Chapter 25:

An Exchange, And A Dive

Hime x Hime

♛ ♕ ♛ ♕ ♛ ♕ ♛ ♕ ♛ ♕

Having decided to take the dive, Amber and I shared the same room where we would be under tight surveillance by the Queen's most trusted guards. Henrí also agreed to keep watch until we returned at our request, and make sure nobody disturbed us.

Or drew mustaches on our sleeping faces...

"We're sharing a room for the first time as an engaged couple, doesn't it just make your heart race? *Fufufu*" Amber teased as we sat on our respective beds on opposite sides of the guest room. "Maybe we should push our beds together?"

"This isn't blockcraft—*erm*—I mean..." I thought of a game I used to play. Though I'd rather not explain Earth references with my anxiety going crazy. "How are you feeling about all this? What Henrí said bothered me a bit..."

"Yeah, that..." Amber sighed.

Right after leaving Mavis' chambers, Henrí pulled us aside and told us a detail about the dive into the Garden of Dreams that he didn't want Queen Veranda to hear. It was a pretty big game-changer.

"I may have overstated the safeness of the draught in front of her highness to ease her nerves during a tough time, but you two should know something important." Henrí said with a serious tone. "In the Garden of Dreams things don't always... work like they do out here in the waking world. Don't be careless in there, because if you're seriously harmed in that plane... you may never wake up again."

His haunting words were the root source of my anxiety, and I couldn't shake the feeling that something bad might happen. He went on to explain that in order to enter the Garden of Dreams immediately, we would first need to pass a trial that was unique to each person. Meaning... Amber and I would be separated until we overcame our own.

That's less than ideal. I wonder what kind of trials The Garden will throw at us? Henrí was pretty vague about it all.

"You've got that tense look on your face that you get when you're thinking too hard... Come sit next to me for a moment?" Amber beckoned me over to her bed.

"Eh? Are you sure I can just—" She nodded her head firmly. "I guess... If you say it's alright."

I robotically walked over to her bed as my mind raced with the possible implications. As I sat down, she scooted over slightly to make room for me. I secretly hoped she couldn't hear my heart thumping out of my chest in the otherwise quiet room.

"Close your eyes for me." Amber smiled.

"Close my eyes, is this some kind of prank? You do know we were about to embark on an important mission here, right?" I glanced over at her. She's awfully close...

"Just do it! This is really important to me too." Amber urged me to close my eyes once again to which I finally agreed.

"My eyes are closed. Was there something you wanted to—*MMPH*!?"

This softness...

Amber pulled me forward by the front of my shirt, and planted a deep kiss on my lips that lingered for what seemed like hours. My eyes were open in shock, but slowly closed. It was my very first kiss, but I could tell that she was surprisingly good at it. As we pulled apart we pressed our foreheads together with a nervous sigh.

"We kept getting interrupted at every turn." Amber pouted playfully.

"Amber... What was..." She pressed her index finger up to my lips, smiling as she did. I saw a deep warmth in her eyes of crimson that told me all I needed to know.

"Listen... I know I'm not very girly. I like to punch people, and only sometimes do they deserve it. I'm hard to get along with, lack etiquette, and I'm dishonest about the way I feel." Amber started listing off things she didn't like about herself as I listened, still taken aback by her sudden burst of initiative.

"Even despite all that, and the worst first impression I could have given you... You've treated me as an equal from the moment you got here. Not just someone to protect, the future queen, or even a pain in the ass..." Amber giggled. "Thanks for earlier, by the way. How did it feel?"

"GOOD! It felt—uhh—good, your lips are soft..." my face went completely red as I struggled to properly explain what had just happened.

"I meant if it felt good punching Cedrick in his dumb face. Not the kiss, doofus. Hahahaha!" Amber got a kick out of misunderstanding, and laughed a bit too hard at my expense.

"Don't laugh! I'm already struggling to stay composed here... Wait a minute! We totally just kissed, does that mean you like—!?" Amber once again gently covered my mouth with her hand, and shook her head with a smile.

"We can have a proper discussion after we get back. I just didn't want to have any regrets in case something happened. Besides... Why rush things like that?" She echoed my exact sentiments from the ball, and I finally understood.

I couldn't help but feel elated at today's developments in our relationship. Although a sad, but rather important thought crossed my mind.

Should I really be getting so attached to someone in this world? What happens when I reach The Crossing?

If my intention was to make it home someday, putting down roots in Casca would only lead to heartbreak in some shape or form. Amber must know this, but she's not the type to overthink like I am. Seeing her happily humming to herself next to me made my worries melt away, albeit temporarily. That was a bridge I would just have to cross when I got to it...

"Oh, I almost forgot! It's still your birthday, right? Speaking of having no regrets, I wanted to give you this..." I pulled the box from my pocket containing the necklace I had purchased in town.

It was your standard silver chain necklace with a pendant at the end. There were a lot of options to choose from for the pendants, but I settled on a flower that looked strangely like the Yoshino cherry blossoms back home. I didn't want to be presumptuous, and get a heart embellishment...

Amber looked surprised at first, but then she smiled wholesomely.

"It's lovely. Can you help me put it on?" she asked.

"Of course." I obliged, and got close to her once again. Hooking the clasp together on the other side of the chain, I noted how well it suited her. The silver chain contrasted well against her tan skin. "There, all finished."

There was a silence that lasted for a moment, but not necessarily an awkward one. It appeared like it was finally time to take the Dreamers Draught.

"Your elaborate plan to help ease my nerves definitely helped, thank you." I winked at Amber who looked away like she didn't know what I was talking about. "Let's take this stuff then..."

I got up to walk over to my own bed, but Amber grabbed my sleeve. Oh?

"This is really embarrassing to ask, but... Can you—umm..." Amber's tone was unusually sheepish and evasive. "...hold me until we both fall asleep?"

At first I was surprised. My usual reaction in this situation would have been something like EHHHH!?, but seeing that she wasn't just teasing me was all it took to convince me otherwise.

"I'm... ok with it since we'll both be knocked out cold anyway, but what if someone comes in? It might look indecent if we pass out in the same bed, don't you think?" I muttered, blushing a bit.

"We're both adults, and engaged to be married. I don't see an issue." Amber shrugged. "The only person who's been given a directive to come tend to us is Poppy. And mother sure doesn't care as she made perfectly clear earlier..."

When she flat out asked if we'd done the deed in jest...

"In that case..." I pressed Amber close to me, feeling the shared warmth of our body heat. "I'll see you on the other side."

She nodded, and we both took the draught at the same time. The intense wave of drowsiness hit shortly after. I could feel myself slipping into a familiar scene. A deep, familiar voice played in my head.

To enter the Garden of Dreams, you must first pass the trial of the guardian. Face the past which you've buried so deeply, and prove your worth! Best of luck, Grandson.

Everything went dark.