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Salt-water dream

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When she had first arrived in Purgatory, Mirai had carved out a safe haven inside the walls of the deepest layer that she could reach. At the time, it had felt impossibly daring; a form of rebellion against a new world that did not bend to her will...yet. It still might, eventually, if she became powerful enough. All of Purgatory was now her playground, but she kept the safe place as a shrine and a promise; she could do what she wanted, and it would be a safe place for the two of them without the outside interfering. Here, she could create Rei's bedroom and stay there for as long as she wanted.

So she did.

Purgatory was characterised by lurid colours and surreal architecture, while Mirai's safe space was anything but. The four walls were a creamy white, the grey carpet soft underfoot, and the light that streamed from the window was a gentle mid-morning sun. The desk that Rei rarely used was left in sketchy, half-finished detail, along with the bookcase, as Mirai didn't care enough about those to invest effort in creating them; Rei wouldn’t care, so there was no point in wasting the effort. She did, however, make a deliberate choice not to create a dog bed; bad enough she had to share Rei with that mangy mutt before she died, but she wasn't going to do it in their special place.

In contrast to the cursory effort given to literally every other piece of furniture, she spent a great deal of time lovingly creating Rei's bed. It wasn't enough for it to be a perfect replica of Rei's bed. It had to be perfect in all respects, a bed that Rei longed to be in because of how comforting and safe it was. Mirai spent hours painstakingly creating each nick in the headboard, each thread in the sheets, until it met her exacting standards. It even smelled like Rei, a happy discovery Mirai had made when she slept in it to make sure that it was up to standard.

But Rei's room wasn't enough to satisfy the need that drove Mirai forward. The room was the setting, but the star was Rei herself, and she was not here. Or, at least, she was not here yet. That, she could change.

No one had told her how to find the living world. No one had told Mirai how to bring a living soul into Purgatory. No one needed to. Mirai had known where to find Rei from the minute she woke up in Purgatory, as if she were a compass and Rei was true north. To bring something into Purgatory, you had to know it as yours, solely yours.

Mirai had known that Rei was solely hers from the moment she knew Rei existed.

With the ease of practice, she closed her eyes, and opened them to Rei's bedroom. Her real bedroom.

Mirai had to move quickly, before the Demon Twins found out what she was doing, but she also had to do it with care and precision. First, she caught Rei inside her hands, fingers knitted together to make sure no part of her soul escaped. She'd learned through her experiments that a soul easily shattered on being brought into Purgatory, leaving only a sliver in her hands and the rest scattered across all of Purgatory. She knew how to bring a soul to her, intact and naked, quivering in fear before her, and how to smash it under her hand. That violence wouldn't do for Rei. Instead of bringing her to Mirai all at once and crushing her, Mirai had to ease her across with delicate touches until Rei was safely in her hands.

It was a challenging task. Mirai needed souls to fill the missing pieces of her soul, and for a moment Mirai was tempted to take Rei’s soul that way, too. After all, wouldn’t Rei be happiest inside of Mirai where she could be kept safe forever? But then she forced herself to remember that the souls she ate were gone forever., She needed to be disciplined. She wouldn’t be like the other Revenants who roamed Purgatory whining for their missing soul. Mirai was powerful because she was focused on what belonged to her and getting her back, and she would do this.

The first few touches were gentle, barely touching Rei's soul, but Rei shivered all the same. Mirai told herself that these touches were necessary to properly explore Rei's soul, so that she would know what she was dealing with. Then this justification became truth, when she started to ease Rei across Purgatory to be with Mirai once more.

Mirai knew well the weight of one soul. Regardless of the physical size of a person, there wasn’t much variance in a complete human soul. She had also thought that she knew Rei's soul, as nobody knew Rei like she did. Then she grasped Rei's soul and learned how wrong she was.

"What the hell," she breathed.

She'd never seen a person with two conjoined souls before, fused together like one of those strange fruits that the news might feature every so often. It wasn't anything like the souls she'd seen where they had mashed together fragments to try to complete themselves, because that always looked wrong. Instead, this looked like Rei's soul had always been this way.

Then Mirai shrugged and readjusted her grip on Rei's soul. It wasn't like it mattered. After all, she'd always known that Rei was weird. At least it wasn't Thelema's soul.

Once Mirai's grip on Rei's soul was firm, she pulled, gently easing her out, agonisingly sweetly and slowly, until all at once Rei slipped from the living world to Purgatory, materialising on her constructed bed without a sound. Her transition was so seamless that she hadn’t stirred from sleep, still curled in a miserable ball to ward off the outside world.

Mirai doubled over from the effort, hands pressed against her thighs as she caught her breath. It had been worth it, to give Rei a smooth ride. Pulling herself together, she joked, "Wow, big sis. Have you put on weight?"

She grinned despite the breathlessness; let all the other Revenants fear her now that she had enough power to spare to bring across two souls on a whim without intending to consume them. Rei would even have the gentle awakening of a dawn in a perfect duplicate of her own bed, quite unlike the terrible shock Mirai experienced on her awakening in Purgatory. Mirai had thrived, but Rei would not without Mirai to take care of her

Rei was curled up under her heavy blankets, her fair hair tangled in knots that Mirai wanted desperately to tease out with her fingers. Not that that was the only part of Rei that Mirai wanted to tease, but it was the only thing that Rei would let her do. She moved closer, and then stopped, transfixed by anger.

Rei was flushed with fever, and someone had done this to her. Someone who was not Mirai.

There was, of course, only one possibility. There was only one person who spoke to Rei, a friendship that Mirai had tolerated because she wanted Rei to be waiting for her when she returned. But Mirai's patience was not limitless and Yuri had gone too far. She would have to be dealt with later on.

Rei's face was tear streaked, and Mirai reached out and skimmed the tears from her face with her finger. Then, she put her finger in her mouth and savoured the taste. Emotions mattered in Purgatory, and Rei's bitter broken-hearted sobbing was finer than anything she'd tasted before. She knew grief, knew the taste of it down to her bones, and Rei's grief was complex with yearning and lost opportunity.

Wonderingly, she breathed, "Are these tears for me?"

Rei stirred at her voice, frowning as she opened her eyes to stare blankly at Mirai . This wasn't a surprise, as Rei was always, always, slow to wake up.

"Good morning, big sis," Mirai said, smiling winsomely.

"Mirai…?" Rei breathed, eyes wide.

"Yup! Long time no see," Mirai said brightly, watching Rei's face for her words' impact.

Once, when Mirai was younger, she had dropped one of Rei's parents' glasses on the ground. It was a wedding glass, she supposed, and kept on a high shelf along with the other glasses to prevent clumsy fingers knocking it over. Once Mirai had climbed the shelf, grabbed a glass in sticky fingers, and let it fall to the ground below to see how it would break on the tiles below. She remembered the breathless anticipation as the glass fell through the air, and the crystalline cry as the glass shattered into small fragments on the ground below.

Rei's emotional breakdown was exactly the same: a long breathless pause as realisation dawned on her, a hitch in her breathing, and then a tearful, broken "Mirai!" as she lurched into a sitting position to reach out to Mirai with both hands. Mirai stepped forward and Rei clung to her, sobbing into her sweater as she said her name again and again.

Maybe Mirai ought to die more often, if this was the reaction she'd get on her return.

"I thought you didn't need me anymore," she said, half-teasing. "Don't you have Yuri now?"

Rei pulled back from her desperate embrace to stare at Mirai, her expression a mixture of heartache and miserable guilt. Mirai kept her expression pleasant and affectionate, even as she resolved to take Yuri and turn her to paste between her hands. How dare she worm her way into Rei's heart and mind, to claim even the smallest part of Mirai's place beside Rei.

"I could -- I could never replace you," Rei said. Her conviction was softened by her ragged breathing and the tears that still fell down her face. "Yuri is a friend, but you're my sister."

"I know." If Rei thought that Mirai's small smile was just the pleasure of a well-executed joke, that was fine. Even if Rei only thought of Mirai as her sister, the fact that she was more important than Yuri was enough for her. She loved Rei wholeheartedly; whether or not Rei loved her back didn’t matter. "It's been a long time."

"I know. I know, Mirai," Rei said, staring at Mirai as if she was a miracle. In a way, she was. "It's been so long. I've missed you -- I miss you every day."

"I'm sorry, big sis. I was only teasing." She frowned in apparent thought, and then placed the back of her hand against Rei's hot forehead. Rei leaned into the touch, eyes closing with a sigh. Mirai let her hand linger for a heartbeat longer than necessary, enjoying the sensation of skin against skin, before saying in affected surprise, "Oh wow! That's a high fever. How long have you been sick?"

"Sick?" Rei echoed vaguely, eyes still closed. She smiled ruefully. "I guess I caught Yuri's cold."

Mirai wanted to say that this was what happened when you went to school and associated with dirty people like Yuri, but that could wait until later. Instead, she eased Rei down to her pillow, smoothing her hair from her forehead.

"That won't do," she said to Rei's confused frown. "I can't look after you at home, but I can dote on my big sis here."

For some reason, that seemed to trouble Rei. She tried to rise against Mirai's hand, but in Purgatory, Mirai was stronger than she looked, and she could hold her down without it being a struggle. Rei frowned, shaking her head back and forth.

"Here? Where's here?" she asked fretfully. She looked around as if she could see through the comforting illusion of her bedroom to the luridly bright and surreal horizon of Purgatory. Mirai could sense her soul fluttering against the cage that Mirai kept it in. When Mirai had trapped other souls, this moment, when they realised where they were, was when they broke down. This time, Mirai sat on the bed next to her and took her hand. Rei gripped it tight enough to hurt, and Mirai let her.

"It's a dream," Mirai said when Rei's panic eased along with her grip. "This isn't real."

Her words had their desired effect, in that Rei settled down and sunk back into her bed with a sulky sigh.

"Oh, I guess that makes sense." She looked at Mirai and her smile was fragile and cracked. "Something this beautiful could only happen in a dream."

Rei was always beautiful, but she was heart-stoppingly so right now. Mirai longed to lean down and kiss those parted lips until the thin veneer of control cracked, where sister was not a barrier for lover. But that would break the facade of this being Rei's dream, and so Mirai poked Rei's cheeks. They squished just as she remembered them, so that was something, even if Rei wasn't frowning in annoyance like she usually did.

"What happens in this dream stays right here," Mirai said firmly. "Just between you and me."

"I don't understand."

Mirai looked at Rei, searching for something in her face that betrayed her recognition of what Mirai was really saying, but there was none. As usual. It was hard holding a torch for someone as blind as Rei.

"Oh, it's nothing you have to worry about," Mirai said. "Just lie back and let me take care of you. It's been a long time since I got to look after my big sis. I bet you miss it."

If the way that Rei relaxed into her hand as she cupped her cheek was any indication, Rei had missed it. Mirai smiled as she conjured a cool washcloth from nothing, the dripping weight manifesting in her hand as if it had always been there. She laid the cloth across Rei's brow, and Rei closed her eyes with a sigh.

"Stay with me until I fall asleep?" Rei murmured.

"Of course, big sis," Mirai said. She took Rei's hand between both of hers, revelling in the feel of Rei's soft, smooth hand against her skin. "See? I'm holding your hand."

"I see," Rei breathed, smiling gently but not opening her eyes. Mirai gazed at her, drinking in her features and committing them to memory.

When she was sure that Rei was asleep once more, Mirai sent her back to the living world with a kiss on her forehead. She licked her lips afterward, savouring the taste of salt water, before turning her attention to her next objective. She needed enough souls to achieve Revival, and she needed Yuri to suffer. Most importantly, she had to achieve these things quickly. She had to make sure that Rei was all hers.