Dive into the Night
Leon shook his head as he slowly regained his consciousness. May was still supporting Leon as he leaned on her.
“You okay, Leon?” Touma asked.
“Yeah… I think I’ll be fine,” Leon said as he slowly stood up straight. “Thanks May.”
Leon looked around the peak of the mountain as he realized the anchor and the mist was gone.
“What happened to the mist and the anchor?” he asked.
“When you destroyed the anchor, it caused a shockwave that wiped out all the Nightmares here, and the mist along with it,” Touma replied. “As for the anchor…”
Shinigami Sensei pointed at Leon’s left hand, the band on his wrist now had a single small gem embedded into it.
“My child,” Shinigami Sensei addressed Leon. “When your hand touched the anchor, what visions did you witness?"
“It was ... someone ... or something arriving at a cliff overlooking an ocean. It seemed like it was their first time visiting this place. It was just really dark.”
“I do have a prediction regarding these anchors, however only time will tell whether it is correct. For now, I would offer a … mutual agreement.”
“What’s your terms, Sensei?” Leon asked.
“It is quite simple. You currently seek to rid the Dream of these Nightmares, while my own investigation regards ‘Oire’ and these anchors. Seeing as our goals for the anchors and the Nightmares line up, my offer would be as such. Seeing as I cannot navigate the black mist on my own, nor do I have the ability nor time to freely traverse Dream. I would ask that you remove the anchors from the Dream in my place. In return, I will grant you an improved version of my shadow veil to help you get to the anchor’s location. This variant will continue to function regardless of your actions, however, just know that it will not work against an enemy who already knows your location.”
Shinigami Sensei turned to Touma.
“Unfortunately, I do not have any countermeasures to the low Mana density within the mist. For that I do apologize. My only suggestion would be for you to project a different weapon before entering the mist.”
Leon looked over at May and Touma. May shrugged while Touma thought for a second.
“Well, it’s not like we have any other method of getting rid of the Nightmares, right? Plus I also want to know what Oire is actually up to,” Touma finally said.
“Been a long time since we saw that floating potato sack,” May added.
“Alright,” Leon said as he turned back to Shinigami Sensei. “Let’s work together.”
“Good, a confident answer with conviction. That I do appreciate.”
Shinigami Sensei snapped his fingers and summoned three rings onto his hand. He handed one to each person.
“With that I bid you farewell. When all the anchors have fallen, perhaps then we will know what ‘Oire’ is truly pursuing. When that time comes, I shall return to assist you once more.”
As Shinigami Sensei began to fade from the Dream, he turned around and addressed the party again.
“If there is one more suggestion I may make. You may want to retreat for tonight, as you may hit your overexposure limit soon.”
After Shinigami Sensei completely faded away, the party looked down to check their arms.
“He’s right, it’s almost 7AM. We should head back and figure out our next plan tomorrow."
After Leon woke up, he went through his morning routine as usual. He noticed that the rain had stopped, but the skies remained overcast. Leon finished his breakfast somewhat faster than usual. After he cleaned up his plates, Leon walked back into his room. He walked by his PC without turning it on, instead he grabbed his earphones off the table. Leon plugged them into his phone and opened a playlist as he laid on his bed. He stared at the ceiling and reflected on the past two days.
What’s going to happen once we destroy all the anchors? Or when we meet Oire again? Leon began to think to himself.
I still have so many questions, but no one has the answers. In addition, it's only us three now. Since I doubt Saya or Hayate are coming back. May and Touma only followed me because they believed that I could be a leader, but there’s no way I can match Kaz.
As Leon continued to reflect, he suddenly heard a notification from his phone. He picked up his phone with his right hand and held it above him as he opened the notification. Touma had created a group chat with Leon and May. Leon sat up to read the messages.
Touma [It may be easier to use this to plan our nights instead of individual messages.]
Leon: [Good point.]
May: [(thumbs up emote)]
Touma: [Alright, then it might be good for us to meet at 11PM again.]
[We’ll see how many anchors we can take down once we’re in.]
Leon: [Sounds like a plan, I’ll meet you guys tonight then.]
May: [(thumbs up emote)]
Touma: [May, can you answer with something that’s not an emote.]
Leon chuckled to himself after reading the exchange.
“It’s good that they’re both doing well.”
Leon looked at the clock on his phone, it was only 11AM.
“Looks like I’ll have to find a way to kill another twelve hours, huh?”
Leon laid back down onto his bed and continued listening to his playlist.
Leon finished sweeping the last hallway in his house. As he began to put all of the equipment away, he checked the time on his phone again. It was now 9PM. He also noticed a new notification from Touma, it was sent a couple of minutes ago.
Touma: [Hey Leon, you got a second?]
Leon: [I’m free, what’s up?]
Touma: [It’s about Saya.]
[I messaged her this morning but she never responded, should I be concerned?]
Leon: [Didn’t you say she was studying medicine or medical school?]
[Don’t you think she’s just busy?]
Touma: [I want to believe that but]
Leon: [I’d say check back in the morning, since we got something to deal with in 2 hours.]
Touma: [Right, about that. I had a small favour to ask.]
Leon walked to the field outside of the village, Touma was already waiting there.
“Thanks … for helping me with this, Leon,” Touma said as Leon reached his location.
“It’s not a problem,” Leon replied, “I can tell you’re just trying to find another way to help.”
Touma put his book away and summoned a pair of gauntlets onto his arms. Leon summoned both of his spears and took up a combat stance. Touma raised his fist in front of his face as he assumed a defensive combat stance.
“Remember … I don’t want you holding back,” said Touma.
“I wasn’t planning to,” replied Leon.
The two of them dashed towards each other and began to fight. Leon began an onslaught with his spears, forcing Touma onto the defensive. In the middle of one of Leon’s attacks, Touma caught Leon’s right spear and stopped his swing. Touma followed with a gut punch, knocking Leon back slightly. Touma dashed forward to continue his attack, but Leon crossed his spears to block Touma’s follow up. Leon pushes Touma back as he leapt back himself, creating more distance between the two. They locked eyes before they both dashed at each other again. The village echoed with the sounds of clashing steel and shields breaking.
Leon and Touma returned to the village as May entered the Dream. She immediately took notice of Touma’s gauntlets.
“Oh interesting, I see you’re going old school detective mode?” May asked while pretending to punch the air.
“It's not like my spells work in there. I needed something in case Shinigami’s spell doesn’t work.”
“You ready to go, May?” Leon asked.
“Whenever you are, boss.” she replied back.
Leon paused for a moment after May asked her own question.
“Yeah, I now have an idea of what Touma feels when you call him ‘Mr. Detective’. Touma, can you open the map?”
Touma summoned the map in front of May and Leon, the mountain had a small X mark placed over it.
“So … since we’re done with the mountain, we’ll go clockwise and clear the rest of the anchors.”
After arriving back at the eastern teleport house, the trio casted the concealment spell before they made their way into the industrial area. The entire area was nearly silent. Soon the party passed the area where they fought Kaz, all of the damage done during the battle had already been repaired by the animal spirits. As they continued towards the dark zone, they only noticed a few smaller Nightmares roaming about.
“What’s with the scarcity of Nightmares here?” Leon suddenly asked.
“If … I had to guess, maybe they’re still scared from Kaz’s rampage,” Touma said in response.
As they reached the edge of the industrial area, the group realized that Leon and Kaz’s guesses were not exactly correct. Within the black mist roamed packs of large hounds, each one standing around three metres tall. Even though the hound Nightmares cannot see them, the party still proceeded slowly. They eventually reached the furthest edge of the industrial area, a pier that overlooks the water. The anchor was located at the end of the pier. Unlike the mountain, the pier was dead silent. As Leon walked up to the anchor, Touma stood further back to watch for enemies while May stood close to Leon. Leon raised his hand towards the anchor, he lost consciousness as soon as his hand made contact.
When Leon opened his eyes he saw an image of the village.
Hey, that’s the village, doesn’t seem like it has changed in any way. Leon thought as he continued watching the image.
Other images cycled in front of him, including the forest, the tundra, and the mountains.
Just what am I looking at? Why is it just images of these locations? Leon continued to wonder as the imagery changed back to the village.
His perspective changed again, it was now observing a familiar person in a tattered brown cloak.
“Oire!” Leon silently cried out.
“I cannot remember why I began observing this being,” the mysterious voice began to say. “From time to time, a new being will appear before him, and he continues his cycle as normal. It was ... very curious. For now, I will continue to watch."
Leon watched as Oire spoke with a young man wearing clothes he had only seen in films and mythology stories. Oire led the young man out of the village and summoned a target in front of him. The young man lunged at the target, cutting it into pieces in one swift moment. Oire nodded in approval.
“There is no logic behind his actions. He has nothing to gain from assisting other beings. Yet, without fail, he continued to repeat this,” the mysterious voice said as it trailed off.
The anchor shattered and was absorbed by the dark band, Leon stumbled backwards as he resumed control of his body. May moved to help Leon, but he managed to stand back up before she reached him. With the anchor gone, another shockwave flowed outward, killing all of the Nightmares in the industrial zone.
“Ugh,” Leon said as he held his head with his left hand. “Alright, we got enough time to move on to another?”
Touma looked down at his arm.
“Yeah … we have plenty of time. We might even take down three by today.”
Leon shook his head as he recovered.
“Let’s head out then.”
After teleporting to the southeastern point, the team casted another shadow veil before they made their way south of the city. They encountered a variety of unique Nightmares wandering the various parts of the city, including humanoids, quadrupeds, birds, and even drone-like Nightmares. While some of the Nightmares coexisted with each other, some of them fought against each other.
“Can Nightmares even think?” May asked as she watched two Nightmares fight.
“Probably … don’t want to open that can of worms.” Touma suggested.
Just as the party reached the old city’s dark zone, they watched a gigantic mechanical tank roll out of the black mist. The tank’s turret had been replaced by a two humanoid upper bodies stuck back to back. Their arms acted as the new armaments, enabling the tank to shoot in two different directions. The tank rolled past the group and towards the area where the Nightmares were fighting. Making it deep into the city’s dark zone, the trio discovered the next anchor at the top of a skyscraper.
“So how’re we supposed to get up there with you,” May asked as he looked up.
“I don’t exactly have spare mana to use in here,” Touma added.
Leon looked around for a moment before looking at May and Touma.
“Okay I have an idea. It’s not something I actually tried before, but I’m fairly certain it will work."
May and Touma both looked at Leon and shrugged.
“Alright … I’m just going to take your silence as approval.”
Leon dematerialized his spear and wrapped his arms around May and Touma’s waists before he leapt up to the lowest skyscraper. Using the small skyscraper as a foothold, Leon leapt all the way to the top of the anchor skyscraper. He put down Touma and May as he landed.
“Well, we’re here,” Leon said nonchalantly.
Touma was slightly shaken from the sudden jumps.
“You know … a word of warning would have been nice.”
“Yeah, my bad.”
“Geez, if you wanted to hold me that badly, you could have just asked,” May teased in her usual deadpan voice.
“Sure, I’ll take you up on that offer next time,” Leon instantly shot back.
He watched May look away for a quick moment with a slight blush on her face. Leon then walked over to the anchor and touched it with his left hand.
As Leon opened his eyes, he realized looking through the first person perspective of the mysterious voice. The perspective of the voice continued to watch as Oire spoke with another human he had brought into the Dream. Leon realized that he could hear Oire speak now.
“With that, your guidance within the Dream is complete. I have nothing more to impart onto you. I can only hope for your success when you return to your world.”
Leon also noticed that the mysterious voice was somewhat quieter.
“I have lost count of how many he had provided his guidance to. He continues without rest, as if this was the only thing that drove him forward. He continued to gain nothing from his actions, it all did not make any sense,” the voice spoke to itself.
“Hey, you can stop watching me and come introduce yourself. While I still have some time before I have to train the next would-be hero,” Oire called out.
Leon realized that Oire had noticed the mysterious presence.
“So when he called to me, I answered without hesitation. I wanted to know. I wanted to see. What drove him forward.”
Oire looked at the presence as he analyzed its appearance.
“How strange indeed, you lack a predetermined physical form? Can you speak? Do you have a name?”
“I do not have what you call a ‘name’, I only wish to observe your actions,” the voice responded to Oire.
“You just want to watch me? I did not think my job was very exciting, but if you insist. My name is Oire. If you ever need my attention, feel free to call my name!”
“Oire. Yes, I will remember that name,” the voice replied to Oire.
When Leon returned to his body, he staggered a bit but he quickly regained his balance. The anchor shattered soon after and was absorbed by the black band. A shockwave quickly followed, wiping out the Nightmares in the city completely. May and Touma witnessed an explosion further back in the city.
“That … was probably that tank we saw earlier,” said Touma.
“You know, if Nightmares were actually smart, they would probably think of some better designs,” May said in response.
Touma and May turned around to see Leon ready to go.
“Shall we take that third anchor?” Leon asked.
May and Touma gave him a thumbs up.
The party exited the southwestern teleport house and looked out towards a seemingly endless desert. They re-casted Shinigami Sensei’s shadow veil before proceeding. It was the first time any of them had visited the desert biome, it was an area of large sand dunes and sprawling vistas of sand. As the group proceeded further into the desert, they noticed that the Nightmares in the desert were much different than the other areas. There were human-sized scorpions with four claws, gigantic crawling lizards that resembled flightless dragons, and building sized sharks that swam through the sand.
“I’m so glad we never actually came here to hunt Nightmares,” Leon said as he looked around.
“I guess … things are so much nicer when you can just avoid all your troubles,” Touma said in response.
“Too bad it never works out that way in reality,” May added.
After passing into the desert’s dark zone, the party did not notice a change in the types of Nightmares that existed in the desert.
“I guess those spirits didn’t need to come here either cause there isn’t anything to break or destroy,” said Leon.
As they continued walking, Touma soon turned to Leon.
"Say, what did you actually see when you touched those anchors? Shinigami Sensei mentioned visions," Touma asked.
"I think they're more like memories, it's from something that also arrived in the Dream. For some reason it began to observe Oire, although I believe these memories are from the far past. Shinigami Sensei may actually be right in his prediction that the current Oire is a fake."
Eventually, the party reached the back of the desert’s dark zone. They found a single building that resembled an ancient desert ruin. It only had a single entrance, but the group could already see the anchor at the back of the building. They also noticed that none of the Nightmares in the desert ever came towards the ruins.