Naito was very confused about his discovery. He was still not sure if he should make any conclusions based on just one sentence. Maybe Airi just read the whole dream journal and was trying to make a fool of him. After all, that was the type of person she seemed to be.
What should I do now? Is there any reason to ask her about it? If she is not serious about it, what good can come from approaching her again? It is very possible that she’s playing around. She already admitted that she was looking for a way to blackmail me in case I was a thread to her.
Maybe she’s still looking for a more sneaky and clever way to make me expose myself to her and use it against me. But...what if she actually knows something? What if there is indeed something to be careful of? Better be wrong than sorry.
He unlocked his phone and checked his work schedule. He found her name and checked her shifts. There was no way he could sleep again after that, especially having that sentence in mind.
He decided to go for a run and decide what to do afterwards, having a clear mind.
The morning sun was warm and comforting, coloring the streets with cheerful tones of yellow and orange. Naito was walking on the sidewalk, looking exactly the same as any other day: quiet and composed, wearing his black trousers, a simple t-shirt and a light jacket, with his bangs hanging in front of his forehead and his eyes being half-opened. The only difference, that only he could notice was his pace. He was walking faster than usual, and he wasn’t wearing his headphones.
They were standing around his neck, with classical music playing softly and barely reaching his ears.
He reaches the manga-cafe door and steps inside. As expected, Airi is standing behind the reception stall, paying no attention to who is coming from the door. He approaches the reception stall and makes sure she notices him by coughing discreetly. She’s now looking at him. He doesn't want to provoke her, so he does his best to sound as kind as possible. This is going to be for his own good.
“I’m sorry I’m interrupting you during work, but.. We have to talk. You know what for.”
“It’s not a good time.”
“There are no people around. If now is not a good time, then when?”
“I cannot talk right now.”
“Then you shouldn’t have written that sentence. You should have expected that this would catch my attention.”
“Yes, I expected that. This is why I did. Don’t say anymore now, I told you it’s not a good time.”
“Because we’re not alone.”
Naito looked at her very troubled. The computer screen had a complete layout of the manga-cafe, showing which booths are occupied. Each and every of them were empty, and there were no people between the bookshelves or the drinks stall.
“What are you talking about? There is nobody here, not a single person.”
“Yes, not a person.”
Now she has to be kidding me. What the hell is she talking about. Maybe I was wrong to take her seriously.
“I don’t want to attract attention. I am not avoiding you. I will come find you after work. Stay home and wait for me. Sorry about that.”
He looked at her once more, but without feeling any anger or frustration towards her anymore.
Her eyes were for the first time sincere and..scared. He nodded softly and turned around. He had to find out what this is about.
Since he still couldn’t sleep, he bought a ready meal from the convenience store and headed home. He made tea, he ate and waited patiently, while reading his dream journal and notes once more.
At around 14.00 the doorbell rang.
Naito opened the door. Airi was standing there looking unusually intimidated.
“Sorry for the intrusion.”
“I will make some tea, so make yourself comfortable.”
She took off her shoes and headed inside the living room. Naito was observing her from inside the kitchen while making tea. She was looking around like searching for something, and he was definitely moving her lips, like whispering to herself. What’s wrong with her…
“Here you are. Here’s sugar if you need it.”
“Thank you. Your house seems safe, so I will start talking. Please keep your questions for last, because it’s going to be long.”
“Uhm..ok. I’m listening then.”
“First of all, I want to apologize to you for all the things that have been going on. I wasn’t planning to even talk to you outside of work, until I read the content of your notebook. You must have realized that I am familiar with what you are currently doing. It seems that you are very organized, so I guess you started doing that after finding out what it is, with a specific goal in mind. You seem to follow rules and techniques you read somewhere. In my case, it started before I found out it was something that people can do.
It started on its own, and I suspected it was happening because I began to realize that I was inside a dream. I started changing things when I wanted, and I even created people to talk to. After two or three months, something appeared in my dream. It looked like a shadow at first, and it kept following me around, even if I tried to make it vanish. It was then, when I decided to look it up on the internet, and found out that what I was doing is called Lucid Dreaming.
I tried everything to make this shadow vanish, but it was useless.
There is a high possibility it happens to you too. From what I read in your dream journal - sorry about doing that without your permission - you seem to seek comfort in your environment. Your brain must have already created something that you didn’t notice in your previous dreams. If you meet something in your too, make sure you can manipulate it, and that it is a friendly creature.
Take good care of it, and try to be close to it. It may be of great help if you come up with trouble.”
She made a pause to drink some tea. Although she was narrating all these things, she seemed completely calm. It was the first time Naito had time to observe her. Her long dark brown hair was shiny like silk, and her eyes had a very weird color, almost orange. Her motions were a little clumsy, but still graceful. She was behaving like a completely different person.
“What do you mean by trouble?”
“I mean..the reason why I decided to reach out to you. After some time I was dreaming about this shadow thing, and after I had almost mastered the practices of Lucid Dreaming - so I was very confident about my capabilities - I started noticing something very.. Upsetting. One time that the shadow appeared, it was very close to me and its presence made me feel very uncomfortable.
I did all the reality checks I learned. All of them were telling me one thing:
I was awake.
This thing somehow followed me in the real world.”