Chapter 5:

In the shadow of giants

Dive into the Night


After slaying the group of Nightmares, Leon continued his walk into the forest. He proceeded into the clearing where he first encountered the forest Nightmare. Leon also noticed that any signs of the battle were completely gone, the tree that the Nightmare chopped down was standing tall; like nothing ever happened. After passing the clearing, Leon gathered his strength and leapt up towards the top of one of the trees. Unable to reach the top in one jump, he impaled his spear into the side of the tree to use as a foothold. Leon climbed on his spear’s handle and performed a second leap upward, this time reaching the top of the tree. He summoned another spear in his hand and stabbed it into the top of the tree, giving himself another foothold. Standing at the top of the tree, Leon gazed across the forest. The rolling ocean of green stretched to the horizon, illuminated in a deep orange. Leon turned his head to look back towards the village, he could just barely see the edge of the forest from the treetop. Standing on his spear, Leon quietly gazed at the vista before him.Bookmark here

After a while, Leon jumped off the tree and headed back in the direction of the forest house. Arriving at the house after a short while, he stopped in front of the door and debated where he would visit next. After some brief pondering, Leon settled on visiting the snowfields. He opened the door and entered.Bookmark here

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When he emerged from the doorway, Leon found himself in front of another house; this time located in the middle of an empty tundra. Light snowfall partially covered the ground, towards the east he could see the silhouettes of mountains. The vegetation on the ground that was not covered by snow consisted of multi-coloured grass and large rocks. The terrain of the tundra was just like Oire described, plain with little places to hide. Looking up, Leon saw the mostly clear skies, the only obstructions were a few small clouds and a slight layer of white. Walking around, Leon felt slightly out of place. He was still wearing his summer clothes, yet he felt neither hot nor cold due to the nature of the Dream. Picking out a hill roughly a couple hundred metres away, Leon slowly walked over. Reaching the top of the hill, Leon sat down and looked across the vast tundra. A beautiful landscape completely devoid of life. He could not see any roaming Nightmares, nor could he feel anything watching him. Feeling relaxed as he sat on the hill, Leon found himself reaching for his earphones. He had noticed before that they had appeared with his outfit when he first arrived in the dream. Leon put the earphones on and took his phone out of his pocket, and began to look through it. Visually his phone appeared the same as in reality, some of the major differences included a lack of signal and all of his files having scrambled names. Leon randomly selected one of the audio files and let it play, at the same time he got up again. As he began to walk downhill, the file finally started to play.Bookmark here

“Everything that lives will end one day. If life is the mother to all living things, then perhaps all things will return to the father at the end,” the voice spoke with a smooth low tone. “With that, I welcome you to my podcast, my children.”Bookmark here

“Ah,” Leon noted in surprise. “It’s Sensei.”Bookmark here

Leon continued his exploration of the tundra, listening to one of Shinigami Sensei’s podcasts as he walked. Bookmark here

“… you cannot expect the world to hand you every answer in your life,” Shinigami Sensei said in his smooth, low voice. “Confrontation is inevitable. What will define your spirit is the choices you make when forced to face confrontation.”Bookmark here

While he listened to his podcast, Leon continued to walk around and observe the tundra. After a couple of steps he suddenly stopped, quickly turning back around while summoning his weapon.Bookmark here

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Leon turned around just in time to intercept an attack from a flying Nightmare. The creature resembled a two-metre-tall owl, but instead of a head; the creature’s chest was split vertically with a large maw. Leon attempted to push the creature back, but it counterattacked by opening its maw and firing a corrosive substance. Leon quickly transitioned into an upward swing to force back the Nightmare. The moment the creature relented, Leon jumped back and adjusted his earphones with his left hand while simultaneously pulling back his right arm as he prepared to throw his spear. However, as soon as it left Leon’s hand, the owl-like Nightmare juked in a different direction; completely dodging the projectile. Following the dodge, the creature made a beeline for Leon. Before the Nightmare reached his position, Leon moved forward slightly; giving himself some momentum. As the creature reached his position, it opened its maw and attempted to bite Leon. Using his forward momentum, Leon simultaneously slid under the nightmare and grabbed its legs. Mustering his strength, Leon proceeded to pull the Nightmare forward and slammed it into the ground in front of him. The strike stunned the Nightmare long enough for Leon to summon his spear and impale the creature straight through its mouth. As he began to walk away, Shinigami Sensei continued to talk.Bookmark here

“… regardless of how much you want to run, to leave your problem for another day. I have seen many a generation make the same mistake. It may be difficult, it may be a painful experience, you may even fail. Even so, always know that your Sensei believes in you.”Bookmark here

As the dead Nightmare began to fade into black mist, Leon began his walk back towards the tundra house.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

The next day went by like a blur for Leon. He performed his morning routine like normal. The weather forecast reported clear skies for the rest of the week. Leon left his house and drove over to a mall to kill time. All throughout his mind was the Dream, he wanted to get back into the Dream and continue his exploration. Eventually night fell, Leon was in the middle of turning off all the lights in his house. The same routine. As Leon climbed onto his bed, he could not help but smile as he wondered to himself.Bookmark here

“Where should I check out next? The mountains sound interesting, but might be a bit tedious to climb. The desert just sounds boring. Maybe I’ll just go see the city, could be plenty of Nightmares to kill there. Or maybe I should go far enough to see what that dark ring was.”Bookmark here

As Leon began to fall asleep, one other though crossed his mind. Oire mentioned there were others in the Dream, why haven’t I seen any of them? Well, not like it’s something that concerns me.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Exiting a door, Leon found himself walking out into an unfamiliar landscape. The waypoint house was located in the middle of a suburban neighbourhood. He could see the light from the ‘sun’ in the north-west, confirming that he was in the right place. Looking south-east, Leon could see towering skyscrapers in the far distance. Summoning his spear, Leon began his walk towards the city centre. It felt like he was in a post-apocalyptic landscape, a sprawling, silent city with no traces of habitation. Like in the forest, the further Leon walked, the more intense the orange light became.Bookmark here

“This city really is gigantic,” Leon exclaimed as he looked around. “There could be any number of Nightmares hiding here.”Bookmark here

As he approached a couple of small apartment buildings, Leon felt a slight rumble. His eyes darted over to the buildings, he watched as a gigantic figure lumbered out from behind the furthest building a couple hundred metres away. The Nightmare was humanoid in appearance, a grey golem that lacked a head or even a neck stump. The giant easily stood around ten metres tall. The creature moved slowly, but without any regard for its surroundings. As it walked, it easily destroyed fences, walls, and crushed smaller buildings.Bookmark here

“Or… that.”Bookmark here

Leon took up a throwing stance before hurling his spear at the golem Nightmare, impacting it in the back and causing it to recoil slightly. The golem turned around and faced Leon’s direction.Bookmark here

“Hmm, I was kind of expecting that to do a bit more.”Bookmark here

The golem transitioned into a sprint as it approached Leon, swinging its fist at him as it reached his location. Leon had already jumped out of the way and landed on a nearby rooftop.Bookmark here

“Might be bad if those arms managed to grab me, at the same time I don’t think tossing my spear at him is working. Guess I’ll try something new.”Bookmark here

Leon ramped up his speed, running and jumping into the areas where the golem was not moving into. Using the rooftops and the small streets to his advantage. Every time he passed the golem, he would slash away at it with his spear. Flipping back behind the golem, Leon lobbed his spear towards the creature’s left hip. The area was one that Leon saturated with slashes, the blade punctured deep into the golem’s skin. As if it was crying out silently in pain, the golem placed one of its hands over the wound as it turned to face Leon. It then turned around and began to run towards the city.Bookmark here

“It’s running away? Well that’s new.”Bookmark here

Leon gave chase after the golem by running and jumping along the rooftops. The golem tossed debris at Leon using its spare hand, Leon either dodged out of the way or cut the debris apart.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

As Leon chased the giant, he found that they were running into a large park in the city. The park easily took up several blocks of city space and was flanked by multiple skyscrapers. Leon personally noted its similarity to places like New York’s Central Park or South Korea’s Songdo Central Park. As the golem entered the park, Leon hurled another spear in the middle of his jump; striking the Nightmare in its left leg. The blow caused the golem to trip and collapse to the ground. Leon jumped again and landed at the edge of the park, he summoned another weapon before he began approaching the golem. Bookmark here

“That was a somewhat entertaining chase, but it’s time to end this.”Bookmark here

Leon heard another faint thud, it sounded close. As the golem laid on the ground, Leon glanced in the direction of the sound; attempting to find the source of the noise. As he scanned across the skyline of skyscrapers, he noticed a black object slowly growing larger. Leon realized that it was flying towards his direction, he jumped back and tried to keep his eyes on the fallen golem and the mysterious object. The object finally crashed several metres away from where the golem collapsed, as the dust settled Leon noticed it was a large bird-like Nightmare. Trying to process how another Nightmare crashed in front of his fight, Leon noticed something else at the corner of his eye. He turned his head just as someone landed at the park, he looked to be a young man in his late-twenties. The man had short light brown hair and stood around 190 centimetres, he carried a greatsword that was nearly as large as he was. The man noticed Leon and they briefly shared eye contact before Leon saw four other silhouettes land behind the man. As they walked into position near the light brown-haired man, Leon noticed they were all carrying different weapons. At the same time, he also took notice of their appearances. There was a girl close to his height with dark-brown hair arranged in a low bun, she had two arm-length blades mounted on her forearms. Standing beside the light brown-haired man was a slightly shorter girl with long, straight blonde hair with some orange highlights. She carried a sword and a shield. Behind her stood another young man with short navy-blue hair, he looked slightly taller than Leon and carried a katana. Finally, a shorter boy similar in height to the blonde girl stood behind everyone. He had short grey hair with long bangs that covered one of his eyes, he only carried a book in his hand as opposed to the weapons the others carried. Noticing Leon’s observation, the other members of the group returned their gaze towards him. Their brief staring contest was broken by the sound of the golem Nightmare standing back up. Noticing the fallen bird Nightmare beside it, the golem grabbed the bird with its right arm. Leon and the group took up a fighting stance, their determination turned into confusion as the golem lifted the bird Nightmare above its head.Bookmark here

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