Shinkai Haru opened his eyes, and stared up at the ceiling. The morning light danced gently against the white paint.

Haru glanced over at his alarm clock. 5:04 AM. Still an hour left before he needed to get up. Plenty of time to try to find his way back into that other world he'd just been whisked away from.

Soon enough he'd surely give up on sleeping, get up, and take a stab at that new paper Murata Tsuyoshi had just released. But for now, for just a few minutes, he'd indulge himself in the fantasy that it had been more than a dream, that it wasn't wishful thinking of the highest caliber, that everything that had happened to him over the past year was the product of an overactive imagination.

It wasn't terribly difficult. The moments after waking up aren't generally the best for logical thinking. And this dream had felt particularly real.

As he closed his eyes again, he could almost feel the grass tickling his palms and ankles. He could almost see the blue, cloud-studded sky peeking through the branches of the tree. He could almost hear the joyful shouts and cries of other children, caught in the midst of soccer games, hide and go seek, or just plain aimless fun.

And most of all, Haru quite nearly felt those two strong arms wrapped around his torso, fingers locked in place over his belly, rising gently as Haru breathed in, and falling just as gently as he breathed out. Haru felt safe and without a care in the world. His thoughts were far from eigenvalues and sorting algorithms.

Haru wasn't exactly sure where they were. It looked like the area around the soccer field at school, but he didn't see any of his classmates anywhere. Instead, there were parents and children playing. Every so often, someone would walk past them, usually not even noticing them, sometimes offering a quick smile.

What I wouldn't give, Haru thought, To just go back and erase everything that's happened to me this year…

No, that wouldn't be right. I have Eri-san, Astra-kun, Rei-kun—and most of all Gatchmon—now. I couldn't just give all that up.

Haru opened his eyes. The ceiling was still there, just the same as it had been a few minutes before. Now Haru was aware of the loud snoring coming from the eaves above his bed and the muffled sounds of his mother making breakfast in the kitchen. He glanced back at the alarm clock. 5:47 AM. As good a time as any to get up.

He closed his eyes one more time.

Just wait for me, Yūjin. I swear I'll bring you back someday...

Opening his eyes, Haru threw off his covers and sat up, rubbing his eyes. Then he walked over to his desk.