Chapter 9:

First meeting

Dive into the Night

After finishing his lunch, Leon slowly made his way back over to his PC. His entire body still felt slow and sluggish, but at the very least he could move. As Leon booted up his PC, he thought back to all the events that transpired in the past few days. The Dream and the people he now fought alongside, why did he agree to any of this? Was it just to satisfy this desire for adventure that his friends seemingly no longer shared?Bookmark here

“I really don’t know,” Leon thought out loud.Bookmark here

Opening his browser, Leon looked through his emails again. There was another email from his parents, more images from their vacation.Bookmark here

“Still no class updates, just how incompetent are these people?” Leon sighed. “Still nothing from Kaz either.”Bookmark here

However, Leon did notice an automatic response from the Ryusei Group’s website. He opened several more tabs as he continued to browse.Bookmark here

“All the news sites are just recycling the same garbage day after day. Like I get it, the world’s in a bad place. You people don’t have anything positive to report?” Leon switched over to another tab. “No new releases for games either.”Bookmark here

Leon closed most of his tabs, only keeping Shinigami Sensei’s podcast open. He started his drawing program and opened his drawing project from several days ago. Leon began playing the podcast before he continued on his project.Bookmark here

“Alright, what do you have for me today, Sensei?”Bookmark here

After the usual intro music, Shinigami Sensei began to speak.Bookmark here

“Everything that lives will end one day. If life is the mother to all living things, then perhaps all things will return to the father at the end. With that, I welcome you to my podcast, my children,” said Shinigami Sensei in his usual smooth low voice. “On this day, I would like to speak of a most human of instinct: desire.”Bookmark here

Leon began basic shading and detail edits on his project as he listened to Shinigami Sensei’s podcast. As he continued to draw, his mind was mainly focused on the podcast.Bookmark here

“Of course there are many sides to such a topic. The feeling of desire can certainly connect with feelings of ambitions or act as a drive. I believe some listeners may ask themselves “is it selfish of me to pursue my personal desires over a more logical choice?”, and for that I can assure that there is no clear answer. The difficulty of such choices are compounded with humanity’s relationship with time. All that remains of your past is memories, while the future continues to be uncertain.”Bookmark here

As Leon continued to draw, he eventually lost track of time. As he finished his project, he realized several hours had already gone by.Bookmark here

“… our topic has taken up much of our time today. Perhaps if there is more interest, we shall speak of it another time. For now, I will leave you children with this: follow the path of your desires; regardless of how selfish you may seem. Your time in this realm never stops counting down, so make sure the choice you make is one you will not come to regret. I thank you all for listening in.”Bookmark here

As Shinigami Sensei’s outro played, Leon leaned back in his chair and stared up.Bookmark here

“I … don’t regret this, do I?”Bookmark here

Leon saved his art project before he posted it on an art website, he closed the tab with Shinigami Sensei’s podcast and opened his email again. There was one new result. It was simply addressed as the “Ryusei Group”, but the subject was “Leon Chen”. Leon opened the mail.Bookmark here

“Hello Leon, I thank you for reaching out to me. Will you be available tomorrow? I wish to meet with you in person so that we may discuss our plans further. Should you be busy, please do inform me any additional dates that will fit your schedule. I will also attach my phone number if it is more convenient for you to contact. Signed Kaz,” Leon read.Bookmark here

Leon saw that Kaz had indeed attached a phone number and a return email address at the bottom of the message. Leon clicked reply and began to pen his response.Bookmark here

“Hey Kaz, tomorrow is fine. I’ll send you a text from my phone since I look at that more often. Just let me know what place and time.”Bookmark here

Leon sent the email before he took out his phone and texted a message to the number in the email. He put down his phone and looked at the time again.Bookmark here

“I think I’ll just order some food tonight.”Bookmark here

After he placed an order online, Leon’s phone buzzed as he was getting up. He unlocked the phone and read the new message.Bookmark here

Kaz: [Hello Leon, I am glad to hear that you will be able to meet tomorrow. I am arranging to meet with everyone at 10 AM tomorrow so that we may discuss over some morning drinks. There is a café downtown that is owned by the Ryusei Group, I believe its name was Café 39.]Bookmark here

Leon: [Yeah I’ve been there a couple of times, plan sounds good to me.]Bookmark here

[I live just outside of the city so I’ll just make sure to leave the house an hour early.]Bookmark here

Kaz: [Excellent, I look forward to meeting you tomorrow.]Bookmark here

There was a slight pause before Kaz sent another message.Bookmark here

Kaz: [Ah, that does remind me, how did your body fare to the Dream overexposure?]Bookmark here

Leon: [Well, my whole body felt like it was underwater when I first woke up.]Bookmark here

[Although it’s a bit better now.]Bookmark here

Kaz: [That is good to hear. Perhaps you may want to consider skipping the Dream tonight. It is always good to consider a break. Those spirits also did not mention any signs of another large Nightmare appearance, so it may be wise for you to have some rest.]Bookmark here

Leon: [Uh, yeah sure.]Bookmark here

[I’ll just give you a text when I arrive tomorrow.]Bookmark here

Kaz: [Very well, we shall continue our conversation then.]Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

After falling asleep, Leon found himself facing the door to the Dream again. The door silently called to him, an uncanny feeling that he should continue back into the Dream.Bookmark here

“So what was the plan here, I just turn and walk away?”Bookmark here

Leon turned away from the door and began to walk, after a couple of steps he heard an unknown voice call out to him.Bookmark here

“Leon…”Bookmark here

Leon quickly turned around and looked at the door, but there was no discernible difference. He turned back around and continued walking into the darkness. Eventually Leon stopped moving, he was completely surrounded by the pitch black darkness. He closed his eyes as he felt his body falling back for a moment.Bookmark here

When Leon opened his eyes, he was staring at his room’s ceiling. The slight chirping of birds outside of his window was drowned out by the sound of Leon’s alarm going off beside him. He reached over and stopped the alarm, at the same time he realized that his body’s movement had returned to normal.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Arriving at Café 39, Leon noticed that there was no one parked in front of the café save for a single sports car. When he met Kelvin at the café, it was practically operating at full capacity. In comparison, the café today looked like an abandoned building. After Leon parked his car in front of the café, he walked over and saw a sign at the front of the building.Bookmark here


After entering, Leon was greeted by a waiter at the front of the café.Bookmark here

“Hello sir, may I please get your name?” the waiter asked.Bookmark here

“It’s Leon.”Bookmark here

“Ah, Mr. Leon, we have been expecting you. Please follow me to your table.”Bookmark here

The waiter directed him towards a table at the back of the café. As he followed the waiter, Leon noticed three people already sitting at the table. A boy and a girl were dressed in light summer-casual attire, while the third was dressed in a business casual outfit. As Leon looked closer he recognized the three as Hayate, Saya, and Kaz respectively. Kaz greeted Leon as he sat down.Bookmark here

“Welcome Leon, it is a pleasure to meet you outside of the Dream. We are now waiting for May and Touma to arrive, “said Kaz as he shook Leon’s hand.Bookmark here

“Seems like everyone so far really do look the same in real life as they did in the Dream!” Saya added.Bookmark here

“I can’t believe you reserved the whole café just for this meeting,” said Leon.Bookmark here

“You really have no idea who Kaz is, do ya?” Hayate scoffed.Bookmark here

“No, I normally don’t keep up to date with random conglomerates.”Bookmark here

“It’s okay, I was being a bit unintentionally vague myself,” said Kaz.Bookmark here

Kaz turned back to Leon.Bookmark here

“Allow me to introduce myself properly. My full name is Kazuya Ryusei, my father is Hirotaka Ryusei.”Bookmark here

Leon remembered back to last night, when he was reading about the Ryusei group. Hirotaka Ryusei… I remember that was part of it. Wait. Bookmark here

Leon’s eyes widened with realization as he looked at Kaz.Bookmark here

“Wait, so that means…” Leon began to ask.Bookmark here

“Yes, I am the future heir to my father’s conglomerate. The Ryusei Group is a family business that spans several generations, although it will be a long time before I am worthy of leading the company.”Bookmark here

“Wow, so should I start calling you Mr. Ryusei?” Leon joked.Bookmark here

“Please, Kaz is fine. We are fighting as equals in the Dream after all. I would not want you to see me any differently just because of my family name.”Bookmark here

A blacked out SUV pulled up in front of the café as Kaz was talking, a tall man in a suit and sunglasses stepped out and walked over to the rear passenger door facing the café. He opened the door and bowed his head as a girl in light summer attire stepped out of the car. From her hairstyle and hair colour, Leon could already tell it was May. The group watched as she conversed with the tall man, unable to hear the conversation. The tall man appeared to be offering suggestions while May tried to shoo him away. He bowed several times before getting back in the SUV, the SUV drove off after May entered the café. As she arrived at the table she looked at Leon and Kaz.Bookmark here

“Do you two always dress like this?” May asked in her deadpan voice.Bookmark here

“I like these types of clothes, they’re comfortable,” said LeonBookmark here

“I concur,” added Kaz.Bookmark here

Looking up from behind Kaz and Leon, Saya waved at May.Bookmark here

“May! I like your clothes today! Why do you always look so good every time we meet? Saya asked enthusiastically.Bookmark here

May shrugged and sat down.Bookmark here

“I picked the first things I had in my closet.”Bookmark here

Leon raised an eyebrow at May.Bookmark here

“You say that, but you asked about our choices for clothing,” Leon asked.Bookmark here

May took a quick glance at Leon.Bookmark here

“T-shirt, long pants, … bag. Same outfit,” said May as she pointed at Leon. “You’re just missing your jacket.”Bookmark here

Leon did not respond as he knew May was right, as he turned away in silence he noticed a slight smug smile appear on her face. As Kaz placed an order with the waiter, another person entered the café. A shorter boy who wore a similar outfit to Kaz, with the additions of a tie and a navy-blue suit jacket slung on his arm. He had his grey-silver hair partially swept up.Bookmark here

“That must be Touma, then,” said Leon.Bookmark here

Touma walked over to the group.Bookmark here

“You look like you just finished adding ‘I object’ after every sentence in a courtroom,” said May as Touma reached the table.Bookmark here

“Don’t test me, woman,” Touma replied angrily. “I had to deal with far too many idiots for how early in the morning it was, the last thing I need is you stabbing me with your words.”Bookmark here

“Touma,” said Kaz. “If you were going to be busy this morning you should have let me know. I would have modified the meeting time to accommodate you.”Bookmark here

Touma sighed and ruffled his hair with his hand, sweeping it back down.Bookmark here

“It’s alright. I didn’t want to be a bother either, besides I made it didn’t I?” said Touma.Bookmark here

“You are right, what is most important is that you are here. I already asked for an espresso for you, is that alright?” Kaz asked.Bookmark here

“Yes, yes. That’s perfectly fine. Thank you.”Bookmark here

As Touma sat down at the table, Kaz turned to address the whole group.Bookmark here

“With everyone here, let us discuss what we have learned so far and our plan for the next night in the Dream.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.