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It’s Just a Light Rain (But the Storm’s Still Comin’)

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        April, 11

        Cafe Leblanc

It’s the first day of classes.

A horrible day in and of itself, really. 

The truth of the matter is, no one ever wants classes to start back up again. It’s a promise of a whole new year, with a new semester, with another two following closely behind. It’s made even worse when it’s the first day of classes at a whole new school. Transferring sucks. It’s stressful and isolating, and Akira knew it would be awful even before he was shipped off to Tokyo.

And despite Akira’s hardest efforts to start off this day on the right foot, to attempt to keep his head down and fly under the radar, to get through his probation as quickly and painlessly as possible, he manages to screw himself over by oversleeping.

(Akira blames it more on the nightmares than his new, lumpy futon.)

Heart thrumming with a growing sense of panic, Akira rushes down the stairs into Leblanc proper, only vaguely aware of how disheveled and crazed he must look. He hasn’t combed his hair, or brushed his teeth, and he thinks that maybe he’s gotten his jacket buttoned wrong. But at the moment that isn’t important, because according to his phone he should’ve left 10 minutes ago.

Somehow, his appearance gets Sojiro to snort in amusement. Which Akira might technically consider a win, because the man hasn’t done anything but grumble and complain about his existence since his arrival, if it wasn’t for the stern frown that follows close behind.

“Better hurry, kid. Or you’re going to end up late.” Sojiro tells him as he watches Akira stumble towards the exit, almost tripping over his feet. 

“I know, I know.” Akira barely manages to bite down a frustrated sigh, and instead focuses on finger combing his hair through the window’s reflection. But ultimately he gives up, and resigns himself to the cruel fate of having bedhead for the day. “I’ve still got enough time.”

Looking back down at his phone to double check, as if to convince the phone that it’s the one in the wrong here and not him, Akira notes that he does not have enough time.

“Ha. Maybe. If you’re a sprinter.” Sojiro comments, telling Akira he’s just as unconvinced as himself. And then Sojiro motions towards the door before turning to watch the morning news on the television, telling Akira he’s done with this conversation. “Now go, before the school thinks you’re a no-show.”

This time, Akira isn’t able to bite down his sigh, letting his frustrations known. Which only earns him another stern warning look from Sojiro. Hell, he’ll blame getting on Sojiro’s bad side again on his lack of sleep.

Because, yes. Akira’s exhausted, despite just waking up less than half an hour ago. 

Nightmares had kept Akira up all night, ensuring that he never got more than an hour's sleep at a time, and that futon really is horrible; where the hell did Sojiro even find it? And now that Akira’s up, he can feel how empty his stomach is. He's so low on time, but his stomach is demanding food now, but Akira doesn’t know Sojiro well enough to ask if he’s going to feed him at all during his probation, or if he has to to find some way to fend for himself and―

Akira is just on the edge of being completely miserable, and he knows one more push will send him tumbling over that edge, and―

And Akira opens the door, and―

Oh.

Akira stops, his mind going blank. The panic and stress of a rushed morning comes to a sudden halt as Akira takes a moment and feels the air. It’s damp and heavy, cold like rainy mornings in the country. Akira can taste the humidity, it’s so thick. 

Akira looks up to the sky above. It’s a dark grey. Gloomy, but Akira doesn’t yet know if that’s from the impending weather, or just Tokyo’s usual smog.

But Akira trusts his gut, and steps back into Leblanc. Sojiro turns his attention back onto him, a look of exasperation growing when he sees him stepping inside. But before his new guardian can give him another warning, Akira calls out.

“Hey, do you have an umbrella I can borrow for today?”

Sojiro frowns again. “You didn’t pack one to bring with you?”

Akira shakes his head, and feels his face heat up in slight embarrassment. “It’s coming in my second box.” His parents had told him he wouldn’t need it until the rainy season. And isn’t that just his luck…

Sojiro gives Akira a look, but nonetheless bends down to fumble around behind the counter, and then stands back upright, holding a black umbrella. 

“I expect this back in one piece at the end of the day.” Sojiro more or less warns Akira.

Akira accepts the umbrella immediately. His thank you is lost to the wind as he hurries back out the door, panic already creeping back into place. Akira still has a train he has to catch.


Navigating the subway system is it’s own version of hell, Akira has decided.

But after getting lost and turned around in the underground tunnels twice, Akira has finally managed to arrive at Aoyama-Itchome. Just as the rain starts to fall.

The flood of rain greets Akira as he leaves the station, the skies opening up with a barely audible crack of thunder in the distance. The hard cold droplets bounce off the concrete and soak his shoes almost immediately. It’s heavy and loud against the city, so different from what he’s used to. 

Students in uniforms matching his own groan at the sight of the hard rain. Most of the complaints come from those less prepared than Akira. 

But thankfully, this time Akira is prepared, so he snaps open his umbrella, and starts the long walk from the station to Shujin Academy. The crowd of students and commuters around him are mostly silent, and what few conversations there are around Akira are drowned out by the rain. Akira’s mind wanders to the day ahead, and on what he needs to do to stay on his best behavior. His homeroom had asked him to meet her at the faculty office, so he should head straight there before―

The rain on concrete is surprisingly slippery. Akira wasn’t expecting it, and he trips.

And he tumbles to the ground. 

And now, even with the help of Sojiro’s umbrella, Akira finds himself soaked and sore.

With a groan, Akira picks himself up, rubbing at his sides. That had been a hard fall, but thankfully his glasses haven’t been cracked, and it looks like his bag hasn’t been soaked through. He can hear a few giggles across the street, and it appears that he has garnered an audience. Apparently some Shujin students watched his tumble, and while they’ve stopped giggling, Akira can tell they’re still whispering about him. 

Great. A wonderful first impression, then.

Akira groans again as he stretches a bit, testing out which bits hurt and which don’t, and then he subtly limps the rest of the way to Shujin. During the walk, Akira is acutely aware of how the growing swarm of Shujin students are watching him, staring at his soaked uniform and half-bent umbrella (oops, sorry Sojiro). By the time Akira arrives at school, he’s mostly recovered, with only his pride still wounded.

And yet, the whispers between students don’t stop even as he walks through Shujin’s halls. He ignores the whispers, chalks it up to normal school gossip; his last school had been just as bad. Instead he’s focused on finding Kawakami, and starting school on the right foot, horrible morning be damned.

But once Akira tracks down Miss Kawakami, he completely forgets his fall. Immediately he’s greeted with a guilty look on her face, and while she hadn’t been able to meet his eyes yesterday in the principal's office, there’s something… off about why she can’t today. Akira can feel it in his gut.

That’s not just discomfort on her face.

Miss Kawakami stammers in her greeting. “Kurusu-kun. I- I don’t know how it happened, but there’s something you need to know before classes start.”

There’s a sense of urgency in her voice, a kind of panic that Akira’s recently grown accustomed to. And it sets him on edge.

(How could he have ever expected that he’d be able to start on the right foot? That’s not his sort of luck.)

Somehow, Akira knows exactly what she’s going to say, even before she says it.

(He should have listened to the whispers. He should have known something was wrong if he had been paying closer attention.

But even then, what good would have that done?)

Because somehow, Akira knows that his criminal record has been leaked.


It’s not even lunch yet, and Akira’s already become the Pariah of Shujin Academy.

The students of Shujin are merciless with their words, and uncaring if Akira hears them. They openly speak about him in tones that barely pass as whispers, unaware with how loud they truly are. They eye him like a strange creature on display, now that his privacy has been so clearly violated.

The rumors spread. And they grow. Contorting and twisting into something that Akira can barely recognize. His list of supposed crimes grows more and more violent with each passing period.

Theft, vandalism, dealing drugs, assault, hey did you guys hear? He carries a knife on him at all times. Apparently he gutted another student at his last school, that’s why he had to transfer.

Akira can’t stand the whispers. Akira wants to argue with them, clear his name and tell them no it’s not true, he didn’t hurt anyone, he didn’t do anything―

But he knows no one will listen to him. No one will believe him. 

He’s already tried it once.

And look where that got him.

So no, Akira can’t stand the whispers. But he understands all too well that there’s no point in arguing. Not when others' minds are already made up. So Akira sits there at his desk and endures their harsh words of his grossly inflated misdeeds. All the while, he keeps a straight face, a neutral mask of indifference.

By the time the student who sits in front of Akira finally shows up, a girl with bright blonde hair who looks a little roughed up in a way that should be worrying (but Akira can’t quite bring himself to do that, not now when he’s still reeling about his own situation), Akira’s more focused on the clock on the wall than the course material.

The day can’t end soon enough.


Akira only realizes it after he’s returned to Leblanc― once he’s calmed down from the panic attack that he’s only barely kept at bay during the school day. The one that snuck up on him after he retreated back to the attic, once he was sure he was safely alone― that somewhere along the journey from Yongen-Jaya and Shujin, he’s lost his phone.

Either lost in the fall, or taken by a pickpocket during the long commute, Akira doesn’t know which. Akira’s mood just plummets even further when he realizes that he’ll have to find some way to replace it. And whichever way that is, it’ll be expensive.

Akira sighs, and wonders if there’s anywhere in Tokyo that’ll hire him despite his criminal record.


        April, 14

        Shujin Academy

By now Akira has come to understand his new routine. 

Go to school, keep his head down and keep quiet. Toe the line. Despite the whispers, most of the other students will avoid him. Once school ends, immediately return to Leblanc. Either help Sojiro with tending to the café, or retreat upstairs amd do homework. Go to bed early.

(Have nightmares.)

Lather, rinse, repeat.

In retrospect, it’s not the worst routine. It could be so, so much worse.

And yet, so suddenly, something challenges the status quo.

The school’s volleyball rally just ended. Now they’re all stuck in the middle of that strange period of free time between the rally ending early, and when classes are officially dismissed for the day. Friends are talking to one another, chilling out for the next twenty or so minutes before they depart the school grounds and head home. 

As for Akira, he’s managed to find himself in a quiet little corner of one of Shujin’s hallways, by one of the school’s many fire escapes. It’s somewhere out of the way and rarely visited. Perfect for Akira. No one will bother to confront him here, so for the meantime he’s safely left alone. 

(They haven’t openly confronted him yet, but Akira’s prepared for the moment when the vultures decide words have ceased being entertaining enough.)

He’s sitting on the ground, back against the wall. One of the dusty books he found in Leblanc’s attic rests against his lap, and he’s reading it calmly. But Akira’s dropped out of the fictional world he’s been captivated by when he hears footsteps approaching.

Akira looks up, and sees that it's one of the members of the girl’s volleyball team. She doesn’t look too familiar to him, but there is something about her that tells him he’s seen her before, somewhere in Shujin… 

Oh. She’s Takamaki’s friend.

“Um… are you Kurusu-kun?” She asks softly, sounding unsure of herself.

Akira hesitates for a moment, wondering what her aim is here, but eventually nods. At Akira’s nod, the girl takes another step forward into Akira’s small space, and then carefully slides down to the floor, about 5 feet separating the two of them.

“I know you don’t know me, um… I’m Shiho by the way, but I wanted to talk to you. If that’s alright?” The girl, Shiho, starts.

Akira doesn’t speak up. Instead he elects to remain silent. And it seems he’s so much more comfortable in dead silence than she is. Because after a long moment of nothing passes between them, she fidgets, playing with loose strands of hair, carefully pressing against faint, almost healed bruises against her temples.

Akira momentarily considers those bruises, but then thinks nothing more of it. He’s seen others volleyball members with similar injuries, like that one kid in his class, Mishima. And by the time Akira takes his eyes off of her, he completely forgets them.

Shiho seems more interested in him than herself, after all.

“I know you just transferred here. From out of Tokyo right? How are you liking the city?” Shiho asks him, voice light as if she’s trying to be friendly. “I can’t imagine how different it is from the country―”

Akira finds his voice. His words are a lot sharper than he intended them to be. “What do you want, Shiho-san?”

Shiho blinks, momentarily taken back. But then she plows through her shock, still determined to speak her mind. “I wanted to know if you were alright.”

Well, Akira hadn’t been expecting that. “If I’m alright?”

“Yeah. You always look so… sad.”

A pause.

“Why wouldn’t I be sad?” Akira says out loud, before he can stop himself.

And almost immediately he wished he had kept his mouth shut.

Akira can’t believe he’s said that so openly, can’t believe he’s actually having a conversation with Shiho. (She’s been the first person to treat him like an actual human since he’s arrived in Tokyo. The first to speak to him like a normal fucking person. Of course he’s going to talk to her.)

He hadn’t meant for anyone to see past his flimsy armor.

Akira sighs. Well, in for a penny… “You heard about my record, right?”

Shiho’s face reddens a bit, and this is the first time she averts her gaze, dropping it to the floor. “I try not to listen too closely to rumors. But I guess the rumors are true, then.”

“Not all of them.” He doesn’t want to say anything more than that. Not yet.

Thankfully, Shiho can see Akira’s discomfort. “It’s okay.” She calmly tells him. “People can be mean, but what they say shouldn’t matter.”

That’s the theory, at least. Akira has been trying to convince himself of that too. But it’s been met with little luck.

Shiho seems to catch this, and she almost reaches out to pat Akira’s shoulder, in an attempt to comfort him. But then thinks better of it, and slowly retracts her hand. “Believe me when I say that I don’t care about the rumors… maybe we can even be friends. Eventually. Whenever you’re ready, Kurusu-kun.”

Akira doesn’t admit it, he’s not quite ready for that yet, but he likes the sound of it.

He thinks Shiho could be a good friend. One day.

And maybe just that thought alone was enough to make him give her the barest hint of a smile. An almost-smile that Shiho easily returns. 

It’s strange to feel something like hope again.

And yet,

Just like that,

The peace between them is broken.

Another pair of footsteps approaches. And it’s Mishima who steps into their space. The boy startles for a quick second when he sees Akira, obviously not expecting him, but then hides his fear. But Akira can still feel his unease; it’s rolling off of his body in waves. Then again, the boy never looks comfortable anywhere.

Mishima proceeds to ignore Akira, focusing his attention on Shiho. There’s something sad about his face when Mishima looks at her. And when Mishima finally speaks, there’s a strange kind of exhaustion that clings to his words.

“Suzui-san? Mr. Kamoshida would like to speak to you.” Mishima states slowly.

Almost immediately, Shiho’s mood shifts. And the tentative but determined girl that Akira has just been acquainted with immediately retreats into herself. For a brief moment, Akira recognizes Shiho’s expression: it's a mirror to Mishima’s own. But then it’s gone, and Akira can recognize it no longer.

Akira almost feels like he shouldn’t be an audience to this.

“Really? Right now?” She asks.

Mishima nods once. “Yes.”

“Oh. Okay. I’ll be right there…” 

And then Shiho lets out a troubled sigh before picking herself up. Akira sits there, watches as the two of them leave in silence and head towards the gymnasium. And yet, before they turn the final corner, Akira catches sight of someone sprinting down the hall, clad in a red track suit with bright blonde hair, making their way towards Shiho and Mishima.

That can only be Takamaki. They’re talking with one another, but from this distance, Akira can’t hear their words. But he can tell that their conversation is heated, and it only lasts for a few seconds. Akira faintly sees the impression of Shiho shaking her head, and then carefully stepping back, away from Takamaki. And then she turns to leave, with Mishima following right behind her. 

Takamaki is left standing there in the deserted hall, watching as her friend walks away from her.

And then Takamaki turns towards Akira’s direction. He knows she sees him. He can feel her eyes boring holes into his own. They have that long distance staring contest for what feels like a few minutes. But eventually Takamaki turns away herself, and walks in the opposite direction of Shiho and Mishima.

Akira is left with the distinct impression that Takamaki doesn't like him. But that’s not surprising, really.


        April, 15

        Shujin Academy

Akira watches with the crowd, helpless as Shiho throws herself off the edge. 

Someone cries out loud, screams out a “No! ” with all their heart and all their fear, and they shove Akira out of their way. But all Akira can do is stare at the empty space where Shiho once was, and his stomach churns in cold, dead terror.

He spoke to her yesterday.

He should have seen that something was wrong with her. He should have done something to help her.

(But hadn’t she looked sad? Hadn’t she looked exhausted and scared? And you noticed there were bruises on her face, Kurusu. You saw them and you decided to say nothing.

You chose to do nothing.)

And he did nothing.

That feeling of guilt clings to Akira for the rest of the day. 


The ambulance hasn’t been gone for 10 minutes before the whispers begin.

By now, Akira is used to hearing how discomfortable others are of his presence; the thinly veiled level of animosity that Akira’s subjected to by both students and faculty here at Shujin. He hears it when they spread their rumors, sees it when they ignore him and avoid him. 

But now, it’s so much more pointed. There’s a sense of anger to their words, a more unbridled version of hatred. 

And fear.

“I heard that Kurusu cornered Suzui-san yesterday after the volleyball rally.” Someone says, trying to whisper but failing at it spectacularly, and Akira is unable to ignore them. “He must have said something really awful to her.”

“No way, you think he did this?” Another voice replies. Akira can feel their collective stares on him, and is unable to do anything but sit at his desk, stare blankly at his open textbook, and force himself to listen in.

“Why wouldn’t he? You must’ve heard that he got his record for assaulting someone. This sounds right up his alley.” 

“But trying to make Shiho kill herself? That’s almost too much.”

“Look at him. Do you think he cares about that? The sick bastard probably enjoyed watching her fall…”

Their words cut through Akira painfully, much harsher than he anticipated. Hearing that, hearing how blunt and careless they are with their words, infuriates him

How could they twist this around so quickly? How could they weaponize Shiho’s pain so heartlessly?  

But just as quickly as that anger ensnares Akira, it now vanishes. Its quick departure knocks him breathless, leaving Akira to flounder for something that makes some semblance of sense. He finds nothing.

“Something’s gotta be done about Kurusu, before he ends up hurting another student.”

(Because that’s who they decided he is. He’s the dangerous thug of Shujin. And now they believe he’s gotten blood on his hands, just to prove it.)

“The principle has to expel him now. The school wouldn’t keep a killer enrolled.”

“If Suzui-san dies, it’s all his fault.”


        April, 19

        Shujin Academy

Akira doesn’t know Takamaki all that well. He only knows that she sits in front of him, that the class whispers about her just as much as they do about him, and that her best friend had been Shiho. 

(Shiho, who is still in intensive care at the hospital. Fighting for her life.)

But Akira knows she’s hurting. Hurting in that quiet way that most people can’t seem to see.

(He doesn’t want to abandon Takamaki like he did Shiho.)

So Akira decides to look for her after class one day. Outside of Shujin, where hopefully no other students can bother them. Hopefully he can find her before she reaches the station.

And he does. He finds Takamaki-san waiting outside, in an alley not too far away from Shujin’s front gates. She’s crouched down, back turned to him, hand extended downward to the ground. She’s whispering, something low and quiet that Akira can’t quite make out. There’s a faint meowing, and Akira can just barely see the twitch of a cat’s tail poking out from Takamaki’s form.

Akira approaches her, and the cat she’s giving attention to lets out a loud meow in alarm. Takamaki immediately turns, and her expression hardens when she realizes that it’s him. The cat takes this opportunity to jump onto the closest trash can, and then up onto the alley’s wall, where it settles to watch over Akira like a protective gargoyle, blue eyes never straying far from him.

Akira looks away from the cat, and sees how Takamaki’s face looks puffy, almost red from crying too much. No amount of makeup can hide her recently shed tears. But Takamaki isn't ashamed by those tears. She’s staring down at Akira without hesitation, hands balled into tight fists by her sides.

Defensive, and so clearly hurting.

“What do you want?” Takamaki demands, words hard and angry. Hostile.

It’s so unexpected.

For a moment, Akira’s throat works against him, tightening up. He’s too caught up in the realization that this anger directed toward him is so incredibly different from what he’s garnered from any of the other students. That had been nothing but surface level, bullying taken to a more severe degree. This… this is something far more heated, far more dangerous.

It takes too long for Akira to find his voice again, but when he does, his words are strained, almost like a whisper.

“You look upset.”

“Ha. Funny. I kinda have a reason for being upset.” There is no humor in her voice.

“I just wanted to make sure you were okay. I’m sorry abou―

But Akira doesn’t get very far, because Takamaki cuts him off so swiftly. Any patience she had for him has now burnt away.

“Look, I don’t know if the rumors about you are true or not, and I don’t care. I just want you to stay away from me.”

The words shock Akira, shutting him up so completely. This time he doesn’t fight his tightening throat, allowing it to silence him. Takamaki’s response shouldn’t have been surprising to Akira, but somehow it is.

“If you really had anything to do with what Shiho-” Takamaki makes a horrible, gut wrenching noise when she says her friend's name. Almost like her throat was shredding itself. But she pushes past that. Past the tears that are starting to fall again, words almost garbled together, “then I’ll never forgive you. So just. Leave me be.

Above them, the alley cat lets out a loud, angry hiss. It bares its sharp teeth, as if to mirror Takamaki’s burning fury.

Immediately Akira realizes why he’s met with such strong hostility.

The lies. Despite what she just said, she believes the lies everyone has been spreading. Takamaki doesn’t just dislike him. She hates him on a much more significant level because she believes he convinced Shiho to―

Just the thought of doing something like that, on purpose, makes his stomach revolt.

No. He’s not a monster. He needs to fix this. He needs to tell her the truth―

“Hey, Ann, I got some stuff! I think we should be good for- what the hell?!”

It’s a loud voice, one Akira hasn’t heard before. And it immediately cuts through Akira and Takamaki’s harsh confrontation.

Akira turns to face the entrance to the alley, and sees that the voice belongs to another Shujin student, but one he hasn’t met yet. With dyed blond hair, and uniform that barely passes their dress code, Akira finds it odd that he hasn’t even seen him in passing in the halls. He’s holding a shopping bag, halfway through the action of shaking it, but has prematurely stopped. Now he’s just standing there, staring at Akira.

The newcomer looks to Takamaki for answers, sees her sour expression, and immediately adopts it as well.

Akira can feel the tension in the air, feel how it’s shifting from tense, to dangerous. Like the calm before the storm.

“Is this him?” He asks, venom dripping in his throat, motioning to Akira. Not waiting for an answer, he takes a step towards Akira. And Akira moves on instinct, taking a step back. Right into the alley’s wall. “Listen, you stay the hell away from Ann, got it? I won’t have you pulling anything like what you did on Shiho, on her. Or―”

Takamaki puts a hand against her friend’s chest, stopping him from getting any closer. And that seems to be enough to calm him down. Just enough.

“I think he’s got the point, Ryuji.” Takamaki states, voice still hard, but calmer now that she’s addressing her friend. “Besides, I think he was just about to leave anyways.”

That leaves Akira with no other choice than to comply. So Akira does, taking this opportunity to retreat. And if his pace is a bit faster than it usually is, then that’s between him and the pigeons scampering along the road.

(So stupid of him, to believe that anyone would want him to offer words of comfort.

The best thing he can do for Shiho’s friends is stay out of their way.)


        April, 26

        Shujin Academy

The start of the morning has been met with confusion, and perhaps an underlying current of excitement, as Shujin’s halls have been plastered with hundreds of small red cards. It’s calling for some form of justice, and threatening to steal the heart of the school’s volleyball coach and resident asshole, Kamoshida.

Akira plucks one of the many cards off of the wall, ignoring Kamoshida as he continues to yell angrily down the halls, towards any of the students that get too close to him and accidentally draw his ire. Akira eyes the card’s small doodle before flipping it over to read the other side. And while the writing is a bit… crass and lacking of finesse, the message it sends is clear as day.

Steal his heart? What does that even mean?

Whatever this is, it’s certainly a strange sort of prank.

Kamoshida’s rage induced shouting grows ever fainter, and Akira can now hear a hushed conversation. He looks down the hall, only to see that it’s Takamaki, and her friend Sakamoto. They’re huddled together, whispering to one another, a serious look on both of their faces. But then Takamaki notices Akira watching them, and her expression turns into an icy glare, with Sakamoto following suit.

Akira knows his attention is unwanted. He remembers how quickly Sakamoto was to Takamaki’s defense last week, and he sees how furious the other boy is with him now. Not wanting another confrontation, especially right here in the middle of school, Akira quickly retreats to his classroom. Akira hasn’t noticed that he’s kept that little red card until he sits down at his desk. Akira stares at it for another couple seconds, before he thumbs it into his latest book, deciding to use it as a makeshift bookmark.

Akira just hopes that people won’t think he did this.

(That hope dies before lunch).


      ???

Akira knows he’s dreaming again. It must be a dream, as this strange world shifts like sand dunes in his mind. Ever changing, never stable. Vague impressions come and go, collapsing on themselves just as soon as they are formed. He thinks this place is cold; it’s dark and unwelcoming. A dread settles over Akira; he doesn’t want to be here.

It's so hard to perceive his surroundings, and yet... it grants him a different kind of clarity. Immediately, Akira recognizes this as the same nightmare that’s been plaguing him since his first night in Tokyo. It does little to calm him; he knows he’ll forget everything by the time he wakes up.

“It seems… perhaps my expectations for you were too high.”

The voice that greets him is both foreign and familiar. It's low and gravelly, almost inhumanely so. The deep baritone sends shivers down Akira’s spine, causing Akira to shudder audibly in response. It fills him with a deeply rooted tension that he doesn’t understand, and he doesn't think he ever will.

“Your Rehabilitation has become an impossibility. How disappointing. For you would forfeit your position so early in the grand Game…”

Akira’s mouth refuses to open, won’t allow him to speak up and demand for this dream to end already. He’s a prisoner in his own mind.

The voice gives off a horrible chuckle, and there’s nothing pleasant to be found there.

“And yet… I am most curious to see how this decision of yours develops.” A thoughtful pause, and then, “Even the most skillful of players will understand the patience of an eternity, awaiting for their opponent’s next move. The Game will continue, even as Ruin continues to march ever closer to your world.”

The tone of a bell chimes, resonating uncomfortably in the pit of Akira’s chest, shaking his very soul. Something shifts in this strange dream world, and Akira suddenly feels like lead. It had been difficult to focus beforehand, but now it’s virtually impossible. Akira can feel consciousness grabbing ahold of him, dragging him down, thankfully away from wherever here is.

And yet, just before the dream collapses, Akira finally catches sight of a man behind a desk, of a long nose and a cruel smile, and cold, calculating eyes.

The smile grows wider, crueler, and then, “Know that this is the future you have chosen with your own inaction, Trickster, and embrace it.”









 

 

And then Akira wakes up shaking.