Dreams of Long Ago
"…This isn't the Gamindustri I know…"
The final line of his most recent manuscript echoed inside his mind. For the longest time, he believed. He believed that this manuscript would be the one that finally got him back on track. But here he was, sitting on a lonesome bench at some empty Leanbox park sipping on his half-empty Pep-C drink, defeated…and doing absolutely nothing but staring at his surroundings, which basked in the orange rays of the setting sun.
"What am I doing anymore?" He mumbled to himself.
He checked his green watch, remembering that he'd need to be back at his hotel by 7 if he wanted to eat the Leanbox-exclusive cuisine there. He he started finishing up the last of his drink, and after a few minutes of gobbling and chewing on the leftover ice cubes inside it, promptly threw it at the trashcan just beside the far right side of his bench. Just then however, a strong wind blew towards him, causing the near weightless cup to careen right back and hit him square on the face.
He muttered a curse under his breath.
"Hey, uh…you okay there, guy?"
It was a familiar voice. Young, childish…full of spunk as well. He turned his head around to face Gamindustri's youngest (in goddess years, that is) Candidate: Green Sister Ram.
"Ah, I'm…fine. Thanks for the concern, Ra…I mean…Lady Ram." He replied, a creeping embarrassment
The Candidate gave him a doubtful stare and picked up the foam cup that hit him just a while ago, which happened to find its way near Ram's little feet. Accursed object at hand, Ram walked towards the trashcan, giving him a chance to get a closer look at her current apparel. She had a fluffy-looking, long sleeved sweater that had an entirely pastel pink top half, which gradually blended in the middle with the light green lower half. Adding to that were her white female's shorts coupled with a pair of prominently cream-colored wedge sandals, giving Ram an air of adolescence that really threw him off.
"Hey, what do you think you're looking at?"
"Ah…! Nothing…nothing, Lady Ram."
Ram continued glaring at him as she discreetly dropped the foam cup into the trashcan…then in a swift motion, plopped down into the bench opposite of him, and crossed her arms and legs.
"Oh, uh…S…Sala. Call me Sala, Lady Ram."
"Sala, huh? Where you from? I don't recall a face like yours 'round here."
"Planeptune. I just…moved there though. I'm from a…little town by Lastation that's probably abandoned by now."
Ram nodded. "Alright then, Sala. I'm just gonna take a quick nap right here. Wake me up the instant you spot my sisters, 'kay?"
"…Oh, and don't try anything funny. I can beat you up in my sleep if I had to."
And within a blink of an eye, Ram slept. Not even given a choice, Sala couldn't help but oblige to the sleeping Candidate's order. At least he had something to do instead of despairing about the current state his life, he thought.
Half an hour into his watch, Sala finally got vision of Ram's sisters off in the distance, sprinting (and occasionally stopping to shout something, most likely Ram's name) on a winding path of park pavement that, if they continued following, would lead them directly to the bench him and Ram are sitting on. Staying true to his word, Sala woke Ram up.
"Lady Ram, your sisters are near. Wake up."
…Or at least he tried to.
"Lady Ram? Your sisters are coming." Sala lightly shook Ram as well, but to no avail.
"What are you…talkin' about…?" Ram suddenly muttered, a stupid grin on her face forming. "…I don't like her…one bit…"
As Sala sat there enamored by Ram's cute sleep talking, faint shouting started to come from the direction of Ram's sisters. He became anxious, not knowing how to wake up the heavy sleeper beside him. He started to consider just picking up Ram and making a run for it, but ultimately decided against it as it may cause some commotion in the park. Sala was sure that park-goers seeing him carrying one of their nation's goddess candidates over his shoulder (while she's asleep, no less) would more than definitely land him a lifetime sentence in Leanbox's maximum security prison…or worse.
"Ram, please come back! We're worried about you!"
"Ram…where are you?"
The voices of Ram's sisters were getting louder and closer by the second. Sala needed to act quickly.
"…Tch. Fuck it."
Ram woke up to the sound of pained groaning, then a throbbing headache, and an aching neck. Looking to her left, she saw Sala looking off in the distance, playing around with a lock of his dark hair, the soft white light of a lamppost illuminating the bench they have been sharing. She looked around while minding her bodily pains, curious of who might've been groaning, only to stop looking when her headache spiked in intensity.
"…Hey, you." Ram, clutching her head, said groggily.
"Sala, Lady Ram. Sala."
"…Right, right, Sala. Damn, how long have I slept? My head hurts like crazy."
"About an hour or so, Lady Ram. Your posture wasn't the best, so…yeah."
Ram nodded, acknowledging her mistake. "Anyway, I'm guessing Vert and Rom didn't pass by? I don't recall ever getting woken up by you."
Sala glanced away from Ram, rolling his eyes in secret.
"…Yeah. Guess you could say that."
"I said 'yeah', Lady Ram. I didn't even see them go this way."
The Candidate just sighed, her headache sapping whatever energy she had to care. She continued sitting down with Sala in silence, the low-key buzzing of the lamppost's bulb being the only sound in the area.
"This park isn't that popular, huh?" Ram suddenly exclaimed, a sense of boredom taking over her.
Sala turned his head towards Ram, surprised at the Candidate's attempt to start a conversation with him.
"Yeah…I like it this way though." Sala smiled a bit. "…'Cause it's empty most of the time, I feel like I have all this grass, pavement, and park stuff all to myself…all…mine…" He chuckled. "…Like it used to be…"
The two sat in silence for a while, a sense of awkwardness particularly weighing heavily on the Candidate.
"Um…it sure is late…"
"Indeed it is, Lady Ram….indeed…it is."
"Anyways, uh…thanks and all for watching over me Sala, but I gotta jet." Ram hurriedly sprang from her seat, fully transformed in her goddess form by the time her feet hit the ground. "…Duties to attend to, an adoptive sister to please…"
"…Oh, I see." Sala said with a nod. "Have a safe trip back, Lady Ram."
"Back to you. Ciao."
Ram flew up high into the sky with incredible speed until she couldn't be seen, leaving Sala once again as the sole inhabitant of the park.
"…Guess it's time for me to go back home, too."
The thunderous cheers and applause of a thousand people became half of Planeptune's alarm clock on Sala's first day back. Lying on bed with his head pressed between his sheets and one of his pillows, Sala had only started to remember why he specifically chose Leanbox to be his publisher search's last stop.
"God damned fans…" Sala groaned, feeling every bit of his sleepiness getting wrung out of him by the increasingly loud noises outside his home. After a while of trying to regain the sweet embrace of sleep, Sala just gave up and leapt out his bed, knowing that the cheering and screaming won't be going away at this point. He took a quick shower, followed by him putting on the first things he saw on his closet: a bright cyan shirt and a blue, everyday, run-of-the-mill pair of pants. After eating a small breakfast of just eggs and few pieces of bread, Sala slipped on his favorite pair of purple sandals and went outside to menacingly glare at the giant concert stadium a distance away from the left side of his home.
"I just had to forget that I had an extra day booked at that hotel in Leanbox...no wonder the receptionist looked at me funny." Sala growled, pinching the bridge of his nose all the while. "…Well, at least there's always some Bloodbound for me to play. Screw work for today…"
Stepping back into his home, Sala was more than ready to put some more hours into his New Game++ playthrough.