Chapter 13:

Approaching storm

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

[0 new messages.]Bookmark here

“Thought Kaz would’ve sent something by now.”Bookmark here

Leon booted up his PC and opened his list of games. He began scrolling and eventually stopped on a single player role-playing game.Bookmark here

“Huh, I’ve been meaning to start this. Guess no time is better than now.”Bookmark here

As he opened the game, Leon placed his phone on his desk.Bookmark here

“Maybe he’ll send something when this rain lets up.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

[0 new messages.]Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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!Bookmark here

-love, momBookmark here

Leon penned a quick response to the email before he got up from his desk and grabbed his phone. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Hey, it’s Leon!” Saya said as she waved at Leon.Bookmark here

Leon waved back as he arrived at their position.Bookmark here

“Did Kaz send either of you a message?” Leon asked.Bookmark here

“Why do you think we’re here?” said May in response.Bookmark here

“Do you think he was just busy?” Saya wondered.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

As the three of them talked, Hayate also arrived and walked towards them.Bookmark here

“So it’s just the three of ya, huh?” he asked. “Hey, where’s Touma? Don’t tell me both of them ditched us?”Bookmark here

The others looked around, and realized that Touma was also missing from the group.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

May turned to Leon.Bookmark here

“Got any ideas?”Bookmark here

“Just one,” he said in response.Bookmark here

Leon turned away and called out to the village.Bookmark here

“Hey! Fox spirit, we could use your help right now!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Greetings, human wanderers of the Dream. What task do you seek of us?” the spirit fox asked.Bookmark here

“I have three questions in particular,” Leon said to the spirit. “First, I would like to ask if anyone entered the Dream before us.”Bookmark here

The fox spirit closed its eyes for a moment.Bookmark here

“There is indeed one who arrived before you, previously we had seen him with your group. Although we do not know his current whereabouts.”Bookmark here

“Someone is already here?” Saya said, surprised. “That would have to be Kaz or Touma right? The fox said he was with us.”Bookmark here

“Then why’d they leave without telling us? I thought the whole point of a team was to fight together?” questioned Hayate.Bookmark here

“Alright,” Leon continued. “The second question is more of a request actually.”Bookmark here

“We shall accommodate to the best of our abilities.”Bookmark here

“If someone enters or leaves the Dream later, could you come tell us?”Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

“Indeed, there were Nightmare threats that we would consider a danger to the state of the Dream.”Bookmark here

“Well what are we waiting for?” Hayate asked. “Let’s go hunt some monsters! Where are the Nightmares right now, fox?”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“To answer your question, there was a threat that existed. However, it was destroyed before your arrival.”Bookmark here

“What,” several members of the group said in unison.Bookmark here

“Had to be Kaz then,” said May. “Touma’s too weak to kill a Nightmare by himself.”Bookmark here

“Hey May, that’s a bit rude to say about Touma,” Saya added.Bookmark here

“Am I wrong?” May asked in response.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“So what do you want to do? Just sit here and wait?” Hayate asked Leon.Bookmark here

“Honestly, yeah. If we want any chance of figuring out what’s going on, we need all the help we can get.”Bookmark here

“We can’t just wait here all night.”Bookmark here

“And we won’t. We’ll wait around three hours for someone to show up at the village.”Bookmark here

“And if no one shows? Then what, genius?”Bookmark here

Leon thought for a second.Bookmark here

“Then we’ll leave. We’ll come back tomorrow night and try to figure things out then."Bookmark here

“Fine,” Hayate said as he sat down. “We’ll do it your way.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“We cannot guarantee a result,” the fox spirit said. “But we shall try.”Bookmark here

“Thank you,” Leon said as he walked through the door.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

[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?]Bookmark here

“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…”Bookmark here

After pondering for a while, Leon decided to answer the text.Bookmark here

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.]Bookmark here

The mysterious number replied after a short delay.Bookmark here

Stranger: [Excellent, I’m glad my intel was right.]Bookmark here

Leon: [Wait, is this Touma?]Bookmark here

[I would assume the only one who paid attention like that would be you.]Bookmark here

Touma: [Good guess. It really was a good choice for Kaz to recruit you.]Bookmark here

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?]Bookmark here

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]Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Great, you’re here. Now we just have to wait for the other one,” Touma said as Leon sat down.Bookmark here

“Other one? Everyone else isn’t coming?Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Nice bike.”Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

“Rest assured, Miss Taiyo. I have a very good reason for contacting you all so suddenly.”Bookmark here

Leon noticed that May froze for a moment when Touma said “Miss Taiyo”, he recognized the name from somewhere but he could not remember.Bookmark here

“You’re looking a bit off there, Leon. Something the matter?” Touma asked.Bookmark here

“Just trying to remember where I heard that name from.”Bookmark here

Touma looked at May.Bookmark here

“You want to tell him or shall I?”Bookmark here

May looked back at Touma, but didn’t answer.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“That’s quite a secret to be keeping, May.” Leon said in response.Bookmark here

“Indeed, I’m sure she had her reasons.”Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“Well, I suppose that’s good,” May said with a shrug.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“You have something to reveal about me too?” Leon asked.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“Hmm, nobody’s that average.” May said as she looked over at Leon.Bookmark here

“Well that’s everyone out of the wa- “Touma began to say.Bookmark here

“Hold on,” May interrupted. “Isn’t it unfair that you didn’t say anything about yourself, Mr. detective?”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“Wow, very impressive Mr. Detective,” May said as she clapped.Bookmark here

“Please stop calling me that.”Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

“Yes, I’m sure you both heard about the incident in Country W, right?”Bookmark here

May nodded.Bookmark here

“I only briefly heard about it, so I would appreciate an explanation,” said Leon.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“That’s just… damn. So where’s Kaz then? Surely he must have seen this?”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“You don’t think he’s…” Leon began to ask.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

Leon remembered the words of the spirit fox from last night.Bookmark here

“There is indeed one who arrived before you, previously we had seen him with your group. Although we do not know his current whereabouts.”Bookmark here

“Touma,” Leon started asking. “You didn’t go into the Dream yesterday, did you?”Bookmark here

“No,” Touma stated. “I decided against it as my investigation took me far into the night to complete.”Bookmark here

“Alright, I may have an idea where Kaz is.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

“We have to find him first,” said May.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

As Touma began to walk away from the booth, he stopped and turned back around.Bookmark here

“Ah… right. The number I used to contact you was an encrypted one, it may be better if we exchanged personal numbers.”Bookmark here

“Oh, you’re asking for my number?” May asked. “How bold of you.”Bookmark here

“Here’s mine,” Leon said as he placed his phone on the booth table.Bookmark here

May turned to look at Leon.Bookmark here

“You ruined my joke…”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Good … everyone is here,” Touma said as he looked up at the group. “We should start now then.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.