Chapter 16:

Darkness under a pale moon

Dive into the Night

“Kitsu! We need your help.”Bookmark here

As May began to call out to the fox spirit, Leon looked over at Touma. He still appeared somewhat dejected from Saya leaving. Leon gave him a pat on the shoulder.Bookmark here

“Hey, you alright Touma?” he asked Touma.Bookmark here

“Huh? Yeah, I-I’ll be fine.”Bookmark here

“You certainly don’t look fine. You’re worried about Saya, aren’t you?”Bookmark here

Touma sighed and smiled slightly.Bookmark here

“Can’t hide anything from you, huh? You might be a better detective than me,” Touma said jokingly.Bookmark here

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to pry into your private affairs.”Bookmark here

“I know; I can tell you’re asking with the best intentions,” Touma replied with a slight chuckle. “When did you figure it out?”Bookmark here

Leon paused for a moment as he thought back.Bookmark here

“Probably when we first met.”Bookmark here

“Was it that obvious?”Bookmark here

“No, you did a pretty good job of hiding it, I wouldn’t think anyone else would’ve noticed unless they were only watching you for every fight. I could always tell you were keeping an eye on her during every fight, like how you would cast a Mana barrier when she couldn’t block an attack,” Leon wondered for a second before continuing. “Which does beg the question, why didn’t you stop her from leaving?”Bookmark here

Leon noticed that Touma did not respond right away.Bookmark here

“If it makes you uncomfortable you don’t have to tell me.”Bookmark here

“No … it’s fine,” Touma replied after a short delay. “It might be better if I spoke to you about this, so … it doesn’t continue to be a problem in the future. I’m sure you noticed that … I’m kind of a quiet person, but I tend to lash out when I get agitated or angry. I was afraid I might have lashed out at her at that moment. There’s a bit more to this but … maybe I can tell you more some other time. Since I think we were supposed to be doing something right now…”Bookmark here

Leon and Touma turned around to see May playing with the fox spirit.Bookmark here

“May,” Leon began in a disappointed tone. “Weren’t you supposed to be asking the fox spirit about the appearance of any new Nightmare threats?"Bookmark here

“Huh? I already did,” May replied nonchalantly. “That’s why I’m just playing with Kitsu.”Bookmark here

“Wha- why didn’t you say anything earlier?!”Bookmark here

“Well, you two seemed really into your conversation, so I didn’t want to bother you.”Bookmark here

“Ugh,” Leon groaned. “Alright, where’s our next target?”Bookmark here

“Kitsu says it’s in the mountains again, although it’s up the mountain instead of being in the valley like the octopus."Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

The trio arrived at the mountains for the second time, this time the mountains lacked the grey clouds from before as the octopus Nightmare was no longer present. There were only a few scattered white clouds high into the sky. Leon looked up at the mountain range before them, their snowy peaks illuminated by orange light from the fake sun.Bookmark here

“Alright guys,” Leon began to say as he turned to Touma and May. “I feel like I might not need to say this, but precautions are good. We are missing half of our party now, so our fighting strength is greatly reduced. Stay close and don’t fight too recklessly.”Bookmark here

“Woo, yay.”Bookmark here

May cheered unenthusiastically while Touma gave Leon a thumbs up.Bookmark here

“Good enough. Let’s go,” Leon said as he gestured for the others to follow.Bookmark here

As the party made their way up the mountain, they followed Leon’s example of leaping up distances to avoid climbing. Eventually they reached a large open area on the side of the mountain. The wind was stronger than normal at the peak of the mountain, although nowhere near as strong as mountain winds in reality.Bookmark here

“Hey May,” Leon began to ask. “What exactly are we looking for here?”Bookmark here

“I don’t know, all Kitsu said was that it can fly.”Bookmark here

“That doesn’t exactly help us y’- “Leon started to say.Bookmark here

He stopped himself mid sentence and carefully listened. Somewhere, across the mountain, Leon heard the sound of wings flapping through the sound of the wind. He looked up and stared at the scattered cloud cover, he then noticed something flying in between the clouds.Bookmark here

“Touma! Deploy your barrier above us!” Leon yelled.Bookmark here

A second after Touma raised his barrier, a large fireball struck the barrier and exploded, dispersing flame around the area. The heat from the blast instantly melted snow and scorched any vegetation around them. The party heard a roar echo across the mountain as the large creature descended down towards them. It resembled a twenty-metre-tall wyvern with four wings, its entire body was a dull white and grey that blended in well with the clouds and the snow of the mountains. As the wyvern Nightmare landed in front of the party, they could see that its two lower wings had blue edges while its upper right wing was entirely red.Bookmark here

“Seems like we found our Nightmare,” Leon said as he summoned his spear in his right hand. “Weird combination of colours.”Bookmark here

“Don’t think the Nightmares were ever concerned with looking pretty,” May said as she summoned her arm blades.Bookmark here

The creature roared again as it charged forward towards the party.Bookmark here

“Here it comes! I’ll draw its attention, May you focus on clipping its wings, Touma you pin it down with supporting fire!”Bookmark here

“Okay~,” May said as she jumped away.Bookmark here

Touma also retreated several metres back as the Nightmare reached Leon’s position. It attacked by swinging its head towards Leon’s left side with its jaw open. Leon summoned another spear and held it in a cross pattern with his first spear to guard the attack. As the wyvern’s head reached him, Leon noticed the fireball that had formed in front of the creature’s jaw. It exploded on contact and sent Leon flying several metres back.Bookmark here

“Leon! You alright?” Touma asked as he counterattacked with a rain of light arrows.Bookmark here

“Doesn’t seem like blocking’s going to be effective, huh?” Leon asked as he got back up.Bookmark here

May jumped onto the back of the wyvern’s neck and began to hack away with her arm blades, putting multiple cuts through its scales. The creature flailed violently and threw May off of its back, it turned and looked at her as she fell. Seeing the Nightmare distracted, Leon tossed one spear at the creature’s head while he charged in with another. The weapon struck the wyvern’s right eye, causing it to cry out in pain. It looked away from May and turned its attention to Leon as he reached its position. The wyvern swung both of its right wings at Leon, knocking him beside May. The Nightmare turned towards the two of them and raised its stomach upward, revealing a large singular eye. A small red orb briefly appeared in front of the large eye before it transformed into a red beam that fired into the ground. Any object that the beam touched was instantly ignited. The wyvern then flailed its body upward, swinging the beam along the direction of the eye’s gaze. The red beam swung towards Leon and May, but it struck Touma’s Mana barrier before it could hit them. After firing for a couple seconds, the red beam disappeared as the eye closed.Bookmark here

“Well that’s just unfair,” May said as she looked at the lines of flame that dotted the open area and parts of the mountain.Bookmark here

The wyvern looked down and roared at May and Leon.Bookmark here

“We’ll stick with the same plan for now,” Leon said as he dashed forward with his two spears.Bookmark here

The wyvern rushed towards Leon and attempted to crush him with its head, Leon put up a guard stance as the Nightmare approached. Before it could make contact, he leapt back and allowed the creature to slam its head into the ground. The wyvern’s head caused an explosion as it hit the ground as the fireball in its mouth exploded when it made contact. The creature swung its head back from the recoil as it roared in pain.Bookmark here

“Touma!” Leon yelled across the combat area. “I’m going to try to pin it down from above!”Bookmark here

Touma materialized several platforms above Leon, Leon returned a thumbs up and leapt up to the platforms. As the wyvern began to recover from the explosion, it looked up to see Leon pelting it with spears. The creature shielded itself with its wings to defend against Leon’s attack, as it secretly charged a fireball. Once it was ready, the wyvern raised its head and shot the fireball upward at Leon. He jumped off the platform to avoid the attack, but the fireball exploded as soon as it soared past Leon; the explosion knocked him towards the Nightmare. Seeing Leon flying towards it, the wyvern’s stomach eye opened again and the red orb appeared in front of it. Seeing the eye open, May dashed in and impaled both of her arm blades into the eye before she swept her arms in opposite directions. The eye instantly exploded into black mist as the creature cried out again. Seeing the creature vulnerable, Leon summoned another spear and plunged towards the wyvern’s head. The Nightmare then let out a charged shockwave, knocking Leon out of the air and briefly shocking the party. With its opponents stunned, the Nightmare flapped its wings and took off into the sky.Bookmark here

“It’s trying to get away!” Leon yelled as he recovered from the shock.Bookmark here

Touma charged and fired a volley of light arrows at the wyvern, most of them impacted but the creature continued to fly.Bookmark here

“Damn, for a simple dragon, that thing can really take hits,” Touma assessed after the attack.Bookmark here

“I got one more plan to bring it down,” Leon said as he turned to Touma. “You still got that boost spell?”Bookmark here

Touma nodded and immediately began to cast the jump boost spell.Bookmark here

“Since I don’t have to account for two different extra boosters, that should be all I need. You’re good to go!”Bookmark here

Leon leapt from the mountain towards the Nightmare, with Touma’s spell activating in the middle of his jump. He reached the apex of his jump just above the wyvern’s current elevation. Leon looked down at the creature as he summoned a spear and plunged towards it, quickly impaling it in the back.Bookmark here

“Miss me, you stupid lizard?”Bookmark here

The dive caused the wyvern to drop a couple hundred metres in elevation, but it quickly recovered from the attack. It then accelerated as it flew deeper into the mountain region, dragging Leon along with it. May and Touma watched as the creature disappeared behind another mountain.Bookmark here

“Uh, that thing just kidnapped Leon,” May pointed out.Bookmark here

It took a second for the panic to set into Touma.Bookmark here

“Come on! We have to go after him!”Bookmark here

The two of them raced down the mountain as they chased after the Nightmare.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

As the wyvern continued to fly deeper into the mountains, Leon continued to attack the creature as he summoned alternating spears into its back. Leon hung on to one of his spears as the wyvern attempted to shake him off. Summoning a second spear in his other hand, Leon slashed off the wyvern’s wings before slamming both spears into the creature’s back; finally killing it. Leon was so preoccupied with fighting the Nightmare, he did not notice that it had flown into the dark zone. The sky turned dark instantly, as if day had suddenly turned into night. The fake sun’s light did not reach the dark zone, instead the area was illuminated by a pale moon and dim stars in the sky. As the dead wyvern began to fade into black mist, it crashed into the side of the only mountain in the dark zone. Leon fell to the foot of the mountain, where he found himself in a small valley composed of small hills and the singular mountain. His shield cracked as he landed. As he looked to the mountain top, he could see a strange sight. There was a thin floating pillar right at the peak of the mountain, its appearance completely distinct compared to anything in the Dream. As Leon got up, he could already hear the sounds of Nightmares in the distance. He attempted to repair his shield, but he could only repair about ten percent of it before he ran out of mana.Bookmark here

“What the hell? I thought Mana was plentiful in the Dream,” Leon said to himself.Bookmark here

More Nightmares cried out, their screeches echoed throughout the valley.Bookmark here

“I can worry about whatever the hell that thing on the mountain is later, I need to find a way out of here first. I can’t even heal my damn shield. I just hope May and Touma are okay.”Bookmark here

As he began walking in the direction from where the wyvern flew in from, Leon heard another screech in the sky. He hugged the side of the hill as he looked up at the sky and saw several creatures flying far above, their shapes resembled the wyvern he had just killed.Bookmark here

“Yeah, definitely don’t want to stay here any longer than I have to.”Bookmark here

Leon continued making his way over to the edge of the dark zone, stopping and hiding whenever he could hear the creatures flying above him. After multiple rounds of sneaking and stopping, Leon finally reached the point in the valley where the dark zone ends. As he approached the edge of the dark zone, Leon heard a sound behind him. He dashed back as multiple fireballs impacted the area in front of him, creating a wall of fire along the edge. Leon looked up as four wyvern Nightmares landed in front of the wall of fire and roared at him. Their bodies were completely grey opposed to the multiple colours of the previous wyvern.Bookmark here

“Alright, so you’re not going to make this easy for me. Fine.”Bookmark here

Leon attempted to summon a second spear in his left hand, but it failed to materialize.Bookmark here

“What? Is there no Mana here or something?”Bookmark here

Seeing Leon distracted, two of the wyverns charged forward and attacked. He dodged the first wyvern’s bite as he swung his spear at the second, tearing off one of its wings with a single sweep. The attack forced both the Nightmares back, but as Leon landed he was hit by two simultaneous fireballs from the two other wyverns at the back. The blast knocked him to the ground and shattered his shield. As Leon looked up, he saw all four wyverns raise their chests as they opened the eye on their stomachs. He forced himself back up to his feet and he gripped his spear in his right hand.Bookmark here

“You overgrown lizards aren’t going to take me down without a fight.”Bookmark here

As Leon prepared to dodge the laser attack from all four Nightmares, he suddenly felt a chill go down his spine. He blinked while watching the wyverns, and they were all reduced into black mist in an instant. A lone figure walked towards him from outside of the edge of the dark zone, wearing a black cloak that covered their entire body and carrying a large scythe. Leon walked out of the dark zone and met the cloaked figure face-to-face. As they came within three metres of one another, the cloaked figure was the first to speak. His voice was smooth and low.Bookmark here

“It appeared as though you required help there, child. I do have many questions I would like to ask of you.”Bookmark here

Leon froze for a second before he started to talk, his expression was of clear disbelief.Bookmark here

“Are you … Shinigami Sensei?”Bookmark here

The cloaked figure paused for a moment.Bookmark here

“Oh? Humans are indeed full of surprises. I would have never expected to encounter one of my listeners here of all places.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.