Ironically enough, the fantastical world of Somnium is a bit easier to explain than the life I’d been living.
It all started after I finished my Sophomore Year of high school, a year for me filled to the brim with mistakes and regrets. After the school year ended, I started having dreams about a fantasy world called Somnium, and this little village in the middle of it called Acacia. I arrived in town with nothing but a sword and the clothes on my back, but in this world, that was enough. I helped defend the small village with the guards from monster attacks in the nearby forest, and made friends with those I decided to help protect. I even had a special power that helped me use my sword properly, but that was just the icing on the Isekai-styled cake that I was eating.
My real life and its problems, on the other hand… they only really came to a head the school day before, on a warm August afternoon…
. . . . .
The first thing I saw in the cafeteria was a group of three Seniors bullying a girl I had gym with. I prepared to just walk past it, as events like that were common at the school. Not necessarily the bullying, but the rough, unfair nature of the school hit everyone in different ways. From intense classes to intense asshole students trying their best to make fun of a girl because the ‘grape-vine’ said she might have had sex with one of the school’s football stars last night before getting dumped.
This is usually the part where the Hero steps in to help… but I wasn’t a Hero, nor did I have the generally decent courage to at least help a classmate of mine out. After two years of high school draining the energy out of me, I didn’t have the slightest care about what was happening outside of my head. I’d never known anyone who would actually go in and defend someone from a situation like that, anyways-
“Hey, Sam!” Destiny, with her blonde hair and crystal-blue eyes dashing past the three much taller men, grabbed onto Sam’s hand before giving the three a quirky smile. “Sorry boys, but me and my friend have to retake a test during lunch, and I’m not gonna let Dr. Ichi kill me because I let Sam hang out with her friends.”
As the three could only slightly react, Destiny slid the two of them out of the bullies’ grasp and took off across the cafeteria. And of course, the three didn’t give a shit, opting to just talk about how much of a ‘slut’ she was.
“Thank you...” I heard Sam say over the many voices of the cafeteria.
“It’s all good! I just wanted to do the right thing, you know? It’s messed up that they’d do that to you when they don’t even know you… ”
“Okay… Have a good day…” Sam assuredly spoke, before taking off with her lunch.
Before Destiny could notice I was looking at them, I took a seat at a nearby empty table, and put my lunch tray with pizza on the top, ready for me to eat. I knew that the pizza at school was never good, and sometimes caused stomach bugs, but I forgot to pack lunch that day, and I didn’t want to think about anything else. So without hesitation, I took a bite, chewing slowly and methodically. It didn’t taste like dirt, but it definitely tasted like cardboard. But as I prepared to take a second bite-
“HEY!” Right in front of me, Destiny appeared, her body leaning across the opposite side of the table. Her face was right in front of mine, full of a confident, confrontational glare.
“AUGH!” I yelled out, even if the sound was a drop in the bucket compared to the overall sound of people talking in the cafeteria.
“Oh, sorry!” She called out, pulling back before sliding into a seat of her own. “Didn’t think you’d be so startled…”
“I was just surprised, is all… ” I shook off the tension she gave me, before preparing another bite of pizza. “Why are you here?”
“I…” She turned away, slightly embarrassed. “Yeah, sorry. I know we haven’t talked in a while or anything, I just-”
“No, it’s fine. What’s up?”
“I heard from Mr. Friedman that you didn’t turn in a form for Marching Band leadership. Don’t you know that you need at least a year of leadership before you can apply to be a Drum Major?”
I took the bite of pizza, afraid to answer. I didn’t expect her to care in the slightest, but apparently she remembered my old dreams for Marching Band.
“How did you find out?”
“I turned in my application yesterday, and when I asked who else was applying, he said that you weren’t one of them.”
Of course she was applying for leadership. Just glancing at her, I could tell how strong she was. I didn’t know if she did a sport in the spring or not, but she definitely looked decently toned underneath her simple clothes. She was definitely more confident than I remembered
“So how come?”
“Uh… I don’t think I’m going to apply.”
“What do you mean? I thought you wanted to be Drum Major more than anything.”
“I do!” I defended myself. “But… I don’t think I should try.”
“What in the world are you talking about?” She nearly let out a laugh, amazed in her confusion. “Just do it. Just… try. I didn’t think I’d have to say that to you.”
“Wha- why do you think you know me?” In a moment of frustration, I looked her dead in the eyes. I didn’t like looking people in the eyes, as it always felt too personal, but I needed to make myself clear. “You just come up out of nowhere and assume that I’m someone who should just… try. But I don’t deserve that! I don’t deserve any of it! I’d make a terrible Drum Major!”
“But people can change, can’t they? I’ve changed a lot since middle school, I think.”
“If trying is all that matters, then why didn’t I change?!”
There was a moment of silence between us, as I realized that I got a bit more personal than I wanted to. I barely talked to her. I barely knew her. I didn’t want to talk to her more about how I felt.
“Can you just… go? I don’t want to talk about this.”
Looking towards her, the expression on her face was one of pure dejection. I didn’t think I’d ever seen her with such a rejected look on her face. It was almost as though she’d lost a member of her family, she felt like something was viscerally wrong with what I’d said. With whatever energy she could muster, she reached into her bag, pulled out a sheet of paper, and handed it to me. Before I looked at it, she cleared her throat.
“I just thought this was your thing, you know?”
“I’ve… I’ve changed, I guess.” I confirmed with a steadying voice. “Sorry, if you expected anything more out of me.”
“The only person who should be expecting more out of you… '' As she finished packing up her bag and preparing to leave, I looked at the paper. It was a Marching Band leadership application. “Is yourself.” She took off from the table with those words, eventually evaporating into the wave of students into the cafeteria.
A true hurricane, she simply came by to question me on the things I didn’t want to think about before leaving. I didn’t even fully understand that she remembered when I told her about wanting to become Drum Major one day. It was all so fast, and I even got mad when she questioned my opinions. It’d been a while since I’d talked to anyone about them, and I might have seemed a bit off for someone who had such an old memory of me… but why did it sting so much that she held me in such high regard when I couldn’t even do that myself?
I remember very clearly when I told her my dream to be Drum Major. It was the same night that I decided that I wanted to become a Drum Major more than anything in the world. But… looking at that paper, and seeing the newfound maturity in Destiny, there was one thing to be sure of: I would never be able to become a Drum Major.
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