Chapter 01: The Call

He stood on a slightly elevated sandy beach and gazed out at the sea.

He heard the roar of the waves.

He smelled the scent of the tide.

The cold water of the early morning, the chill in the air, and the sunlight blended together.

The sky was cloudy.

A girl stood nearby.

She was younger than him.

She couldn’t be more than twenty.

Out over the waves, two birds were singing.

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“Ah, Japanese robins,” she murmured.

Then she looked out at the sea and whispered to him.

“Hey, did you know? Migratory birds, midway through their journey, temporarily stop at a location, and leave behind an individual,” she said in German with a southern German accent.

She tilted her slender face in profile, her wavy flaxen hair swayed softly.

The sea was very loud, even at a distance.

“As long as a healthy individual does not become injured or fall ill, they won’t be left behind.”

The sand at the woman’s feet made a crunching sound. She looked down at her bare feet. On top of her elegant white sweater she wore an overcoat, and her navy blue skirt hit just above her knee. Her calves were dazzling like ceramic pottery.

“What are you thinking about?”

Then the woman turned her face towards him. Her eyes were blue.

Well, he was thinking about this conversation with this girl. He was thinking of things he had experienced before. Yes, that was it. In a moment, she’d be sure to comb up her hair and laugh.

As soon as he thought it, sure enough, she combed up her hair with her right hand and prudently laughed. Listening to her soft voice, he wanted to say something. He thought about what he wanted to say to her.

But, the words would not come out. The thoughts would not come out. A strange impatience began to grow. He sensed something strange, something sinister, a disquieting sense of unease.

Suddenly he realized that her dress looked as though it was blurring. Then the girl was no longer there. The sand and sea and sunlight, everything, grew dim and distorted, as his body became soft and opaque. A distorted sense of reality spilt out everywhere.

He could not see and felt as though he was being torn from this place with considerable force. In an instant he was clinging to this place for dear life. It was painful trying to keep it together. He felt as though he was being merged with something. It was useless to resist.

Ryuuji woke up from his dream.

He looked up absentmindedly at the grey ceiling for a while. His mind, as he watched the dream, was already finely cut and processed, his memories vanishing into the distance.

Soon his consciousness became clear, and he recognized the ringing sound of a telephone call.

Ryuuji got up from the sofa, and donning his slippers, walked up to his desk and picked up the portable terminal. There was a dull throbbing in the back of his neck.

“Hello…,” said Ryuuji.

A hoarse voice came out. He coughed away from the mouthpiece.

“Thank you for calling. This is Office Consultant Ryuuji Sogabe.”

“It’s Kiyoteru Yodogawa,” came the voice on the other end of the phone.

“Ah, Mr. Yodogawa. How may I help you?”

Now Ryuuji was dealing with a client.

“There’s something I want to talk to you about,” said Mr. Yodogawa rather quickly with a thinly veiled tone of desperation.

“It’s not something I can talk about over the phone. Why don’t we meet?” Mr. Yodogawa continued.

“Right now?” questioned Ryuuji.

He looked at the clock. It was three o’clock in the afternoon.

“Oh, as soon as possible,” said Mr. Yodogawa.

“Ohhh, well, actually, I have plans. How does any time after six o’clock sound?”

“Sooner.”

“Then, five o’clock.”

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“Alright, five o’clock…” said Mr. Yodogawa.

There was a pause as he thought.

“Alright, we meet five o’clock in the same place as last time, the ‘Sea-dragon’,” continued Mr. Yodogawa.

As hastily as he had begun the conversation, Mr. Yodogawa hastily ended the phone call.

Ryuuji tossed the portable terminal on the sofa, and went behind the partitioning screen he had in the office. There he had installed a sink, so that cooking would now be easier. He felt thirsty.

He turned on the tap and, holding some water in his hands, took a gulp. It was refreshing. The bad reputation of Tokyo’s water was a thing of the past. Moisture in his body gave him a pleasant feeling of replenishment and, after gargling, he washed his face and dried it with a towel, putting him in a better mood.

He went back to his desk, pulled out the chair, and sat down. He didn’t have a hangover as he was not a heavy drinker. Yet, as with someone who has a hangover, he couldn’t hide the washed-out feeling that encompassed his entire being. He had fallen asleep on the sofa at a strange hour. The peaceful feeling was much too fleeting to enjoy.

He looked around the room. The office was spit into two parts. A black linoleum floor and a grey wall. It was an expensive lounge suite in itself. Around the office, the remnants of last night’s evening drinks were scattered about.

Ryuuji put on his glasses and looked at the clock again. 3:15 p.m. He figured he ought to hurry a little.

While he quickly changed his clothes, he thought about the phone call from Mr. Yodogawa.

Client Kiyoteru Yodogawa is CC Corp.’s director… to be precise, he is the senior executive managing director. Next year in 2024 and beyond, he will serve as the producer of new game productions and will set the launch schedule.

Just the other day, he submitted his latest report as requested regarding whether or not there were any questions or concerns.

Ryuuji groped around in the pocket of the suit he had just put on for a candy, took one out, removed the wrapping paper and put it in his mouth. It was orange flavored.

Before he left, he secured the office door lock and, for some reason or other, he was reminded of this morning’s dream. However, he could not remember the contents of the dream.

He turned the key and the door locked with a solemn clanking sound.

If he couldn’t remember, it was no big deal, was it?

END OF CHAPTER

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