I awoke with a start. One moment I had been in some beehive castle thing going all fiery judgement on the inhabitants, yet now I found myself comfortably curled up in the inn in the city. Had that... just been a dream? Wait, if I was still in the city, had that ALL just been a dream? The attack on the village, Akagane's debilitating injury, Hisui's pregnancy, my assault on the beehive...
If so, that meant this was the most awesome cop-out ever because it meant I didn't have to deal with any of that and could just slack off now.
I jumped up and kicked Akagane in the shin. He startled awake with a "Mrumph" and rolled over, his bangs tangled over his face. "Bake-inu, it is four in the morning. What do you want?"
"Get up!" I commanded excitedly.
I shook him. "Just to make sure you can. Come on, please?"
Akagane rolled back over with a groan and buried his face in Hisui's chest, who squeaked in response. "Honey, can you let the dog out? I believe it is your turn."
Hisui sat up and looked at me with a pout. "Oh, Wan-chan, do you have to make a tinkle?"
No, I just... agh. Whatever. The two of them were obviously fine, so I let myself out of the room and wandered downstairs. It was nice not having anything to deal with. No raging homicidal warlords, no annoying voyages of self-discovery, no piles of dead bodies everywhere. Everything was just perfect now.
I opened the front door and there stood two oni. A horse and a deer. "It is our birthday," they said in unison.
I slammed the door in their faces.
Then I thought about that a moment and cracked the door back open to peek out at them. "Wait... didn't you do this last year?"
"It is the nature of birthdays that they happen every year," said Onishika in annoyance.
"Yeah but... I just found out that everything from the past year was just a dream. Including you two coming to bother me about your birthday. So how can you have done that last year when now last year hasn't even happened yet and moreover only existed in my head?"
The two oni looked at each other in bewilderment for a moment. Oniuma then waved his hand and excused it with, "Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey."
As if that had somehow cued it, suddenly out in the street there was a large gust of wind, followed by a strange noise that began faint and steadily grew louder. Some sort of mechanical "vworp VWORP VWORP". I pushed past the two oni and saw that, where there was once nothing, now stood some kind of large blue box with windows around the top and a sign that read "Police Public Call Box".
Wait, since when could I read? Moreover, since when could I read decidedly non-Japanese text?
The door of the box opened and out stepped a tall man with short cropped hair and wearing some kind of black leather haori. He raised his arms and turned in a circle, declaring, "Ah, early ninth century Japan. The Fujiwara clan controls the government, the samurai class begins its rise, and Murasaki Shikibu pens 'The Tale of Genji', the world's first novel. This here is the height of an empire before it falls into hundreds of years of civil war."
A second man exited the box, this one with a bit more ruffled hair and broad, angular features. "You know, Doc, when I said we should go someplace classy, medieval Japan wasn't really what I had in mind."
A third occupant of the box pushed past the two men, making me wonder just how cozy they got in there, this one being a girl who looked about Hisui's age, except had mysterious golden hair and wore only two layers of clothing that strangely conformed to her body's shape rather than hanging loose. "Oi, there's nothing wrong with this. Do they still wear the white makeup and walk around in those giant robes? My mum has this little doll she got at--"
She suddenly stopped as the three of them finally noticed us. The first, leather-clad man immediately stepped forward with a grin and greeted, "Oh, hullo! Look at you three there! I'm the Doctor, nice to meet you."
The three of us stood agape. Finally Oniuma whispered, "Is this... is this our birthday present?"
"A magic box that makes people," Onishika observed. He then grinned a fanged grin. "Unlimited target practice."
"Magic box that makes people?" the leather-clad man, identified as "the Doctor", repeated, sounding offended. "This here is the TARDIS. That's 'Time and Relative Dimension in...'" Oniuma and Onishika drew their weapons and advanced on the trio that had emerged from the mysterious blue box. "You know, on second thought, I have a better idea. Run!" And the three of them took off, with the two oni in pursuit.
I sighed. Well, at least they had something to keep themselves occupied now and wouldn't come back to bother me about their birthday.
Akagane and Hisui suddenly appeared behind me, still in their night robes. Akagane peered out into the street and wondered, "Commotion?"
"Just the normal weirdness," I explained, not wanting to get into it.
Just then, Oniuma and Onishika came strutting back up the street, looking quite pleased with themselves. Looks like they'd made quick work of the people in the box. Until I saw that the box-borne trio were following behind them, none the worse for wear.
As the oni passed our door, Oniuma held out a small pink pony figure and exclaimed, "The Doctor found me a Pinkie Pie! I asked for a pony last year but didn't get it! The Doctor is now my new best friend!"
Onishika sighed and rolled his eyes. "You are such a fool, brother. Doting over such a thing." He then held up his own pony. "Now if you were this enamored with Rarity, I could understand. Such glamor and sophistication..." The two then fist-bumped and continued on their way out of town.
The three humans had their own ponies. The sturdier-built man was flying around a blue pony making "nyeeerrrrr" sounds, while the Doctor and his female companion had a brown pony and a violet-grey pony with a yellow mane, respectively, making the two figures make kissy-face with each other. "You know, I don't know why they called this one 'Doctor Whooves'. He doesn't look a thing like me. Something to look forward to, maybe?" He looked up and saw me standing in the doorway and grinned, "Oh, hello again!"
"Hello again, indeed," said the other man, moving swiftly past the Doctor to take Akagane's hand and shake it. "I am so sorry I missed you before. Captain Jack Harkness, who might you be?"
"A man," Akagane stated flatly.
Jack's smile only broadened. "Yes you are."
The Doctor intervened, pulling Jack's hand from Akagane. "A man and his wife, if I'm not mistaken," he interjected.
"I was just saying hello!"
"Don't worry, we'll tie him up if he tries to get too friendly," assured the girl.
The Doctor moved in front of me and pulled out some kind of small metal wand. He waved it in front of me while the tip glowed blue and it made a strange buzzing sound. He examined the casing when he was finished as though it said something, then muttered, "Just as I thought..." He slipped the device back into an interior pocket and clasped his hands behind his back. "You don't belong here."
Akagane stepped in front of me before I had a chance to respond and warned lowly, "He may be a youkai, but if your intent is to harm him or expel him from the city, know that it will require going through me."
"That's right, Wan-chan is a good youkai! He'd never hurt anyone!" Hisui added. A nice sentiment, but questionable.
The Doctor only smiled more brightly at these assertions. "Fantastic! You're standing up for him even though he could destroy this place in an instant. Oh, you humans make me so proud!"
The girl tentatively moved in behind him and wondered, "What do you mean destroy? What is a youkai?"
"They're beings that can freely convert between energy and matter," the Doctor explained, folding his arms and gesturing with one hand. "They're found all over the universe, but the ones on earth intermingled with the native life forms and created a hybrid race that is bound to an earthly form. This one, for example," he took the device back out of his pocket and waved it at me. My eyes went wide as my human transformation was suddenly broken and I flopped down on all fours. "... appears to be a dog type."
I growled, becoming annoyed at being discussed and prodded as though I was some sort of exhibit on display. I reverted to my human form and pointed at him, saying, "Look, I don't know who you think you are, but I'm not just some dumb animal for you to coo over."
The Doctor nodded. "You're right, actually. I know exactly who you are."
My point faltered. "... You do?" Since when was I famous?
He placed a hand on my shoulder and continued, "Actually, I know what you will become. Or rather, what you should have become. You see..." he let out a sigh. "You're trapped in the wrong time stream. A year of your life... a very important year of your life... suddenly never happened. Someone is trying to erase your accomplishments from history, and since they can't kill you, the next best thing is to alter your past so that you took a different path. That's why I said you don't belong here. All of this is wrong."
I gulped, remembering the life that I thought had been a dream. "So all of those terrible things that I remember happening... You're telling me it's better that they happened?"
The Doctor was silent for a moment, before responding ambiguously, "I'm just saying they need to happen. I can take you in the TARDIS and put you back where you're supposed to be, and none of what happened tonight will have ever existed. You won't even remember it."
"So what you're saying is this is the dream," I rationalized. "A dream someone's making me have so that I don't act in the real world." The Doctor nodded. I stood up straighter and glanced back to Akagane and Hisui, who were looking on in worry. Things were so peaceful now. But it was all an illusion. This peace hadn't been earned.
I turned back to the Doctor and declared, "Then I'll go back. If someone's trying to stop me, I have a pretty good idea of who that would be, and I won't stand for it."
The Doctor jumped up and ruffled my hair. "Right, then! Good boy!" He looked back to Akagane and Hisui and called, "Oh, that means that this version of you two will cease to exist as soon as he leaves, so sorry about that. Consolation gifts?" He tossed the two of them small bags and then led me to his blue box.
Hisui opened her bag, then squealed, "A Fluttershy! How did he know she was my favorite?!" She looked up at Akagane who hid an orange pony behind his back and blushed.
When I entered the box, it was certainly not the confined space I had expected. The interior opened up into a gigantic antechamber with a glowing green pillar at its center. The Doctor bounded to the console around the pillar and began frantically pulling levers, twisting dials, and hitting buttons. "All right, real world, here we come!" The center pillar suddenly began moving up and down, creating the "vworp vworp" noise I'd heard when the box first appeared.
Within a few seconds, the box made a clunking noise and shuddered as though it had just dropped and landed on the ground. The pillar stopped moving and the Doctor ran back to the door. "Forget something?" I wondered.
"Nope, but you will," he said. "It's a shame, though. A lord, living for hundreds of years, facing brutal wars, a myriad of strange creatures, and tragic loss, only remembered by a title rather than a name. I would have liked to have gotten to know you better."
I raised an eyebrow at him. "... Just who are you, anyway?"
The Doctor smiled. "A kindred spirit." He placed his hand on the door handle and said, "Beyond this door is the rest of your life. Do something fantastic with it."
He was right. I didn't remember any of what had just transpired. I didn't remember the Doctor, or that lost day in the city, or even that anything had gone amiss at all.
I also didn't remember how I'd ended up with a purple pony figure.