“――――ou. ――chijou! Hey, Ichijou! “
Akira suddenly regained consciousness as a loud voice called out his name.
“――ie, I dont want to d――――――ie? “
Reflexively, he shouted out loud, and then immediately Akira slowly closed his mouth as he saw the scene unfold before him.
It was an office area he was familiar with.
A computer monitor sat on a desk, and countless empty cans of energy drinks were stacked in a corner. Sticky notes pasted in a messy manner covered the perimeter of the monitor, and on either side of it was a row of reference books bought for work.
There were no monsters with big open mouths, nor bright red blood dripping anywhere.
Everything was something he was familiar with, as he was at his seat in the office.
Akira muttered stunned while looking around.
And then, he saw it.
――――His legs were there.
Those legs that should’ve been torn off and eaten by the minotaur were…… Those legs which should’ve been lost for sure, were there.
Seeing that impossible sight made his blood run cold all at once.
Akira reached out to see if his own legs were actually an illusion.
But no matter how many times he touched them, the feeling was definitely real, and when he unconsciously moved his toes inside the leather shoes, Akira had to admit that the two legs he had supposedly lost were still there.
(Werent my legs supposed to have been eaten by that thing……? But still, they are here…… Was that a dream then?)
No, even if it were true, there was something that didn’t feel right.
That pain, that suffering, that intense fear, they all were certainly real. It was not something that could be taken so lightly as to dismiss it with the simple word “dream”.
(But even so, the legs that should’ve been lost are there. Both legs are still there. ――Then, does that mean that the whole thing was just a dream of mine? )
And that’s when Akira was muttering to himself what was on his mind.
“Ichijou! Are you listening!? Hey!! “
Reacting to the louder voice, Akira immediately turned to look behind him.
There was a woman in a suit with long black hair, and deep wrinkles forming in the middle of her furrowing brows, casting a sharp and piercing glare at Akira.
Akira knew who this person was.
Nanase Nao. She was a familiar senpai whom Akira had known since junior high, and at the same time, she was Akira’s immediate superior as the head of Section 1 of the Development Department, to which Akira belonged.
Nao let out a deep sigh of relead and opened her mouth after confirming that her eyes met Akira’s.
“Have you finally noticed? Just when I thought it suddenly became quiet as if your batteries ran out, out of the blue you started yelling……I was worried. What’s up? Are you not feeling well? “
She had a casual and rough tone as if a man was talking to another man.
Whenever Nao spoke to him in that tone, it was because there was nobody else around. Akira knew that Nao would return to her old tone of voice only when alone with him, who was also an old acquaintance, although they had a boss-subordinate relationship.
So, when Akira heard Nao’s easygoing tone, he immediately guessed that there was no one left in the company but themselves at the moment.
“No, I’m not sick, or rather, I had a strange, realistic, nightmare.…………”
“Nightmare? Oh my god……Were you sleeping? “
Akira answered Nao’s question in a whispering tone.
He didn’t know what was going on with him. It felt impossibly real for a dream, and yet, he still had his legs attached. That being the case, the only logical explanation was that it was a strangely vivid dream.
“Are you getting tired? “
Nao asked, a look of concern on her face.
“Certainly, the deadline for your project is quickly approaching…… But if you end up collapsing, everything will come to nothing.”
As Nao continued to speak, she let out a big sigh and opened her mouth.
“Therefore, Ichijou, just go home for now. Or don’t tell me……Are you planning to keep working until the last rain again? “
And at the words he was told, Akira involuntarily held his breath.
――――He knew. He already knew the words that’d come out.
Furthermore, the words that’d follow were also predicted.
“It’s important to meet deadlines, but you have to take care of yourself too.”
Nao said, not getting a single word wrong from the ones Akira knew she would say.
Just what in the world is going on?
This conversation was one they already had some dozens of minutes ago. No doubt, this is something that was exchanged once.
Could this……Also, be a dream? Was this the so-called revolving lantern you see when on the verge of death?
“Please, hit me once.”
Nao looked at Akira with a dubious look on her face.
“I just want to confirm if this is a dream.”
“…………Are you really feeling okay? You’ve been acting really weird since earlier, you know that? “
As if seriously concerned, Nao said.
“Forget it, go home for today. I’ll be out of here soon, too.”
Nao pat Akira on the shoulder as if to show her gratitude, then quickly returned to her desk and began to prepare to leave.
Stunned, Akira stared at the scene… No, all he could do was stare.
He didn’t know what was going on anymore.
It would still make sense if you told him that this was the revolving lantern you see on the verge of death.
But the pain in his arm as he dug in his fingernails, the feel of his bitten lip, and even the touch on his shoulder, all seemed so real to Akira.
“What the hell is going on?”
Ichijo Akira could only mutter in dismay.
It would still be several dozen minutes before he learned the answer to his mutterings.
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