"I'm sorry… but I can't go out with you."

Those are the words that came out of her mouth… filled with sadness.
Even though she spoke them in a gentle, low voice, they resounded within me like huge waves; violently gushing my very being as if trying to rip me apart.

"I see…" I calmly closed eyes as I respond.

"B-but…"

She interjected.

Normally, it would have lifted my spirit… but no.
Reality was just too much for me to bring myself into holding a false hope.
Even the idea of steeling my own self to her following words wasn't enough to consider as an option.

"I still want us to remain… friends."

She cautiously averted her eyes as she conveyed with a flushed complexion on her cheeks.
It was as I always thought.
After all, she's a nice girl.
That is the reason why I fell in love with her. That… and aside from her charming beauty.

"Nnh… ah?!" she was slightly taken surprised by the sudden contact as I grabbed both of her hand with mine.

I kept silent; hesitating on my words.

I was afraid in forcing my feelings to her since I don't want to be selfish.
I am selfish like most people, but I just can't… instead I am afraid to do that. Not her.
It reaffirmed to me of how much she means to me. How she is indeed precious to me.
With utter bitterness, I swallowed my whole being and let my shallow heart to turn myself into a coward.

"Alright… so please don't make that face anymore."

She lifted her already glossy, teary face. She was about to cry.

It just showed how important I am to her, in her own way. So, to say at the very least, I am relieved.

"Disgusting…"

Eh?

She spoke in a manly tone, and slowly her expression turned into void as shadows cast behind her, devouring everything around.

Ouch… A burning sensation rose up on my skin behind my right palm.

The once dark place is starting to wane, as if an illusion is about to dispell.
But oddly enough, the pain on my right hand still remained.
What I saw next was that very hand.
In an instant, I realized that I was dreaming.

I remember now… I was sleeping on the table in this floor's… lobby?

"Ooouuucchhh!" I screamed my lungs out as the pain on my hand instantly became hell.

"Tchhh!"

The guy next to me clicked his tongue while still pinching my hand.

So it was him who called me 'Disgusting'.

Wearing his earphones, he momentarily shifted his focus away from his laptop and looked down on me.
I swiped away my hand irritatingly.

"What's wrong with you, Jem?! Don't you know were at the university? I just screamed, you know?"
"Calm your jimmies, Leo. Today's Sunday, so no one's gonna give a crap about your sissy tantrums."
"Damn it. You never change. And I was enjoying my dream, too."

I shook my right hand-hand slowly to ease its pain.
As for the reason why we're here, we just felt like it. He wants to quietly play his laptop, while I wanted to have a peace of mind.

"Oh, you call that 'enjoying'? As I thought, you're a disgusting masochist, sunnova-b*tch for you to recall that rejection Mae Anne gave you. To top on that, in a dream? Seriously, dude. I think you need an expert's advice."

Sh*t! I blurted those words out while dreaming?!

"And while you're at it, don't drag me into your turn-back-in-time regrets shenanigans of yours. It's sickening me, really."

And as always, I couldn't seem to beat this antisocial prick. I wonder how I became friends with him.

"Kh… I don't want to hear that from a closet pervert who always plays self-indulging pieces of crap."

Knowing that it won't really do any significant damage, I lashed out without showing any signs of reserve.
Compared to what I've went through, mine is a lot better than his, who is sunken and deluded to a fictional material, fictitious characters and setting.
I might be feeling rough on my loss, but what I am experiencing right now is a lot better in the long run.

"Yeah, I know. And it is like what you said, I might not get the best life while getting stuck in this fickle world I'm in to, but at the very least I am not lying to myself."

He looked distant as he look on his monitor while reading through the dialogues it displays along with a refreshing, fictitious character showing a bright smile.
He, my friend Jem, clearly knows me well.
It might be accurate to say that we know each other.
We might not interact much, but we didn't waste each other's time just to lie.
And that is why I just can't toss him away. He's a comrade that I can rely to an extent.

"But, Leo, that doesn't change the fact that you suck, big time. You're really lame. What are you living for anyway? That's why I've been telling you to play Visual Novels. You'll learn much more than those sick normie gals."

Sure… the price that I have to pay though is this sh*tty treatment.

It was stupid for me to search for his company. But I have no other choice but to accept such grace.