Chapter Nineteen—What Is False? What Is Real?
Satoshi stepped down from the chair, tossing the roll of duct tape onto the kitchen counter and pushing his glasses up his nose. He looked up at the massive hole in his wall, at the black tarp he had just finished taping over the area. It was pathetic, to say the least, but it was all he had at the moment. In the morning, after he had sorted out his impossibly tangled affairs, he would see that it got fixed.
He left the living room then and headed to the back, his way lit only by a handful of candles he had been able to salvage from the wreckage. He passed through the darkened hall and into his bedroom where a singular form lay supine in his rumpled sheets, their chest rising deeply up and down. He leaned on the doorway and crossed his arms.
Why Daisuke had chosen to flee to him was beyond his comprehension.
Satoshi rubbed his forehead, forcing back sleep. He was just glad that he had finally been able to get Risa home.
The entire process had required him to carry her three blocks to a pay phone and wait in the cold air for his driver to pick them up, again, but it had been worth it. His driver was trustworthy to get her home and Satoshi could now concentrate on his tattered friend, his friend's exhausted pet and the weighty tome that came with both.
Satoshi looked down and saw the floppy-eared creature standing on his foot, looking up at him with droopy eyes. Despite his usual nature he bent down and scooped him up, surprised at how soft his fur was. "Kyuu."
"Still worried about your partner in crime, aren't you?" he said, casting an eye on the sleeping Niwa. "Well, I did the best that I could. When he's rested I'll bring both of you home. I don't want to move him just yet."
In response the little thing nuzzled his chest before hopping onto his shoulder and than over his head to land nimbly on the journal sitting atop Satoshi's dresser. He turned and stared down at the bound leather beneath the white paws. He didn't move.
It was sitting right there. After all the trouble he had gone through during the night here it was, within arm's reach.
It was a cruel reward.
With only half a glance in Niwa's direction Satoshi slipped the book out from beneath the little rabbit. It was heavy, with some uneven, ancient pages sticking out of the sides and pushing against the leather thong that wrapped around to keep the covers closed. The threads in the binding were already fraying at the top and bottom and the crinkling of dried parchment betrayed its cancelled appointment with the curator for its daily care. He raised it delicately in his hands. He would just have to be very careful with the treasure.
He turned to look at Niwa. He was still breathing strangely, but he would live. There wasn't much he could do now until his driver returned. He could steal a few moments for himself. It was only a few moments, right?
Satoshi made his way into his living room and dropped down onto his sofa. He had been able to right it, but because of all the wood and debris clogging his apartment he had to keep it pushed up awkwardly against the opposite wall. He curled into it now, gathering his meager collection of candles carefully around him. He lay the journal out on his lap and looked down at it.
It was strange, because now that he was at this moment he found that there was so much hesitation in his hands, his eyes, his mind. It was painfully anticlimactic, and yet there couldn't be any greater climax in his journey than this. This journal was the key to understanding the motivations to the Mystic's Dream, his perfect source for ending her nightly tirade. This was the moment in the horrific adventure when the story could stop beginning and start to end.
His lithe fingers hovered over the cover for much too long before he finally flipped back the leather. It creaked and cracked at the motion but remained in tact. The first page was empty, just yellowed parchment made golden in the candlelight. He flipped carefully to the next page and saw the Hikari name and crest inked into the top right corner. He flipped to the next page.
In her dream Risa was standing in a place she didn't know and when she looked around she couldn't quite see clearly. But she could feel the soft down of feathers on her skin and, even though scents never reached into her slumber, her dream-self could have sworn that the wondrous aroma of night and linen surrounded her.
But there were sounds too, and when she allowed her dream-self to pay attention she realized that it was music playing. Not only that, but it was music she had heard before. Beautiful music…someone singing with a voice of satin…words of pure poetry.
The Mystic's own anthem.
The words were quiet, as if from a distance and barely audible, but the same sadness and longing was definitely present, just as it had been at the museum.
The feel of feathers left Risa then and her vision was suddenly filled with Satoshi standing before her, looking down at her from his lanky height. He wasn't smiling and he wasn't frowning; he was wearing his easy expression, the one he wore when he was at rest and didn't have to worry about too many things at one time. An expression he rarely ever donned.
Risa stared up at him with a slight sense of confusion. Her dreams had never looked this clear or felt this real. Her dream-self reached out to touch his face and, though her skin couldn't feel it, her mind did.
"You look tired," she heard herself say to him. He nodded and lightly touched the back of her hand.
"Is that okay?"
"It doesn't matter. I couldn't rest regardless."
"Come with me and we'll steal through the night…leave your world behind as we part from the light…in my dreams, somewhere in my dreams, you'll stay in my dreams, you'll never return…"
"Do you hear that song?" she asked him, looking around at the place she couldn't see. "Do you hear her words?"
"No," he replied.
"She's calling you," she told him. "She wants to take you away." There was the sound of rushing water that interrupted the song and Risa looked down to see a clear tide rolling in around their feet, like waves on the beach. "It's rising," she said, although she didn't know why. Satoshi looked down as well before guiding them slowly away from the wet.
"It will come and take over everything," he said. "But then it will go again and leave things alone until next time."
Risa nodded, even though she didn't know why, and looked back up at him. "Is this still a dream?" she asked. "Or is this really happening?"
"If I answer how will you know if I'm telling the truth?" he countered. She didn't even hesitate to reply.
"Because you wouldn't lie to me, not even in a dream."
That itself was a lie, or an uncertain truth, at the least. How could she know that he'd never lie to her? He'd lied to her before to protect his identity.
"This isn't real," he told her. "You're imagining everything."
"In my dreams. You'll stay in my dreams. You'll die in my dreams. You'll never return."
Risa touched her forehead. "I can't get this song out of my head."
"It's not your fault. That's just how her powers work. Her words hold fast to the listener."
"Will you hold me? I'm afraid."
"Of course." And he did. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close, cradling her with all the affection she longed for. It was unbelievably comforting.
"The only reason you're doing this is because I want you to," she said against his chest. "And because this is how I imagine you to act. But the real you would never do this."
"No. You wouldn't."
His hold tightened the slightest bit. "That seems a bit cold of me then."
"Do you know what you would have really done?" She lifted her chin to look up at him. He gazed down at her in return.
"If I had asked you to hold me because I was afraid you would have said nothing."
"Yes. But then you would have left and taken care of whatever I was afraid of so then I wouldn't have any reason to be afraid anymore."
She held on tighter. "That's what makes you different." She lowered her eyes away from him and stared down at her hands against his chest.
"Is different good?"
"Different is dangerous," she said. "But it also makes you wonderful."
"Come with me…and we'll steal through the night…"
"No," Risa whispered. "Find someone else. I want him to stay here. With me."
There was so much writing: there were diagrams and sketches and drawings and entries covering each page from top to bottom, left to write. Satoshi exercised so much restraint as he turned each page, forcing himself not to stop, not to dawdle on things. It was all amazingly enticing, of course, but now was not the time for personal pleasure and discovery. Now was the time for research.
His tired eyes skimmed each page, looking for any mentioning of the Mystic's Dream or Silence. He turned numerous pages, heard the crackling of aged parchment over and over again, and still nothing.
She looked back up into his face and saw that he was looking over her head, frowning.
"What is it?" she asked. He shook his head.
"I can hear it now. I can hear her singing." He let his arms drop from around her and stepped away from her embrace. "I think I have to go."
"No," she said. She tried to beg but it wouldn't come out. "Don't go to her." He kept shaking his head.
"I have to. It's just fair."
It felt as though he were violating the law, but that was absurd. This was his ancestors' journal. That made it his journal. That made it okay.
His eyes burned from reading in dim light, but he forced himself to clearly see the words scribbled and scrawled before him.
The Mystic's Dream.
Where? Where? Where was it?
"How is it fair?" she asked him. "After all that she has done?"
"After all I have done," Satoshi said.
"That's so selfish."
"I am so selfish."
She shook her head, not liking what he was saying. "You don't belong to her. You're not hers."
He looked Risa in the eyes and she saw that his were not the glistening, calculating blue that she loved but the molten, golden eyes of the wretched, white-winged angel.
"There is a part of me that is hers," he said. "It will always belong to her. She will always own it. And though I wish it weren't true, she is justified in having it."
"Why?" Risa asked desperately, wanting Satoshi to step closer again.
"Because she fell in love and she cannot tell the difference between the man she loved and the monster he was consumed by…"
The tome practically slid from his lap but he caught it in time. But the words were there, with all the history he needed surrounding them.
'I have succeeded in creating what I have named The Mystic's Dream.'
This was it. This was the entry he had been looking for. This entry, and the entries before it and the entries after it…this was it…
These were the clues…
These were the secrets…
…to stop the madness of the Mystic's Dream once and for all.
Satoshi stopped reading for a moment, looked a few pages ahead, looked a few pages after, and then went back to the entry he had been working on in the beginning. He had expected schematics, measurements, experiment logs, test results, rough drafts and sketches. He had expected information on the Mystic's Dream, because she had been a project, an artwork, just like everything else that had been created by the Hikaris. These were not just pieces of art, they were attempts at playing God, and so required careful creation.
Satoshi was dumbfounded, because everything that seemed to be involved with the Mystic's Dream had been written like a story.
A fairy tale.
(In the third week of the completion of The Mystic's Dream)
To say that I am amazed by my own creation might seem vain, but it is true nonetheless. It is summer, the nights are short, and yet her progress is astounding. Already she speaks fluently in Latin and Aramaic, which are the languages in which I converse with her, and from there she will come into the living languages easier. She has learned to read and write, and does with such grace. She has deciphered all the ancient texts that I give her, and she fills pages and pages with her words of logic. And she is supremely observant. When I take her to the rooms where our art is being created she watches my family with great dedication.
Yesterday I took her to my brother's studio where he was sculpting from crystal with water and sand. She was absorbed in his work and told me later on that his face changed from when he was looking at his work and when he wasn't looking at his work. When I asked her to describe what the change was she hesitated, at a loss for words. Then she just remained silent. That is the moment I find most interesting about our last conversation. For someone who has become so educated, she was at a loss for words.
This is something new to investigate.
(In the fourth week of the completion of The Mystic's Dream)
She has accomplished something truly astounding.
We had taught her how to dance—common and simple dances, her favorite being the minuet—and we had left it at that, thinking that although she is singularly gifted in grace the true beauty of a dancer comes from a human, one with a mortal soul able to breathe life into movement. This, we have all learned, cannot be taught and cannot be duplicated. An artwork can only do so much, but never be able to create another artwork with the same majesty of human hands. And so we thought it was the same case with the Mystic.
And then I came to her tonight for our scheduled lesson and I found her awake and lively, as always. But she had found the old record player, wound it up, placed an album on the spinner and let the music ring through her chamber…and she was dancing. She was performing none of the dances we had taught her; none of the generic routines anyone could replicate. She was dancing one her own, an improvisation of her interpretation of the music. She was not regenerating material but creating her own.
I have never known anything of our gallery to be so independent and inventive! I was captivated by her dance, amazed at her ability to know her body so well and so fluently. I am almost embarrassed to say that I sat in the doorway for nearly an hour and simply watched her, but that is exactly what happened.
By the gods and my family, is it so shameful to take even more pride in this miracle I have created…
We have all come to love our pieces genuinely, but tonight I believe I loved the Mystic more than I thought I ever could. Ah, now only if she were a true maiden and not something made from sand and fire. Oh, how a fool's heart wishes.
No matter, though. Being her creator and teacher is enough for me. Besides, she is only an object.
But he was gone from her in a turn of his head and a flutter of his wings. Risa was left alone in a void of nothing, alone and scared in the echo of the Mystic's voice. She shivered, and even in her deep slumber she knew her body had shivered in the physical as well.
"So you are the maiden who has stolen the heart of my beloved master."
Risa turned at the sound and screamed a silent scream as she came face to face with the Mystic. It was almost unbelievable how detailed she looked. How could this be her imagination if it was so accurate to the real thing?
"You are cunning," the artwork said, and her voice was low and sultry and so enticing. "To have accomplished what I have slaved at for my entire existence." She took a step forward, her feet hovering in the air. Risa took three steps back. "Do you love my master—,"
"I do!" Risa cried, fear making her jumpy. "I do love him."
"I love him."
"But you cause him pain." She shivered again. "You don't want his love, just his heart and his soul. Don't distort the difference between coveting and wanting. One is false love and one is real and it is that difference that made him choose me over you."
The Mystic smiled at her. Such a gorgeous smile. "He chose you?" she repeated. "Oh, sweet and glorious maiden, that is exactly what I was hoping you would say."
Risa's froze and somewhere in her subconscious the sensation of cold and terror washed over her.
"You love my master, that much I know. You love him and so do I, and it is in that love that we find our common ground. Ah, but do you know how strong a connection can be made between two rivals in love?"
Risa wanted to run, to evaporate, to be anywhere but listening to what this artwork had to say. She was afraid because it sounded so real and absolute; not at all like a dream state figure.
"We aren't rivals--,"
"We are rivals," the Mystic interrupted, her hair beginning to rise and curl around her. "There is no fabricating that. And you and my master both underestimate my powers in all of this….
"The mist is me and I am the mist. It entered you and so brought with it the very essence that makes me an artwork worth reckoning. A part of the feeble excuse for my soul now resides in your very being, in your heart, in the place you have reserved for your beloved Satoshi."
She wasn't smiling as she spoke, only continued to approach Risa on her stage of air, an invisible wind blowing through her garments.
"So long as you love my master, I will have a place within you."
"Yes!" Her cry ripped through Risa's ears, forcing her to her knees. "I am here, now, inside your mind! I may be trapped by Silence, but I have found my way into this world through the longing of a young girl's foolish desires! You dare to love that man…and though it tears at me I know he will love you in return. But day by day, as each second passes us by, you will diminish under me and I will emerge within you. And as your love grows for my master, so then my love will too until I consume you and overpower and take over you.
"Your soul will age. I will thrive. And my master, in loving you, will finally love me. "
"Stop it! No! I won't let you! You'll never have him!"
"Yes," the Mystic said, her voice low and burdened. "I will. And you will let me. You have no choice…"