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I didn’t stay the night in the wasteland, instead opting to go back to my world and sleep in my bed. It was a Friday night. I had originally told my mom I was staying two nights in my friend’s house, but I told my mom I had come home early because I had forgotten something, and then I used the opportunity to take a bath, eat, and slip out to the nearby convenience store.

Mom asked where all of the cans of food disappeared to, but I could only play dumb. In the future, I’d need to buy the food myself. I couldn’t keep taking food mom bought with her hard earned money. It wasn’t fair.

I found I only had a little over $5, so there wasn’t much I could grab. I had promised Katarina five times what I brought, but I didn’t have enough money. Looking around, I found the cheapest thing to be cans of tuna at $0.25 each. I hope she ate that. I ended up buying twenty cans. That would double the amount I had already given her. Hopefully, that would be enough to satisfy her for now.

Upon returning to the house, I found my sister waiting in the hallway to my room with her arms crossed. She did not look happy.

“Daniel, you can’t keep hiding and running. We need to handle this.” She said with a concerned look on her face.

My heart ached a bit as I examined her. I could tell she had been crying a lot the last day or two. Her eyes were red and puffy. I had also heard the very end of an argument she had with mom when I came through the mirror. Both of them were trying to keep it together and do what they thought was right, and from their point of view, I had only fled and hid at my friend’s house so I wouldn’t have to face it myself.

For mom, she felt guilty, so she thought nothing of letting me spend some time away if that was what I needed. On the other hand, Hazel had been hoping I would back her up and help force mom to do what she needed to do, so she was extremely frustrated and disappointed that I was acting this way instead.

Yet, I had my own responsibilities. I couldn’t support her right now. When everything was done, they’d understand.

“It’s okay, Hazel.”

“Brother, it’s not okay!” She raised her voice, grabbing my shoulders, tears forming in her eyes. “It’s not okay!”

I was stunned to see her shout. Just like mom, she was under a great deal of stress. She had broken into tears, looking like she needed something, anything, to help her through this. I reached up and caught a tear coming down her cheek.

“Do you trust me?” I asked.

Hazel’s eyes widened in surprise, but then she nodded emphatically. “Of course! I trust Brother absolutely.”

“Then, I will handle it, Sister.” I reached up and patted her head softly.

She blinked slowly, and then let go. The look of stress that had been building the last few days seemed to dissipate with just those words.

“You’ll… really?”

“Just give your little brother a bit of your trust. After this weekend is over, I’ll take care of everything, okay?”

“Brother!” She reached out and grabbed me, pushing my head into her cleavage as far as she could manage.

I struggled, trying to pull away as she was suffocating me with those things. They should come with a surgeon general’s warning!

“B-boob sweat!” I croaked.

“Shhhh…” She said, not listening to me at all as she continued to overpower me and keep me in her arms.

It was when I started to calm down, I realized she was shaking, Droplets of tears fell on top of my head. My big sister wasn’t good at these kinds of things. She had been suffering, and I had just been hoping to put her off until it was convenient. I inwardly kicked myself for being so stupid. Her sincerity and earnestness made a man want to take care of her. Of course, I wouldn’t let just any guy be that man. He had to reach my requirements.

She finally recovered after holding me for a solid five minutes. Only then did she let go.

“Ara, Ara… then… I’ll have faith in brother.” She turned to her room.

However, when she got to the door, she looked back at me and smiled. Tch, doesn’t she know the effect her smile has on men? My heart was beating fast and I felt my palms sweating. Even her brother might have dangerous thoughts.

I turned away and headed to my room, feeling like I needed to start lifting weights. I could accept that Katarina was able to overpower me. She was some kind of gun-toting super chick. However, my sister overpowering me was frankly embarrassing. I really was as weak and as pathetic as Katarina had suggested.

Returning to my room with the tuna, I had many things on my mind. I ripped the labels off the cans so that they weren’t identifiable. I had thought about that earlier, but since I was going to use this for trade, it became even more important.  I hoped this tuna would be enough to trade for the medicine, but if that wasn’t enough, I was going to need to find a way to earn money in this world. I wiped out all of my money on tuna, so if I wanted to sell any other food, I’d need to make the money to buy it.

Even if tuna was worth gold in that world, it was meaningless if I couldn’t turn it into cash in this world. That’s when a thought suddenly hit me. What about gold? Gold had to be pretty much useless in that world, right? The world had ended, so no one would care about jewelry. I certainly hadn’t seen Katarina wearing any. If that was the truth, then I should be able to get jewelry there easily. Then, I could just sell it at a pawn shop or one of those cash for gold places.

That night, I did the same thing I had done before, pretending I had escaped to my friend’s house while locking myself in my room. I went to sleep as comfortably as I could. I was going back out into that wasteland tomorrow morning. I wouldn’t be alone, but it still left me feeling extremely anxious. Katarina had done a good job instilling a sense of fear in me over that place. I ended up falling asleep to turbulent dreams.

The next morning, I checked everything I had. It felt insufficient. I naturally left the gun and the machete with Katarina, not that she gave me a choice. Swallowing my building anxiety, I touched the symbol. After the white light, I turned to see Katarina looking at me with an angry expression and her hands on her hips.

“You took long enough!” She said.

“Huh? It’s 7 am?” This was as early as I ever got up.

“You get up with the sun! That was two hours ago!” She responded, and then looked away. “I thought you might have given up and stayed on that side…”

“I wouldn’t!”

She glanced back. “Really?”

“I need that anti-cancer medication. Until I get that, I can’t stop.”

“R-right, of course. Medicine.” She turned away and walked out the door without another word.

I followed after her, but watching her back she seemed a bit chilly. I wondered if something happened that pissed her off. I decided to err on the side of caution and apologize.

“I’m sorry I was late this morning. I’ll be more considerate in the future.”

She stopped for a second and then shook her head. “It’s fine, I needed time to board this place up.”

“Board it up?”

“Idiot, unless you want some creature taking up residence in the place while we’re gone? I assume with the mirror here that this will effectively be your base of operations for the moment.”

“I guess you’re right.”

I hadn’t thought of it, but that mirror absolutely couldn’t be taken or broken, or I would be stuck here forever. Just thinking about it caused a spike of fear to shoot through me. I had been ready to just casually leave it in that closet. I mean, it had sat there for who knows how long and was fine, but knowing my luck, it would be this one time we left when someone came in and stole it.

“Do we have enough fortifications?” I asked worriedly.

“It’s not so easy as all that.” Katarina snorted. “I have to make it sealed enough that wildlife can’t easily get in, but if it looks fortified on the outside, raiders walking by may decide to occupy it. It’s a subtle art!”

“I see…”

“N-nevermind! Let’s just get going, okay?”

“Of course. Do you know where the nearest pharmacy is?”

“Idiot? Do you think a pharmacy wouldn’t have been stripped clean by now? Even if we found stuff, unless it’s specially sealed, they would be expired.”

“Hah? Where are we going then?”

“We need to find a chemist. They’re wastelanders who know how to make new medication.”

“Another wastelander…” I felt a little uncomfortable with that.

I had met Katarina, and I already felt like she was a bit much at times.

“I hope you brought more food; we’re going to need to make a trade. The closest settlement to us is The Rink.”

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