When my consciousness returned, I was in the middle of a meadow, there was a stable nearby and a few horses were galloping freely through the grass, I could also see a large castle not too far away, though it was considerably smaller than the royal castle.
This faint smell of grass reaching my nostrils was nostalgic, it reminded me of home. Though we had nothing as fancy as horses back then, much less a castle in the neighborhood…
As I looked around I also noticed a couple sitting on a table below a pergola, they were chatting and laughing, seemingly enjoying their time… Paying a bit more attention to them however, I noticed that the one sat there was actually the counselor that has been asleep for the past few days. I suppose this is his dream then? It’s quite beautiful...
“Hey, you, servant! What are you idling around for? Hurry up and serve the tea!” He suddenly said while looking at me… Since when do I look like a servant?
Apparently since now, because when I looked at myself again, I was wearing some frilly maid clothes and was holding a jar of tea… I hate dreams. “Hurry up! Don’t make me repeat myself again.” He screamed.
“Now now, dear, no need to get angry, she’s probably new here.” The woman said and then kissed him, he smiled back and kissed her again… I guess she’s his wife?
I moved near and poured them the tea before stepping away. This is weird, wasn’t the dream with the relic in a dark place with it calling you? Why are we instead in such peaceful dream? Where could the Wild Rose be…?
I was about to start searching, but the counselor suddenly got up, “Excuse me, Love, I’ll have to go work.” She gave him a good luck kiss and then waved while he moved towards the far away castle, however, the scenery around us started distorting and changing shape. By the time it stabilized, we were no longer in the meadow, but within a building.
After quickly looking around, I realized this was probably the castle that he was moving towards, primarily because the wall is filled with fancy paintings and the door to the room near us is heavily ornamented. The counselor was standing next to the said door while fondly embracing a woman that was definitely different from the one I saw just moments ago… He then started walking inside the nearby room, “Servant, make sure nobody interrupts us, and you saw nothing.” He told me before entering it… Just what the…?
Before long I was hearing moans coming from within the room… Oh, seriously? He’s asking me to stand guard outside while he cheats on his wife during a dream? Disgusting! This man should just go to hell!
I started stomping away, damn dreams and their annoyingly thin walls… I don’t have the time to do this kind of thing, I need to find the relic and get away from here… Away from those gods’ forsaken moans that keep chasing me even after I got away from the door!
Before walking for long in the corridor though, things got weird… There was nothing ahead of me, the corridor just got wobbly at its end and then there was only pure darkness ahead… Wasn’t this supposed to be a big castle? Is it because the dream only exists near him?
I approached the endless darkness that came from the corridor’s end and tried looking at it from up close to see if I could find the Wild Rose there, but… There was nothing, no relic calling me, no crystalized rose anywhere in sight… Nothing.
If the relic is not in the darkness like what Thalia told me… Where is it then?
The woman’s annoyingly fond voice resounded from within the room, as if she was right next to me, “Shouldn’t you take this gem off? It might hurt you if we go a bit more wild…”
The counselor screamed in response, “Don’t touch it! It’s mine!”
After a moment of silence, the woman answered in a teasing voice, “Whatever makes you happy.” And then the moans resumed.
… Which god was the one that cursed me and made me have to go through this kind of thing? For I swear I’ll exclude you from my prayers if I find out who you are!
I sighed and got near the door and steeled myself for what was about to come… I just need to get inside, steal the relic and run away… I can do it, I can do it, it’s just a jerk cheating on a woman within a dream, it’s nothing I haven’t handled before… Nothing I haven’t… Shut up shut up shut up, stop thinking and start moving!
I hurriedly opened the door without any care for subtlety, it made a loud noise when colliding with the wall, alerting the two naked idiots in front of me. Differently from the harlot though, the man had a small red gem hanging from his neck as a necklace of sorts. Target spotted.
He shouted asking what in heavens name I was doing, but I ignored it and just rushed towards him, forcefully pulled the gem away while breaking the thin thread that connected it to his body and ran away. The counselor made an animalistic growl and then chased after me madly, the surroundings were dissolving and there was not a semblance of a castle hall around us anymore, it was just a messy distorted pathway that made barely any sense.
Regardless, I could see that endless darkness ahead of me, I was worried it would move away as the man got closer, but that was not the case… I wonder why.
I didn’t spend too much time wondering though, I just jumped into that darkness while hearing him shout ‘Give it back! Give it back!’… However, he did not chase me into the darkness, so it seemed I was safe.
Or so I thought, but now I was suddenly being pulled away by the gem in my hand, it had a very strong force that made me fly throughout the darkness. As I couldn’t let go of it, I let the relic lead me to wherever it wanted… However, it was a bit strange, I don’t think this matches the description of the Wild Rose that I got. While it did shine with a bright red light, it looked… Weird, it definitely did not look like a rose. Or rather, this looks like a broken piece of rock that was taken from a mine and given to a noble without even going through an artisan to polish it.
After I was dragged around by the gem for a small while, something finally appeared in the distance. At first I could only see a faint red light, but I slowly realized there was something emanating that glow, something big, possibly bigger than me… And it definitely looked like a Wild Rose. I think it’s safe to say that I’m looking at the actual relic I was tasked with recovering, but then, what is this thing in my hand? A shard of the bigger crystal?
I had no time to ponder on it, for my body lost its strength, I fell on my knees, my neck hurt… Then I heard Iris scream, “Aria!”
I woke up. I was laying on the ground while feeling a lot of pain, Iris was crying while hugging my face… Behind her, I could barely see the mages restraining a figure that was screaming ‘Give it back! Give it back!’
Just what happened here…? Well, more importantly… “I’m back, Love.” I told Iris, my throat hurt and my voice was hoarse. That was not how I intended to say it…
She hugged my face while sobbing… “Idiot… Now’s not the time…” It really does seem like something serious happened…
“I can always find some time for you.” I told her while gently caressing her back with my finger… It felt a bit weird, she’s the one that generally consoled me… And I couldn’t caress her properly because my hand was almost as big as she was… This size difference was more bothersome than I originally realized. That aside, her tears her burning my face a bit, though I wouldn’t tell that to her.
I waited until she calmed down and then asked what happened. Iris distanced herself a bit to talk and noticed the small burn marks on me and started making tons of apologies… I felt like they were marks of her love though, so I didn’t mind them at all. Besides, it’s not like they wouldn’t heal.
After a bit of convincing and reassuring her that I was fine, she took a deep breath and explained the situation. What happened was that the counselor suddenly woke up and started screaming while choking me, the mages were unsure on what to do, but eventually restrained him without using any spells…
Of course magic would have been more efficient at pulling him away, but it could end up being considered as an attack towards one of the king’s advisors, which… Could make them a head shorter. As that was too risky, they went for the safer option of physically restraining the counselor instead.
Or at least that’s how Iris interpreted the situation, as she desperately told them to save and yet they kept still for a few moments while pondering on how to handle this situation… I’m glad those mages acted swiftly enough to save my life, but... Dear Gods, how come I slept through all that!? Where is my sense of self-preservation!?
After hearing all this though, I just giggled, which made Iris angry, “What’s so funny!? You almost died!” Well, that reaction was expected.
“Because I woke up after hearing your scream, your lovely voice brought me back from the depths of the dream world.” I told her, she blushed heavily.
“Oh, you…” Iris stopped talking, looked away, flew a bit and sat on my shoulder, then spoke without looking at me. “I’m just glad you’re okay…”
My heart skipped a beat, I really wished I could just kiss her right now… She wouldn’t forgive me if I did it though… This sucks. “I love you.”
Iris was silent for a small while, until she gave me two small, but meaningful words, “I know…” I could not make any reply to that.
I’m not sure how much time passed without anything happening… At some point I realized I still had the small red gem in my hand though. This was very weird, we were within a dream, how come it’s now in my hand?
I showed it to Iris and explained what happened within the dream, though I didn’t tell her what was happening between the counselor and the cheating woman… She didn’t need to know that. Once I was done, she came to the same conclusion that his was probably a shard of the relic the king wanted, though she was also confused over how I brought it over from the dream realm…
And then she immediately got crazy worried over rather or not I was feeling weakened, if my life was being drained or something, but… I felt nothing like it, my body was just fine. Pain from the choking aside of course.
We tried examining the gem in my hand, while it was certainly magical, we were having a hard time finding out what exactly it did… It really felt like it was missing something. Perhaps this small shard did nothing while away from the bigger body? Though in that case, why did the counselor go mad over it? And how did it drag me towards the bigger part of the relic?
We spent some time pondering about it, but found no answers to those questions… After a while we just gave up and lazed around, not sure on what to do in this empty room. It was only when night fell that the mages finally came back, saying that the counselor was currently in a locked room without anything in it. For he did not stop struggling and screaming, so it was decided he needed to be put away for the time being, to protect not only the people near him, but also himself… I wish they would just let that worm die already, there’s no reason to care for that kind of guy.
I didn’t voice my thoughts though, and since it was too late, we decided to call end the day’s investigation at this and continue tomorrow.
I asked if they wanted to keep the relic shard I got for research purposes, but they quickly declined… I guess they’re still worried about becoming the next victim, so I took it with me and walked back to the inn.
I was very tired and hungry by the time we arrived, so we went straight to our room after eating dinner. Then we put the gem on top of a cupboard, undressed and laid down together. After such a heavy day, I wanted nothing more than a good night’s sleep… Luckily, it felt like this would be a peaceful one.