Chapter 19:

What it means to be a hero

Dive into the Night

“This building just screams ambush,” May said as she looked at the ruin.Bookmark here

“Not like we have much of a choice,” Leon said as he began to walk in. “If you want, you can watch it from outside if you’re that concerned.”Bookmark here

“Someone is still going to have to pull your sleeping butt out if we get attacked,” May replied as she followed Leon to the back.Bookmark here

Touma walked forward and waited halfway from the entrance as May and Leon approached the anchor. Leon placed his left hand onto the anchor as May stood beside him and waited. A short moment after Leon lost consciousness, May and Touma heard a single footstep from the entrance of the ruin. They both turned and saw the silhouette of a person standing at the doorway, carrying a sword and a shield.Bookmark here

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Leon found himself standing beside a tree in a field of flowers. He looked around the area and realized he was on a cliff overlooking an ocean. The entire area was illuminated by a cloudless sky full of stars.Bookmark here

“This place is from the first anchor isn’t it? Why are we back here?” he thought out loud.Bookmark here

Leon then heard the mysterious voice speak through his head again.Bookmark here

“I learned much about humanity from Oire, of their world and ours. The light of the village represented the day, while the moon at the edge of the Dream illuminated the night. How many nights have passed since he began his job of guiding humanity? I had lost count of how many humans he had trained since I began observing him, but tonight was the last night.”Bookmark here

Leon then saw Oire slowly make his way towards the tree at the top of the cliff, a small cloud of black mist followed closely behind him. As Oire reached the tree, he sat down beside it and gazed across the ocean. Leon noticed that as the cloud of black mist stopped behind Oire, it took the shape of a humanoid.Bookmark here

“With the departure of the last human, Oire’s purpose within the Dream had concluded,” the mysterious voice continued to speak. “Only once did Oire ever speak of his past, of how he came to be. He was a being created by higher powers, with the purpose of creating and training heroes to guide humanity. Oire continued his role without fail, never once did he question why he was given this purpose."Bookmark here

Leon watched as Oire conversed with the black mist humanoid, although he could not hear anything they said.Bookmark here

“Oire assured that no human would enter the Dream again, as their world no longer required heroes. Humanity had advanced to an era where they were able to act on their own strength, rather than relying on the strength of those they deemed greater than them.”Bookmark here

As Oire conversed with the black mist humanoid, Leon noticed that Oire’s body was slowly dissolving into white mist.Bookmark here

“And yet,” the voice continued. “Without purpose, he no longer had a reason to exist. He assured me that the Dream will not end as long as Earth continues to live, but his time here was over. I could not understand. His dedication to his role as a guide, and his willingness to just fade away. Why?"Bookmark here

Eventually Oire faded away completely, the black mist humanoid moved to where Oire was sitting and sat down.Bookmark here

“In the end, he referred to me as his ‘friend’. Perhaps it was a word that held great significance to him, if only I understood its meaning.”Bookmark here

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As the figure at the doorway walked into the ruins, Touma and May immediately recognized who it was.Bookmark here

“S-Saya?” Touma said with a mix of surprise and confusion. “You said you’d be in touch, but you never responded to any messages. I can understand if you were busy. But … why are you here?”Bookmark here

“Touma, I don’t think she’s here to chat,” May said as she kept an eye on Saya.Bookmark here

Saya continued to walk towards Touma before she suddenly dashed forward, striking at him with her sword. Touma raised his right arm to block as he grabbed Saya’s left arm.Bookmark here

“Saya! What are you doing?!” Touma yelled.Bookmark here

As they pushed each other back, Touma took up a combat stance.Bookmark here

“I could ask you the same question, Touma,” Saya finally responded. “Why are you going around and destroying Oire’s anchors?”Bookmark here

“So Oire really is behind these anchors. You know they’re the reason why the black mist is invading the Dream, right? They’re the reason why the Nightmares are here!”Bookmark here

Saya dashed in again and began to slash away at Touma, forcing him into a defensive stance. May noticed that Touma was focused on dodging and blocking instead of counterattacking.Bookmark here

“Yes,” Saya said as she continued attacking. “That’s why I’m asking you why you’re destroying them.”Bookmark here

Touma finally counterattacked as he punched back at Saya after blocking another one of her swings. She blocked the punch with her shield, but was still knocked back by the force of the impact.Bookmark here

“What?! Destroying the anchors will bring a stop to the Nightmares! It’s why Oire brought us into the Dream!”Bookmark here

Saya recovered from the hit and quickly reengaged Touma, they continued to trade blows as they clashed.Bookmark here

“You’re wrong, Touma. That was never the reason why we were brought into the Dream.”Bookmark here

Saya slowly gained the upper hand as Touma continued to fight passively. Seizing a gap in Touma’s guarding stance, Saya stabbed her sword into Touma’s side and struck him in the face with her shield. The attack damaged Touma’s shield and knocked him closer to May. Seeing Touma injured, May deployed her arm blades and took a step forward.Bookmark here

“May, don’t!” Touma yelled. “You continue keeping watch on Leon.”Bookmark here

May stopped as Touma slowly got back up and faced Saya again.Bookmark here

“You remember what Oire told us when we first met him, right?” asked Saya. “How we had the potential to become heroes? How it was his purpose to train us? That’s what the Nightmares are for. We can only grow stronger by destroying what made us weaker.”Bookmark here

“Saya, listen to me! This Oire may not even be the real one! It’s possible that he set all of this up for his own purposes. He might just be using us! Hell, he might have been the one who allowed Kaz to go on that rampage.”Bookmark here

“And what if he is?” Saya asked as she dashed at Touma again.Bookmark here

Touma began to fight more offensively, landing a couple of hits on Saya as she also landed several more slashes.Bookmark here

“So what if he is just using us? How do you know it’s not a mutual agreement?”Bookmark here

Saya punched Touma in the stomach and followed up by thrusting her sword at his head. Touma grabbed Saya’s arm as he dodged the strike, he turned his body as he threw her to the ground. As he prepared to throw a follow up punch, Saya struck him first with her shield arm; knocking him back. As Saya got back up, Touma also recovered from the hit.Bookmark here

“Why don’t you get it, Touma? Out of everyone, I thought that you would understand.”Bookmark here

Saya threw her sword and shield away.Bookmark here

“All throughout my life, I always wanted to be a person who could save others from harm. But you can’t save other people through willpower alone.”Bookmark here

Black mist flowed in between Saya’s hands as a large two-handed sword materialized from the mist.Bookmark here

“So when someone offered me the power to become a hero in exchange for my help, I didn’t care about what I would have to give up. I was prepared to sacrifice everything for the sake of my goal.”Bookmark here

Saya pointed the sword towards Touma.Bookmark here

“Are you able to say the same, Touma?”Bookmark here

Saya dashed in towards Touma, sweeping her sword at his left side. Touma raised his arms in time to guard, but the force of the impact sent him flying into the ruin walls. Saya looked towards May, who quickly assumed a combat stance. As Saya took a step forward, Touma climbed back out of the wall and looked at Saya.Bookmark here

“You should know when to quit,” she said as she turned her head towards him.Bookmark here

“Touma, your shield isn’t going to hold up much longer,” May said to him.Bookmark here

Touma was breathing heavily, his gauntlets were starting to become cracked from the repeated blocking and parrying.Bookmark here

“I don’t think you can keep up with me anymore,” Saya said to Touma.Bookmark here

“Come on, Touma. I’ll switch in, you shouldn’t continue,” said May.Bookmark here

“Just give up.”Bookmark here

“Touma!”Bookmark here

“BOTH OF YOU, JUST SHUT UP!”Bookmark here

The entire ruin fell silent after Touma’s outburst. Touma then pointed at May.Bookmark here

“No matter what happens to me, your job is to protect Leon.”Bookmark here

He then turned to look at Saya.Bookmark here

“You’re right, I don’t understand what you want. Nor do I understand your childish desire to save everyone you meet. But. I want to understand you. I want to understand the feelings of the Saya Akakishi that I met through this Dream. So if I need to end this Dream to see that Saya again, so be it. I’ll fight you till my last breath.”Bookmark here

Saya raised her sword into a combat stance.Bookmark here

“You’re welcome to try.”Bookmark here

“Alright, but…” Touma began to say.Bookmark here

In an instant Touma closed the distance and appeared right in front of Saya, his fist already swinging towards her stomach.Bookmark here

“I think you’re the one who has to keep up with me.”Bookmark here

His strike knocked her back into the opposite ruin wall.Bookmark here

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Leon found himself in a pitch black void again. All the images of Oire and the black mist humanoid had disappeared back into the darkness.Bookmark here

“Where am I now? I thought that was the end of the memory.”Bookmark here

He heard a faint voice in the distance.Bookmark here

“Who is that?”Bookmark here

Leon walked through the darkness in the direction of the voice. As he walked, the darkness around him began to fade. Eventually he was blinded by a brilliant light. When Leon opened his eyes, he found himself standing on a field in front of a school. He quickly looked around.Bookmark here

“Wait. This is my elementary school. I thought I was looking at someone else’s memories, but these are mine.”Bookmark here

“Hey guys, over here!” he heard someone shout.Bookmark here

Leon looked behind him as a group of kids ran over to a playground beside the field. He stared in disbelief at the group after he realized who they were.Bookmark here

“That’s … Kelvin, and Daniel, and Jin, and Darren, and … me. Everyone …”Bookmark here

Leon looked at the group again. There was an extra person he did not recognize. As he tried to focus on them, his vision blurred.Bookmark here

“It’s that person again. Who … are they? How does everyone know them? Did they always know?”Bookmark here

Leon’s vision continued to blur as he lost consciousness.Bookmark here

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Leon fell back as his consciousness returned from the anchor, May caught him before he could hit the ground. The black band absorbed the anchor as another shockwave cleared through the desert, cleansing the black mist and wiping out all the Nightmares.Bookmark here

“Ugh,” Leon said as he shook his head. “May, where's Touma?”Bookmark here

Leon looked as May pointed towards the entrance, his eyes widened as he saw the battle between Saya and Touma. Touma had stopped blocking and parrying altogether, instead he focused on misdirecting Saya’s attacks before he countered with his own.Bookmark here

“Is that … Saya? Why is Touma fighting her?” Leon asked May.Bookmark here

“I’m sure you can ask him after. He told us not to interfere,” May responded.Bookmark here

Saya jumped at Touma and swung her sword downward. He caught the sword with his left hand, the blow shattering his gauntlets and his Mana barrier. Saya attempted to push the sword further, but Touma tightly gripped the blade of the sword. He counterattacked by punching Saya with his right arm, his other gauntlet shattering from the blow. Saya lost her grip on her sword and flew several metres back to the entrance. Touma tossed her sword to the side and took two steps towards her before he collapsed to his knees and cried out in pain. Saya looked up to see that Leon had already destroyed the anchor.Bookmark here

“It seems like it would be bad for me to stay. If you’re adamant about standing against us, we will meet again soon, Touma.”Bookmark here

Saya ran out of the ruins and disappeared into the desert.Bookmark here

“Leon, can you stand?” May asked.Bookmark here

“Yeah, thanks May,” he replied.Bookmark here

“Great, get off me. We need to go help Touma.”Bookmark here

Leon and May walked over to Touma, who was hunched over on the ground. He weakly slammed his fist on the ground.Bookmark here

“Dammit! DAMMIT!” Touma yelled.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Leon sat on his computer chair after he had finished eating dinner. Various images raced through his mind. He first thought about all the memories he had seen up until now. It was clear that someone or something made friends with the original Oire, but the original Oire had already disappeared from the Dream. Next, Leon remembered the second memory he saw. It was of his own past, when he was still in elementary school. The sixth person in his group, Leon realized that his friends also interacted with this person.Bookmark here

“Just who was that?” Leon asked out loud. “Should I ask Kelvin about it? No, he might be busy getting set up in Berlin.”Bookmark here

Leon took out his phone and noticed a new notification from May.Bookmark here

May: [Touma read the messages.]Bookmark here

Leon: [Great, what did he say?]Bookmark here

May: [Didn’t respond]Bookmark here

Leon: [Oh, well as long as he saw it I guess. Let’s just hope that he’ll join us tonight.]Bookmark here

May: [(Thumbs up emote)]Bookmark here

Leon put away his phone and leaned back on his chair.Bookmark here

“Two more anchors, then we put an end to all of this.” Bookmark here

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