Chapter 3:

Encounter past the afterglow

Dive into the Night

Having caught his breath, Leon quickly examined his new weapon. It was a simple, red and black cross spear with slight gold accents. The weapon felt solid in his hand, yet required little effort to swing. His body also felt lighter, as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Leon returned his gaze towards the creature, who had just recovered from his counterattack. The creature pulled back its right arm, its claw snapped and pointed forward. It lunged towards Leon again, who dashed to the left of the creature; dodging the attack. He gripped his spear with both hands and swung diagonally upwards, but the attack only grazed the creature’s back. Leon leapt back to create some distance, the creature also turned back around after it realized its attack missed. A tense silence filled the air as the two stared each other down, only around ten metres of distance stood between them. Leon slowly raised his left arm towards the creature with his palm facing up.Bookmark here

“Come on,” Leon taunted as he gestured the creature over with his hand.Bookmark here

The creature dashed forward and performed an overhand swing with both of its arms, Leon responded with an upward swing to parry the blow, but the recoil knocked his spear out of his hand. After recovering from the recoil of the parry, the creature followed up with a slash from its left arm. As Leon performed a back step to dodge the attack, he felt an odd sensation. He quickly glanced over and noticed his original spear had begun to fade and was reforming in front of his right hand. Leon grabbed the spear and parried just as the creature swung with its right arm. The creature continued the offensive, alternating its attacks between its two bladed arms. With each parried attack, Leon felt his speed increasing; as if he was growing accustomed to his spear. After another successful parry, the creature raised its left arm for another attack.Bookmark here

“You’re wide open.”Bookmark here

Leon jabbed the creature in the chest with the back of his spear, causing it to recoil for a moment. Seizing the chance, Leon followed the jab with an upward sweep; cleanly slicing off the creature’s left arm. The creature immediately leapt back and prepared to expel smoke when it noticed that Leon had already switched to a throwing stance.Bookmark here

“I’m not letting you do that again.”Bookmark here

Leon twisted his body forward as he hurled the spear. It ripped through the air, giving the creature no time to react before the spear slammed into its head; the force crushing most of the eyes on its face. The creature stumbled a couple of steps backward before it began to panic, its head twitching and flailing violently as it attempted to dislodge the spear from its head. It also began to swing its remaining arm around itself as it attempted to find Leon. However, Leon was no longer on the ground; he had jumped into the air and was now about ten metres above the creature. The spear embedded in the creature’s head faded as another weapon began to form in Leon’s hand. He gripped the handle tightly and plunged diagonally downward towards the creature. Leon’s second spear entered the creature from the top of its head and went straight through its back, the force of the attack pinned the creature to the ground. Seeing that the creature had stopped moving, Leon pulled the spear from out of it’s head before he jumped off and started walking in the direction of the forest. After taking a couple of steps, Leon began to use his weapon as walking support. The intensity of the fight had taken a toll on him.Bookmark here

“Well now, this is rather impressive,” an unknown voice exclaimed behind him.Bookmark here

Leon quickly turned and raised his spear in the direction of the fallen creature, but he saw no one. The creature’s body had already started to dissolve into black mist.Bookmark here

“Now please, I would not have brought you here if I meant you any harm,” the voice came from the direction of the forest.Bookmark here

He turned around to see a tall hooded figure standing just before the grassland ends and the forest begins. The figure wore a ragged brown cloak that covered their entire body. Bookmark here

“Who… are you?” Leon finally asked.Bookmark here

Seemingly ignoring Leon’s question, the hooded figure slowly floated up before looking around.Bookmark here

“Hey, I know you heard me.”Bookmark here

The hooded figure floated back down in front of Leon.Bookmark here

“It maybe be safer to begin our conversation back at the village, we would avoid the chance appearance of another Nightmare.”Bookmark here

“Nightmare? What’s a… oh never mind.”Bookmark here

Leon watched as the hooded figure floated up before disappearing, he turned his head back and continued walking to the forest house.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Arriving back at the village through the door, the hooded figure materialized in front of Leon after watching him step out of the house. Bookmark here

“Alright, now that we’re back here. Why don’t you tell me who you are and just what the hell is this place?” questioned Leon.Bookmark here

“My name is Oire, as long as I can recall I have been the overseer of the Dream. That is where you are right now,” the hooded figure responded.Bookmark here

“So I am dreaming.”Bookmark here

“No, this world is not your dream. This world exists as a realm separate from your reality. As far as my knowledge goes, this dream is the dream of your planet; its life is reflected in this world.Bookmark here

“Alright, that’s a whole lot of flowery descriptive words, but sure,” Leon calmly acknowledged as he sat down. “Then tell me, you mentioned earlier that you were the one who brought me to this Dream; why?”Bookmark here

“It was all in accordance with the purpose I was given. I am to bring those with potential into the Dream, so that they may return to their world as heroes. You are not the first to arrive here,” Oire paused for a second. “Although perhaps you are the first to fight a Nightmare before you awakened to your strength. You left the town before I could even appear before you.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, you know I’ll admit, in hindsight that was probably a terrible idea. But everything you're telling me just leaves me more questions. What is this strength you’re talking about? And just what the hell is a Nightmare?”Bookmark here

“Your strength within the Dream is divided between two parts. Being the dream of your world, the air here is saturated with Mana; the life energy of your Earth. You are able to summon a manifestation of your strength by channeling Mana. Yours is that of a spear.”Bookmark here

“Well, I guess I did study some martial arts when I was a kid.”Bookmark here

“The second part acts as your defence, a shield of Mana that forms around your body when you are in the Dream.”Bookmark here

Leon remembered back during the fight with the forest creature where he heard cracking sounds when he was hit by its attack. He also remembered hearing something shatter when he was thrown against the tree.Bookmark here

“Now, should your Mana shield break, you can either manually repair it by channeling Mana or by waiting for it to regenerate over time," Oire continued. "However, you must be aware that your body is vulnerable to damage when your shield is down.”Bookmark here

“And what happens should I take too much damage? Will dying in the Dream also kill me in reality?”Bookmark here

“Oh no, nothing of the sort. Your current self in the Dream is simply your consciousness. In such an event, you will return to your physical body without harm. However, you will lose your access to the Dream.”Bookmark here

Oire waved his hand and created images of shadows in from of him, one taking the shape of the monster Leon had just fought.Bookmark here

“The second of your question concerns the Nightmares, a topic that also relates to your summoning. To start, in addition to being a dream of your planet; the Dream also houses outflow from your world. To my knowledge, these creatures are partially formed from negative emotions and feelings from your reality. I have designated them as ‘Nightmares’ due to their invasive status in the Dream. Normally, their size remains quite small, but as they absorb more emotion their power and size will continuously grow."Bookmark here

Oire conjured a second shape, a humanoid holding a spear, and placed it in front of the forest Nightmare.Bookmark here

“I lack the strength required to combat these creatures, so I employed a modified form of my directive. With the objective of training those with potential into heroes, your training will involve cleansing the Dream of the Nightmares.”Bookmark here

“This is a lot of information to take in,” Leon noted as he looked down at the spear in his hand. Bookmark here

“I understand that I am requesting a great deal for our first meeting. It would be normal if you declined my request from what I have relayed so far, I would only ask that you take some time to- “Bookmark here

“I’ll fight,” Leon quickly responded. Bookmark here

“decide…” Oire processed Leon’s response. “It is often normal for humans to think over their decisions.”Bookmark here

“I just have my reasons for wanting to fight.”Bookmark here

“Very well, then I shall press no further. I too shall return to my role as your guide,” Oire said as he conjured an hourglass onto his palm. “There is one more piece of information you should know of. Time moves differently within the Dream than it does in your world. The longer you stay in the Dream, the more warped your perception becomes. From my knowledge of humanity, I would advise you limit your time within the Dream to just under eight hours.”Bookmark here

“How am I supposed to tell how long it’s been since I’ve entered the Dream? And can’t you just pull me out of the Dream like you pulled me in?” Leon asked.Bookmark here

“Unfortunately, I lack the ability to directly assist you. My role as an overseer is to simply guide you along your journey. Now in regards to your ability to tell time, you can turn your gaze to your left arm.”Bookmark here

Leon looked at his left arm and began to notice a pattern appear, the pattern formed into a digital display in the shape of a watch. Looking at the time, he realized it was around 7PM. Bookmark here

“Now I believe that is what you humans call a ‘watch’, a device that tells your time relative to the rising and setting of your nearby star.”Bookmark here

“It really didn’t feel like it has been 7 hours,” wondered Leon. “Alright well there’s one more thing I want to ask.”Bookmark here

“I shall answer to the best of my knowledge.”Bookmark here

“How exactly do I leave the Dream?”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.