She often found herself walking Kurogane’s dreams. They were easily accessible to her, his mind always being open to her after years of knowing and trusting one another. Some force always seemed to pull her to them in her sleep. Whenever she ended up in his dreams, she made sure to tread carefully, knowing all too well how fragile and fragmented his mind was. He often dreamed about his companions, Tomoyo noted, even early on. First it was mostly “the kid” as he called the younger boy in the group. Later “the princess” and “the pork bun” appeared as well. Those three made more and more frequent appearances in Kurogane’s dreams. At first, they weren't very active; they mostly just existed in the same space as him and he didn't seem to care much. But Tomoyo could tell the kids grew on him quickly. The princess needed protection and she thought perhaps Syaoran, the boy, reminded Kurogane of himself a little. He was determined and mature beyond normal measures for a boy his age and a skilled fighter. Tomoyo felt Kurogane's growing desire to protect and take care of the two.
She was curious about the princess, the one everything centred around. Tomoyo had no access to her dreams, nor to Syaoran’s or the magician who sometimes appeared in Kurogane’s dreams. In his dreams, the princess was sweet, a little clumsy, and excruciatingly kind. Tomoyo could tell Kurogane cared deeply for her and loved her immensely; for her, that was more than enough to take an interest and liking to the princess herself. And she was beautiful, the princess, with hair the colour of sand and the deepest green eyes Tomoyo had ever seen. When she'd seen the princess smile for the first time in Kurogane’s dreams, it had kept a smile on her own lips all day even after waking up.
The magician began making more appearances in Kurogane’s dreams as their journey progressed. Even from the brief looks of the dreams, Tomoyo could tell the man both irritated and fascinated Kurogane. When she first saw him she had been shocked; never in her life had she seen a man with such pale skin, such light blonde hair and most importantly, such blue eyes. She had almost taken them for sapphires at first. The man was a warrior as well as a magician, she noted and felt Kurogane’s frustration at the way he attempted to hide it. But what amused her about the man was his way of getting under Kurogane’s skin. She knew he had a temper, and could easily be provoked to anger, but this man pushed all his buttons at once. Constant teasing, name-calling and jokes on Kurogane’s expense. Tomoyo could feel his irritation, but every time she’d woken up after visiting one of his dreams and the magician had been there to annoy him, she’d woken up more amused than ever. She hoped to meet the man one day; she could already tell she would like him. She didn’t, however, like the sadness behind his eyes.
Telling how much time the group spent in one world was practically impossible, given that time flew differently in each world. Sometimes she could tell from Kurogane's dreams that they where in a certain world, sometimes she couldn't tell where they were at all. She wasn't sure she accessed his dreams in every world he visited either. However, she could tell they'd been in a certain country a long time because the same themes kept appearing in Kurogane's dreams. Over and over again he'd dream about fighting, in peculiar clothes, against an enemy he didn't seem too eager to fight. He dreamt about Fai a lot, and Tomoyo noted in confusion that his blue eyes had turned black. Kurogane seemed to dislike it. Sometimes, Fai spoke coherently in the dreams, sometimes he spoke pure gibberish. There was also a constant worry about Sakura and Syaoran in his dreams. Sometimes Syaoran would appear, and Kurogane would feel immense relief. Tomoyo wondered what had happened. She hoped they were all okay.
Sometimes, Tomoyo found herself in dreams belonging to alternative versions of herself. The Tomoyo who lived in a strange country with flying transports was the most frequent. Perhaps because that Tomoyo had met with Kurogane and his companions, their connection was stronger. Usually, Tomoyo of Piffle couldn’t see her when she walked her dreams, but she got a feeling her other self could sense her presence. But there were times when the Tomoyo of Piffle would turn and greet her. Sometimes it was for a clear reason. Other times it wasn’t. Piffle’s Tomoyo had filled Tomoyo in on what she hadn’t been able to see from the dreams. She gushed over Sakura and the clothes she had been wearing and talked about the dramatic happenings of the race. It was strange, Tomoyo thought, to talk to someone who was you, but also wasn’t.
It was evident that Kurogane had grown closer to his companions; they all appeared in almost every single dream she visited now. Syaoran was getting better and better at fighting and Kurogane radiated pride whenever the boy appeared in his dreams. Sakura was more alert and lively now. There was a strong sense of wanting to protect her coming off of Kurogane, but at a pride similar to the one he felt for Syaoran. It was as if he wanted to say: Look at my kids, aren’t they the greatest? And she could tell he’d taken more of a liking to the magician. He was still annoyed at the other man’s need to play pretend at all times, but now there was a fondness and a sense of caring present in his dreams. They had become a real family, she realised, and she was happy. Finally, her grumpy warrior had found people to care for and protect, even if he still refused to admit it to both others and his conscious self.
It happened more rarely, but sometimes she’d found herself in the dreams of a version of herself from a country with the same name as her own. She suspected it was the same Japan as the one the Witch of Dimensions lived in, but one could never be too sure, especially not when crossing worlds in dreams. The Tomoyo in this Japan was younger than her by several years. She went to school with Sakura and Sayoaran and seemed widely mature for her age. Like the Tomoyo of Piffle, this Tomoyo loved making clothes and dressing Sakura in them. She had explained to Tomoyo that she would “video-tape” Sakura in the costumes, but Tomoyo hadn’t fully understood what she meant. (She’d woken up shortly after.) Tomoyo could tell this version of herself loved Sakura greatly; she longed even more to meet her.
She relished seeing Sakura so vibrantly alive and awake. She remembered the first time Sakura appeared in Kurogane’s dreams, and how pale and lifeless she had seemed compared to the determined and strong-willed woman she was becoming. Kurogane dreamed less of her getting into danger and more about how she’d take care of Syaoran and bake (sometimes very odd) things with Fai. There was a fondness in Kurogane she hadn't seen before. She could tell even from Kurogane's dreams, how much Syaoran and Sakura loved one another. Kurogane seemed annoyed at how they both blushed but never said anything, but there was a little joy behind the irritation too. It made Tomoyo smile.
Never had she woken up in such laughter as the night she finally figured out what emotion she felt from Kurogane whenever Fai was present in his dreams. She felt silly for not realising it sooner, but she was nonetheless happy. She wondered if Kurogane himself was aware of the feeling, or if it still only was an unconscious feeling. There was still a slight annoyance at the nicknames and a frustration about the constant game of play pretend. But the growing feeling of caring and love would soon overshadow those feelings. Her sister had asked her why she smiled so brightly the entire day after and she hadn't been able to stifle the giggle bubbling up. Both Amaterasu and Souma had looked at her in disbelief when she'd told them their grumpy ninja was falling in love.
Once again she found herself walking the dream of the version of her from another Japan. Her other self greeted her with a respectful nod. They sat down together on a bench and Tomoyo had to admire this Japan; it was stunningly beautiful. She assumed the Tomoyo of this country had visited this place before, as so often was the case with dreams. Perhaps it was close to her home or on her way to school. They could see the ocean, and the sun setting in it reminded Tomoyo of the view from the palace. She could see why this Tomoyo would go here in her dreams. Kurogane and Fai didn't exist in this universe, Tomoyo found, or perhaps this Tomoyo just hadn't met them. So they talked about their different Sakuras, how they were the same and not, and how they both had a Syaoran beside them to support them. You love her, don’t you? Tomoyo asked her other self, who shook her head. No, she said, we love her.
When her own dreams grew darker, she found herself deliberately visiting Kuroganes more often. She was well aware she shouldn’t, that spying on someone on purpose was wrong and intruding on their privacy. Yet for some reason, she found herself unable to stop. Perhaps, Tomoyo thought, it’s because she’d been visiting his dreams for so long now, that she could pretend to be a part of their family, despite being an outsider. And hearing Fai calling Kurogane by stranger and stranger nicknames and wondering they were all real or made up by Kurogane’s consciousness always brightened her mood. It made her smile to see Syaoran in Kurogane’s dreams because she could feel the strong bond between the two. And she loved watching Sakura fuss over the group even in a dream and watch her grow stronger and surer of herself with each passing visit.
She hadn't felt such raw sadness in Kurogane's dreams in a long time. Carefully, she walked across the dream, trying to find the source. But it was all too incoherent, a flow of real memories and unconscious worries all strung together in a blur. Making out anything was almost impossible. She felt great grief hitting when Syaoran appeared, nausea-inducing worry when Sakura appeared, and pain and sadness so great it was paralyzing when Fai appeared. Kurogane was hurting, grief-struck and worried beyond measure. Flashes of a fight, Syaoran looking at him with blank eyes, and Kurogane cradling a bleeding Fai against his chest appeared. They were gone as quickly as they'd appeared. I'm sorry, she whispered, despite knowing she shouldn't, but hoping he would hear her anyway.
Time passed and then she landed in Kurogane’s dream again, and there was a bitterness in him she hadn’t felt since he was little. The other’s were distant in his dream. Even Sakura, all dressed in black, was quiet and wore unmasked pain and sadness plain on her face. Kurogane tried to approach her; she disappeared in a wisp of black smoke. He tried the same with Syaoran, only to watch him too disappear. He turned to Fai, who had had his back towards Kurogane the entire time. Please, Tomoyo heard him whisper; Fai disappeared. She felt herself being pulled from the dream and for the first time in years she tried to fight it. If she could comfort him, wake him up. She woke up alone.
Sometimes, after a particularly unpleasant dream, she would wake up nauseous and with a headache. She'd never thrown up, never had a headache so bad she found herself clutching her head, paralyzed in pain. Not until that dream. It was always easy to tell if the events had happened or not; she always knew it instinctively. This dream was one of those foggy once, showing glimpses of the future yet to come. But she wished she hadn't seen it, because it was all too awful for her to bear. So much blood, so much pain, and grief in one dream. She cried for the princess, the boy, and the magician, but mostly for her warrior. Four lifeless bodies in all black on a chessboard; the only source of colour in the dream was the blood flooding across the board.
Every dream after that she prayed. She was grateful when she in a dream landed in a familiar place and her other self greeted her. Piffle’s Tomoyo smiled kindly at her and offered her a hand. Quietly, she guided Tomoyo around the capital of Piffle and Tomoyo was grateful for familiarity and comfort to rest back on. Piffle City was odd, very different from her own home, but she loved how the city buzzed of life. When she woke up, she felt rested for the first time in a long time.
She could always tell when something was off about Kurogane’s dreams the second she stepped into it; when she stepped into his first dream for quite a worrisome while, the feeling almost floored her. She looked around herself in fear, borderline panic. It was almost pitch black, and nothing but the heavy feeling of despair clung to the air. Then she saw the silhouettes taking form, and she immediately recognised them. She recognised the scene from only a little while ago. Covering her mouth, she swallowed a screech. She recognised the type of dream because it wasn’t a true dream made from a figment of imagination, unconscious thoughts, and memories. It was a stream of memories so powerful the mind couldn't help but recall them over and over again. But it wasn't possible; she shouldn't be able to see this dream, because it's owner shouldn't be alive to dream it. Before her eyes, the future was changed. It was still a tragedy beyond measure, but it was different. She was forced to her knees by the emotions sipping from Kurogane’s memories. The air tightened, the grief and pain suffocating her. She woke up crying. But the future had changed; there was still hope.
Tomoyo was grateful to land in the other Japan again, and even more grateful to be greeted by her other self this time too. Perhaps it was a little odd to discuss matters with yourself, but she knew this version of her had other experiences, different perspectives. She was grateful for someone who understood her thoughts like only another version of herself could. They slipped into the topic of Sakura again. The younger Tomoyo seemed distraught at the situation and the unhappiness of Sakura and Syaoran. Tomoyo guessed she imagined her own Sakura in a similar state. I have been meaning to ask you, she said, is it not painful to love someone who already has someone? Her other self smiled sweetly at her. It is. She said. But because I love her, I wish her all the happiness in the world. He is that happiness for her. And if I can share just a little of that happiness, if I can stand beside her and be a part of her life and adventure, that’s all I need.
The dream was short, but perhaps her most important one. Perhaps, she thought when she woke up, this dream and this event was the reason she'd been gifted her powers in the first place. Her mission was clear before her. The price would be great, for both her and Kurogane, but she knew what she had to do and that neither of them would regret the sacrifice coming. The future can be changed. And she knew exactly how to. Smiling, she looked up at the taller woman in front of her. Hello, Yuuko.
Do you desire to go together? She asked him, despite knowing the answer. Is that what your heart truly wishes? Then you must exchange magic identical to that person’s magic. She sent him the thought, the memory, and she knew what he would do. What he had to do. The dream faded and as she opened her eyes, she felt the power leaving her body. She felt tears roll down her eyes, but she wasn’t sad; only grateful to have been on time. She had succeeded. Kurogane would finally come home, physically hurt but mentally healed; he would be okay, she knew he'd live. She'd finally get to meet him again. How much time had passed for the two of them since he'd left? She couldn't tell, but knowing he was coming home made her happier than she'd been in a long while. She'd get to meet Fai, Syaoran, and Sakura. Perhaps she'd finally get to understand the feelings of her interdimensional selves. A small smile reached her lips. She stood slowly, looking around for a servant. They had to prepare for the group’s arrival.