Hime x Hime
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We walked through some sort of beach town on the way to the Guardian's compound. Not only were there tons of pixies going about their daily responsibilities, but there were also other humanoids and people like me as well.
"Hey you, kid! Can I interest you in some entertainment?" A shady looking lizard man stuffed a flier in my hand before disappearing into an alleyway.
"Pixie peep show..." I began to read off the advertisement on the front which featured a scantily-clad pixie and other magical creatures.
"Give me that!!" Elder snatched the piece of paper from my hand, and balled it up despite being much smaller than the flier. "Don't take stuff from anyone here. They'll do just about anything to get by, and they make their living off of newbies like you."
"Anything, huh? Still, there's an entire city here." I looked around at all the storefronts, and people walking along the shoreline. "Where'd all these folks come from?"
"We call this town Viceland. All the people here have either failed their trial, or stay willingly to escape reality for whatever reason." Elder explained. "The population increase has been rather... concerning lately. Life for the people here only grows more difficult with each new arrival."
"Why doesn't the Guardian do something about this, and help these people wake up? I mean, the ones that want to anyway. That's why we're here." I suggested.
"The Guardian is... How do I put this?" Elder tapped her cheek.
"Lazy!" Apprentice called out. Elder flicked her forehead in response. "Ow..."
"They're just a bit eccentric is how I would describe them. They take half of their role seriously. It's the job of the Guardian of Dreams to safeguard and maintain the memories and knowledge of everyone who takes the trials. But..."
The part they don't take seriously must be maintaining the Garden itself. I mean look at this dump.
Even so, the run-down settlement had charm of its own. It felt like walking through a tropical-themed Golden Gai. Except everything was pink. For a moment I could see how people could become so enraptured with Viceland, but I abandoned that thought.
"I have a request. If possible, can you take me to the people I came here for? The Princesses, I'd like to make sure they're alright before we do anything else." I asked.
"Hmm..." Elder thought to herself.
"Come on, Elder. He's not so bad... He— Uhh what did you say your name was, again?" Apprentice asked politely.
"Oh yeah, I never did give either of you my name." I cleared my throat. "My name is Sakuta Yamada. Nice to meet you both!"
"Wait, you're the Sakuta Yamada? The Materializer!?" Elder was taken aback as she gasped slightly. "I had a feeling you weren't some pixie-hungry monster, but your presence here makes sense now... This might be just the thing we needed."
"Oh—Right—*Ahem* I'll take you to the silver-haired princess before you have an audience with our master. As for the brunette princess... I'll explain further when we get there. I pray that you'll excuse my vagueness, Materializer."
That's quite the attitude shift from her timid and sassy behavior earlier, but what she said about Mavis concerns me. Is she actually there?
We approached a large white concrete wall which surrounded the compound. It was tall enough to conceal whatever lay behind it. I wondered how we would get in.
"Take a couple steps back, please. This is door opening 101, watch closely, Apprentice. Openium Apparatuses!"
She stuck her hands out dramatically, but nothing happened.
Apprentice and I stared at Elder, whose pointed ears had turned a bright pink from behind.
"Apprentice..." Elder shook.
"Yes, Elder?" Apprentice blinked slowly with a blank look on her face.
"Did you change the password again?" Elder crossed her arms, still looking at the unopened wall.
"Did I? Did I...? Oh yeah!! I did."
"Well... What is it now? The password." Elder sighed.
"Ohhhhhh... yeah. I forgot. Teehee!" Apprentice put her fist up to her temple, sticking out her tongue.
"Teehee teehee teehee..."
"YOU MOROOOOOON!!!" Elder screamed, echoing through the streets of Viceland.
"Ah... ah... ah... ah..." Elder shook Apprentice by her collar, chastising her while I stepped up the wall.
If only we could have just whipped up something to get over the wall. Hold on...
"I've got an idea. What if I just Materialized a ladder. It can't be that hard, right?" I muttered.
"Great plan! Assuming you have the ability to do so already..." Elder stopped shaking Apprentice to glance at me. "Why don't you give it a try?"
I gathered all the focus I could possibly muster.
"Please work..." I took a deep breath. "Materialize: Five Meter Ladder!"
To my complete shock, it actually worked. A ladder appeared, leaning against the wall in front of us.
"Woah... It worked this time. It really worked!" I had to keep myself from hopping in joy.
"Great job! Now climb over, and we'll meet you on the other side." Elder said. "Let's go alert the master of Sakuta's arrival, Apprentice."
The two pixies flew away, leaving me to my own devices.
"Here goes nothing..."
A few minutes later and with my knees shaking like gelatin, I made it back to the ground. Before me was a huge white mansion with large marble columns. It was surrounded by an oasis of flora, waterfall included.
It was then that I saw her lying on a sand dune, resting peacefully under a palm tree. Pixies waved banana leaves to keep her sleeping face cool. My heart ached as I took off in a sprint towards her.
"Amber!" I fell to my knees beside her, scaring the pixies away in the process. I was so overwhelmed with emotion and joy that I didn't care.
"Hello? Amber?" I brushed her rosy cheeks with my thumb as her eyes fluttered open.
"Sakuta... Is that really you?" Amber rubbed her eyes.
"Thank goodness, you're alright. Who else would it be?" I exhaled, putting my hand to my chest. "Welcome to the Garden of Dreams, Amber."
"How long have I been out?" Amber asked as I helped her to her feet.
"I'm not sure, honestly. I woke up in a field of flowers not too long ago, and someone told me that I could find you and Mavis here..."
"Mavis is here too!? Where? We have to get to her!" Amber started walking towards the mansion, but wobbled a bit before falling to her knees. "What's the deal..."
"Woah, woah. Take it easy there, you're still disoriented." I gently put my hand on her back, kneeling next to her.
"But sister..." Amber looked down.
"I promise that I'll help you find Mavis, but we need to think clearly about it first. I don't know exactly where she is, but... I met some little friends who might." I smiled.
"Little friends?" Amber gave me a puzzled look.
"We prefer the term vertically challenged, thank you very much." Elder came flying up to us. "Oh! I see that you're awake, Princess. My name is Elder, and I'll be showing you to the audience chamber. The master is waiting for you both there. I trust your trial went well?"
That's right, I hadn't asked Amber about her trial yet...
"It did go pretty well." Amber seemed to glow as she gave me a smile.
There was an odd sort of distance in her eyes as she did, but also pure confidence. I couldn't help but think she looked even more lovely than usual at that moment.
"And my sister? Is she safe?" Amber crossed her arms.
"The brunette princess is just inside, actually. She had something important to discuss with the master. Shall we go?" Elder suggested.
"Lead the way." Amber agreed. And so, Elder led us to the mansion's front steps. A whole host of pixies welcomed us into the large foyer. It wasn't as fancy as Morningstar castle, but it was a nice building.
We walked up to two large doors, and waited patiently for Elder's instructions.
"Permission to enter, master!?" Elder called out.
"Permission granted. You may enter!" A booming voice responded from the other side of the wall.
The doors swung open, and fog poured out of an extremely dark room. In the center was a large blue projection of a hooded figure. Amber and I glanced at each other momentarily before walking in.
"State your business!" The projection leered down at us like we were ants on a potato chip.
"I'm here to find my sister, Mavis. And escape the Garden of Dreams! Can you help us?" Amber bowed her head deeply, and I quickly followed. There was a period of silence that followed.
".........Sissy?" The booming voice squeaked.
"Sissy?" Amber and I said in unison.
The lights in the room suddenly turned on revealing a fog machine and a projector. Peeking her head from behind the curtains that hid the other part of the room was none other than...
"Mavis!!" Amber cried as she ran toward her sister.
"Sissy!" Mavis threw her arms around Amber's neck as the pair of princesses began to cry their eyes out together. I smiled to myself in relief. "You really came to save me, and Sakuta too..."
"Of course we did, silly. I'd do anything for you." Amber wiped both their tears away.
"What the heck is going on here!?" Elder flew in, baffled and unmoved by our heartwarming display. "Where's the master!?"
"Yeah, I was curious as well. What's the deal with the black robes and the voice changer? Don't tell me you're the Guardian of Dreams."
"No, certainly not." Mavis giggled. "I came to ask the Guardian for advice, but they seemed terribly bored of the conversation..."
"So how did you end up running the projection room?" Elder asked, exasperated.
"Right! So Loom handed me a script, and asked me to handle greetings while they ran to the library. You're actually the first ones I came across." Mavis looked a bit sheepish.
"That lazy dwarf has done it now!!" The vein on Elder's forehead popped out. "Well at least now that you've got your people, you can be on your way and—"
"—That's... actually what I wanted to talk about." Mavis tented her hands together, and flashed a sad smile. "The advice I sought from the Guardian was on how to set all the people in Viceland free. They seem miserable here in the Garden. I'd like to see if we can help them."
"And you're sure about this? What made you decide that?" Amber asked her sister.
"There are children here. Parents too... and they have people waiting for them to wake up." Mavis glanced between Amber and I. "I could hear Mother's voice as I fell unconscious. I don't wish that kind of pain on anyone."
Kind to her core. As much as we need to get home, I can't say I disagree. But what can we do?
"I need to speak to Loom again." Mavis said firmly, bringing up the unfamiliar name once more.
"Speak to the master..." Elder pondered this, but then smiled. "Alright, Princess. Your kindness has won the day. Freeing the Garden has been something the pixies have discussed for ages..."
"So... We're going to meet with this Loom, huh?" Amber asked cautiously. "Sakuta, are you on board with this?"
"Well... We came here to save somebody. Who am I to stop Mavis if she wants to do the same?" I shrugged, looking at the two princesses with a smile. "You can count on me."
"It won't be easy to get the master to put in the effort, but if you think you can... Let's go speak to the Guardian of Dreams." Elder said.