Hiro took a deep breath and sighed. He turned to Aimi. "Was it o...are you okay?" He asked, noticing a few tears streaming down Aimi's face. She nodded, wiping them from her check with both hands. "I'm fine, just feel very happy that they found each other at the end."
Hiro smiled, remembering how happy he was for the same reason the first time his father read him the story. "I see, I'm glad you are also happy." Aimi smiled and pointed at the book, asking, "If that's the end of the story, what are all these pages after?"
"Oh, that is a bit of history about the book!" Hiro exclaimed, eagerly flipping the page to show her. He always enjoyed reading about the story behind the Beast and the Prince book. It helped him to love the story even more once he knew how it came to be.
"You see, this person Ichigo wrote this part," he began, explaining the Klaxxosaur war, how it was ended by a small squad of parasites and how they helped humanity to heal the earth and allowed them to help civilization grow in peace.
Aimi eagerly hung onto his every word, especially when he flipped towards the last pages of the book, where the pictures taken were placed. Her eyes shone brightly as Hiro explained how they last met among the stars before they had bid goodbye to a special pair of soldiers.
He pointed to a small and shy looking blue-haired girl in the picture as he explained that she was the one that brought the book together and finished the story in their memory. "That one right there was Ichigo, who wrote the final part." his hands wandered over to the pair standing next to her. "And the book was written by these two!" Hiro said, pointing to 02 and Hiro in the picture.
Hiro then excitedly went on about the tale of 02 and Hiro, how their love story started with the book when they were children, how they came back together eventually helped to defeat the aliens, and ended the war.
"They loved the book since it was, in a way, their story. She was like the beast with the horns and he was the prince. They were separated by others but eventually found each other." Hiro then lowered his gaze, becoming slightly less enthusiastic. "Sorry if I was boring, I talk too much about this."
Aimi flash him a grin and hugged his waist, making him utter a high-pitched squeak of surprise. "You were not boring, I liked it!" She exclaimed. "But it was sad that they had to go fight and never came back." Hiro nodded.
"True, but I like to think that as long as they were together, they were happy no matter where they went." He said wistfully, gazing upwards into the sky. Their eyes both become heavy as they snuggled on the ground, their bodies propped up on the trunk of the tree. Hiro placed the book down to his side, happy that he finally found someone to share his love for the beast and the prince.
"Do you think that everyone will be like 02 and find their prince?" Aimi asked, yawning a little bit. The pink petals from the tree gently floated down to the ground, a few finding their way to the book cover.
"I don't know, I hope so," Hiro replied, also yawning. "I know some of the adults say that's impossible, but I like to think that is the case, even if it may not be in this life. Maybe it might be in the next one." Aimi smiled softly as she started to fall asleep. "I hope that I will find him in this life."
Hiro smiled, closing his eyes in his failed fight against his sleepy mind. "That would be nice." He muttered, slowly slipping into the dream world with Aimi. Soon the pair were fast asleep, dreaming of strange birds and forests filled with strange and fascinating creatures. The petals of the tree fell like the February snow, covering them with a thin scattering of patches of pink. Softly snoring, they would occasionally smile as their pleasant dreams went on.
In that dream they felt as if they were dancing in the sky, flying higher and higher. As they reached the clouds, while holding each other's hands, they stopped and looked down. Despite the vast distance, they were able to clearly see the tree that they were fast asleep underneath.
"Did we die?" Hiro asked, worried as he looked down at his slightly transparent arms. "Will mom be ok?" He thought nervously. He started to breathe heavily and felt himself sinking down towards the ground. Aimi saw this and grabbed him, laughing all the while.
"We're still alive! We are just flying while asleep, my mom said we can do this with other people that we connect with." Gripping his hand, she smiled at him. "You are the first one to be with me while dreaming! Do you want to fly with me?" Hiro gulped, turning his attention back to Aimi.
"Go back down or with her?" He asked himself, getting a sense of déjà vu. When he closed his eyes, his heart swam with many emotions, recalling the event that he doesn't remember. Strong feelings of fear, panic, and loss clung to him and he sunk a little further down back towards the earth. He tried to force himself back up, but he still sunk down a bit more.
"Go with her." A gentle voice whispered in his head. Hiro paused for a moment, a wave of calmness spreading throughout his body as he closed his eyes. "Breath in and out, in and out." He told himself, trying to steady his panicked breathing.
The voice had sounded like an older version of himself. The fear and worry he had felt were drowned out in the wave of calm that he now felt. Taking a deep breath, all he knew that he had to trust this voice.
Hiro opened his eyes, feeling himself starting to rise up just a little bit. As he floated back up to the cloud Aimi smiled in relief. "Good to see you again! I thought I lost...you." She faltered as the pair felt a jolt of warm energy surge through them.
"I've never felt this before, it's so cool!" She exclaimed as she wrapped her fingers around Hiro's. "What do you think this means?" Hiro asked, staring at their entwined hands. "I don't know, maybe it means that we can see each other in future dreams!"
As more of these strange beams of light flowed through the pair, Aimi felt something. It was a fear that was not hers. "Are you a bit worried...about going back down to the ground?" Aimi asked, feeling Hiro's fear. He nodded. "Am scared of heights." He whispered. Aimi laughed and pointed towards the sky. They had traveled all the way up to the point where they were able to faintly see the stars.
"If we look up, you can't tell how high we are." She said, comforting Hiro. "Would you like to know what each star means?" She asked. Hiro's eyes shone with excitement as he nodded, eager to learn more about the beautiful night sky.
"Ok, so that star over there is Sirius! People long ago believed it was the only one. But the Dogon tribe said...". She began, as they sat up in the clouds and gazed at the ocean of stars in space and marveled at its beauty.
As she talked, Hiro relaxed. Soon the idea that they were so far above the ground was barely registering in his mind, as he was more focused on Aimi and the many stories, she told about each star she pointed out.
He smiled, enjoying how passionate she was about the night sky. "I don't know." She shrugged after he asked why she was so enthralled with the stars. "It just feels like I lost something up there. I want to try and explore the skies when I grow up!"
"You think that you can find what you are looking for so far away? All the way up with those stars?" Hiro asked quizzically. "Yep!" Aimi said confidently. He smiled, admiring how convicted she was in her desire to seek among the stars.
Truth be told, he also felt strong emotions of longing whenever the sky cleared up and the stars appeared, so he understood where she was coming from. His eyes shone as he gazed towards the Polaris star, seeing it even clearer than he had even done so before. Even if it all turned out to be in his imagination, he was still glad he can see them like this.
"If you want, would you like to search the stars with me when we become older?" Aimi asked, noticing the look of bliss on his face. Hiro paused for only a second before he smiled and turned to look at her. "If we can, we will explore the stars and find what we lost!" He said excitedly, offering his hand forward. "Together?" Aimi laughed and accepted; their hands clasped together. "Together." She promised.
Aimi's mother came by and spotted the pair fast asleep. Smiling, she placed the back of her hands on their foreheads, brushing the hair to the side and waking them up. The pair yawned widely as they came to, rubbing their eyes and smiling as they recalled their dreamtime adventure.
Her mother signed as she looked around the park with an apologetic look on her face. "Sorry, but it's getting dark and we have to go back home." Aimi pouted as her mother chuckled. "Maybe next time you can come back and play more with Hiro, sound good?"
"Sure!" Aimi exclaimed. "Can I tell him where we live so he can come over?" Her mother smiled and nodded, giving her a piece of paper with a pen. Aimi quickly wrote their address and something else on the back of the page before giving it to Hiro. She gave him a sudden hug, making him utter another squeak in surprise.
"I had lots of fun, see you next time!" She said as they separated and began to make their way back home, waving excitedly. As they said their goodbyes and waved at each other one last time, Hiro turned around and started to make his way back home, tucking the note in his pocket.
Barely making it before the sun had started to set, he began trudging his way up the many flights of stairs to the family's apartment, his mind kept on focusing on Aimi. How she was mesmerized by his storytelling, her fascination with the history of the parasites, how they had explored the dreamscape together, and her bright optimism about the future.
His heart grew a bit lighter and his mind much happier thinking about that as he opened the door and entered his home. "Hey Hiro, you're back later than usual!" His mom called out from the living room. "Dinner is on the table if you're hungry."