And then I woke up.
Oh, so it was just a dream.
It does seem all the battles up to now had all been the happenings of a dream.
A dream ending of all things.
“T-Tezuka-sensei’s gonna be pissed…”
An incomprehensible worry passing through my half-asleep head, I heard a tapping sound on the door.
“Kagoshima-kuuun, are you awake? Can I come in?”
It was Orino-san’s voice. “Go ahead,” I reflexively answered, and the door opened, and Orino-san appeared in her school uniform.
“Good morning, Kagoshima-kun.”
“Good morning… huh? Why are you here so early in the morning?”
“How long do you plan to daze out? Have you already forgotten what day it is?”
I frantically worked my head and recalled what happened yesterday.
“… Ah, I see. We had your birthday party yesterday, did we? Everyone apart from me and you were downed, and stayed over at my place…”
“Right. So right now, I’m in the middle of waking them up. Because a certain someone slept in.”
“Ahaha. I’m sorry.”
I hurriedly sprung up from the bed.
That’s right, I remembered. Truth be told, I intended to wake up early and wake everyone up, but it looks like I went and slept in.
“I kinda… saw a strange dream. I think that’s why I overslept.”
“Hmmm. What sort of dream?”
“Weeeell, you see, I get the feeling the contents will sound idiotic if I actually say them aloud but—Kagurai-senpai was actually a cybersoldier from the future, and the Gakuta-kun she usually speaks to with ventriloquism was actually her brother of all people. Kikyouin-san was an onmyouji, and Tama-chan was a nine-tailed fox. Kurisu-chan was a witch from another world. Her name was really, really long and I couldn’t remember it at all. Orino-san—was the child of god or something, something like the messiah of this world, whatever it was, some amazing existence.”
“So anyways, and here’s the kicker, turns out Kai was the last boss. Ah, Kai’s my childhood friend. You’ve met him before, haven’t you? And then your lookalike, a girl called Yomiga-san appeared and—”
I spoke about the dream I saw.
The absurd and incoherent, all-over-the-place dream.
I spoke of a dream like a manga or anime.
There’s an established theory that there’s nothing more boring than listening to someone else tell you about a dream, but Orino-san amusedly listened to my story. She was smiling, but her smile also looked somewhat lonesome. I got the feeling she was forcing herself to smile.
But still, she happily laughed as I knew she would.
“—And like that, in the very end, I awoke to the power sleeping within me—《Dog Ear》 , I beat the bad guys black and blue and we all had a happy ending.”
“… The original work was bastardized somewhere down the line.”
“Eh? What do you mean?”
“I-it’s nothing! Ahahah.”
For some reason, she sounded panicked as her gaze swam here and there.
“N-now! Let’s hurry and clean up so we can go to school!”
The second term began, and a certain day after about a week had gone by.
“It sure is peaceful.”
I earnestly muttered in the afterschool clubroom.
In the computer club’s members, today as well, all five members were assembled.
Kurisu Crimson Kuria.
It wasn’t as if we were doing anything particular, we just all gathered and lounged around.
“Are you bored of peace?”
Orino-san asked. I made a vague smile.
“It’s boring if you want to call it that. But not bad. I do like to take it easy like this, after all.”
Came Orino-san’s gentle smile.
“And Kagurai-senpai’s homework is finally done.”
“… Kagoshima, quit dragging on that joke.’
Kagurai-senpai said fed-up. There, Kikyouin-san and Kurisu-chan who’d been playing hanafuda mixed into the conversation.
“In the end, humans are those who live asking for the moon. When war comes, they seek peace, and once peace comes, the word boredom graces their lips…”
“The grass is greener on the other side. Ah, that’s Ino-Shika-Chou.”
“And that’s the twelfth round. It’s my win.”
“Uwah… I lost again. Kurisu, you really are strong… I had a bit of confidence…”
“Ehehe. I regularly compete with a really strong person.”
“Ahh, now I’m burnin’. It’s been a while, I should go train under Tamane-sama again.”
Just like that, a leisurely time slipped by.
Ahh, it really is nice. This loose feeling.
If only this time could continue forever—the moment I thought so, it didn’t continue at all.
First was Orino-san.
“T-this magic is!?”
“!? I-is that true, Tamane-sama!?”
“S-say what!? Damn, it just had to be when the PC’s under maintenance… no choice but to use another room’s…!”
And well, like that.
By the time I noticed it, the members apart from myself had disappeared somewhere.
“… They’re all quite busy.”
It’s been quite a while since I felt like this. Letting out a single breath, I stood from my seat. The weather was nice, somehow or another I tried opening the window.
A refreshing blue sky, the same townscape as ever entered my eyes.
As I was enjoying the scenery, I spotted Kirako-san walking in the distance. Not in the movie suit, she clad herself in a surprisingly girlish fashion. This was inadvertently the first time I saw her in casual clothing.
To Kirako-san’s side, was a boy around middle-school age. A young boy who looked good in his glasses and suspenders. Was that her little brother? There’s no way he could be her boyfriend.
As I gazed absentmindedly, the bespectacled two pulled out their cellphones simultaneously. Gazing at the screens, their expressions quickly stiffened and off they were. Some urgent job?
Well, no use thinking about it.
A breeze blew through the window. The curtain lavishly swayed. While it was a considerably strong wind, the photo on the windowsill was in a proper picture frame so it was safe.
It was a photo the five of us happily took together.
It was quite recently, but for some reason, I got the feeling it was quite a long time ago.
As I gazed at the photo with a warm feeling, the cellphone in my pocket shook. Of all things, it was a call from my childhood friend Kai.
“Kai. Been a while.”
It had been around a week since I spoke with Kai like this.
On the day of the entrance ceremony a week ago, he suddenly said he was “Going on a journey to find myself”. I considered stopping him, but, “I want to try seeing this world again,” he told me with especially clear eyes, so I couldn’t find it in me.
“So how’s the trip going?”
‘It’s only just begun, but so far, I’m having fun. The view from here’s breathtaking. Sand as far as you can see, the blue sky goes on with no end. The dry wind stroking my skin has a nice elegance to it.’
It seemed he was in some sort of desert.
The Sahara, or Taklamakan, or somewhere else entirely.
‘It really is a wonderful tourist spot, Tottori’s dunes.’
Tottori sand dunes. One of the three great sand dunes of Japan.
So he’s still here.
“Kai… didn’t you say you were seeing the world?”
‘What are you talking about? Japan’s a proper part of the world.’
I mean, that’s technically true.
But that’s a really small scale, or how should I put it… no, on the contrary, was he thinking on a larger scale than I could comprehend?
“Come to think of it, is Yomiga-san doing well?”
‘She’s doing great. She’s right next to me right now, want to switch over?’
“No, I’m fine. Send her my regards.”
Kai’s journey to find himself was accompanied by Yomiga-san. Isn’t that just a vacation? I thought, but I won’t retort.
After leaving a bit of time, Kai breathed out a thoughtful sigh.
‘… It’s the first time I’ve seen the world for my sake alone. It’s all so new, and so interesting. I thought this world was just a book I’d already finished reading, but it seems I was conceited.’
‘A truly great novel’s interesting no matter how many times you read it. This world’s still got promise in it yet.’
I laughed, he laughed.
‘Ah, sorry, Akira. Yomiga-san’s puffing out her cheeks and pouting, I should hang up.’
… It seems Yomiga-san’s completely entered her Dere period.
So she’s inflating her cheeks and pouting? I’d like to see that.
“Yeah. Got it. Well then, ‘cya.”
‘Ahh… Akira. One last thing.’
“You’ve actually already noticed everything, haven’t you?”
‘One week ago, Orino Shiori used her 《Book Marker》 to alter the world. It looks like she’s placed some complicated adjustments, but—to put it simply, everything’s been returned to normal.’
‘To Kagoshima Akira, all he experienced that day became the happenings of a dream, and you continued the same relation with Orino Shiori and her comrades of not noticing—or so it should have been.’
‘Orino Shiori definitely wished it so… but in the depths of her heart, surely she couldn’t help but end up wishing “I want him to know”. That’s not all. She probably thought this too. “I want Kagoshima Akira to save me”. At the same time, didn’t you think, “If I could, I want to protect these girls”?’
‘At that moment, the ability began to transfer. By her wishing, and you accepting, the 《Book Marker》became Kagoshima Akira’s. The result: you undertook all the burden. As its new host in Orino Shiori’s place, you inherited powers surpassing god.’
In place of the bookmark.
‘… In the end, it just shows Orino Shiori was more of a girl than she thought, and Kagoshima Akira was more of a boy than he thought. But Akira. Are you really alright with that? That way of life, even for you, there’s no way you can endure for—’
“Eh? What did you say?”
“The reception must be bad. I can barely hear you.”
‘… No, it’s nothing.’
We gave our simple partings and finished the call. I placed the phone into my pocket, gazing out the window once more. When I looked up, I saw a sky reaching out with no end in sight.
Below that sky, on this day once more, someone would be greeted with happiness, another with misfortune. Where I couldn’t see it, a story I didn’t know about might unfold.
Perhaps—a hero of justice was fighting unknown to man.
And only hypothetically speaking.
I am me, and I think I’d like to enjoy the everyday life I love.
I want to smile innocently.
I want to smile for someone’s sake.
It was what the hero of justice wished for.
And so it was.
The relationship I came to realize.