Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
CW: Sexual Harassment/Abuse, Suicidal Thoughts
He sat on his bed, staring blankly out the large window at the bright morning sun.
The morning sun never reached Rio’s small apartment in such a pleasant way. The light had always been blocked by the tall building next door.
(I couldn’t go back…)
In the end, he never returned to his original room in the morning.
Rio’s shoulders slumped, and he sluggishly crawled off the bed.
He rubbed his aching stomach, which was crying out in agony. After drinking some water to soothe his empty stomach, Rio let out a long, long sigh.
(What am I supposed to do?)
No one was watching anyway, so he crouched down on the spot, unceremoniously. Rio’s feet were wrapped in a soft carpet.
(Should I just accept that I can no longer go back to my world?)
He didn’t know what was going on yesterday, and he didn’t do anything because he had a slight feeling that it was all a dream. When he awoke, however, nothing had changed.
Rio’s options were clear in that scenario. He could either stay or leave this room.
(…Let’s get a few things straight.)
Rio sat down on the carpet and took a deep, slow breath to calm himself.
Rio was already in this room when he awoke yesterday. He had no idea how, but he appeared to have been transported from his small room to this large room. What he should have been wary of was the suspicious man who appeared in his dream and had the same face as him.
He said that he would switch his life with Rio’s. Rio thought it was impossible, but the reality in this room was nothing like the reality Rio was used to. In other words, there was a chance that the person in the dream and the person in Rio’s life had actually switched places. Of course, he didn’t believe it, or rather, he refused to believe it.
(But it will be better for me if I just accept it.)
After a good night’s rest, he realized that accepting the contents of the mysterious dream was a better way to explain the situation.
(Everything is too different. It’s not just the room. There’s also the animals.)
That’s right. The beasts were the best example of a completely different reality. Beasts, according to Rio’s common sense, did not walk or talk like humans. However, he had encountered three (at least, he believed) walking, clothed, and talking beasts since entering this room.
Yesterday, he did not see any signs of them trying to harm Rio. Rather, they served Rio as if he were their master.
He didn’t know who the man in his dream was, but perhaps he was the owner of this room, or maybe the master of this mansion, and he was employing the animals? If their lives had been switched, would Rio be their master?
(No, no. He was saying… something. Yes, in the dream he was…)
Rio shook his head, unable to recall the details of his dream from the night before, as his hypothesis did not seem to fit. A young man with the same face as Rio said,
“When you open your eyes, you will be the 15th prince of the Dirahangyen Kingdom …But now, you’re just another offering to the Beast Kingdom.”
The words came rushing back to his ears.
The blood drained from Rio’s face.
(Yes, that’s right. An offering, that’s what he said.)
And, despite the fact that it was only a fragment, he recalled him saying terrifying things like, “Beast’s wife.”
(That means this is the land of beasts, and I’m an offering?)
What does it mean to be an offering, or a wife? Will he be given to the beast, like a sacrifice or something?
(Don’t tell me… they will eat…)
A cold feeling of dread ran down Rio’s spine. He shook his head strongly as if to blow away the unpleasant images that suddenly came to his mind.
Still, the disturbing words “offering” and “sacrifice” lingered in his mind. Was he going to be eaten by the beasts? The tiger and rabbits didn’t seem inclined to do so, but it was possible that this was only temporary. Perhaps the fact that fruit was the only food available had some significance.
(Oh, I’m not… I have to tell them I’m not him.)
Rio stood up on the spot and wandered around the room, unable to stay still.
He was aware that he was unable to communicate. No, even if he could, Rio wasn’t confident that he could convey himself properly.
Rio bit down on his own red lips.
Rio had always been bad at talking to people. He was very, very bad at it.
What if what he said made them feel bad, or what if he said something incredibly strange? Thinking about this, he just couldn’t bring himself to talk to people.
In elementary school, he was told that he was “quiet” and “passive,” and he that had “talk to his friends more” on every report card. By a certain age, he was described as “quiet” by everyone he knew.
Still, his school days were enjoyable. He could basically get by as long as he could say “yes” or “no,” or gave a short answer and studied hard.
He thought he had given it a lot of thought when looking for a job because he knew his own personality well. He decided to work as a system engineer for a local IT company. Rio was told during the job interview that he would be working with computers all the time, so he chose to work there with that in mind.
However, there was a lot of work outside the office, and he frequently had to speak with strange people as customers. Nonetheless, he managed to get through it because it was his job. He was able to get by as long as he told them what he was working on.
Rio had been only with the company for about a year when an incident occurred that he couldn’t bear.
It seemed that Rio was good-looking. He used the word “seemed” because that was what other people told him. He didn’t think he looked good.
He had large black eyes covered with unnecessarily long eyelashes, a small red mouth, and a slender body. Because of this, Rio had been told by people around him that he looked like a girl ever since he was a child. He began growing his hair out to hide his face when he was in middle school because he didn’t like being told that. He refused to cut it no matter how many times his parents told him to.
However, when he first started working, one of his coworkers said to him, “If you work, you should try to look a little more presentable. Why don’t you cut your hair?” He told him straight to his face.
The coworker who gave him this advice was in sales, and he and Rio, an engineer, often worked together.
Rio’s department was developing an accounting system for a hospital, and he would be the one to sell it to the customer as a salesperson.
It was marketed and sold to hospitals. Rio and the other engineers eventually completed the installation work. In other words, the system engineer and the in-charge salesperson were inseparable in their work.
Rio respected the salesman who was good at his job and had a way with people.
He thought he was right when he gave him that advice. Rio’s clients were the hospitals, and they would not like him if he was not clean. Rio cut his hair as a result of his advice.
That was when it started. Everything started to change.
After he cut his hair, the salesman became strangely familiar with Rio. As he typed on the computer, he would put his arm around Rio’s shoulders, as if he were holding him, and when they were in a closed space, such as an elevator, he would lean in closer than necessary. He frequently invited Rio to lunch and dinner, and he frequently visited his house, where he lived alone.
Call him self-conscious, but that was it. It may well have been a behavior within the scope of a “friend.” However, Rio couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable with the salesman’s excessive contact.
Furthermore, the reactions of those around Rio changed after he cut his hair. More and more people approached him to speak with him, more and more people approached him directly, and more and more people summoned him to the customer’s office. Rio, who had a difficult time conversing with others, was becoming increasingly exhausted by the day.
He received a confession of love from the salesman one day in the company’s document warehouse. No, that wasn’t a confession. Without Rio’s consent, he suddenly pushed him down and kissed him.
Rio, who was taken aback by what had happened, resisted and shouted. The other employees noticed his voice and came into the warehouse, which saved him for the moment, but it was hell from there.
He had attacked Rio, but he told everyone that Rio had seduced him.
Of course, no one believed him at first. Rio was unmistakably the victim. However, for some reason, as time passed, some people began to believe that Rio was also to blame for the attack. It had a lot to do with the fact that he was a good talker and Rio was a terrible talker.
He went into great detail about how Rio had asked him out. Rio, on the other hand, simply slurred his words and denied everything.
In the end, because there were issues on both sides, he was not disciplined, and the matter was settled by transferring Rio to a different department.
But by that time, Rio had been labeled as “the man who asked another man out”, and he had lost his position at the company. No matter how much he tried to talk, he couldn’t speak well, and they didn’t even trust his words. Rio become even more uncommunicative with others than before. He was afraid to express his intentions to others in his own words.
So Rio left the company. When he thought about the company, he couldn’t stop crying, and he considered how he could just take a leave of absence if he had a serious accident that would destroy his body, something that would normally have never occurred to him1.
Rio realized at that point that his spirit had reached its limit.
Nonetheless, he must work in order to survive.
His parents died the same year Rio started working, and the family home was destroyed at that time. His older sister had moved to another part of Japan a long time ago, and he had lost contact with her. In other words, Rio had no one else to rely on but himself.
In order to survive on his own, he desperately searched for a job that would allow him to talk to as few people as possible.
All the while, Rio grew out his bangs and hid his face again.
There was no way Rio, who couldn’t even talk to humans who could understand him, could talk to a beast who couldn’t understand him about this complicated situation.
(I don’t know what to do.)
Rio stopped wandering around the room and suddenly looked out the window.
The grounds of the mansion where Rio was staying seemed to be huge, and from the large window, he could see an endless garden. He noticed a high, tall wall in the distance, really far away. It was quite a massive structure, with neatly arranged stones piled up evenly, and on top of it, he could vaguely see a row of stone decorations that had been carved out like sculptures.
If he could get over that wall, would the world that Rio knew spread out beyond it?
He wondered if there was a better world out there for him than this one, where he didn’t understand anything, couldn’t speak the language, and was constantly afraid of being eaten by beasts.
(I’d rather die than wait here.)
If he stayed here like this, he would eventually starve. It might be better to take action before he became too weak to move.
Should he stay in this room, or should he leave?
Rio’s feelings slowly grew firmer.
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