Chapter 1: A Time Long Past

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"Well... this is awkward."

That was the only way I could describe the situation I found myself in. I know that I wish for more time in the school... but this wasn't how I envisioned it to happen.

If this was a dream, it felt oddly realistic in every aspect, from the sights and sounds to the feeling of the seat under me. It was almost as if I was currently reliving the past, but that couldn't be right.

Once again, I watched as Kōenji had refused to give up his seat for the elderly woman. The conversation happened the same way again with him talking about how he wasn't obliged to give up his seat. Once again, I also watched as Kushida intervened and requested for someone to give up their seat.

I wondered if I should do things the same way. I didn't know what the consequence of diverting from what I experienced before would be. Would something new happen? Or would this realistic dream sequence end?

In all honesty, the worst that could possibly happen would be that I would wake up and find myself either dead or still alive in the train crash with everyone around me dead. I wasn't sure which was worse.

Similar to before, I decided to take a look around. Everything was pretty much the same, with one glaring exception. From what I remembered, Horikita, who was sitting near me at the time, was just minding her own business until I ended up looking at her.

I don't recall the Horikita in my memories glancing at me from the corner of her eyes. I immediately looked away as I was a bit worried that deviating from my memories would result in something bad.

Aside from that one incident, the rest of the bus ride ended up the same way. A working woman had stood up and offered her seat to the elderly lady, while Kōenji had gotten away with sitting on the priority seats.

When we disembarked from the bus, the moment my foot touched the ground, I had expected something like this dream-like sequence to end, but everything continued the way I remembered.

The cool air inside the bus had now been replaced by the gentle spring breeze which carried the scent of sakura flowers with it. The smell of the flowers, the hardness of the ground, the feel of the air.... even more than when we were in the bus, everything felt too much like reality to be a dream.

I watched as the other students, Kōenji and Kushida included, walked past the school gates without looking back. I, alone, stood there at the entrance, looking at the school as if in a trance. It just felt too surreal.

"What are you doing just standing there with a weird expression on your face?" A girl's voice called out.

I looked to my left, which was the direction the voice had come from. There stood Horikita, who had stood next to me. Her face looked very controlled and she was scrutinizing my every movement.

"It's nothing," I said in as neutral a tone as possible.

Already the course of events had deviated from what my memories. I was unsure what would happen if events would change more than they should have.

"Is that so? Seeing as you are alone out here and staring blankly at the school, it sure doesn't look like it's nothing," she said, instantly pointing out the weirdness of my actions.

"Fine. You're right," I said, giving up on maintaining the course of my memories. At the very least, it would be good to see where all of this is going.

"It just feels very surreal to me, that's all. Almost as if...."

"Almost as if you're waking up from a dream?" Horikita asked.

"Yeah...." I nodded at her words.

The two of us just stared at each other for a brief moment. Then... Horikita walked up to me slowly, reaching her hand out. I could only stare at her hand as it approached me. Closer and closer, the hand she held out was inching towards me.

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