Hime x Hime
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"How fast can we get back? We saw what Phantom could do at the ball, and he wasn't even taking it seriously." Amber spoke to Loom. "If Cedrick gets that kind of power, he won't stop at just destroying us. The whole kingdom could be in danger."
"But what about all the other people trapped in the Garden of Dreams?" Mavis asked.
"That's right... I forgot..." Amber looked conflicted.
"Question. Is freeing the Garden the true reason why you came to speak with me?" Loom asked.
"Yes, it was. We were hoping you could release everyone that wants to go back home, but... the look on your face tells me that it might not be that easy, will it?" I asked.
"Correct. It is possible for me to release everyone in the Garden, but only everyone. At the same time." The Guardian warned.
"Is there an issue with that?" Amber wondered.
"Well think about it this way. There are many who seek the Garden to escape their daily lives, or come here to meditate for months at a time. They outnumber those that are trapped here by a large margin. Dream Draught is a lucrative item. Many cannot afford a second trip, and go into great debts to experience the first."
"All that to spend time here, seriously? I guess that gives us a bit of a decision to make then." I muttered.
When faced with a moral dilemma, some people say it's best to do what will benefit the greatest number of people. However...
Would that be right in this case? I hardly think so.
"It's not a decision, at least not in my opinion..." Mavis spoke up. "I understand that there are those that wish to stay here, and while I don't get it... I can see from their perspective. However, there are people suffering here as well. People being taken advantage of by the hundreds, and who knows what might be happening to their real selves. That takes precedence over anything else."
"Are you certain?" Loom asked.
"I am. If things go wrong, I will take the blame as Aurelia's second princess. In my trial I learned to lead the country as its future ruler, and as such I'm willing to make the right decision... as long as it's ok with everyone else?" Mavis asked firmly, but her eyes told us that she would accept whatever we decided as her elders.
"While it's not exactly our problem, we could try talking to Henrí about reimbursing some people if they were customers of his. I agree, the trapped people come first." Amber said.
"There's families waiting to be reunited, and that speaks to me. That's a good idea, and I'm sure Henrí will listen to it. If you can do it, Loom... Please release them." I asked.
"Of course. You have shown me patience, and I shall repay it. The release of everyone will happen in roughly a day's time... But I assume you would like a faster way back?" Loom asked.
"If possible." Amber said. "Who knows how much time we have before that crazy elf sets fire to all of Morningstar."
"Uhhh, guys. I'd hate to interrupt, but does anyone know what's happening to our actual bodies right about now?" The thought finally crossed my mind.
"Ah—" Panic swept across Mavis, and Amber's faces as they considered what I had said.
"Worry not! Our sisters on the outside have told me that your bodies were moved in the chaos by two beast people, a male and a female. Your friends are preparing to launch a counteroffensive from a safe house within the city." Apprentice said.
"That's probably Henrí, and Poppy. I hope everyone else is ok..." Amber said.
"I'm sure they are, and they're probably waiting for us to help them take back the castle. Let's get out of here, and go find them." I said.
"Right!" The pair of sisters said in unison.
"Solution. Do the three of you have any physical items on your person that you consider to be important to you?" Loom asked.
"Important items?" I asked, puzzled.
"It can be anything of emotional, or physical value. A gift from someone you care about, or an item of great power perhaps." Loom explained. "I'm going to use them as a spell focus to allow the three of you to exit through Morningstar's spirit portal."
"Ah, the one that the pixies use." I understood our method of escape now, but as for the item...
"Here, would this work?" Amber took off the necklace I had given her as a birthday present and handed it to Loom. "Someone really important to me gave me this as a gift. He's the kind of klutz that would give a girl jewelry after the first date..."
"But he's also one of the sweetest people I know, and I wouldn't change a thing about him." Amber giggled a bit, causing my face to warm up from her sneaky compliment. I could have sworn I even saw her wink in my direction.
"I have this. It's a hairpin that my father got for me when I was only a baby. I don't remember him much... but it doesn't make it any less important to me." Mavis handed Loom her item.
I was the only one who had yet to hand something over. I felt my inner jacket pocket for anything, and came across a book with a lock on the front...
So I do have it after all... My predecessor's journal.
"I'm sorry this is more like returning a lost item to its owner, but I hope it still works..." I laughed sheepishly.
"Quite, but these items will all work splendidly. Please give me a moment to prepare the incantation." Loom said as a glowing blue spell circle appeared beneath their feet. The pages of all the books began to flutter open. "Spirits guide these travelers from whence they came, and shroud them with the aura of my faithful servants. Pixies light!"
We were shrouded in the same golden glow that hung around Elder and Apprentice. My steps felt much lighter, and I was hit with a strange urge to leave the Garden. Even more so than before.
"Success. You should now be able to cross through the portal, and your spirits will return to your bodies in short order. You should already be feeling out of place here." Loom said. "You may also take back your belongings."
Loom handed back the things used in the incantation. Including the journal, much to my surprise. Especially after getting attacked over it.
"Wait, isn't this yours? I can't just take it after all that—" I began, but Loom insisted.
"It is not my knowledge to protect anymore. Now that I know it is in the hands of its rightful owner." Loom nodded at me. "However, I will do you one further kindness as a parting gift."
Loom effortlessly broke the magic lock on the front of the journal, handing it back to me. I stood there shocked, not knowing what to say.
"You opened it! But what about the trial? I overdid it, and with the way things turned out..." I had mixed feelings about the book after what I saw in Amber's trial. I was nowhere near ready to summon the kind of power I saw from her perspective.
"Just don't overthink it, I say." Elder chimed in. "Know that nothing is set in stone. Use your powers wisely, and for the benefit of others. Don't go chasing plans without training yourself first, got it?"
"Got it... Take things as they come." I agreed.
"I don't overthink anything!" Apprentice proclaimed, which got a chuckle out of me.
"Read it when you get a chance. It could very well be the thing that turns the tide in battle." Loom said.
"Wait just a minute... Are you the scholar Phantom mentioned in my trial!?" Amber's mouth was agape. "So everything here is a dream, right? But how could a dream so accurately recreate the future, and everything else we've seen..."
"Perhaps it is, but then again... perhaps it is not. This is but a single plane of the spirit world of which there are many thousands. This plane, the Garden of Dreams exists in the past, present, and future." Loom said.
"That's kinda trippy..." I had a hard time wrapping my brain around it all.
That means it could be possible to run into our future selves in the Garden if we ever came back. I can't say I would enjoy that very much.
"But you all had something you were supposed to be doing, weren't you?" Elder hinted.
"Right, right. Thank you for everything, Elder, Loom. I really wish we could spend more time here, but there's people we need to get back to." I said, feeling just the tiniest bit of regret.
We hadn't known Loom and the pixies long, but the lessons we learned in the Garden were invaluable. I'm certain I would never forget them, or the trials we undertook for that matter.
I got to speak with my grandfather again after so many years... I think I'm stronger for the experience.
Whether I was strong enough mentally, or physically to take on a Child of Eris now... That much remained to be seen. Thankfully I wasn't in this thing alone, not even close.
"Will we ever see you again?" Mavis asked, looking a little sad.
"Uncertainty. In the mortal realm it may prove rather difficult. My physical body is still frozen in crystal deep within Zephyr, but I will log our interaction on this day so that I may never forget." Loom smiled for the first time, but it was melancholic.
"In that case... so long until next time." Mavis gave a polite curtsy before turning around.
"Before you go, Materializer..." Loom motioned for me to lean down, and they whispered something in my ear.
The information that was revealed to me was a lot to process, and I could feel the look on my face begin to sour as they gave me a lengthy warning. A look into what was to come, and the inevitable hand of fate tying the two of us together.
"I understand..." That was all I could muster, returning Loom's solemn gaze.
"Hey Sakuta, are you coming?" Amber looked at me from over her shoulder. Mavis, and the two pixies had already stepped through the portal leading back to the staircases.
"Yeah..." I followed Amber, looking back once more to a nod from Loom.
I swear... One of these days. I'll save you too.
From one portal to the next, we stood in front of our ticket back to Morningstar. A crowd of pixies had stopped their daily activities to wish us good luck, including the two we had grown the closest to during our short time here.
"Come on, Apprentice. There's no need to cry. We've always been able to visit the waking world, you'll see them again." Elder said.
"I know... it's just that I was really beginning to like them, especially Sakuta." Apprentice sniffled.
"You pixies are always welcome in the castle whenever you like." Mavis smiled. The two pixies seemed to appreciate the offer.
"Once we leave here, all hell is going to break loose. I hope you're ready for a fight." Amber said to me.
"For a guy that loves routine, I sure haven't been able to find any since I've been here..." I sighed, shrugging. "But even despite all that, I'm willing to fight for that peace. Come what may."
Amber nodded with a smile. After a deep breath—and one final wave goodbye to our miniature friends—the three of us stepped through the portal together.
Let's go save ourselves a kingdom!