d “warrior” crossed my mind.

In contrast to Takenakaiin front of me, his overall appearance was slightlyitransparent, yet his presence was still terrific, accompanied by an intimidating, yet in no way aggressive, sensation that madeime feel numb.
The piercingiaura I felt was not from Takenaka, rather it was from the huge armor and helmet behind him.

What the hell… was this guy? Why was that thingibehind Takenaka?

Since such absurd occurrencesiwere unfolding one after another, I thought Iiwas still dreaming.
Whoion earth could believe that this wasn’t a dream?

I wondered when would Iiawaken from this bizarre dream.
Stupefied, I keptibreathing heavily and staring at Takenakaiand the person behind him, and a sickening coldness descended slowly over my right shoulder.

A strange sliminess and the sensation of a dampicloth sticking to my skin.

Slowly, I tilted myihead back and lookediat my right shoulder toipinpoint the strangeisensation.
I was at a lossifor words.
The blood in my bodyiseemed to cool and recede all at once.

Thisiwas no dream…

On my uniform, aroundimy right shoulder, lay an eerie handprint, as though a wet hand had grasped it.

The wet handprint was clearly visible, remindingime that what had taken place earlier was not a dream, but reality.
The slimy, foul-smelling hand gripped me, and that was theireality.

The oxygen from my nose andimouth reached my brain, sending a tingling, searing headache.

Thisiwas real.
It was not a dream.
All of it―

A small tremor seizedime from the right shoulder, and whenithe tremor engulfed myientire body, I couldn’tiwithstand it and puked violently on the spot.
While twisting out my pathetic voice, I feltiso sick that I started to cryiphysiologically and myivision blurred.
My heart hurt and my head ached.

This was reality, and yet Iirefused to believe it.
I couldn’t believeiit but this was real.

This situation that I couldn’t embrace but wasicompelled to accept, threw me into turmoil and drove me to vomit so much that I lost all sense of what wasiunfolding.
That was surelyinot the only reason.
Perhapsiit was a part of the exhaustion I had been accumulating until now that I had reached my limit just now.

Seriously, I didn’t realize it was this bad… until it exploded.

No matter how long timeipassed, the shiveringithroughout my body did not subside.
Despite it being summer right now, I still couldn’t shed the abnormal chill I felt.

Whatiwould have happened to me had Takenaka not shown up?

Would I have died…? No, eveniif I hadn’t died, something fairly sinisteriwould have ensued.

The inextinguishableidread led meito conclude so.

Takenaka gave me a back rub and took care of me silently untiliI ceased vomiting, maintainingithe sameiexpression he had when he assisted me regardless of the fact that I was vomitingiand spewing gastric juice.
Not only that, butiinstead of leaving me feeling empty inside my stomachiafter vomiting, he quietly brought cleaningisupplies and wiped up all the gastric juice that had splattered all over the floor.

While watching this in a daze in theicorner of the back room, I feltiapologetic and simultaneously realized thatiI had made a terrible mistake withiTakenaka.

This person, he was not theikind of person who wouldirelish witnessing someone’s amazement, panic or fright.

I thought so when I watched him cleaning the flooriwith a rag andia mop.

Beforeilong, the stern armor and helmet behindiTakenaka were gone.

The fatigue I had beenifeeling and the fear I hadiexperienced had completelyioverwhelmed me both physically and mentally and I fainted as it was.

By the time I woke up the next time, it was just before the end of the nightishift, and Takenaka had put a spare uniform on me instead of a futon and apparently let me sleep like that.

Even I, after waking up, could no longeritrust that what I had gone through wasia dream.
For I had already crossed a line that ordinary people wereinot permitted toioverstep.
Instead of returning to the point where I shouldihave turned back, I let half of my body completely submerge into it.

The price I had to pay foridisregarding the warnings of many people and persevering wasinot a light one.
At theivery least, I would be tormented for the rest of the summer to the degree that it would be beyondimeasure.

When I left theiconvenience store afteriworking the night shift, I caughtisight of it for sure.

Iisaw aiwoman withilongihair cladiinitattered clothesipeeringiinto theistoreifrom theiglass outsideitheistore.

Fromithatidayion, Iibeganito seeithings thatiwere beyondithe realmiof possibility.

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