Dive into the Night
Rain began to fall from the sky as Leon parked his car in front of his house and began to unload his grocery bags. Picking all of them up, Leon brought all the bags into his house in one trip. After putting all of them away, he took out the ingredients he needed and began to make lunch.
After he finished his lunch, Leon cleaned everything up and walked back over to his room. Before he sat down at his desk, he checked his phone again.
[0 new messages.]
“Thought Kaz would’ve sent something by now.”
Leon booted up his PC and opened his list of games. He began scrolling and eventually stopped on a single player role-playing game.
“Huh, I’ve been meaning to start this. Guess no time is better than now.”
As he opened the game, Leon placed his phone on his desk.
“Maybe he’ll send something when this rain lets up.”
Leon saved his progress and turned the game off. He looked over at the clock on his computer and realized that several hours had already gone by. The sun had already gone down, but Leon could still hear soft rainfall outside of his room. He picked up his phone and turned it on.
[0 new messages.]
Leon opened his browser and went over to check his email. There were no emails from Kaz either, although there was a new mail from his parents.
Hi Leon! Your dad and I just wanted to check in to make sure you were doing well. You are remembering to take care of your own health now, aren’t you? With how things are in the world you can never be too careful. Like that incident in Country W yesterday, truly tragic. Also did your school end up replying to you about your program? I remember you telling us about that before we left, you were quite adamant about how incompetent they were. No need to worry about us! We are doing great here, Hawaii is such a nice place! If only you decided to come with us, but I understand your reluctance to leave. Well if you want to speak to us you are welcome to call anytime, if not we’ll see you at the end of summer!
Leon penned a quick response to the email before he got up from his desk and grabbed his phone.
I should probably make some dinner, maybe Kaz was busy today or something. Well, hopefully he’ll send a message by tonight. Leon thought to himself as he made his way to his kitchen.
Leon exited the door of the house and walked into the village. As he made his way towards the centre of the village, Leon saw May and Saya talking with each other. Saya noticed him as he approached.
“Hey, it’s Leon!” Saya said as she waved at Leon.
Leon waved back as he arrived at their position.
“Did Kaz send either of you a message?” Leon asked.
“Why do you think we’re here?” said May in response.
“Do you think he was just busy?” Saya wondered.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said Leon as he looked around. “He could’ve at least told us that we wouldn’t be meeting today. There’s no explanation for him to go completely radio silent.”
As the three of them talked, Hayate also arrived and walked towards them.
“So it’s just the three of ya, huh?” he asked. “Hey, where’s Touma? Don’t tell me both of them ditched us?”
The others looked around, and realized that Touma was also missing from the group.
“That’s just great ain’t it? Both of the guys who make our plans are nowhere to be seen,” Hayate continued. “I might as well go back and get some more sleep.”
May turned to Leon.
“Got any ideas?”
“Just one,” he said in response.
Leon turned away and called out to the village.
“Hey! Fox spirit, we could use your help right now!”
The spirit fox and its smaller animal spirit companions materialized in front of Leon and the others. It bowed its head before looking up at Leon.
“Greetings, human wanderers of the Dream. What task do you seek of us?” the spirit fox asked.
“I have three questions in particular,” Leon said to the spirit. “First, I would like to ask if anyone entered the Dream before us.”
The fox spirit closed its eyes for a moment.
“There is indeed one who arrived before you, previously we had seen him with your group. Although we do not know his current whereabouts.”
“Someone is already here?” Saya said, surprised. “That would have to be Kaz or Touma right? The fox said he was with us.”
“Then why’d they leave without telling us? I thought the whole point of a team was to fight together?” questioned Hayate.
“Alright,” Leon continued. “The second question is more of a request actually.”
“We shall accommodate to the best of our abilities.”
“If someone enters or leaves the Dream later, could you come tell us?”
“Unfortunately the majority of our vision only covers the village. If one were to exit or enter elsewhere, we may not be aware of such actions,” said the fox spirit.
“I only hope that you do.” Leon said as he nodded his head. “The third pertains to our agreements. Have there been any appearances of large or high threat Nightmare targets?”
“Indeed, there were Nightmare threats that we would consider a danger to the state of the Dream.”
“Well what are we waiting for?” Hayate asked. “Let’s go hunt some monsters! Where are the Nightmares right now, fox?”
“Hey wait,” Leon said in the middle of Hayate’s question. “It might be bad if we left and missed Kaz or Touma when they arrive.”
“To answer your question, there was a threat that existed. However, it was destroyed before your arrival.”
“What,” several members of the group said in unison.
“Had to be Kaz then,” said May. “Touma’s too weak to kill a Nightmare by himself.”
“Hey May, that’s a bit rude to say about Touma,” Saya added.
“Am I wrong?” May asked in response.
“Alright enough,” Leon interrupted. “Even if Kaz is already in the Dream, there’s no way we will find him just from looking around randomly.”
“So what do you want to do? Just sit here and wait?” Hayate asked Leon.
“Honestly, yeah. If we want any chance of figuring out what’s going on, we need all the help we can get.”
“We can’t just wait here all night.”
“And we won’t. We’ll wait around three hours for someone to show up at the village.”
“And if no one shows? Then what, genius?”
Leon thought for a second.
“Then we’ll leave. We’ll come back tomorrow night and try to figure things out then."
“Fine,” Hayate said as he sat down. “We’ll do it your way.”
Leon and the rest of the team waited in the village for the full three hours, but they saw no signs of Kaz nor Touma. Eventually everyone decided to stop waiting and return back to reality. As Leon walked to the door, he turned to speak with the fox spirit once more.
“While we are gone from the Dream, can you try to look out for the appearance and location of the person that you saw? It’s important that we find him.”
“We cannot guarantee a result,” the fox spirit said. “But we shall try.”
“Thank you,” Leon said as he walked through the door.
Leon began washing the dishes after he finished his breakfast. The rainfall outside was still light, although heavier than the day before. As he finished the last dish, Leon heard a sound from his phone. Walking over he saw that he had a new notification; a text message. However, it was not from Kaz, but instead from a number unknown to him.
[If my information is correct, this should be Leon Chen. Just to make sure it is you, I would like to ask you a question. Two days ago, you went out to eat. Where did you go and what did the person to your left order?]
“Who the hell is this?” Leon asked. “How did they even get my number? Wait, they know that I went out two days ago, do I have a stalker? Although that second question seems like something I or someone else would know. Wait, wasn’t the person to my left…”
After pondering for a while, Leon decided to answer the text.
Leon: [Two days ago I was at the Memento Steakhouse. The person to my left ordered a medium-rare sirloin and toasted with a pint of beer, seeing as he was the host.]
The mysterious number replied after a short delay.
Stranger: [Excellent, I’m glad my intel was right.]
Leon: [Wait, is this Touma?]
[I would assume the only one who paid attention like that would be you.]
Touma: [Good guess. It really was a good choice for Kaz to recruit you.]
Leon: [What’s going on, Touma? Why were you missing when we went into the Dream yesterday? And do you know what happened to Kaz?]
Touma: [I will tell you everything when we meet face to face. I’ll send you a location that I can meet you at in 2 hours]
Touma sent Leon an address to a small bar downtown. Leon sent another text to Touma, but he did not respond. Somewhat frustrated, Leon took a quick shower before getting changed. He grabbed an umbrella before he left the house.
Arriving at the bar two hours later, Leon noticed all the parking spaces in front of the bar were still empty. After parking in one of them, he exited his car and entered the bar. The place was a small establishment, with several booth seats and a bar counter that could seat around seven people. However, the bar was nearly empty, save for the bartender and one table. Leon looked over at the booth and saw Touma. As he walked over and sat down in front of Touma, Leon noticed that Touma’s hair was swept up.
“Great, you’re here. Now we just have to wait for the other one,” Touma said as Leon sat down.
“Other one? Everyone else isn’t coming?
“Unfortunately not. As you might expect, you can’t expect people to show up on a whim when you contact them out of the blue. I have already briefed them on the bare minimum of what we will talk about, but I would like to thank you for not objecting to my sudden request.”
As Touma spoke, another vehicle pulled in front of the bar. A motorcycle that parked beside Leon, a girl wearing a rider suit got off the motorcycle. She entered the bar and took off her helmet, revealing that it was May. She walked over to the booth and sat down beside Leon. Leon looked out the window at the motorcycle before turning back to May.
“Thanks, it’s my personal one. I get to use it whenever I can get away from those annoying guys,” she said in response before turning to Touma. “Now why did you call us here?”
“Rest assured, Miss Taiyo. I have a very good reason for contacting you all so suddenly.”
Leon noticed that May froze for a moment when Touma said “Miss Taiyo”, he recognized the name from somewhere but he could not remember.
“You’re looking a bit off there, Leon. Something the matter?” Touma asked.
“Just trying to remember where I heard that name from.”
Touma looked at May.
“You want to tell him or shall I?”
May looked back at Touma, but didn’t answer.
“Well since it does somewhat pertain to our discussion today, I’ll fill you in. May’s full name is May Taiyo; she is the heir to the Taiyo-Kai criminal syndicate. One of the many syndicates my father had been watching for the last couple decades, although I will say they have not been up to much in the country for the past couple years.”
“That’s quite a secret to be keeping, May.” Leon said in response.
“Indeed, I’m sure she had her reasons.”
“So what then, detective?” May asked Touma. “You have the daughter of the Taiyo-Kai right in front of you. Did you call me here just to reveal my family name?”
“No, frankly I was going to reveal everyone’s background, yours just so happened to come first,” Touma said calmly. “Secondly, I don’t actually give a damn about your background. That was my dad’s problem, not mine. As long as you’re not doing anything explicitly illegal, you’ll just be my teammate May instead of May Taiyo.”
“Well, I suppose that’s good,” May said with a shrug.
“Your secret stays with me, so you can be assured that Saya and Hayate will not know unless you tell them yourself. I only spoke of it with Leon here because I felt that he was somewhat trustworthy. Speaking of them, Saya comes from a family of doctors, it’s the reason she is taking medical school. Hayate’s clan, the Shien’s, are a family of famous sword fighters with their lineage dating back centuries. The only one left is you, Leon.”
“You have something to reveal about me too?” Leon asked.
“Well, no. Your record and background are just … normal. You studied martial arts before, but now you are just in your third year of university. Your friends have all left the country and your parents are currently on vacation, but you are just a perfectly average student.”
“Hmm, nobody’s that average.” May said as she looked over at Leon.
“Well that’s everyone out of the wa- “Touma began to say.
“Hold on,” May interrupted. “Isn’t it unfair that you didn’t say anything about yourself, Mr. detective?”
“Fine,” Touma sighed. “I suppose it would only be fair. My full name is Touma Shirokane. My father is Nobushi Shirokane, one of the most well known detectives in the country. I am currently a rookie detective studying under him and his department. That is all aside from what you already know.”
“Wow, very impressive Mr. Detective,” May said as she clapped.
“Please stop calling me that.”
“So, Touma,” Leon finally said. “I’m sure you didn’t invite us out here to talk about our backgrounds over some tea, this is about Kaz isn’t it?”
“Yes, I’m sure you both heard about the incident in Country W, right?”
“I only briefly heard about it, so I would appreciate an explanation,” said Leon.
“Two nights ago, specifically the night after our dinner, there was a large-scale incident in Country W. Specifically in their busiest port city, City A. The details are still coming out on the incident, but so far we know that a significant amount of the port and the city were flattened from a gigantic explosion.”
Touma placed his phone on the table and showed Leon and May satellite images from City A, with a gigantic crater originating from the port region.
“Now in the huge list of missing or dead, a section in it immediately stood out to me,” Touma continued. “A group of officials from the Ryusei Group, including Kaz’s father.”
“That’s just… damn. So where’s Kaz then? Surely he must have seen this?”
“I would assume he did,” Touma said. “His estate declared him missing after that night, with the only evidence being an open window in his room. He remains missing even now.”
“You don’t think he’s…” Leon began to ask.
“Dead? While a possibility, I don’t think that is the case. Kaz always spoke highly of his father, and of the Ryusei Group. I believe he is simply in shock from the sudden amount of responsibility placed on him, as a result he ran away.”
Leon remembered the words of the spirit fox from last night.
“There is indeed one who arrived before you, previously we had seen him with your group. Although we do not know his current whereabouts.”
“Touma,” Leon started asking. “You didn’t go into the Dream yesterday, did you?”
“No,” Touma stated. “I decided against it as my investigation took me far into the night to complete.”
“Alright, I may have an idea where Kaz is.”
Leon explained to Touma what the spirit fox told him yesterday, also about how everyone else appeared in the Dream except for him and Kaz.
“I guess we have a lead then. I’ll let the others know, we’ll meet in the Dream at 11PM. We’ll get intel from the animal spirits before we begin our search for him,” Touma noted.
“I just have one concern. Kaz would have been in the Dream for over a day at least, what’s going to happen when he gets out?”
“We have to find him first,” said May.
“We have our plan then,” Touma said as he got up and partially swept his hair down. “Looks like the rain is letting up a bit, I’ll … see you two tonight.”
As Touma began to walk away from the booth, he stopped and turned back around.
“Ah… right. The number I used to contact you was an encrypted one, it may be better if we exchanged personal numbers.”
“Oh, you’re asking for my number?” May asked. “How bold of you.”
“Here’s mine,” Leon said as he placed his phone on the booth table.
May turned to look at Leon.
“You ruined my joke…”
As Leon entered the village, he could see that Touma was already waiting at the village centre for everyone. May, Saya, and Hayate arrived moments after Leon as they all walked towards Touma together.
“Good … everyone is here,” Touma said as he looked up at the group. “We should start now then.”