1

Spring came around like any other season, and died off faster than the blink of an eye. The subtle rays of the summer sun began to beam down wherever it could-from the edge of the horizon to Leo's own school.

As the last days of spring rolled by, he'd start getting used to feeling the sweat that caked his head, and the bitter sensation of a parched throat. Everyday, school remained exactly the same—arrival, work, lunch, more work, and the long bus ride home.

After the bus finally pulled into his neighborhood a little later than normal, Leo braced himself for what felt like a five hundred mile walk to his house—a comfortable two story that pretty much looked like all the others.

And Old Man Iago, with his usual repugnant scowl, would be there nagging after him as he closed in on his house, sitting sideways on a dirty lawn chair on the front of a rickety wooden porch. Forty-four wasn't so old to Leo, for his own father was much older than that—but he might as well have been eighty.

Countless wrinkles stretched across his forehead, as if an aggravated crow had flown in and used his face for sharpening its claws. He wore glasses, but they were so grossly smudged that one could hardly tell if he could see. The hair on his head was oily and stringy-emitting a hideous odor of grease and sweat.

And if one heard about what the other kids in the area told them, they'd know that Iago almost never, in the history of ever, smiled. It was always the same, classic scowl, and a threatening gleam in his eyes.

But Leo knew his words were as empty as his heart. Given that he had one.

"Coming home late again, Leo?" He muses, furrowing bushy, unkempt brows. "Your father should be ashamed."

Leo cringed to himself when his name spills from the older man's mouth in a raspy drawl, as if there was nothing but mucus clogged down his throat. He did know, however, that he had to be unconditionally polite to keep his father's good name.

"The bus was a little late this time around." He sighed, inserting his keys inside the lock. "Luckily, I don't have that much homework today."

"Oh, please." Iago was hardly impressed, turning his scowl into a disgusted frown. "You're like all the others, boy. Wasting their time away on games and charades, and not enough on books." He muttered bitterly. "Why, I've never even seen you pick one up."

Because you barely know me, was what Leo wanted to say–but the last thing he needed was for the man to tattletale to his sister.

"I'll read more in the future, sir."

"Don't "sir" me, boy. Sucking up to a man like me won't get you anywhere. In fact, when I was about your age..."

Leo casually ignores Iago's daily berating, letting the brisk air of the AC flush his cheeks cold once the keys fall into place. The door shuts behind him softly—and for a moment, all is quiet.

Until, eventually, a chorus of excited barking propels him to notice the family dog, Keaton, who lets his drooling tongue hang lopsided while his tail wagged furiously back and fourth. He crept into the hallway upon hearing Leo's footsteps, rushing forward to try and gnaw at his shoes.

He was a dog no more than a year old, brung home one day by Camilla, who had spoiled him senseless since he was a pup. Back then, Leo didn't like the aspect of having such a thing parade through his house day and night. He used to think dogs were gross and unruly–but of course, that was just his fear talking.

"Hello, Keaton," he says with a smile. "Did you watch over the house like I told you?"

Keaton lets out another joyous bark, jumping up till his jet black paws reached Leo's thigh. Leo wasn't so sure if he liked the thought of dog drool being plastered to his cheeks like glue, but Keaton often thought otherwise.

"Good boy."

Once noticing that the poor fellow was hungry, Leo would dig through the kitchen for a short moment to fetch a bowl of water and a restock of dog chow, setting it in front of the hyperactive mutt with ease.

He'd do his homework in the kitchen soon after, having Keaton's usual barking as background noise.

It was a cycle of constant repeat that kept going for months–and eventually, a whole year.

...Until one day, Iago was no longer sitting on his porch, watching the hours pass bitterly. The cycle had been broken, and he didn't even know why.

Leo came home from school one day, and like any other, he did exactly the same things he'd been doing for the past year.

And each day, as summer began to unfurl its rays to the rest of the world, Iago was nowhere to be seen. Instead, his brooding presence was replaced by a series of moving vans, real estate agents, and new homeowners itching for a tour.

Eventually, a Sold sign arrives at the end of May, standing dead center in Iago's rotting front yard. He did his typical chores for Keaton, and finished his homework a bit earlier than usual.

There was finally enough time to spare to play a new online game that was taking his class by storm—Valla.

Many said it could be played best while on computer, but the mobile version was alright too. The animations were the best of the best, and truly, that was one of the few reasons Leo had even bothered to try it out.

Besides the obvious glitches and constant maintenance notifications that clogged his emails, it was an alright game overall. But it was fantastic at getting one addicted to it.

He logged in with a password he never thought of changing since he was ten, browsing through his logs to check if anything new had arrived. There were two new missions that required three other members of his team—a band of people (or robots, in his sister Elise's words) he met online through tackling the game in his first try. They were reasonably nice, and were always enthusiastic whenever a new mission came up.

They were all online too, which made Leo all the more happy. (Even though his physical expression hadn't changed since he went into his room.)

After only thirty minutes of having the house to himself, playing nothing but Valla, Leo hears the low hum of a car pulling into the driveway. The front door opens while Keaton makes another daring escapade down the hall, letting out a series of happy barks when Camilla's voice echoes from his room.

"Keaton~! My darling child..." She scratches him behind the ears, and then the tummy–his most vulnerable places. "Did you miss Mommy?"

He rolls about in her lap and licks her cheeks amidst her laughter, settling down when she pecked his forehead with a soft kiss. Another voice chirps from behind Camilla as she sets Keaton down—A young girl with long, blonde hair tied in two pigtails.

Elise, Leo thought. Her voice was always the loudest of the two.

"Hiya, Keaton!" She shouted, one octave too high. "Guess who got an A on her science quiz?"

Keaton barked twice before peppering her face with wet kisses.

Leo voluntarily smiles when he hears this news, knowing it was him who helped her study for it. After getting himself leveled to a suitable number, he leaves the training grounds onscreen and clicks on the mission icon.


Boss 23: GOLEM D

POWER RANKING: 1904

Last Defeated by: TripleThreat, FujinGod, and MaidenLance

(Record Time: 6:59:08)

Beat this team's record time to win a bonus!


Leo quirks a curious brow at the usernames, but he quickly remembered how embarrassing his already was.

There really wasn't a point in judging. Yet.


"Leo..."

Halfway through the afternoon, the door to Leo's room clicks open suddenly—and the scent of lavender and hibiscuses snakes up his nostrils.

"Hello, Camilla," he greets, glancing upward for a moment. "How were your interviews today?"

His sister winks playfully as she sets her purse on his bed, sitting on top of it to ease the pain in her heel. "It was boring, as always." She replied. "You wouldn't believe the questions they asked this time..."

He quirks a curious brow towards her. "This time? Have they denied you before?"

"On occasion. But that's our little secret."

Leo grins at her without looking away from the screen, amused by his sister's quaint humor. "That doesn't sound too bad, then. At least you don't have to talk to Iago everyday..." A shudder runs down his spine at the notion of even thinking about him.

"Hm...touché. But that reminds me..." She rests a hand upon her chin. "I've been meaning to fill you in on what Father told me this morning."

Camilla tells Leo what she thinks is pretty good news—and though he loves his sister, he can't help but feel like the apocalypse was coming a little bit closer than he expected. But for his game's sake, he still found the time to pause it before looking up towards her from his desktop. The scrimmage of battle would have to wait.

"He finally moved out?" He asked.

Leo had already heard rumors over the past few weeks that Iago was moving back to his homeland in Europe, making the house he'd leave behind empty and abandoned. Everyone in the neighborhood, with the exception of his father, seemed surprised at the news.

His older sister nods her head, lazily stretched across his bed as if she'd just gotten up. She'd done it enough times to the point where the boy could care less.

"Mhm. He's finally gone, dear."

A family hailing from Japan was to take his place, having their belongings already shipped to the front of Iago's doorstep.

Whenever Leo got home from school nowadays, he'd sometimes see silhouettes of people crowd around the home, walking through the doors with countless pieces of furniture, before disappearing again in a large, bulky truck that made its presence well known in the neighborhood.

With the school year coming to a close, he wondered how long he would last before the constant replays of his games would bore him senseless, and when he'd grow irritated at seeing the same scenery over and over as summer rolled by.

But his friends online were waiting for him to get back into the game already–forcing his thoughts to wait until later.

"That's nice..." He mutters for the sake of conversation. "Do you think Xander will come visit us over the break?"

Camilla shrugged with uncertainty, braiding her hair while watching her brother scout around in the rubble of a damaged town on his screen. "If he's not crowded in his studies, he just might." She finally replied. "I heard this year was harder on him than usual."

"Makes sense," He added. "It's his last year in college."

There's a hint of jealousy in Leo's voice—but it was buried by the loud blasts of animated fire and explosives, along with the outcry of a raging dragon.

Despite having what he felt like was more than enough siblings, he only truly lived with two—one was his eldest sister, Camilla, and his youngest sister, Elise. Their father, Garon, stayed in a single room on the second floor, daring to be bothered.

Xander lived up north in a fancy little university that everyone talked about–he wanted to be a doctor to make Garon proud, and rarely visited because of the work that came with it.

Camilla was in college too, but she preferred to take her classes online—aside from Leo, their aging father, and Keaton—she figured Elise would've been terribly bored throughout her middle school years. She was one of the few people besides her friends at school willing to play with her.

"You'll be there one day too, Leo." She tells him, poking the side of his cheek in an attempt to mess with his concentration. "Dinner'll be ready soon."

"Alright. Thanks."

Once she left the room, Leo went right back into the game, catching up with the rest of his team to make up for lost time. His avatar was standing inside a dark, ominous looking cavern, with a single red checkpoint flickering on and off. A challenger had arrived.

A sudden duo of messages popped up on the right corner of his screen, blocking a section of his surroundings. Two people had emerged from both sides of Leo's computer—one held onto a thick, yellow tome, and the other a small silver bow.


(1) TheChosenOne

Boss, should we try and advance now? I heard there are some very powerful tanks beyond that door...

(1) KillerSadist

They're probably hackers, Boss. Let's give them a good beating...


Leo lowers a brow in annoyance. He's heard of these "tanks" before—one time too many. His comrades had too, but unlike him, they were generally skeptical of just how strong they were.

Bent on saving time, he typed back a quick reply before he got summoned for dinner.


(1) PrinceOfBrynhildr

...Let's go for it. Even if we lose, we'll still get some experience points as a consolation prize.


Another message pops up just as he sent the last; this time, from another one of his friends. A woman walks past him and the other two men on the screen, standing right under the flickering light.


(1) DragonAssassin

I shall terminate anyone you wish me to. Do not hesitate on giving me a signal.


Leo shivered at the thought, but was glad at least one person was willing to go through with it. DragonAssassin was fairly powerful on her own—the enemies on the lower floors only half as strong as her.

TheChosenOne took a few moments to reply, before finally settling with an answer.


(1) TheChosenOne

Alright. Go for it!


The sun goes back to sleep as the moon rises into place in the sky, shading Leo's room a fresh shade of grey as the light of the computer screen fills in the rest.


I decided to give a Modern!AU a try, and happened to find this buried in my drafts.

I haven't figured out a specific day that updates will always appear, but for now, I'm thinking every Monday. There seems to be a small gathering of Leo/Sakura fans, so I couldn't help but expand the love for it ^^

Thank you for reading!