibiya still feels the exact same way. He closes his textbook and stands up, preparing to move to the sanctuary of the kitchen. If there's one person Kano can't stand up to, it's Kido. Kano notices this, and for the briefest of seconds, Hibiya sees Kano's eyes grow wide with panic. "Uh, wait, Hibiya! Listen kid, I was just foolin' around, ok?" Hibiya stands in place, puzzled over Kano's sudden change in demeanor. Is he scared that he'll tattle to Kido? Kano looks down, and it's then that Hibiya notices that Kano's staring at his textbook. "Hey, Hibiya. Do you, uh, need any help? I may not look it, but I'm actually pretty good at math. Used to help Seto and Kido all the time." Hibiya sits down then, setting the textbook in front of them and flipping through pages until he reaches a particular problem he'd skipped.
"Ah, that!" Kano grins brightly. "Geez, I forgot how much easier grade school problems are compared to middle school ones." Hibiya hands Kano his pencil, and the two begin working together in silence. Hibiya still can't help but wonder why Kano suddenly felt the need to help him with his homework when he could be out pretending to be a bird or something, but is grateful for the help nonetheless. Kano's not so bad, Hibiya thinks, and his opinion of the older boy only continues to improve from that day on.
"By the way, you can call me aniki*."
"I heard you started calling Kido 'nee-chan', and Seto 'onii-chan'. But onii-chan's too fluffy for me. I think aniki suits me better! It has more edge to it!"
"Aren't you going to start calling me that?"
"Oh, right. Anego*. Oops, my tongue slipped."
"You did that on purpose!"
The minute Mary meets someone new, she instinctively dives to hide behind the closest person to her (preferably Seto), and proceeds to use them as a shield from the stranger. This rule apparently doesn't apply to smaller, significantly younger boys such as Hibiya, and Mary instantly warms up to him. "I've always wanted a little brother!" she chirps excitedly before animatedly talking about all the things they should do together. Shopping, gardening, reading, cooking (he notices Kido's face go pale at that suggestion), going to the amusement park, knitting, and the list goes on. She's not much taller than Hibiya, but it immediately becomes evident that she's more than happy to no longer be the shortest person in their strange little group. She giggles quietly every time she finds herself looking down on him during their chats and puffs her chest out proudly the first time she pulls a book off a shelf Hibiya can't reach. But rather than be annoyed by these little antics, Hibiya can't helped but be amused. It's endearing, really, the way she tries so hard to act older, how her whole demeanor changes when talking to him, how she makes her voice ever so slightly deeper in the hopes of sounding older.
"Hibiya, you can ask me anything! And I'll answer to the best of my abilito-abiltee-abilities!"
She blushes lightly at her slip-up, but her face remains fixed in a determined expression, her right hand raised and clenched while her left hand sits at her waist.
In the blink of an eye, Mary tackles Hibiya to the ground as she hugs him tight, crying out "He called me Mary-nee! Mary-nee! Mary-nee will take good care of you! I promise!"
The minute they enter the karaoke booth, Hibiya instantly regrets choosing to spend the afternoon with a certain idol singer. "Eh heh heh…Sorry about that, Hibiya. I was sure this disguise would definitely work!" Momo smiles sheepishly as she pulls down her hoodie.
"Yes, because you look like a completely different person with glasses on." Hibiya deadpans, looking her up and down before snorting condescendingly. "I knew you weren't doing so well in school, but I didn't think you'd be this dumb."
Momo puffs her cheeks out in response but easily lets the insult slide. She's gotten used to the grade schooler's snarky little quips at this point, no longer so much as batting an eye every time the younger boy insists on calling her "oba-san".
"Anyway, since we're already here, how's about a duet?"
"Again? The last time we sung together, all you chose were the songs from your debut album!"
"Hm? Well then, Hibiya can pick all of the songs this time!"
Hibiya blushes in surprise and instantly wishes he could retract his earlier statement. Living in the countryside means having less access to the latest hit singles, so most of Hibiya's favorite songs consist of the latest anime theme songs. He shakes his head in embarrassment, No. There's no way I'm singing anime songs with this oba-san! She'll never live it down! She'll treat me even more like a kid than ever!
"Huh? But I thought you didn't like my songs?"
Hibiya's ears are burning bright red at this point, but he pushes on. "The-they're not…they're not so b-bad. They're..uh…kind of ca-catchy. So, I don't mind." And that wasn't a complete lie. Hibiya hated to admit it, but Momo certainly had talent. Moon viewing recital happened to be a particular favorite of his.
An odd sense of deja vu washes over Hibiya as Momo glomps him in the same way Mary did. "D'aaaaw! Hibiyaaaa! You don't have to be so shy around me, you know! But thanks! That makes me really happy, you know?" Hibiya turns a new shade of red at this, but reluctantly hugs back. Momo may be loud, nosy, and kind of dumb… but she's also loyal, funny, and infinitely kind. They stay like that for a while before Momo tentatively breaks the silence.
"Uh, you know, Mary-chan told me that you started calling her Mary-nee."
"Uh, could you, um, call me that too?"
"No! You know what I mean!"
"Hm? Sure, okay."
"Yeah, it's fine. Oba-nee."
"That's not what I want."
Ene's cries are growing louder and louder and more obnoxious by the minute and Hibiya thinks that Shintaro couldn't have picked a worst time to abandon his phone. After his karaoke excursion with Momo, her older brother had swiftly grabbed hold of his sister's hoodie before dragging her to the kitchen table. If the open text books and poorly marked tests were any indication, then Shintaro had some massive cramming sessions planned. As he hauled his screaming sister away ("No! Slave driver! You're too spartan to be a proper tutor!"), he left the significantly younger boy alone with-
"Bored! I'm so booooooooored!"
"Then go online or something! I'm trying to read here!"
"But I'm online all the time! I wanna do something fun!" The cyber girl pressed her face up against the screen, looking up at Hibiya; "Watcha reading there, shota-kun?"
"It's Hibiya. I'm reading Oliver Twist for school."
"Che. No fun. You sure you're not hiding porn under there or something?"
"You're reaction's boring too. If it were master, he'd be stutterin' all red-faced and stuff!"
"Sorry to disappoint."
"You don't sound sorry."
"That's because I'm not."
Ene pouted. "C'mon! You're like, what? Eight?"
"Exactly! And you're spending your precious youthful summer days reading indoors?! For school, no less! You need to be outside, making sand castles and eating dirt!"
"If I did that, I'd be spending the rest of my youthful days in the hospital."
"Ugh! You're really not making my job easy, are you Shota-kun?"
"Hibiya. Shota-kun. What's the difference?"
"There's a big diff-"
"Anyway, lucky for you, you have a really cool, super pretty cyber idol big sis to look out for you! And- hey! Put me down!"
"Isn't there a mute button on this phone or something?"
Ene's face turned a comical shade of red as she pressed her face against the screen, blocking all of the phone's apps and functions from Hibiya's view. "How rude! This isn't how you should be treating your elders!" Hibiya sighed dejectedly before placing the phone down. There was only way out of this.
"Onee-chan, can you please be quiet? Once I'm done reading this chapter, I'll play with you all you want."
"Oh, ho~ Well, since you asked nicely, I guess I could just read a few manga chapters while waiting! Since your onee-chan's so nice and all! Oh, but try not to fall for me, ok? Ufufufufu~"
That was too easy. This was the longest conversation Hibiya had ever had with Ene, and even though their conversation had lasted all of five minutes, he felt spent. He marveled at how Shintaro managed to put up with her on a day to day basis. However, after he finally places his book down, Hibiya would later learn that Ene is actually as cool a big sister as she claims to be, and it wouldn't take long before Hibiya would stop calling her Onee-chan out of irony and simply out of respect.
Hibiya grumbles as he looks over his remaining stack of summer homework. He'd gotten a good chunk of his math homework out of the way, but thanks to Ene and Momo's never-ending distractions, he was sorely behind on both English and Japanese. "Ben asked the man if he had pi-pir-pil-"
"The word you're trying to pronounce. It's 'pilfered'." Hibiya blinked up in surprise to find Shintaro peering curiously over his shoulder. Now that he had Momo caught up with her schoolwork, he had apparently found a new student to torme- er - educate.
"No problem. I had that same workbook in grade school. Finished it before school started though. Wanted to have more time to play games." He added the last bit nonchalantly, as if completing a 200-page workbook, all in a completely different language no less, was about as simple as turning the television on. For the first time since meeting him, Hibiya thought that Shintaro looked cool.
So apparently Momo wasn't exaggerating when she'd called her brother a genius. Hibiya had had doubts before, especially after learning of his NEET status, but after speeding through his remaining homework with Shintaro guiding him as a surprisingly competent tutor, all earlier doubt was erased. All of the smart genes must have went straight to Shintaro and skipped over Momo. They were done before dinner, and Hibiya still had about two weeks before school started again. Earlier that day, Hibiya had assumed that at least a week would be spent on his remaining homework, but thanks to blessed geniuses like Shintaro, it would appear that the younger boy would continue the tradition of finishing homework early for the sake of more game time.
Shintaro was caught off-guard at that, cheeks going slightly red. "Shin-nii?"
"Oh, uh, well…You must have heard already, but I started calling everyone else in the dan some variation of 'onee-chan' and 'onii-chan'…But if you don't want me to, it's fine."
"N-no! I was just caught off-guard, that's all. Heh. Yeah, you do make a pretty good little brother."
Shintaro patted the younger boy's head affectionately, smiling the brightest smile Hibiya had ever seen him wear. Awkward, clumsy, and a little gloomy at times, but so amazingly brilliant and witty, one had to wonder how such an intelligent person could be so dorky at the same time. It's almost amazing, really, how he can go from bumbling to calculating in the blink of an eye. But Hibiya admires him all the same, dorkiness and all.
On her way home from supplementary lessons, a certain orange-haired girl lets out a loud sneeze. "Huh? Why do I suddenly feel like my status as a younger sibling is in danger?"
Hate may be a strong word, but Hibiya isn't particularly fond of Konoha. Which is why being stuck in the elevator with him of all people just makes the space seem so much smaller. At Momo's suggestion, the entire dan had planned a trip to the mall, but with Hibiya's cursed luck, he had somehow gotten separated from the group. Being the responsibly precocious child that he is, Hibiya had decided to head to the lost child center located on the third floor. As soon as the elevator doors opened, however, he was met with a mop of white hair and a puzzled look that screamed I have no idea where I am and what I'm supposed to do. Sighing exasperatedly, because really, Hibiya should have seen this coming, he entered the elevator doors, but kept a sizable distance between himself and Konoha.
"Are you upset?"
"Of course I'm upset. We're stuck in an elevator with no way of knowing how or when we'll be rescued."
"Why are you apologizing?"
"Shintaro told me that if you make someone upset, you should apologize."
"But it's not your fault!"
"It isn't? So you're not mad at me?"
Hibiya fell silent at that. The thing with Konoha was that…he was nice. Too nice. Nice, naive, and childish. And it irked him how this guy, simply for being tall and good-looking, had somehow managed to steal the heart of the girl of his dreams without so much as blinking an eye. And Konoha being so nice made it even harder for Hibiya to hold a grudge against him. His hatred against Konoha was childish, Hibiya was fully aware of that, but he just couldn't help it. To Hibiya, being friendly with Konoha, forgiving him for unknowingly stealing Hiyori's heart, would be the same as giving up on Hiyori entirely. It would be the same as conceding defeat. So like the mature little twelve year old that he was, Hibiya chose to turn his head to the side and pout, crossing his arms over his chest.
The elevator became unbearably quiet after that, so Hibiya ventured a look at his companion…only to find him sulking against the wall, hugging his knees to his chest. Hibiya was at a loss.
"Wh-what are you doing?"
"I don't know. But my chest really hurts, and my eyes won't stop watering. I think Shintaro called this 'sadness'".
"Okay…Why are you sad?"
"Because Hibiya hates me."
"Wh—what? I never said I hated you!"
"But you didn't answer me when I asked if you hate me. Ene told me that if a person doesn't answer your question, it's usually because they think the answer might hurt your feelings. That's why you didn't answer me, right?"
"I- Well- It's -"
"Why does Hibiya hate me?"
"It's not that I hate you! It's just-"
"I'm jealous! Jealous! Okay?! Happy?! I'm jealous because you're good-looking and super nice and ugh- I-"
"I think Hibiya is good-looking."
Konoha tilted his head to the side, confused. "I think Hibiya is good-looking, too. I don't understand why you'd be jealous of me. Everyone in the dan loves you. Kido says you're kind, Seto says you're funny, Kano says you're cheeky ("That's not a compliment", Hibiya interrupts), Mary and Momo both say you're cute, Ene says you'll be a future ikemen*, and Shintaro says you're really smart! So, I don't understand why you'd be jealous of me when you already have such good qualities."
Hibiya fell silent for a moment, taking all the information in. He's happy and a little embarrassed, and even more embarrassed for antagonizing Konoha for so long over such superficial reasons. He silently berates himself for his earlier actions and lets out a sigh.
"Heh, you're right. I'm sorry…Kono-nii."
"Hm? You don't like it?"
"No!" Konoha smiles, a true, genuine smile. "I like it! I like it a lot! But Hibiya doesn't need to apologize! Shintaro told me that big brothers have to correct their younger sibling's mistakes! You just made a mistake, so it's ok!"
"Does Shin-nii teach you everything?"
"Yes! Ah, but when I asked him where babies come from the other day, he refused to answer me for some reason."
"Oh, for that, you'll have to ask aniki."
And as if fate had planned this encounter from the beginning, the elevator begins to move again.
Five-year-old Hibiya is scared, lost, and alone. He's crying on the swing set, wondering where his parents had gone off to. Had they abandoned him? Were they tired of him? He cried even harder at the thought as the tears continued to flow from his eyes non-stop.
"What's this? Oh no! It seems we have a lost child!"
Hibiya looked up to find an older girl with a red-scarf and an x-shaped clip looking down at him. She was smiling brightly as she held out her hand. Hibiya looked down to find a white handkerchief and gratefully accepted it.
"Are you ok? Do you know where your parents are?"
Hibiya shook his head as he wiped away his tears. The girl nodded her head in understanding before standing up to her full height.
"Ok, then! Looks like we'll have to take you to the police! You see, the police are kind of like heroes of justice! They'll take good care of you until your parents come!" She held out her right hand then, motioning for Hibiya to accept it. The younger boy hesitantly stood up, but the girl's kind smile encouraged him to put a little faith in her as his small hand held on to hers.
"Alright! Now don't let go no matter what, ok? Now let's head off!"
The police station wasn't too far from the park, so the journey was much shorter than expected. But the girl kept Hibiya entertained throughout the entire trip, recounting tales of her heroics against the Evil Four Eyed Man and her dashing secret agents. As they neared the police station, the girl felt Hibiya's grip on her hand tighten. She smiled that reassuring smile again; "It's ok. The police are nice!" She opened the doors before bellowing out, "Excuse me! We have a lost child!"
One of the policemen came rushing at the entrance after hearing that. "Are you siblings?"
"No! My parents are still at the park, I told them I'd be coming here!* Ah, but this child here is definitely lost."
"I see. Good job little girl, and be careful on your way back. We'll take it from here."
"Ok!" She turned to Hibiya, crouching slightly. "You be good, ok? Oh, I almost forgot! What's your name?"
"Hibiya, huh? My name's Ayano! If you're ever in need of a hero, feel free to call for me!"
"Heh, heh. Yep! I'm a pretty good big sister you know! Anyway, take care! And don't be a stranger, come by and say again hi sometime!"
And just like that, the mysterious scarfed girl was gone.