"Thanks!" Hiro said as he ran into the living room to tightly hug his mom. "Wow, what made you so happy today?" "I met someone who liked the book as much as me!" "The Beast and the Prince? That's great honey! Make sure to eat up plenty so you can meet up with them again."
Hiro obliged, ravenously wolfing down his plate as he talked about his day in between bites. "And then we fell asleep....but we were still awake....and we were flying in the air....and we saw all the stars like it was night!" His mother sat down at the table, intrigued by Hiro's time out.
"Really? And how did you come back here?" Hiro swallowed another mouthful before he spoke. "Oh, I just felt her mom touch my head and I opened my eyes, even though they were already opened, and I saw I was back here!"
She smiled and patted his head as he took another bite. "Well, I'm glad you found someone to dream with. Your father also likes to travel while sleeping, I think we still have a few of his books that you may be interested in."
"Are you going to see her again when you sleep tonight?" She poked his cheek as she gently teased him. "Mom! And I don't know, I think I can only do that when I'm sleeping next to that person."
She grinned and reclined in her chair, the wood of the backboard creaking slightly. "Oh, I don't think so. The many times I see him in my dreams while we are apart is making me think that you will see her again soon."
She then got up and placed her hand on her hips in a semi-serious pose. "But if you dream of our place, make sure to introduce her to me before you make a mess. It may be in your mind, but I probably still have to clean up the place!"
Hiro laughed as he got up from the table, taking his plate with him. "I will! And I think you will like her a lot, she's really great." His mom took his plate as she hugged him. "I think so too, now go get to the tub, you can't meet a girl while smelling like dirt and sweat!"
- - - - - - - - - - -
Setting himself down in his bed, Hiro lay there in frustration. He wanted to enter the dreamscape quickly since Aimi promised that she would be there soon, and he didn't want to make her wait but was too excited about the meeting to fall asleep. "Fall asleep please." He begged to himself. But his brain refused.
He sighed deeply, wishing that he could fall asleep in an instant. Trying to distract himself from his struggle, he read the note that she had handed to him earlier. On one side there was her address. It was quite close by, perhaps no more than a few minutes' walk from his building to theirs.
But he was more excited about what was on the other side of the note. On that note, Aimi had scrawled a quick message only for him to read and understand, anyone else would have been confused. It said, "When you sleep, meet me at the park under the tree. I will be there at 9:30. See you tonight!"
Too eager to see Aimi again to fall asleep, he turned and smiled at the picture of his dad on his nightstand. Picking it up, he held it out in front of him. "Hey dad," Hiro whispered. "I have good news! I met someone today that loves the book as much as you did when you used to read it to me. She also looks a bit like 02, which is kinda cool."
He continued a little bit longer, talking about the girl that he met that day. Between Hiro describing the feeling of floating in the air and seeing the stars shine more clearly than he had ever seen before, his mind kept on coming back to one particular thing he felt, a sense of affection towards Aimi. He sighed and smiled at the picture.
"During the time, even though I felt scared being so far up, I would feel happy as long as I would hold on tightly to her." His chest tightened as he said those words. "I don't know why I feel this way, but I hope that someday you can meet her when you come back."
Feeling that sleep was finally going to reclaim him, he placed the picture back down onto the nightstand. "I will tell you more about her when I meet her later, but just wanted to let you know. Sleep well!"
Carefully, he lay flat on his back and allowed his mind to naturally start feeling a bit heavy. Strange shapes of various colors began to form, zipping across a dark background. Even with his eyes closed, he can still see the shapes clearly as they formed and combining together in a medley of amazing shapes.
Still falling closer into the dream world, his body began to lighten up, as if his soul was starting to leave his body. Hiro's mind began to slow down, as he stopped thinking about his day.
All he could do now was to focus on this moment, being in the dream world. As he was about to fall asleep, he started to count down from 10. In his mind, his focus was now on making it to the park.
He imagined an outline of a massive tree. The ground was slightly hilly, covered with subtle bumps caused by the roots of the tree.
He now focused on the colors of the tree, the brown bark contrasting with the pink flowers that grew on it.
The cracks of the bark began to form. The flowers bloomed and became more fleshed out, with the lines becoming clear as some petals gently fell to the ground.
The green stems of grass began to become clearer as Hiro continued to focus. The only thing that mattered now was this park.
The bark on the tree became more detailed with the scales starting to form. The background became more lifelike as other plants started to appear.
The buildings in the background started to appear one by one. At this point, Hiro felt as if he was no longer in bed, but his vision was as if he was only watching a movie. He was not fully in the dreamscape....yet.
The wind began to gently blow the petals around as they settled onto the grass.
Hiro felt the gentle chill of the wind as the blew on his cheek. He smiled as he realized he was almost there.
The rest of the details suddenly flooded into Hiro's eyes all at once. The tiny insect that crawled in the grass, the way the bushes were all sprawled out around him, how the branches of the tree creaked and swayed as they were moved about. What he could see and hear, smell and feel, it was now almost as if he was.....
He blinked. Once, twice, then several times. He looked down at his hands and focused on his fingers. Moving them one by one, he breathed a sigh of relief and smiled. As his body lay in bed, breathing quietly and with even breaths, his new body was suddenly sprinting towards the tree.
Hiro smiled to himself as he saw a flash of bright light appear in front of him. He winced, his eyes still adjusting to the brightness of this new world. As the light faded away, he blinked once more to see what had just happened. But before he could react, something had touched his hand.
Rubbing his eyes, he looked down to see another pale white hand was holding his own. Looking up to see its owner, gave a large smile as he saw that it was exactly who he had expected.
"You made it!" Aimi cried out. She tugged at his arm as they both started to walk away from the tree. "I was worried that I would have to be here all by myself. I found a great pond here that I want to show you, you wanna see it?"
Hiro nodded and breathed a sigh of relief as she led the way. As they began to make their way towards the pond, the wind blew a little bit more. Next to the tree, two more figures stood and watched the children as Aimi began to describe the various colors of the fish that she had found so far.
"Unlike real life, these fish are purple and can speak, but they can only repeat what we say like a parrot." "Woah! Can they speak with different voices or all the same? Can they have high pitched voices?"
"Sometimes they even say what we say in different languages!" Their voices grew fainter as they went further down the trail, starting to jog to quickly meet the speaking fish.
The two figures watched the children fade in the distance as they stood underneath the tree. The boy with light blue horns gently held the hands of the girl in a red uniform. Time seemed to slow down for them as they gazed into each other's eyes for the first time since that fateful day, light years away from home.
As the two children ran around the park, their past lives smiled wistfully at each other, silently standing underneath the branches. The pink petals fell on Hiro's grey and blue uniform, sharply contrasting the earthy colors with their own brightness. "I'm glad I finally found you again, Darling." Zero Two whispered as she reached up to caress his cheeks.
"Is that really you, 02?" Hiro asked, choking up his words a little bit as his eyes started to water. He was still in shock that after so long, the two of them were once again face to face.
Hiro's hands reached up to his face to gently feel her hands, unable to believe what he was seeing. Her hands were warm and even after a thousand years, he relaxed as Hiro recognized the familiar way they felt.
Zero Two nodded, a single tear rolling down her cheek. "It...it is me." Both tried to speak more, but the words they wanted to say were so numerous, they didn't know where to start. Finally, Hiro gave up and just threw himself into her, hugging her tightly as they both fell down to the soft grass.
Slowly falling towards the ground, Zero Two smiled as she returned the hug. She understood as well, no matter what they wanted to say, they could also say with none. Rolling around under the tree, they furiously wept with happiness at finally seeing each other once again.
Between the kisses long overdue, Hiro promising not to leave her side again, and Zero Two saying how much she had missed her darling, a thousand years of sorrow from being split apart finally dissipated in seconds.
There was now only joy where those sad feelings once resided in their souls. In a shower of tears and kisses, all fear of the future was washed away, leaving only the present moment for them to focus on. The only thing worth thinking about, in that moment, was each other.
After what seemed like an eternity of bliss and an outpouring of love from one another, they finally took a deep breath and calmed down. Hiro had ended up lying down on his back and staring upwards, his gaze returned by her turquoise eyes. Zero Two was still hugging him as she faced her long-lost lover, neither one willing to let go.
"If I never let go," Zero Two thought, "I can stay with him forever."
"If I let go," Hiro worried, "I may lose her again forever."
"Darling?" Zero Two spoke, her voice quivering slightly. "Yes?" He said, brushing her hair to the side to see her face more clearly. "Can we stay like this? Until they stop dreaming." Hiro nodded, wiping away his own tears. "Yeah, let's stay like this. Forever this time."
They both broke into laughter. "That would be a good thing." Zero Two chuckled. "Can you imagine if our current lives also fell in love?" Hiro grinned. "I don't know, I think that my current life already has a bit of a crush on Aimi." Zero Two smiled. "I was just about to say the same for Aimi as well."
In each other's arms, they were perfectly still and silent, save for their heartbeats and breathing as they heard Aimi and Hiro laughing in the distance as they taught an orchestra of fish how to harmonize together.
"But whatever may happen to us tomorrow," Hiro spoke, breaking the silence. "I am glad that I got to see you again. And that I also got to say this once again." He leaned upwards closer to her face.
"I love you, Zero Two," Hiro whispered, his arms gently caressing her. "I always have, and I always will." Hearing this, a single tear rolled down onto Zero Two's cheek.
Seeing this as the right moment, she leaned into his ear to softly speak the words she had been waiting all this time to tell him. "And I love you too."