Nothing beats the sound of rain pattering against the roof during a storm.
Nao was reminded of that as she lay down on her bed. She closed her eyes.
As she listened to the rain and the thunder, she felt calm…
That was the moment when this weird dream began.
Maybe her dream was born from her sadness. From the pain in her heart.
From the loneliness, she felt.
She didn't know. All she knew was that she wanted to forget.
To put aside the heavy weight in her chest.
Maybe an undying desire to change the course of her destiny was the very reason for this dream.
It was so strange. So bizarre.
She had never experienced anything like it before.
This was a dream unlike any other.
Nao was in a room. A dimly lit room. It looked like a laboratory.
There was a large table in the centre of the room. The surface of the table was covered in a mess of wires and cables.
All these details paled in comparison to the adventure Nao was having.
It's said that dreams are often symbolic.
Also, it's said that dreams last only for a short while.
In fact, only half a second had passed since Nao entered the world of dreams.
A personal private world with its own rules.
One of its rules was that you can't share a dream with other people. Other people can't enter your dream or interfere with it.
A world with zero access where one's consciousness is absent.
That explains why Kuro was the real mastermind. He's the ruler of her personal tiny world.
And yet, Nao's consciousness was present in that world on that night. She was aware of her surroundings.
She knew everything that had happened there. She felt pain, pleasure, fear, and all the other emotions.
She was there to observe it all. She was witnessing the action happening around her. She had somehow free will to speak, move, and even think. That was probably the reason why Kagami was surprised when Nao jumped behind the cat to save it.
Kagami, Nao's reflection, was a slave to the world. She was forced to experience the world through Nao's eyes.
Kuro was the one who controlled Kagami. The latter was supposed to show its supremacy over Nao by winning the trials.
That was the role Kuro assigned to her. Yet she couldn't achieve it….
Even if it was a stalemate, Nao had already surpassed her...
As Nao run into the tunnel searching for the cat, she found a passage leading to another room. It was a secret passageway hidden inside the tunnel.
The door was locked.
She knocked on it to open it only to hear the sound of metal sliding along a track.
The door opened slowly to reveal a new room beyond it.
Nao entered the room to find the cat waiting for her.
The cat saw Nao approaching it and started to purr loudly.
"I'm glad you're safe."
After hearing those words, the cat lifted its head showing off its white fangs.
Nao felt a cold breeze coming out from the cat's mouth.
When Nao tried to calm the animal down, the cat bit her hand.
The cat was trying to bite Nao to make her feel uncomfortable.
It was clearly a scary sight.
Its behaviour was abnormal.
The cat's fur was black, and the colour of its eyes was red. Its body was small and slender.
The cat's teeth were sharp.
Nao was scared of the cat.
"What is this?"
Nao was petrified and lost herself.
The cat was a ghost.
The cat was an apparition of death.
The cat was a harbinger of doom.
Just as the cat bit her, Nao heard the sound of metal being dragged along a track. The cat was not alone.
Someone else was hiding in the shadows.
"Who are you? Why are you here?"
As the cat bit her, something fell from the ceiling above her.
An object dropped down from the roof and landed on the floor near Nao.
It was a skull.
The skull was hollowed out.
Inside the skull, there was a device with a long wire connected to the top of it.
What is this thing?
Why is there a skull on the ground?
Nao didn't know what was going on. Before she could figure things out, the skull opened its jaws wide. She was horrified by the sight.
The blood was flowing from the skull. She couldn't believe what she was seeing.
This was a nightmare...
The cat's body trembled, and the cat's tail swished back and forth.
It was laughing at her.
Nao was terrified.
The cat's lips curled up and laughed at her.
The voice inside the skull spoke.
"You have no idea who I am. You don't understand what's happening to you right now."
The voice was low and distorted.
"This was supposed to be the end of your road. It should've been the end for you. But now you're still standing before me. What a surprise. Congratulations. You survived!"
Nao couldn't move.
She was frozen stiff. Her heart was beating faster than ever.
The cat's body shook violently.
Suddenly, the cat's body became transparent.
There was nothing left of the cat's body.
All that remained was a skull staring straight ahead at Nao.
"I see. So you're afraid of death."
"Huh?" Nao was confused by what was happening.
The skull was speaking again, "Little girl, don't you think it's time for you to change your mind? Don't you want to live? Do you want to continue living like this? It's too late for you to start thinking about other things. You should think more deeply about what you truly desire. And then..."
The skull started to laugh.
The cat's laughter echoed throughout the empty space.
Nao was speechless.
Her legs were shaking uncontrollably.
"What did you say?" Nao asked.
The skull continued talking, "Do you remember me? My name is Kuro."
"Let the judgement begin!"