The world of dreams was a dubious place, full of uncertainties and wild imagination. Few people were able to handle the task of diving into them, borrowing the power of divinity to light a path through endless thoughts.
Fortunately, the one holding my hand had a sense of humor.
“Well… I never thought that I’d see myself in such a light… If I didn’t know any better, I would think that you hold a bit of a flame for me, Your Majesty,” Kaguya said with a wide grin.
“The thought crossed my mind, but only because I recognize a good woman when I see one.”
“Unn, you were more fun when you were easier to tease….”
“Sorry that I matured past your tastes. But becoming King does change one’s tolerance to certain things.”
While we were searching for the recurring nightmare in question, Lady Kaguya and I happened upon a few ‘interesting’ detours first. One of them being the backdrop of ‘A Certain Slice.’ Only, I was still the owner of the establishment, and the waitresses were all girls that I knew closely. It was fun seeing them all in an ensemble of maid uniforms. For Lady Kaguya, who rarely wore anything else but priestess robes, it was quite the sight to see her bare arms and legs.
That happened also when we stumbled upon a school life setting, with everyone in uniform like a Japanese high school. Lady Kaguya was in a sailor top this time, sitting upon a desk while giving an impish smile. She was the epitome of an ‘ojou-sama.’
“Katalina! A successful invention here would have been nice!” I screamed into the void playfully, knowing that my partner had yet to come up with a way of capturing the scenes in my dreams successfully.
‘Imagine what Wen Lu and Wen Zhi would do if pictures of Lady Kaguya existed in such attire.’
We merely laughed off the imaginary what-if environments that turned the people we knew into caricatures of themselves.
“The thoughts of you otherworlders are always so vibrant and peculiar. Unlike anything that I hope to imagine,” Kaguya commented with her sleeve covering her mouth.
“Oh? And what kind of things do Wen Lu and Wen Zhi dream about that catch your fancy? There’s got to be some dirt that you can share.”
“Well… there was this time when I was wearing something very questionable…”
“Questionable in what way?”
“It’s a bit hard to explain. The attire was a robe-like garment, but one arm was completely out, and I was carrying a sword. The other thing that stood out was that the twins were both calling me ‘Ane-san’ or something. At least, my bare shoulder had some nice art drawn upon it.”
“…I …never mind.”
I could totally see it. Unlike the general public, who only knew of her impeccable devotion as a priestess, I had glimpsed moments of fire hidden underneath those blessed robes. She was no sheltered girl, ignorant and submissive to others. The fact that Wen Lu and Wen Zhi were putty in her hands was a testament to that. There were times that I wondered whether I would have been ensnared too if I had been a free agent.
While the venture started out lighthearted, that soon came to an abrupt stop as a gloomy scene hung in the distance. Our eyes turned serious immediately, even before we had taken one step into the darkness.
“Let’s go,” I said, pulling Lady Kaguya by the hand. She probably noticed my hand trembling, as she cupped her other hand around mine to offer comfort.
One step through the boundary was all it took to choke on the atmosphere. The feeling of gloom and dread was so thick that I felt like I could slice it apart.
I looked around at the dim world, twilight casting shadows upon the area. Even with such little lighting, the dead bodies on the ground were clear as day. I had lost count of how many times I had seen this now, but it never got any easier.
And among all of this death, I always stood alone. The sole survivor of a gruesome battlefield like some bloody champion upon a hill of sacrifices.
“Who could have done this?” Lady Kaguya said lightly. I could feel the exact moment when she spied her own corpse among the pile. The sudden tightening of her grip told me so.
“I don’t know. Every time that I see this, the battle is done and over with. Whoever did it is gone by this point. And Katalina has recorded a spike in divine energy that would coincide with whenever I have this dream.”
“Surely, the Gods would have some idea if they are sending you this vision. Perhaps, it would be best to call upon them directly and ask.”
“Yeah… that’s why I turned to you. Your song is the only thing that can drag a God down for some explanations like last time. Don’t you feel special?”
“Let’s go back. The Gods have given their warning. This can be nothing else.”
There was no more point being here. The static image of me suffering from the fallout was unchanged from my dream. But we needed to come here once so that Lady Kaguya could experience it for herself. She needed to know how exactly to call upon the Gods and what guidance was needed. To do that, a firm mental picture of the issue was required.
But as we turned to leave, the Claude before us also turned to face us.
“Huh? Well, this is something new-”
“IT’S YOUR FAULT! YOU LET THEM ALL DIE!”
In an instant, Dream Claude was upon me, tackling my body to the ground. I looked up in a panic as I saw his bloodied face scream at me. His knife hovered in the air above me, ready to stab downward.
I brought my arms up to block, hitting his arm on the wrist to keep the blade from forcing downwards at my head. Still, the splattered blood on the knife dripped down onto me.
“Gross! A little help here?!”
What I got in response was a thunder-charged fist colliding into Dream Claude’s face, knocking him off and tumbling several meters to the side.
“Whew, I wasn’t sure if I could use techniques in a dream, but apparently, I can.” Kaguya blew off the smoke from her fist that came from a Thunder Dragon skill.
“Um… this is my dream, right? It shouldn’t hurt even if I get stabbed, right, right?”
Lady Kaguya rolled her eyes at me. “Do you really want to find out the hard way?”
Somehow, I was able to materialize a knife into my own hand, purely by thinking of it. Now, if only my other skills behaved the same way…
Flames appeared around my eyes, giving me insight into the weakness of this world. It seemed like I could call upon my Electi abilities here. But as I looked ahead, it was clear that Dream Claude could as well. I really, really didn’t want to be fighting myself, knowing my own capabilities. Therefore, we could only…
Through the bleak landscape, Kaguya lifted her long robe as she dashed to keep it from dragging. There was no one here to see her act shamelessly, so she didn’t care that I was getting a good view of her thighs.
Every so often, Dream Claude caught up, throwing a simple attack that sent a wave of energy at us. I had to turn around and cancel it out with one of my own. I wondered why he didn’t launch a consecutive flurry of attacks, as I had plenty of mana to waste to counter them. Yet, it was just better not to wish for a worse situation.
However, no matter where we ran, the dreary landscape didn’t end. The entry point from before had disappeared. Unlike the dreams before, we couldn’t find a boundary to escape out of.
“You’re the dream expert! How the hell do we get out of here?!”
“Some external stimulation would be helpful, but unfortunately, we might be on our own unless our physical bodies make a signal to your Queen to wake us up.”
I slashed down another attack as I found not much hope in those words. “You would think that this gives off all the signals!”
“Well, it’s your dream. Maybe, you just need a strong enough stimulus here.”
“Well, you’re going to have to be the one to do the honors. I’m not about to near-suicide myself in a dream! And I ain’t letting this creepy version of myself off me! I get bad vibes from the very thought of it!”
“DO IT OR I’M CASTING ‘HARD FOUR HOURS’ ON YOUR BOY TOYS TONIGHT!”
Suddenly, a fierce shock ripped through my upper body. Lady Kaguya threw a Fist of the Thunder Dragon straight into my back. The crackling of thunder echoed in my ears, drowning out the sound of everything else.
In the next instant, everything faded to black before I found myself popping right up to my legs and looking around at a familiar tower room.
“Uwehhhh! Did something happen, Claude?!”
Katalina grabbed my shoulders with a worried expression on her face. We had left her behind to explore my dreams, while she examined the fluctuations in mana in our bodies. I stared dumbly at her, still trying to regain my bearings.
“The signals were going crazy toward the end. Divine energy spiked as the two of you were getting restless.”
“And you didn’t try to wake us up?” I asked her.
“I… wanted to collect more data?” Katalina’s face dropped to a sheepish grin, her curiosity outweighing the need to ensure that we were okay.
“I would say that becoming an active participant in one’s own dream is quite the irregularity,” Kaguya commented, rubbing her head from the weariness of awakening. “Dreams are normally a subconscious thing, unable to be touched by the conscious mind. But both sides came into conflict this time. That can only be due to the influence of the Gods.”
We compared our findings, both what we saw of the nightmare and the mana signals that Katalina recorded. Our fight with the dream version of Claude corresponded to the jumps in intensity of divine energy. There was no doubt that some divine being was trying to tell me something.
“But still, what does this all mean? Why would he suddenly attack me like that? He said that ‘it was my fault.’ What was?” I couldn’t wrap my head around the reason. Was I just doomed to fail on my current course? Did that version put the blame on me for not acting soon enough? There were even more questions now than before.
“Dreams are not the best method for conveying meaning. The Gods themselves have difficulty directly interfering with our world, and thus, their intentions become vague, like a riddle even.” Kaguya’s eyes were lost in thought, trying to read between the lines of what she saw. “What we do know is to expect a tragedy in the near future. And also, our current selves aren’t powerful enough to handle it.”
“What is even stronger than an Electi? I mean, not to mention that we are all ascended at this point. I can only guess that I manage to narrowly survive the ordeal because I hold other Electi powers as well.”
We pondered for a moment before a chill ran down my spine. Whatever it was, it had to be as strong as…
“… a god.”
A rogue god, actually. This world worshiped multiple gods, one for each Electi power. It was not like a god couldn’t become corrupt. We saw that very clearly with the being that inhabited Eryn’s body. It had referred to itself as a god, despite being the Demon. And after defeating it, I had gained the divine powers that it held.
Could something else be endangering the Gods somehow? Was this a warning that some other god would succumb to the same madness as the God of Life did? For it to wreak havoc, even against a unified human force, I couldn’t think of any other enemy.
“I do not know what to believe in, if that is the case. Perhaps, I should notify young Chrysanthemum and perform the ritual once again. To seek the path we must tread to prevent such a future.”
I could see the doubt in Lady Kaguya’s eyes. After seeing what I had, I couldn’t blame her. This was everyone’s lives at stake. And even more, what would happen to a world without its Electi and Masters to protect it?
I opened my mouth to agree, but then…
“You better hold off on that for the time being.”
A clear, commanding voice came from the entryway to the tower. The door had been forced open, and standing before it was a girl with flaming white eyes, sunlight highlighting her outline. Rubies buried in that divine light stared ferociously at us, and platinum white hair ruffled in the wind. I hadn’t seen her in months.
My former Master, Eryn Faulkner.