Yume: Awakening
By Chun

The sun shown brightly on the land of the Rising Sun, the dark, cold city of Tokyo seemed to brighten up instantaneously. The streets and houses around the city began to awaken, and the streets filled out with people. The light shown in to a small room, where two misfortunates lay, still dreaming in bed, their own ideas of paradise playing through, over and over again. As the light shown brightly on the glasses that lay on the floor, the reflected light shown against one person's eyes, which abruptly opened. Piro blinked as the sun seemed to flood the room, Ping sleeping, back against the wall, her power outlet still plugged in, but making discreet little breaths, the display on her ear reading "Suspend". Piro groped around for his glasses as he stared at the ceiling. It had been almost four months since they had come to Japan, and still they had not moved from their spot since his friend Tsubasa had left, leaving them evicted into the storage room above his workplace.

Reluctantly, Piro stood up, rubbing his eyes quickly as he placed his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose. They were still very poor, and the room was still as much of a mess it had always been, despite Ping's efforts to sweep the place up. Eventually, the EDS gave up, and began reserving a special area of the room for her to sleep, thus, the room was separated in half, but the debris still lay even on both sides. Beer cans, fried wires, breakfast cereal, and old shoujo mangas littered almost every square foot of the room, and there was barely enough for both Piro, and his passed out friend, Largo, to stand in, much less game in. He decided to stand up and flapped his shirt a couple of times to shake off the dust that still clung upon him. Looking downwards in the direction of Largo, his friend was sleeping, sprawled out on the floor, mumbling something about "L33Tage", and an evil attraction to the zombie queen. Shrugging, Piro looked out the window, watching as the train and light rail ran, the sun glinting a light that blinded Piro abruptly. He decided to let Ping and Largo sleep longer, as Ping did not have school -It was Sunday- and Largo had been up all night trying to hack into the Cataclysm Division of the Japanese Police to see if he could further upgrade his credit (Or even get it back, for that matter). He had failed when there was an attempt to spread a virus and tracking file to his processors, so at 4:00 that morning, he had pulled the plugs and fell asleep at where he had stood. Piro quickly grabbed his cell phone, and adjusted his glasses, shining them with his shirt. It was still too early to start work, and the streets were nearly empty.

The crisp, cold air of Tokyo, Japan was welcoming, the sunlight on his face even moreso to seemingly keep him awake. It was too early to begin his normal work shift, and since it was Sunday, the shop was to open later in the day. Trudging across the sidewalks, kicking the cans, newspapers, and the occasional kigurumi mask, he settled for a hot breakfast at a small little cafe. Odd… Piro thought, as he sat down at the cafe I don't remember every crossing in front of this place… ever. He found himself strangely… attracted to it; so much he had automatically pulled the a chair. The cafe was what you'd expect from a normal tea and coffee sort of place; it was noticeably classy, yet, as Piro grabbed the menu that sat at the black table, the menu had items surprisingly cheap. What bothered him was the fact that no one else seemed present there… It almost felt like he was sitting there all alone… but why? He could clearly see the schoolgirls and busy men sitting and eating across from his view… but he was still very distant. As if backing away. Something had pulled him here… to this cafe. This cafe, named… Yume. It was then a girl stepped into his view, wearing a purple dress, full of frills.

Miho glanced at him as he looked up from the menu, boggled. She smiled as she sat down in front of him, amused by his surprised face. "So tell me Piro-kun…" She said, laying her head into her hands. "What's on your mind?" Piro calmly put down the menu, and looked away from her piercing glare. "N-nothing. Just waiting to order some breakfast. What do you want?" Miho sat up in her chair, still retaining the smile. "How cold. Do you treat your dear little game subjects the same way? It's just a simple question. If I were one of them, I believe you would cause nervousness inside me." She picked up the menu in front of him.

As if on cue, a waky white blankness enveloped the cafe, so that nothing could be visibly seen besides the table and menu. Everything besides Miho, himself, the table and chairs, gone. Amazed, Piro stood up, knocking his chair back in effect. "Wha-what's going on?" As he turned slowly back to Miho, she simply smiled back at him, a single slice of pie in front of her. "What did you do to everything?" With a chuckle, Miho pushed the slice of pie to Piro's side of the table. "Here," she said, "It's my treat." Piro gazed at the simple dessert, boggled, and sat down slowly, first picking up his chair. He looked over the slice of pie, dumbfounded, but picking up the fork. "Why are you doing this?" "Think of it as generosity. Think whatever you like. I'll let you make the assumption. Just have at it before it's cold." Still puzzled, Piro ate the small slice of pie, his stomach thanking him for it, after sleeping into the later hours. She still looked and him as he ate, as if… she was enjoying the sight; he managed to finish it quickly. "T-thanks," he said, wiping his mouth with his sleeve, "but that still doesn't answer my question. Where are we?" Closing her eyes, she calmly speaks. "Did you enjoy it? Judging by your reactions, this could be the first time you've ever sat alone with a girl, being treated for that matter." She turns slightly to stand up and walk away. "Stop! You haven't answered me! Where are we? Why did you do such a thing?" She turned back her head. "All is fair… in fantasy. The challenge is…" as she walked away, "to keep it away from reality." With the sentence, her body fades away, and with a white flash, Piro blinks to see the normal, street surroundings. Standing once more, he ran away from the scene to quickly get to work. What the hell was that?

The shop was pretty empty when he arrived, compared to the normal crowd of customers on his first day of work. As he entered, his boss walked up to him, promptly greeting him before handing him a blank-boxed CD. <Ano, Boss-san, what is this thing?> Simply unphased by the question, Yanagisawa calmly resumed stacking software and replied. <Piro, put the disc into the player and start helping me restock; we've been sold out of Girl Phase Mangas and DVDs ever since the fans have stood up.> Ever since the information of Erika had leaked out to the general public, and the incident with the giant fanboy mob, Erika forced herself once more into the public eye to appease the fans once more and hopefully end the fandom once and for all. Occasionally Erika would come in, wearing a Visual Novel Uniform, many otaku and casual fans alike entering behind her to get her autograph on the merchandise. Because of this, Piro saw her less often than he did Kimiko… which was already rare in itself, but he wouldn't let his mind daydream. It was time to work back to the United States. Yanagisawa pulled a cigarette out of his working apron and put it in his mouth, searching his pockets for a lighter. <After you're done with that, make sure you reorganize the shoujo manga section; it's been out of order again.> "Hai, Boss-san." Reluctantly, he walked over to the shelf and started to organize the collection, most of which he had already read himself as he had waited behind the cash register with his trademark hat.

As he slowly rearranged them, his mind began to wander, thinking about his life, his path for the day, and the future. Maybe I'll never get out of Japan, thought Piro, as he began to recall all impulse beer sprees and visual novel purchases he and Largo respectively had made, hypnotized by the mere sight of Akari-chan from the To Heart Series, or the DVD episodes of Air that sat on the shelf. Almost finished with the third of the seven shelves, he remembered the CD Yanagisawa gave him. Pulling it out from under the pile of yet-to-be-sorted mangas, he walked behind the cash register to insert the disc. Feeling a sense of forgetfulness, he quickly looked under the player to find his Puchiko Hat and Tail, which he promptly put on and picked up a broom to sweep the floor. The CD played many familiar tunes, of those from famous J-Pop singers to the themes of Visual Novels and Dating Simulations. This melodious track got him working, and before he knew it, the floor was passably clean, and the mangas were almost completely sorted. It was then, that it happened.

It was a voice that surprisingly uplifted his spirits. Interested and puzzled at the same time, Piro walked to the front of the steps to the basement. <Boss-san! Where did you get this CD from?> <It came in the mail this morning. It's the audio disc that I bought for the store for some street appeal. Why?> Piro gulped. Why does the voice sound so familiar? Why is it that my heart is pounding so fast? It's not like the merchandise is that heavy... <Do you know who sings it?> There was a small sigh and a rustling of a box of books in the basement below, soon growing into a small yell. <Can't you tell? It's her! Kimiko!> He froze. It was the voice. It was Kimiko's voice, singing the song to what seemed to be the opening of Sight. It was a serene... melodious tune, and the fact that she… she sung it, enveloped him in a warm feeling of happiness.

The day Sight had come out for all to enjoy weeks back, the day he walked down to work, a line had formed around the end of the block, all asking for a copy. They sold out that day, Yanagisawa commemorating Piro's hard work with a bonus, and the game. As Piro's unsteady hands were about to reach the package, a delivery came for him, a copy of Sight wrapped in brown paper with the address and a small card for Piro from Kimiko. It was your basic thank you card, she thanked him for supporting her and giving her such a nice sketch, and Piro read it all with a terminally red face, walking slowly from the front door. It was a special thing... but he didn't know if she even returned his seemingly unrequited feelings… or to even send a thank-you card with a simple note. A save point, he could have used, two actions he could have done. But he wasn't in a simulation; his life was already a game.

Now that Kimiko was slowly growing in her popularity, her visits to Piro, in general, were dwindling. Cubesoft began to grow even larger in popularity, so much that Kimiko was experiencing the everyday life of Erika, only cut in half. She still maintained her job at Anna Miller's every weekend, mainly because her boss said it would attract more members and give her good pay at the same time. The life of luxury was a deprived one of social contact. With her new soundtrack, Piro thought, as he walked downward into the basement where Boss-san was packing, I won't be able to see her even if I tried to. I'll just be another fanboy loser in her eyes… I'll get those eyes... full of disgust... again.

"All is fair… in fantasy. The challenge is… to keep it away from reality."

Flustered, and too busy-minded to mind her advice, he sighed and sat down on the small stool behind the counter. He closed his eyes, sleepily, and let the surrounding sounds fade from existence. Thoughts of what it felt like to be back home, anime… Kimiko, everything he enjoyed from back in the United States, flooded his mind. Largo actually did something nice for me that time… continuing on… fading away… till he awoke from his daydream in a cold snap. It was the middle of summer… yet, a small chill had pecked his warm cheek. It was cold, and yet, felt comfortably soft. He stood up from his place behind the counter, rubbing his eyes with his hands, somehow out of the Puchiko gloves, and stared. The place looked surprisingly clean, much cleaner than what he had been previously working on.

"Wow… Boss-san must have let me sleep after all the organizing I did…" He stood up and walked over to the shelves once more. As he wandered sleepily around for Yanagisawa, he found the whole place was empty; as if nothing had stepped across the surface; his shoes left marks as he wandered about for a moment, but then returned to the front. A strange white fog that entered the room; a gentle fog, like that produced by dry ice. It was then he closed his eyes, and felt the coldness again touch his cheek. Impulsively, he looked towards the entrance of the Megagamers store. Someone was standing there, the streets behind the figure, empty and also slightly fogged. A scar on her left cheek. A girl standing there in tight-fitting jeans, her blond hair tied up into two ponytails, a green t-shirt fitting around her body. She appeared to be staring unimpressed at him. Piro gulped nervously at this girl. He had seen her before. He had been her before. He had… created her, for that matter. But why? Piro thought, is she here?

"Pir…oko." It was then the girl ran off, smiling at him out the door and across the sidewalk, only for Piro to follow behind her. This can't be possible…How is she here? How am I here? The thoughts raced by as he chased her out the door, not stopping to think at any moment.

~~~~~

Meanwhile upstairs, Ping, who had been peacefully sleeping against the wall, reached her power peak and opened her eyes. As she scanned the room for Piro Onii-chan, her readings came back negative, and she stood up, wearing her overclocked t-shirt, her hair unbraided. She began her startup processes, looking around like a curious child. <Day…Sunday. Time…One O'clock PM. Piro Onii-chan is not here. Largo-sama still sleeps with two percent of his body fluids draining from his mouth. There is no school on Sunday.> She stood up in her t-shirt only pajamas and walked in front of Largo, searching for her clothes which she had purchased with Miho. Shifting around the junk that lay on the floor, she searched, only to find a slightly dusty shirt and jeans, which she put on quickly, keeping a scan of Largo to see if he ever woke up. Dusting herself off, she decides to herself that today she would once again attempt to make the room spot-free. Taking the broom, which had a small amount of webbing on it, she began the sweeping motions around the room, lifting the dustpan and dumping it into the trash bin behind her.

With all this commotion, Largo soon awoke, only to stand up in his jeans and stretch abruptly before reaching for the small cooler which held his beer. Opening the door, he clicked open the top cap and began to chug it down, succeeding and throwing the can on the floor. The can was graciously returned, however, to the back of his head, courtesy of slap-shot Ping-chan. <Largo-sama! I'm cleaning the room right now and you're not helping at all!> A drowsy Largo turned around, gazing determinately at the EDS. Calmly and repeating the process in his sizably drunken stupor, Largo reached for another beer can; preferably full. At the sheer sound of air escaping from the can, the earblade of the cute accessory changed from situationally cute, to an annoyed neighboring girl. In one swift, flawless motion, Ping kicked open the storage room door by jumping onto one side, leaping into the air to tumble twice, before standing in front of the floored Largo, scoring a very narrow goal as the drunken L33T master flew into the guard rail outside, between the door frame.

By this time, Largo was clearly awake, and found himself clearly outside of a locked storage room. Sitting down. What a wonderful day it was to be half naked, as Largo walked downstairs, entering the shop below. "Hey Piro, your crazy robot-girl locked me out of the apartment--" He stopped. A cold air brushed passed his shoulder as he gazed upon the inside of the moderately popular store. There was no one inside. The shelves were stocked in pristine condition, everything a crisp appearance, but no other human being in sight. Suspiciously, Largo crept around the shop, in all of its pristine goodness, gleaming brightly. It was just like a newly-opened place, like there should have been a grand opening sign behind him. What mockery surrounds this small haven? He jumped onto the top of the center room displays, looking for a mop, footsteps, unorganized books; to no avail. It was truly never touched. Footsteps approached from behind, but he did not bother to look. He could not sense the being behind him… he had no idea who it could be. <Largo.> He turned, slowly, in a confused expression. "You…"

Well, there you have it, the result of a month's sweat and edit. Tell me what you think, and speculate if you wish; Doing such things gives me motivation to continue this series...

See evil. Hear evil. But I shall speak none.

~Chun

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