Chapter 499 – Discussions

§

Big Brother Rod tried to barge into my bedroom soon after I woke, but Big Sister and a female royal knight kept him in the adjoining salon. They waited while several of Mother’s maids bathed and dressed me.

The maids were all exchanging enigmatic glances and not saying much, but the entire time, I was hearing worrisome voices outside the bath.

“Her doctor is still in the castle, right?”

“She’s still nearby. She and Lady Mireia traveled over to the Academic City to meet with an expert on coma diagnosis. Lady Benedetta has already sent for them to return.”

They were speaking Dorian, and Academic City is a suburb of Narses that hosts the Ducal School and several private schools from primary to graduate level in a vast campus called the University. And they spoke about ‘the castle’… I put it all together and determined I was in the Pendorian capital, a place I’ve never been, before.

Did that mean I had been in a coma? Could I rely on my time sense after all, then? It was telling me that more than three months had passed! I had been comatose and they transported me all the way to Pendor?

“Lady was acting like she didn’t remember me!” an aggrieved woman complained.

I identified that voice as the cat-kin adventurer.

“You need to properly call her Lady Tiana, My Lady!” Miss Melione scolded her.

Should I remember the cat-kin girl? She was quite pretty, and rather boisterous. I should think I wouldn’t forget such a woman easily.

“If she doesn’t remember Lady Ceria, then what else has she forgotten?” Big Brother Rod worried.

“She… didn’t seem to remember about the babies, Your Highness,” Miss Melione confessed.

What babies? I wailed in my head.

“The wedding is this afternoon!” he thundered. “We can’t just postpone it! More than fifty Pendorian lords are already in town with their retinues! They’re probably already preparing to depart for the castle!”

“I should think this would be a good enough reason, though?” an unfamiliar voice asked. I identified the speaker through [Fairy Sense]. It was the female knight who had helped Big Sister Amelia hold Rod back earlier. “You are a prince of Orestania, after all. You outrank any noble in this land other than the Duchess. If your wedding has to wait, then you can just declare it has to wait.”

Rod was getting married? What happened in three months? And why would the wedding be in Pendor?

No, I could explain that part at least. If the bride were a Pendorian noble daughter, the wedding would naturally be held in her duchy rather than Atius.

“But that’s the problem!” he blustered. “We are trampling on the dignity of the Duchy if we suddenly postpone it now! Every Pendorian lord, present or otherwise, would take it as an insult! And we haven’t announced Ti’s relapse to them!”

Big Brother Rod was willing to postpone his wedding for me… I felt a bit touched. But…

If I’ve been in a coma all this time, why would it suddenly be a crisis that I’m not able to attend the wedding? Wouldn’t that still be the case if I had not awakened? Something wasn’t adding up.

“Who is Prince Roderick to marry?” I asked one of the maids bathing me.

They all exchanged anxious glances, then the most senior stepped away from me, gave a deep Dorian bow, and stated, “Please forgive this unworthy servant, My Lady, but it would be inappropriate for us to answer your question. His Royal Highness ought to be the one to tell you.”

His Royal Highness? That address is only used for siblings of the king or a previous generation of king. The only living ‘Royal Highness’ in the masculine whom I was aware of was Uncle Owen’s aging bachelor uncle Prince Evan, the late King Stanley’s younger brother. Of course, there was also Uncle Owen’s brother Cullen, but he had been stripped of his title before I was born.

They insisted on leaving me in that mystified state until they had dressed me and led me out to the salon to meet with the Prince and Princess.

§

“What exactly is going on?” I asked Fan Li at last. “She’s forgetting things?”

The sage from Huajie had adjusted our surroundings. We now sat in a tea pavilion from her memory, which differed considerably from Dorian tea pavilions. 

The architecture was similar, strongly resembling Chinese historical dramas, but rather than kneeling or resting on pillows on the floor as we would in the corresponding Dorian establishment, we sat in bamboo chairs with backs and silk cushions. The ghost-like attendants dressed in Ancient Chinese fashions, but had no faces and were largely translucent. Despite their own tenuous natures though, they served tea without trouble, both to us and their equally insubstantial patrons.

“It would appear so, Your Highness,” Fan Li agreed. “She doesn’t appear to know about her pregnancy, and she doesn’t know she’s to marry the Prince. Actually, she doesn’t even seem to know she is betrothed to him. That suggests she has forgotten much from the last three months.”

“They told me I was going to marry him only a week after I got here, though? That’s more like all of the last three months?”

We continued to watch as the scene progressed and the people on Huade came to the same conclusion. But they were reluctant to explain to the confused girl at the center of the tragedy, so they weren’t telling her the most important parts yet.

“She can’t have forgotten everything,” I noted, in denial of what I was seeing. “Otherwise she couldn’t expand her spiritual vessel. You said that you could only connect with the vessel when it’s expanded.”

“Ah,” Fan Li responded, looking as if she had not thought of that until now. She frowned, then nodded.

Musing about it as she spoke, she noted, “You had the vessel expanded when you collapsed. One of our fellow incarnations must have been active at the time, and kept it expanded throughout the time you spent comatose. As long as they weren’t too greedy, they could maintain it at a size large enough for me to access your [Fairy Sense].”

I frowned. “I don’t remember anyone else being active, though.”

“It is an unprecedented event, so this small one cannot offer a better theory.”

“So, if someone else is there, can you contact them?” I wondered.

“Please don’t do that just yet,” came a new voice.

Both of us jolted, then looked in the direction of the interloper, a green-haired celestial maiden in highly celestial maiden-like garb, down to and including a silk sash floating behind her and draped over her forearms.

As she crossed the tea pavilion floor, winding around tables occupied by ghostly patrons, I greeted, “Senior Rhea.”

“How did you…” Fan Li started, then bowed her head while shaking it. “This small one should not dare ask.”

As the sage stood and held her right hand over her left fist in greeting, the goddess answered her question anyway.

“It’s nothing special. This is nothing more than an illusion created within your spiritual vessel. That makes it no less a data construct shaped in the guise of reality than any other simulation would be. Illusory Reality, Virtual Reality, Manifested Reality, it is all the same thing. With sufficient knowledge of the software and the system, a skilled hacker can insert their own avatar anywhere.”

Fan Li bowed her head. “Senior is surely far wiser than this small one.”

Rhea chuckled. “You say that while not asking your real question, ‘how does she have this knowledge?’ But we have had many communications via spiritual voice already, Scholar. I have had more than enough time to study your vessel.”

The immortal looked at me as she took a seat at our table and answered my thoughts as well. “I began speaking to Fan Li in this vessel once I learned of her existence during your first collapse. Gaia was able to teach me how to contact her here. We’ve had several highly informative conversations. Please sit, Scholar. This is your place, after all.”

Fan Li meekly sat, and one of her ghostly Tea Pavilion attendants approached and poured tea for the newcomer.

The goddess waved, and the scene on Huade now appeared on a screen of cloudy mist hanging between us and the adjacent table.

“This should be a better view than trying to watch through Little Sen’s [Fairy Sense].”

Fan Li was obedient to her senior, and didn’t ask the question that was left begging, so I brought it up instead.

“Why didn’t you want us contacting whoever it is that’s active in the spiritual vessel on Huade, Senior?”

“Mostly because you haven’t met her yet,” Rhea nodded. “Oh, it looks like it’s time to watch the show again.”

§

“That’s enough!” I declared, running out of patience with these people. “You keep avoiding my questions, but just how long do you suppose you can keep me in the dark?!”

Big Sister and Big Brother Rod both looked at me with uncertain eyes. They had decided that I was missing memories, but they had yet to explain exactly what these memories were. But they obviously included some pretty momentous things, so these two had ought to begin catching me up instead of dancing around whatever it was that worried them!

“Look,” I stated. “You two are forgetting about my ability to know my location and time. The last thing I remember is being in Tavital with the Hero’s Party, but that was far from here and three months ago. Clearly I’ve been awake since then, or you wouldn’t be saying I have memory loss. So how long have I actually been asleep?”

Aunt Elianora answered my question from the door as she entered. “You were first comatose for three days, then awake for less than a day before passing back into a coma for the last two. And what’s all this about memory loss?”

As she came closer, with a pink-haired girl in Dorian dress following her, she stopped to give curtseys to Big Brother Rod and Big Sister, along with greetings of “Your Highness.”

Honestly, I had thought I had been out much longer than that. I stared at my aunt in horror, then demanded, “You’re saying I’m missing three whole months of memories?”

Returning her eyes to me, she replied, “My Lady, you would be suffering serious debilitation if you had been asleep for three months. Only your non-human physique is preventing five days in bed from dramatically weakening you. But that is beside the point, now. I’m much more concerned about what you just said. You honestly don’t remember anything in the last three months?”

“It does seem to be the case, Doctor,” Big Sister Amelia answered with a wrinkled brow.

Elianora looked across to Genette and asked, “Has she received a meal yet?”

“No, My Lady,” Genette answered crisply. “The kitchen is preparing a meal for her now.”

“Your Highnesses,” Elianora said with a perfunctory bow of the head. “I respectfully request that we delay any further discussion until after My Lady breakfasts and I have performed an examination.”

“Hang on!” I protested. “I was in the middle of requesting some answers!”

Big Brother Rod held his forehead in his hand. “So much has happened in the last three months, it’s hard to figure out where to start, Ti.”

I huffed. “Well, you should know by now that my hearing is extremely good. Extremely good. Your Highness Amelia, I was hearing something about a wedding this afternoon! I’m touched that you want to postpone an event for my sake, but how could His Highness possibly postpone his wedding just because I can’t attend?”

I heard a ‘pfft’ out of someone– I think it was the cat-kin girl– and I saw several pairs of eyes grow large.

Amelia simply tipped her head and gave me a sympathetic smile, while Rod blustered, “How could I possibly hold the wedding without you?”

My foster sister turned to her brother and reminded him, “She doesn’t remember, right?”

“Ah,” he replied, then frowned and nodded.

What do I not remember?” I demanded.

“Well… I suppose that actually is the best place to start, so I shall answer,” Big Sister replied with a nod. Then she gave me a smile and explained in a patient voice, “Tiana, he can’t have his wedding if his bride isn’t in attendance. Do you understand what I’m telling you?”

“Why would his bride not be… ” I started, then shut up, because I had just guessed at what I had a worried feeling was the answer.

- my thoughts:

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So we get to go through the whole angst of 'I can't marry him, he's too much like a brother to me!' again? Well, to an extent, but not quite. And it's only one of many troubles they are going to clobber her with.

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