Chapter 41: With regards to dreams

So if you’re looking for the best dreams to send to your followers, I highly recommend stopping by Maboroshi Company. They’ve even having a special sale for the Gold Moon Festival where if you purchase – 

 

Yumeka jerked her hand in the direction of the sound, sending a wave of magic that made the machine rock backward before resettling, silent. ‘I should make Mori take it to the junkyard herself for always forgetting to turn it off,’ Yumeka growled to herself. But as the silence deepened, she couldn’t help but try to fill it – fixing papers here, a drawer there.

 

‘Who am I kidding.’ Yumeka sat back down heavily at the desk, palms to her face. Her long black hair curtained around her hunched form. She knew if she looked out the window, she would see every other store filled with people. It was highly likely that Mori was one of those people buying gifts in preparation for the festival. Yumeka couldn’t blame her. After all, Yumeka had hired Mori for the things she didn’t want to do. And there really was only so much a maker could take of making the same fanservice-filled-yet-disturbingly-close-to-brainwashing dream that were all the rage these days.

 

Yumeka eyed her ledger. All the rage at every dreammaking store but hers. It wasn’t as if Yumeka had orders she could pick and choose from. At this rate, she’d gladly take on those types of orders if it meant she didn’t have to beg for a loan for her expenses.

 

Yumeka sighed. She had hoped things would pick up this season. After all, Falling season had been the most profitable season back at Maboroshi Company.

 

‘Too profitable,’ Yumeka winced as she recalled the long hours and the range of subjects they had been tasked to make into dreams. Though the questionable content had certainly given her a stomach ache, and the regurgitation of memories had been mind numbing, the worst had been the literal translations that they had been required to do. There had been no room for creativity there. Maboroshi Company prided themselves on giving customers exactly what they wanted and if a dreammaker wanted to bring a touch of art that hadn’t been included in the specifications …

 

‘At least I have natural light here,’ Yumeka thought as she eyed the late afternoon crawling across the desk.

 

She sprawled out and rested her chin on the desk, wishing the front door would open with a new client. ‘Maybe I should pass out flyers like those cafes,’ she thought as she idly watched her hair catch in the light. During her lunch break, Yumeka had spotted nearly a dozen new dream cafes along the main street. Standing outside each one had been a young girl dressed in frills and ribbons handing out flyers for “The best dreams of your life! Get one free hour!”

 

Yumeka snickered at the thought of having Mori stand outside the shop dressed in one of those dresses, the teen’s short hair pushed back by a frilly headband to reveal a devastating glare. ‘But I guess “Custom dreams for those looking to inspire, revolutionize, and break free from the mundane” won’t fit on a flyer…’

 

“Hello?”

 

‘Though, maybe there’s something there. “Half-off all inspirational dreams!” has a nice ring to it.’

 

“Um, excuse me?”

 

‘There could even be different categories – inspirational dreams, revolutionary dreams, far-from-mundane dreams, a-touch-of-brainwashing if I really need to have those …’

 

“Are you asleep?”

 

Yumeka’s eyes widened and she straightened quickly. “Hi! Welcome to Rainbow Studios! How can I help you?” she yelped.

 

The lady let out a breath. “Do you always greet your customers like that?”

 

Yumeka’s laugh was slightly out of tune. “Sorry, I was just thinking of um, an order. The ideas come more easily when I’m like that.”

 

“Is that so.”

 

Yumeka squinted. The voice sounded like a young lady, but her features kept changing, like a cloud passing in front of her face every second. ‘A shifting veil?’ Yumeka sucked in a breath and narrowed her eyes.

“Did you have a certain dream in mind already?” she asked, fighting to keep her voice steady.  The only people who used shifting veils were those who brought trouble.

 

The lady’s robes swirled around her as she walked the length of the room. “A bit of a misnomer calling this a studio if it’s only you.”

 

“My assistant is out running errands. If you’d like to see some of our designs -”

 

“That won’t be necessary.” The lady placed a thick folder onto the desk. Yumeka swallowed, trying in vain to push away the memories from Maboroshi Company where clients had done the same thing.

 

“I’m sorry, we’re a custom shop. We don’t take specifications …” A slim hand opened the folder and revealed drawings that made Yumeka pause. She reached out to bring the folder closer.

 

Back at Maboroshi Company, specifications were in writing, a form the customer filled out where they could outline all the things they wanted in the dream. Everything from size, sound, color, texture were laid out in excruciating detail.

 

This, however, was more like a dreammaker’s portfolio than a specification. Yumeka turned each page slowly, amazed at the richness of colors and images that she had never seen before.

 

She looked up at the lady’s silent, shifting features. “I guess we could make an exception.”

 

“Good. I need a hundred thousand of these by next week.”

 

The pen Yumeka had taken to fill out the order form dropped from her fingers. “A hundred thousand by next week,” she echoed weakly.

 

“For the Gold Moon Festival, of course.”

 

“I see.” Yumeka swallowed and picked up the pen, willing her hand to stop shaking as she wrote out numbers that were more than the last two years combined.

 

She paused at the section for the customer’s information. “Could I get your name please?”

 

The lady was still for a long moment. “Oh! The veil, my apologies.” She reached up and lifted an invisible cloth from her face.

 

Yumeka gasped. Hair the color of the shifting seas, eyes that glittered with golden fire – every citizen of the dreamscape knew this combination. ‘A god. In her studio. The god of -’

 

She bit her lip, studying the face closely.

 

A blue-green eyebrow rose. “Honoka, patron of the arts.” Yumeka’s frown only deepened. The lady sighed. “Also the god of fire.”

 

Yumeka’s eyes and mouth widened but she quickly tried to hide it with a sheepish smile. “Sorry, I didn’t know you were also the patron of the arts,” she said as she hastily filled out the rest of the form.

 

“Not many do.”

 

Yumeka looked up at the note in Honoka’s voice, feeling it resonate in her own self. “That will change,” she said with all the feeling she could muster. “I promise.”

 

Honoka gave her a long stare before slowly pulling the veil back over her face. “Be careful about making promises to gods.”

 

As she turned to walk out the door, Yumeka called out to her. “It was a promise between artists.”

 

Honoka let the door shut behind her without looking back.

 

*

 

“I think it looks nice,” Miyo said, keeping her voice light. She watched Aki closely and kept an apology ready depending on the artist’s reaction.

 

But Aki only nodded, propping her elbow onto the counter and her chin into her palm. Miyo turned back to the far end of the counter where Aki’s painting was leaning against the wall. It was a beautiful painting, a calm snapshot of a quiet day on the beach that Miyo felt as if she could step right into –

 

“I hate it.”

 

Miyo paused, glad she hadn’t reached for any sharp objects just yet. She brought her hands back down to her sides and eyed Aki from her side of the counter. The creases in the girl’s brow had deepened since she’d entered the shop.

 

“Any particular reason?” Miyo asked. She was unsure how to navigate the tension exuding from Aki.

 

“It’s horrible.” Aki’s voice was flat and lifeless. “But that’s what the judges want.”

 

Miyo frowned. “I thought this was for the contest for the Gold Moon Festival.”

 

“It is. I’ve done it enough times to know what wins.” Aki sighed. “Lost it enough times, I mean.”

 

“What’s so special about this contest?” Miyo tried to think back to what little she knew about the Gold Moon Festival and came up short.

 

“Well, there’s different interpretations,” Aki said, straightening slightly. “But among artists, the Gold Moon is a symbol of creativity. The winner of the contest is seen as the best that year.”

 

Miyo’s tilted her head. “It doesn’t sound like it’s about winning.”

 

Aki peered at her from under a raised eyebrow. “It’s a contest, of course it’s about winning.”

 

“Yes, but isn’t submitting something that you’re proud of a win as well?”

 

Aki sucked in a breath and held it. Miyo swallowed but kept silent, watching Aki’s eyes unfocus into deep thought.

 

“That dream from last night …” Aki murmured.

 

Miyo was about to ask but Aki suddenly stood up from her stool and placed the payment for her tea on the counter hurriedly, the coins clattering against the wood. “You can keep it,” she said as she jogged to the door. “I’ll make an even better one for the contest.”

 

Miyo let out a relieved breath. “Good luck,” she called out. Aki paused at the doorway and gave Miyo a wide grin before stepping outside.

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