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The most powerful dreams are often the ones we don’t remember. The ones we wake up from suddenly, our bodies covered in sweat and our faces in tears. The dreams so beautiful and terrible that it makes our meager existences pathetic and worthless. Our day to day lives mean nothing. Our jobs, our houses, our hobbies. All of it fails in comparison.
Except, I’ve learned, there is one thing that doesn’t change. The one thing that makes you feel safe to tell your closest friend about the dream. The same allows your friend to sympathize, say something to make you feel better. This thing is called love. Since only our relationships stand to these awesome dreams, I think the dreams themselves are about love.
It would have to be a love grander and stronger than anything we know in our waking lives. And after the argument I had with Remilia Scarlet when I first met her, I’m tempted to think that God is the source of this love.
That sounds strange coming from a miko, but so what? Someone smarter than me could refute Remilia’s arguments, but it’s not a miko’s place. If there is a God, then I’m fine with that. He and I seem to agree on a lot of things. If there is no God, then that’s fine too. It won’t stop me from teaching what a miko believes.
It’s all about humility, kindness and love.
I awoke from one of those dreams. I dreamt that Marisa and I went on an adventure together. We overcame great enemies, suffered great hurts, did great good for Gensokyo, learned much within ourselves. But when you wake up, you realize how ridiculous such dreams are. Here I was, snuggled up in my overstuffed bed, looking out the window, up to the blue summer sky above my shrine.
Except the window seemed a lot bigger than mine, taking up more space in the wall. Not to mention the bed. The bed was huge. And I didn’t remember the smell of the lake being quite so strong.
I would have sat bolt upright as I realized where I was, but my body was too stiff. I only inhaled sharply, and that hurt enough by itself.
Patchouli Knowledge was sitting in a comfy armchair on the other side of the room. She had been reading a book, but now she snapped it shut and looked up at me. Two fairy maids were sitting on top of the chair’s backrest, rocking their wings to keep balance.
“Ah,” said Patchouli. “You are awake. Fairies, find the mistress and let her know. Bring back a plate of food.”
The two youkai bowed, took wing and flew out the bedroom’s open door. Patchouli stood, holding her book under one arm, stepped up to the bedside. She put a hand on my cheek and forehead, as if feeling for fever.
“How do you feel?” she said.
“I hurt.” My voice came out groggy. I cleared my throat. My side stung. “What happened? Is Marisa okay?”
Patchouli hmphed. “You humans. Some worry about nothing but themselves, and the rest worry about every one else. You were injured worse than Marisa. Flandre broke two of your ribs, and you suffered internal hemorrhaging. The fairies and I spent long hours repairing your blood vessels to keep you from drowning in yourself. It was a good thing you had eaten roast beef beforehand. It gave us plenty of protein to work with. We also set the broken bones, but I did not heal them completely. I feared running your body short on nutrients, and it is best for them to heal naturally in any case. Even so, we need to feed you right away.”
I didn’t understand half of what she was saying, and I didn’t care.
“Answer me,” I said.
Patchouli smiled. It was strange to see on her face. “I apologize. I unintentionally evaded your question. Marisa will recover fully. She is resting in the neighboring bedroom. She has numerous contusions and three separate stab wounds of varying severity. The two in her back were particularly frightening. Approximately an inch in one direction, and she would have lost both kidneys. Less distance in another, and she would have been paralyzed from the waist down. As it happened, she suffered only muscle damage and perforated intestines. Those were easier to repair than your injuries.”
“I want to see her,” I said.
Patchouli shook her head. “Not yet. She is asleep now, and you are not fit to move. The two of you will need to rest for another day at least.”
“I don’t care,” I said. “I need to see her. I need—”
“Won’t you eat something first?” said Sakuya. She came into the room, carrying a bed tray. She set it down over me, as if to keep me still. Seeing the food and drink, I realized how hungry and thirsty I was.
I tried to sit up and rest back against the headboard, but I couldn’t move. My ribs hurt too much. I lay there, panting with the effort.
“Can’t even feed yourself,” said Sakuya. “All right. Hold still and I’ll spoon some pudding up for you.”
No. I didn’t want those killer’s hands feeding me. The same that had butchered apart who knew how many people to feed a vampire. And that reminded me.
“Flandre?” I said, holding Sakuya off. “What happened to her?”
The witch and the maid exchanged looks.
“That is the most distressing aspect of the ordeal,” said Patchouli. “The mistress will tell you.”
“Is Flandre dead?” I said.
“No,” said Sakuya. “Not dead, just…. Look, let me feed you, okay? I promise I won’t kill you.”
What was that promise was worth? But my stomach rumbled at the smell of the food, and I couldn’t get it myself. I let Sakuya feed me. I swore that I wouldn’t trust this woman. I let her tend me only because I had no choice.
Remilia came in after a while. She was tired and worn. Her wounded wing was wrapped with a bandage. She said nothing, only sat in the armchair and watched me eat. Patchouli bowed to her.
“I will go check on Marisa, with your leave,” she said.
Remilia waved her off, and Patchouli left the room. Sakuya soon finished feeding me, helped me wash it down with some tea. She took the tray and turned to leave, but stopped by Remilia.
“Would you like me to stay, Mistress?” she said.
“No,” said Remilia. “You can go. I want to speak to Reimu.”
The maid bowed as well as she could, holding a tray full of dishes. She left us alone, closing the door behind her. I watched Remilia for a while. She sat, looking at the floor, her shoulders hung and her wings drooping. I had never seen such a sad vampire.
“I heard Flandre is alive,” I said.
“She is,” said Remilia. “We hoped against hope it would change her without killing her, and it did. Her heart is still beating, and she no longer has a taste for blood. Or for anything from a human body. Sakuya can’t be in the same room with her. She gets sick just from her smell. The fairies have to care for her.”
“That’s good, isn’t it?” I shook my head on the pillow. “I mean, not good. But better. Right?”
“Much better. And that’s not all. Flandre is recovering in a bedroom like this one. We have the curtains closed, but still. She’s not breaking out into rashes. No bleeding boils on her skin. Sunlight is no longer poisonous to her. ”
“This all good news, Remilia. Why do you look so depressed?”
She looked up at me. “Yesterday, I was desperately afraid for my sister. I wanted to do everything in my power to ensure her survival. So I did the unthinkable. I humbled myself before the God you don’t believe in, and I prayed for her. Isn't that ludicrous? Me saying a prayer! It’s blasphemy in the extreme, both to my own kind and to the human God.”
“And you’re upset over that?”
“Of course not. Even I’m not so heartless as to be ungrateful if my prayer is answered. And it was. Flandre opened her eyes. She looked at me. She asked my name.”
I took a second to understand.
“She what?” I said.
Tears welled in Remilia’s eyes, ran down her cheeks.
“She didn’t know me,” she said. “She still doesn’t. Nor does she know Sakuya, Patchouli or Meiling. She doesn’t know this house, or that she’s been underground for five centuries. She didn’t even know her own name. I had to tell her.”
Remilia put her face in her hands, and she cried.
So this is why Remilia feared God. Not because of complex reasoning, weaved from hundreds of years of understanding and experience. Not from impartial observation of humankind’s morality. But from one simple, powerful connection.
She loved her sister that much.
Marisa and I stayed at the Scarlet Mansion for a few days, resting and recovering. As soon as she could move, Marisa came into my room and jumped in bed with me. She hugged me so tight she nearly broke my ribs again. But I didn’t care. I hugged her back, and we both laughed and cried. I felt bad for Remilia and Flandre, but it couldn’t keep me from being happy with my best friend. After prying us apart, Patchouli and Sakuya took turns watching us.
When Patchouli was in my room, she read to me from her books. She started with a medical analysis of memory loss. I learned that amnesia could be caused by physical or mental trauma, or a combination of both. I learned that patients who suffered from amnesia sometimes recovered in a day, sometimes never. We didn’t know if Flandre would ever get herself back. Especially since Patchouli’s studies were all on human amnesia.
Maybe it was better like this, I thought. Forgetting the past would let Flandre start a new life, a happier one.
From that book, Patchouli went on to harder subjects. She read me lectures on sociology, economics, history and magical sciences. I understood not a bit of it. I was always asleep before she got to the second page.
When Sakuya was watching me, she told me of Flandre’s recovery. She showed no signs of regaining her memory, but she was doing well in every other way. Sakuya could now be near her without making her sick. Remilia had gotten children’s books from the library and was teaching her how to read. She was up and about the mansion, exploring its long hallways and vast chambers. She was playing games of hide and seek with the fairy maids, but only until Sakuya yelled at them to get back to work.
Sakuya talked about Flandre like a parent talks about her child, with equal parts happiness and exasperation. I soaked up every word.
Soon, it was time to leave. Not because Marisa and I had overstayed our welcome. We wanted to go home. Marisa had healed enough to move on her own, but I could only stand up and walk for short distances. I would be that way for a long time. My ribs wouldn’t fully mend for weeks.
Remilia knew we were anxious to be on our way. She led us down to the main courtyard, where Meiling stood beside a big rickshaw cart. It wasn’t the same cart Marisa and I had seen on our way in, I was happy to see. Our packs were already stuffed in the back.
“This is nice,” I said to Remilia. “But how does this help us? Marisa can’t pull me all the way back to the Hakurei Shrine.”
“I know,” she said. “China here is going to be the muscle for the journey.”
“That’s right!” said Meiling, putting a hand on her bicep. “Hong Meiling will see you two home safely. The mistress has ordered me to dispel any thought or emotion associated with hurting you, Reimu. In the face of such a strict command, I can get revenge only if you attack me first.”
“You’re out of luck,” I said. “I’m in no shape to jump a youkai like yourself. Or anyone, for that matter.”
“We’ll see about that,” she said. “I may be the strongest youkai alive, but I have very sensitive feelings. You could call me ugly I’d break down crying.”
I laughed. “Thanks. Now I know your weakness. Help me into the cart, Marisa. China is going to take us home.”
Marisa and I got into the cart, leaned back and relaxed. It was going to be a long trip. Meiling pulled us out of the courtyard, going slowly over the cobblestones, picking up speed on the open trail. We rode across the land bridge and turned onto the mainland, heading down the path that would take us around the lake.
I saw something out the corner of my eye, a glint of light. I looked back to the mansion, saw something sparkling on one of the balconies. Up there stood the Scarlet sisters, hand in hand, waving goodbye. Flandre didn’t know who I was or why she was waving to me, but she enjoyed herself. The sunlight reflected off Flandre’s wings, bobbing up and down as she waved.
I waved back to them. Everything was going to be okay. The younger sister had lost her past, but she kept something far more important.
A sister’s love.
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