Not a Story But A Life: Building Bridges - erytherion - 전지적 독자 시점 - 싱숑 | Omniscient Reader (2024)

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Not A Story But A Life Chapter Text Chapter 2: Chapter One – ‘Proof of Worth’ Chapter Text Chapter 3: Chapter Two – Scavenger Hunt Chapter Text Chapter 4: Chapter Three – Scavenger Hunt (2) Chapter Text Chapter 5: Chapter Four – Excursion Chapter Text Chapter 6: Chapter Five – Dreamwalker (sleep #1, meets little Dream) Chapter Text Chapter 7: Chapter Six – Dreamwalker (2) (meets KDJ) Chapter Text Chapter 8: >>Interlude – Scattered fragments<< (A meets Prof HSY) Chapter Text Chapter 9: Chapter Seven – Waterloo Roaming (MS#2 start, ends in sleep #2) Chapter Text Chapter 10: Chapter Eight – Waterloo Roaming (2) (D meets Prof HSY) Chapter Text Chapter 11: Chapter Nine – Waterloo Roaming (3) (meets Poca Lips) Chapter Text Chapter 12: Chapter Ten – Waterloo Roaming (4) (KDJ visit #2; meets KNW, Nestia) Chapter Text Chapter 13: Chapter Eleven – Waterloo Roaming (5) (little Dream visit #2) Chapter Text Chapter 14: >>Interlude – Professorial Wisdom<< (A, Prof HSY #2) Chapter Text Chapter 15: Chapter Twelve – Waterloo Roaming (6) (MS#2 5/7, ends in sleep #3) Chapter Text Chapter 16: Chapter Thirteen – Leaders in all shapes and sizes (little Dream visit #3) Chapter Text Chapter 17: Chapter Fourteen – Leaders in all shapes and sizes (2) (meets Abaddon) Chapter Text Chapter 18: Chapter Fifteen – Leaders in all shapes and sizes (3) (meets Squid) Chapter Text Chapter 19: Chapter Sixteen – Regroup (ends in sleep #4) Chapter Text Chapter 20: Chapter Seventeen – Regroup (2) (Little dream visit #4) Chapter Text Chapter 21: >>Interlude – Consciousness Components<< (A, little Dream #1) Chapter Text Chapter 22: Chapter Eighteen – Nightmares (MS#3 prep and start) Chapter Text Chapter 23: Chapter Nineteen – Nightmares (2) (MS#3 continued, ends in sleep/knockout #5) Chapter Text Chapter 24: Chapter Twenty – Nightmares (3) (KDJ visit #3, Phantom Prison intervention) Chapter Text Chapter 25: Chapter Twenty-one – Nightmares (4) (MS#3 continued) Chapter Text Chapter 26: Chapter Twenty-two – Nightmares (5) (MS#3 continued) Chapter Text Chapter 27: Chapter Twenty-three – Tentative Representative (Hidden scenario for monster negotiations, MS#4 start) Chapter Text Chapter 28: Chapter Twenty-four – Tentative Representative (2) (MS#4 continued, KDJ visit #4, Phantom Prison intervention #2) Chapter Text Chapter 29: Chapter Twenty-five – Tentative Representative (3) (PP#2 continued, Anna Croft introductions) Chapter Text Chapter 30: Chapter Twenty-six – Tentative Representative (4) (MS#4 continued, hospital return) Chapter Text Chapter 31: >>Interlude – Resets and Loss << (A tries to shield YJH from bad brain sh*t in Theatre Dungeon rooftop garden) Chapter Text Chapter 32: Chapter Twenty-seven – Tentative Representative (5) (MS#4 continued, Aprici familiarity chat) Chapter Text Chapter 33: Chapter Twenty-eight – Tentative Representative (6) (MS#4 continued, Katífeia restriction lifting) Chapter Text Chapter 34: Chapter Twenty-nine – Tentative Representative (7) (Little dream visit, dream shifts and dreamland puzzles, A visit at end) Chapter Text Chapter 35: Chapter Thirty – King (MS#4 continued, London Bridge negotiations) Chapter Text Chapter 36: >>Interlude – Wills<< (A meets an old nuisance) Chapter Text Chapter 37: Chapter Thirty-one - King (2) MS#4 continued, Tower tackling) Chapter Text Chapter 38: Chapter Thirty-two – King (3) (MS#4 continued, Tower tackling, meet Raven) Chapter Text Chapter 39: Chapter Thirty-three – King (4) (MS#4 continued, Tower tackling, meet Cora) Chapter Text Chapter 40: Chapter Thirty-four – King (5) (MS#4 continued, Tower tackling, capture and release) Chapter Text Chapter 41: Chapter Thirty-five - Interlude? (MS#4 continued, capture and release, Raven chat with A) Chapter Text Chapter 42: Chapter Thirty-six – My Fair Lady (D, meet I) Chapter Text Chapter 43: Chapter Thirty-seven – My Fair Lady (2) (YJH thoughts en route to Anguk Station) Chapter Text Chapter 44: Chapter Thirty-nine – My Fair Lady (4) (Flashback to KDJ not dying bit, Dreamer wakes up) Chapter Text Chapter 45: Chapter Forty – Falling Down (MS#4 continued, capture and release, training, dream trips to A+A and Jung Eunho) Chapter Text Chapter 46: Chapter Forty-one – Falling Down (2) (Little Dream visit, KDJ visit) Chapter Text Chapter 47: Chapter Forty-two – Falling Down (3) (MS#4 continued, Raven chat) Chapter Text Chapter 48: Chapter Forty-three – Falling down (4) (MS#4 continued, capture and release, sidetracked by fire plots) Chapter Text Chapter 49: Chapter Forty-four – Falling Down (5) (MS#4 continued, Boudicca plot discoveries, regroup before rescue) Chapter Text Chapter 50: Chapter Forty-five – Falling Down (6) (MS#4 end starts, Katsu rescue!) Chapter Text Chapter 51: Chapter Forty-six – Fishes in the water (Katsu memories and tethering, talk with Lugh) Chapter Text Chapter 52: Chapter Forty-seven – Fishes in the water (2) (MS#4 end qualification, Boudicca, Richard the Lionheart, Henry VIII defeats) Chapter Text Chapter 53: Chapter Forty-eight – Fishes in the water (3) (MS#4 end, seeping stone’s weeping) Chapter Text Chapter 54: Chapter Forty-nine – Fishes in the water (4) (MS#4 end, outer god “talks”) Chapter Text Chapter 55: Author’s Notes Chapter Text Chapter 56: Extra – Dance Break Chapter Text

Chapter 1: Not A Story But A Life

Chapter Text

Chapter Zero – Trains of Thought
Somewhere inside her, there was a tearing, a screaming. That intense sensation of pain and grief you get when externally witnessing someone else’s terrible tragedy and feeling it as strongly as if it were your own.
That feeling was bursting out of her heart, her eyes, her mind. It felt like she might break from the unbearable feeling of unfairness, of injustice, of feeling someone else’s sorrow through a screen, across realities.
As if she could alleviate the pain she was feeling that flooded her from someone else’s experiences by doing so, she reached out to the screen and towards the crying dreamer who didn’t even know how to dream properly – who sacrificed his own sense of self and body to help others he could only watch. If she could only reach him, she could help with at least that much, couldn’t she?
She was a dreamer aware of her abilities and knew that what had been thrust upon him was completely unjust, wrong, not fair or truthful in the least.
Yet, this was his reality, without discovering any better or knowing any more of his own abilities.
She wished – hoped, dreamed, that he could learn more about dreaming, so that if he must be forced to dream, then he could do so much more safely, without needing to chop off pieces of himself or his memories. So that he wouldn’t be so alone in the worlds he dreamt of and spent so long watching.
So that he could interact with all those he came to love, instead of only being an unseen witness to their lives.
And if he must be forced to dream like this, as if he were the sole dreamer upholding his universe, then she wanted to at least be there to share his burden.
If they must dream, then let them not dream alone anymore. Let them take turns, if they must, so they could experience things freely at least some of the time.
People such as Persephone, Geshtinanna and her brother Dumuzid had done similar things before, with their underworlds. If it came down to it, then it would be better than either herself or the one she felt the grief of having to bear it all alone.
However, she knew that this was an incorrect requirement of any dreamer and had been used in similar ways and similar stories to bind dreamers to an incorrect, supposedly inevitable ‘fate’ for far too long.

She had seen the truth of dreams and knew that none of them should be enslaved to the task of upholding their respective universes.
If she could not break his unjust bonds keeping him separate from all that he loved, then she would at least stay and share the task.
All she needed to do first, was to reach through this screen and reach him, to teach him how to dream during his lengthy millennia of solitude and suffering, or to tell him he didn’t need to be alone anymore. To offer him an alternative to his lonely burden, to show him he was not the only one capable of keeping the worlds turning.
He might refuse her, of course, but the main point was to first reach him, to find out.
And since this itself was a dream of hers she was experiencing, she managed to break past the barriers separating her current dreamt reality and his own – across the dimensions and world lines that spread out across existence between them, and fell towards his subway train carriage, weaving across the vastness of space in his universe.
She reached out for him, smiling and crying as she fell like a comet, so nearly at his door. Nearly close enough to help, or at least to offer company.
And then… as she reached the train before her with the too-small kid trapped within, her dream form fell through the outside of the carriage, into the cabin, and she caught a glimpse of a startled boy’s face before she continued falling, as if something had sensed her and thought, ‘I think not’ and dragged her dream form further down, through the floor and straight towards the planet below.
She stared in shock at the train rapidly getting further away as her consciousness grew heavier and heavier. As she continued to fall towards the world beyond the train she had meant to remain at, she felt more than saw her form flaking off like so much stardust, fading from what remained of her increasingly faint form.
Before she had even breached the upper atmosphere of this world that belonged to the boy on the train and not to her own reality, there was hardly any of her left to know what happened next.
Like this, her dream came to an end she had not anticipated, and the boy on the train dreamt on alone.
*****

Chapter 2: Chapter One – ‘Proof of Worth’

Chapter Text

With a jolt, she woke from her dreams and found herself in glaringly bright sunlight, outside, in a very floral and green garden she knew very well. She was at her usual hospital, in London.
Ah, she must have dozed off in the sun like usual, as if she were some kind of kin with cats who did the same.
You could hardly blame her for it, though – it was a nice day outside, and she had had quite a long wait between her appointments to fill up, anyways.
For a short while, Dreamer sat in the garden just outside the pain clinic at the hospital, observing the insects and bees flitting about between the flowers and hedges. She was enjoying the feeling of breathing in fresh air before heading back inside, to hear more familiar phrases and see more shrugging from her doctors. Nobody could find anything wrong with her, physiologically, no matter how hard they looked – not that they ever seemed to try all that hard.
And yet…
She looked down at herself, sat in her wheelchair. Perhaps she was just unlucky, to have been affected so strongly by an illness caused by mould, to have this kind of outcome as a result. It behaved like a post-infectious disease, yet the thing she had been sick from was mould, not bacteria or viruses.
She sighed. This was a familiar and frustrating contemplation for her, and she didn’t really want to think about it again right now.
Glancing at her phone screen, she could see that it was quite close to the time she had her next appointment and figured she could head up a bit early since it would be a painful trip up there on her own.
As she took the brakes off from her wheels and began arduously pushing herself towards the very broad, reflective hospital doors, she tried to recall as much as she could about the dreams she had just been having. Some of them had been about her most recent tabletop roleplaying game campaign, and the last ones had been about a book she finished reading a while ago that stuck with her for some time – as many of them with ambiguously open endings tended to. She couldn’t recall all the contents of the dreams, but she remembered the plot of the relevant book plenty. She still had it downloaded on her phone to read back through, as was her custom when finishing books she liked before moving onto others.
Ah well, if she couldn’t remember the dreams properly, then that probably meant she couldn’t write them down to turn into proper stories later, as she liked to do. She had plenty of other dreams that she could remember much better for her writing anyways, so it wasn’t much of a loss, even if she always preferred to remember as much as she could from them.
When she got to the waiting room, she dutifully presented the receptionist with her appointment letter to save them having to search her up.
However, there was apparently still a problem with their system because she apparently hadn’t been booked in for that day, according to the receptionist.
In fact, her details weren’t on the system at all, they said.
While the receptionist worked to find out what had happened there since she had only just come from the other building from another appointment and came to this hospital quite frequently, she got told to wait in the waiting room for her scan as usual while they sorted it out with their system.
Since it had been on her mind earlier, she went to go load up the next chapter of the book she was rereading, then saw one of the others had updated and switched to that one – easily distracted as she often was.
Yet, she hadn’t gotten far through the page of the webnovel’s new chapter when all the lights in the hospital went out and some very strange things started happening in quick succession.
First, after initial concerns, everyone calmed down because emergency lighting and backup generators were a thing in hospitals.
Then, a small, baby-sized, furry, horned creature with sharp teeth appeared floating in mid-air in the waiting room in a hail of little sparks like static electricity in the dark.
That… was not the strangest thing, however.
Everyone around mostly took it as some horrible, elaborate prank with special effects that hopefully only affected this section of the hospital, because there was no way they could imagine someone pulling this kind of stunt on the entire hospital full of sick and vulnerable people, but for one person in the waiting room, panic was already beginning to freeze her blood and her thoughts.
Because… she was pretty certain that was the real-life representation of a dokkaebi. And not just any one from the usual mythology, but the type from that other webnovel she was meant to finish rereading.
And that was bad.
Very bad.
Since that meant, like the floating being was explaining to them with glee – the worldview they had known before had ended, and a new one had been brought to this one.
In short, the scenarios had come to her world. The

was real and that meant that so was everything from the webnovel called Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint that she’d read.
This was bad.
Apocalyptically bad.
What this meant for her world was that… the apocalypse had come knocking and it was not going to be something they could deal with.
And yet… they would have to, wouldn’t they? The alternative wouldn’t be something they could just accept, either.
In a too-short space of time while the dokkaebi was narrating their new system of oppression, she rapidly processed a massive plethora of thoughts and mental shifts in her perception of her own reality, to try and adjust to the fact that this was actually happening outside of her very hectic dreams.
Outside of the books she had read it in.
…She had read a lot of different books.
For now, she set those broader realisations aside and focused on her present predicament, because this creature, as she had by now anticipated, was now informing them via – weirdly distorted – system message what their ‘first scenario’ was to be.
And what that was, was murder.
A scenario requiring murder, given to everyone within a hospital.
Well, within the entire world, but the horror didn’t get any better with scale.
However… since murder was the requirement, she had read the story of others who had been in the same situation and she knew a way to get through it without having to murder another human being, if she could help it.
And informing those around her might prevent them from doing what they were already considering.
Though this path still required them to kill a living being, this might enable them to continue living in a way that was at least bearable.
She hoped.
-
This was how she came to find herself on a completely different floor of the hospital, in the parasitology lab with a handful of other people she had managed to convince into not mercy killing every disabled person they came across ‘since they’d die soon enough anyways’ – including herself – with a reward message telling her that she had cleared the scenario by killing the living organisms around them in smashed containers. Again, her own message didn’t seem to appear properly, but she could just about make out what it said to know she had cleared the first scenario safely.
She tried not to think about how even something like this still counted as murder enough to ‘prove their worth’, because even parasites were deserving of the life she had just led others and herself to prematurely end, and instead focused on her present, and how to continue living in a manner that made her want to. To live a life she could bear living as herself in.
Her knowledge from the book she’d read was only the most helpful within this initial scenario, since she was on the wrong side of the world to know what scenario would come up for her next.
However, she knew a lot of other useful, general information from the book about the new system governing their actions from now on, as well as plenty of other useful things from mythology, religion, and her chosen academic field.
The most calming thought of all, was something others probably couldn’t understand well.
It was that she had been here before – in a sense, in her dreams, and she would be able to deal with anything the apocalypse threw her way while maintaining her own sense of self despite it.
She may not have lived through an apocalypse in this body before, but at least in sleep, she had experienced many similarly terrifying and traumatic stories like this, and she could use what she remembered from them now that one had appeared in her waking life as well.
This was something she could hardly believe was happening outside of a dream, but the fact that it felt so unreal was surprisingly grounding for her, paradoxically. Like, the less real things felt, the more she would feel like she knew what to do, perhaps. Because if it were a dream, she would be in her element, so to speak.
Though, staring at the shaking and injured people that had come this far with her mostly on blind faith and hope and seeing the bloodied and brain-splattered hallways outside… she thought that she perhaps could never be prepared for anything like this, no matter how many times she might have encountered it in dreams or otherwise.
She herself was shaking too, and in so much pain that it broke through the adrenaline coursing through her from having to defend herself and others along their way here.
Had she been wheelchair-bound and not an ambulatory user, had she not known how to actually fight, even with her weak, disabled-ass body, or not known how to use the system from the get-go… she would almost certainly be dead by now. Even then, she was certain a lot of it was down to plain luck and the kindness of those few individuals around her who had tried to help instead of seeing her as an easy and less guilt-inducing target to clear the scenario with.
Some of those around were now looking towards her, as if she could explain what came next, when in truth, she didn’t know much. Instead, she offered her own choice of phrase to set their expectations with, in a different manner than the protagonist of the story she had read had done at the same point in his story.
“I can’t save you,” she said in sombre and familiar tone to his, yet added, “but I would like to survive with you, if you try too.”
Shortly after they had replied with their own variations of agreement or similar sentiments, the dokkaebi showed up again to present them with the Sponsor Selection, and she did her best to explain how it all worked to them and how to make their decision if they wanted to make one now and not later when other constellations might discover them.
There had apparently been an error with the system identifying her in an apparent mirror of her conversation earlier with the receptionist (who had remained beside her until now and survived, thankfully), and the dokkaebi had to ask her for her name, out of everyone else present. And though the receptionist that came with her would remember her real name from her letter, she took the opportunity to supply something different for this situation that she knew focused on narratives and interest more than individual stories.
“Dreamer. My name is Dreamer,” she declared to the dokkaebi, then faced the others around her, ending her gaze on the receptionist. “Call me Dreamer for now, please,” she requested, and with a nod from the receptionist, the world moved on.
If she must live in this new narrative for the time being, then it was preferable for her to maintain some anonymity if it was possible, since she knew that if stories and dreams could be real, then others might be able to find her through them by name, if she wasn’t careful, and she was too new to all of this reaching her reality for her to tempt anyone else out there with her real identity and name, since she knew plenty would already be watching.
She returned to her explanations and theorising with the others about potential sponsor identities, hoping that she didn’t say anything that might upset those watching with her guesses. Even though Dreamer knew all about this from reading ORV, she was unlike the protagonist Kim Dokja as she didn’t know all of the names of the constellations, since the book that he had read with all of them in was called Three Ways to Survive an Apocalypse (TWSA), not ORV itself.
This meant she did not recognise the names on her selection screen, though she was pleased that she had already gained constellations’ interest. She was not a protagonist and did not have the same options as Kim Dokja and Yoo Joonghyuk had. She wondered if they, too, would exist in this world line or if it is a different world line taken over by the

, since there were more that did not have Kim Dokja in them than those that did.
She hoped there would be a way to check about that later so that she might not need to try and ensure the survival of the entire planet without their own assistance and input, since the worlds without them in were typically doomed more than the rest…
-
[Sponsor Selection]
[Please select your sponsor.
[Your chosen sponsor will be your strong supporter.
1. Blooming Heart of Gardens and Swamps
2. Twilight Protector of Dreams]
-
Dreamer was quite certain that she should not pick a sponsor so early in the scenarios and didn’t much like the idea of binding herself in a contract with a higher being, and thus opted not to choose one yet. There would be other chances to change her mind, should she live long enough.
Instead, she used the time to decide on this to continue helping the others choose for themselves, speculating with them on the benefits of each.
The dokkaebi overseeing their channel in London was questioning her knowledge and acting with mock awe at her, but she ignored them as best she could. Her goal was to give as many people as she could an idea of what to expect from here on out, since the dokkaebis were not as forthcoming with the scenarios or the constellations as they feigned.
If she and these people were already much more likely to die than most due to their disabilities or disadvantages, then she wanted to provide as much information as she could to give them a fighting chance.
For herself, too, since she knew that relying on others was not only a wise decision at the start of any apocalypse, but a necessity for survival.
Dreamer was plenty disadvantaged herself, after all.
While the rest of them were finishing making sponsorship decisions, she approached the dokkaebi separately and enquired as to what disability aids the

and Bureau offered to disabled incarnations and constellations since she knew there must be some, and would need them moving forwards if she wanted to survive without wanting to just kill herself from the terrible pain she was already experiencing from so much movement and activity. She posited that it would make the scenarios of their channel much more engaging and interesting, since disabled characters were increasingly popular protagonists of late and diversity was important for any population – or entertainment industry – to thrive long-term and sold it like this to the dokkaebi in charge.
Surprisingly, her words led to multiple messages of support from constellations already watching them in the hospital, and as a result, the dokkaebi overseeing them readily supplied options for them to pick from based on their needs.
They spent the remaining time the dokakebi left them to between scenarios helping each other pick appropriate skills and items out and making other suggestions for each other as they did, and headed back towards the other floors they had passed by on their way here, in search of the other two groups they had split off from earlier (she had informed others where other living organisms could be found in the hospital and they all split off to different sections to hopefully survive in manners they could live with).
She really hoped that some others beside her own group had managed to survive without killing fellow human beings, even though it was still quite bad to consider killing any living organism ‘good’, she supposed. At least in their worldview, it was the ‘better’ option compared to killing other beings, but she was aware that others may not see it the same way, and she knew those ‘others’ may already be watching their choices on this world. She knew of at least one parasitic race out there that would likely hate her for her actions here.
They met other survivors along the way that were wary of their group (since most others had not been able to band together as they had) and provided they didn’t seem too unstable, offered to let them join them, but most declined upon seeing they were mostly composed of patients instead of staff members or visitors, as if just seeing them was akin to seeing people who were as good as dead. Some didn’t jump to conclusions, however, and appreciated the sense of solidarity afforded by being part of a group of survivors instead of a lone one.
When Dreamer’s group arrived at the second group they had split off from earlier, she could see that the majority of them had survived the chaos of that initial, panicked and violent trip and cleared the scenario too, though she didn’t feel like clarifying exactly how many of those present had stuck to their original plan, in case there were unfortunate deviations. She understood that people did what they needed to survive and keep on living, and sometimes the manner they found they were able to do so differed from what she herself might have found. She was lucky that she had been allowed to survive the way she had and had been given the knowledge she knew from the book.
Dreamer wondered if the people from that story would be present in her own world line, or if this was something that came to her world without incorporating them into it.
Was this the same Earth as their one had been, or would it be a new world line with potentially completely different people present? Had she always been a part of their scenarios and story too as a background character from London who lived or died irrespective of their own story, or had she never existed there at all and only existed in this one? The webnovel she had read had not mentioned anything related to the London dome or the UK much at all in the entirety of its series, as it had been set primarily in South Korea.
She brushed those thoughts away until she had space to investigate further.
For now, there were injured people, scared people, and quite a significant amount of unhinged people around to worry about... with a couple of very bloodstained figures approaching that made the others back away in concern.
However, Dreamer recognised them as members of the third group they had split off from and was about to approach them to ask what happened when another member of their group (who had been one of the kind ones to help defend her earlier) stepped forward first.
His name was Damian according to the system message proclaiming the scenario survivors earlier.
Upon asking what had happened to them, the smaller of the two stared at him somewhat blankly but responded that the section they had been sent to had been undergoing deep cleaning, so most specimens had been sent elsewhere, while those remaining had been living organisms that did not ‘qualify’ for the scenario clear condition. So, even though they had all smashed up every available container of bugs and pathogens present, only the two of them had cleared the scenario, while everyone else with them had… not.
Damian, upon hearing this, double checked which area they had come from (in case it had actually been an infectious diseases one and they had broken anything dangerous, which was thankfully not the case) while Dreamer wheeled herself forwards and collected some wet paper towels by one of the wash stations nearby and took them over to the two shell-shocked young adults to help clean some of the gore off of them.
While she did so, Damian and a couple of the others moved to begin treating the most obvious wounds and injuries from those around them with their remaining time, and the others shared tips with those they had just met back up with about disability aid skills and items for the other disabled or sick patients around there.
*****

Chapter 3: Chapter Two – Scavenger Hunt

Chapter Text

After the most pressing injuries had been tended to and everyone was caught up on how the system worked and what to expect from their new reality, their group headed towards one of the pharmacies located on the ground floor of the building to pick up some useful items and medicines that the system hadn’t covered, and nabbed whatever mobility aids nearby that they needed.
The most useful bunch of the group for retrieving useful items from the hospital’s stores were, of course, the medical staff, but it was several patients who corrected them on which items from the pharmacy would be most useful in the ensuing apocalypse.
They had a lot more experience surviving against the odds in a harsh world that didn’t care about their lives, you see.
Dreamer’s lips twitched up at several points where doctors and surgeons were corrected on some of their wrong assumptions regarding prioritised meds and aids.
While they headed towards their destination (the pharmacy), the dokkaebi reappeared when their given ‘rest’ time ran out, to present them with their next scenario.
However, there was something bothering Dreamer for a while now, that she did not know how to remedy.
She glanced into the air in front of her as someone kindly wheeled her alongside everyone else, to see the vague and glitchy remnants of what probably should look like a system screen from the

.
Turns out, it was more than just her name that was causing errors in the system.
She didn’t know if she should mention this or keep it a secret.
This... Had not been in the book. The protagonist of that story – Kim Dokja – had been unable to see his attribute window entirely, but he had at least been able to see every other message sent through the system to him.
Just like her messages earlier, she had had to focus really hard to be able to see and read them properly.
The more she tried, the more visible and stable the screens became, but it still felt bizarre to her.
Nobody else showed any signs of having issues with their own screens.
At least unlike Kim Dokja in the story she read, she could at least access her attribute window, even though it was extremely buggy, even compared to the rest of the messages from the system.

should definitely get its sh*t together if it was going to force them all to perform in the scenarios! What confusing sh*t was this?
Dreamer tried to shake off the incredible nerves that beset her every single time she looked at the ‘screens’ that weren’t forming properly in her vision and just breathed for a bit while processing the newest brand of cosmic bullsh*t being thrown their way.
+
[Sub Scenario – Scavenger Hunt]
Category: Sub
Difficulty: E
Clear Conditions:

has benevolently distributed much-needed medical aid throughout the hospital in the form of items and skills! Survive and gather what you can before the hospital ‘unlocks’ and you can escape.
Time Limit: 2 hours
Compensation: 500 coins
Failure: Death
*Every cache is guarded by the consequences of your actions. Defeat them to access the items and skills they are protecting.
+
The group of survivors, who had by now read the information contained within, all stared or glared up at the hovering dokkaebi in confusion.
“’The consequences of our actions’?” someone asked.
The dokkaebi’s smile widened, their furred hands tucked behind their back. [Yes. Since more than the normal amount of you have survived via... unconventional means, some of you may find the guardians quite disturbing compared to the other incarnations around.
[It wouldn’t have been fair to just let this group hoard the medical goods to itself, would it? We had to give the other incarnations a fighting chance. I’m told that these are the types of scenarios that are popular with constellations lately, now that you can start on more equal footing with the rest of the incarnations.] The dokkaebi who said all of this turned their gleaming eyes on Dreamer with mirth.
With the sound of Tsu-chut-chut from outside of the room they had gathered within came the sounds of shuffling steps and a low kind of growling.
Oh, sh*t, Dreamer thought as a realisation shot through her head about what, exactly, the ‘consequences’ coming towards them might be.
“Isn’t it too early for this kind of development?!” she called out to the smirking dokkaebi as she took over her chair to spin around to see the shambling forms headed towards them.
This was something that had only been triggered so early in the early scenarios of the book she had read – called Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint, or ORV for short) - when the stakes weren’t high enough and the pace was stagnating while Kim Dokja had been waiting to cross a bridge. Normally, low-level monsters would have been enough, so why -?
Why were the people killed in the previous scenario being turned into demonic people from the black ether rising up?
Ah. That was the point of this development, wasn’t it? Not just the ‘consequences of their actions’ in the form of those they had killed or surpassed to survive, but also more specifically the consequences of her own actions in interfering in such a big way by telling others so much information and making the dokkaebi look bad in comparison and bargaining them into accommodating their conditions.
This was the dokkaebi’s way of reminding her – and the rest of them, probably – that they were the products being sold for the entertainment of the constellations, and it was not meant to be a give-and-take situation, but one where the dokkaebi was the director and they were the actors.
Of course, they also probably just wanted to keep things from being ‘too easy’ for them. Not that any aspect of this would be easy, or very bearable.
The dokkaebi laughed. [Some of the dear constellations have expressed concern for the Probability of so many of you surviving the first scenario that is notorious within the entire

, so some adjustments needed to be made for this region.]
Well, that was another point, she supposed. She knew that they might respond to any changes she tried to make in the development of the scenarios using her knowledge of them.
However, after thinking that far... Was that really what she was doing here? The story she read had not mentioned the London dome much at all, so it was entirely possible that she was moving within the same bounds of the story that she knew without realising it.
The thought was extremely concerning and disconcerting. Was everything she was doing now ultimately going to be fruitless, or mean very little to the ‘wider’ story that she already knew existed?
Visibly shaking the thought from her head, Dreamer dismissed those thoughts. What mattered here was not the ‘wider story’ or its implications but helping those around her survive as peaceably as possible.
To her, it didn’t matter if the world had gone to sh*t in a familiar way or a completely unknowable way – they still had to try and make something liveable out of it as best they could.
If all she was meant to be, was an unknown, unnamed background character in a story she already knew the destination of, so be it; she wasn’t about to stop trying just because the outlook might be grim if you weren’t considered one of the ‘main cast’.
And, as she looked around at the people around here who would also have been unknown and unnamed beside her, she determined again that the ‘roles’ they might have been designated within whatever ‘story’ this was were not important.
What mattered was their survival, and their intention to make it through this life in a better manner than was intended for them.
‘Leave the world a better place than you found it’, and all those sentiments, basically.
Not least, Dreamer would be damned if she was going to let a ‘story’ she already knew about continue to be told the way she knew it would, if there was anything that could be done to reduce the suffering she knew was inflicted upon the people – and world – within it.
This was her home, these were her people, and she would do her best to help this world protect them.
Even if this ended up being a different story than the one she had read about.
For now, there was no way to be certain which world line she had fallen into, so there were more pressing matters.
Such as the zombie-like ‘demonic people’ headed their way right now.
These were a 9th grade human type of demonic person, meaning that they were human mutants infected with black ether. They did not have any ‘consciousness’ but were several times stronger than they were as a normal human before being infected with the ether. They were categorised as non-human and no longer counted as ‘people’.
This did make her wonder how exactly the black ether affected their bodies, to utilise them in this way, and how the

, or the Bureau, was able to control them with it.
While Dreamer’s survival instincts kicked into gear and she informed the others of their new enemies and goals and what to expect from this scenario now and they all moved together to fend off the few demonic people that had risen to attack them, her mind remained spinning with thoughts and theories.
What exactly was this black ether?
‘Ether’ in the story she had read had seemed kind of equivalent to a form of energy or magic power, and there could be different types. Then, where did this black ether, or energy come from? Why did it affect the bodies like this when other black-energy-using weapons and skills just performed as regular energy forms and magic, not mutating infections?
Of course, she had some theories, but there was no way she would be able to investigate them further anytime soon.
Yet, they still spun in her head. Words like, ‘ink’, ‘leftover text from stories told’, and more. Not quite like the outer gods from the story she read, but maybe something similar, without consciousnesses or forms? Like the words surrounding the storylines to pad them out, or the ones not included in the final text, used as notes or planning for the complete stories told using them, perhaps?
Or perhaps like the non-sentient elements of stories, whilst the sentient ones went on to become like the outer gods?
After Damian and the others had subdued the demonic people, Dreamer stared down at one of them nearest her with questioning eyes, observing their blackened, lengthened fingernails and dark veins and eyes. Once their heart was destroyed, they were defeated, but did the black ether disperse out of them, or did it remain?
“Let’s move on,” Dreamer ended up suggesting. “Before more of them rise and attack us, since it doesn’t seem like all of the bodies were used this time, but that might not remain the case.”
It was now very clear why the clear conditions had specified that they needed to survive until they could ‘escape’ from the hospital.
With a last look towards the supposedly non-sentient, mutated forms of the dead, Dreamer was wheeled out with her group of survivors as they searched the hospital for the now-scattered items they had been trying to retrieve from the pharmacy before the scenario triggered.
****

Chapter 4: Chapter Three – Scavenger Hunt (2)

Chapter Text

One of the new people that had joined their group in the process of the Scavenger Hunt scenario was behaving irregularly.
Dreamer watched him with heavy wariness.
He kept making remarks about how much quicker they could move if they split up and just moved in groups based on their ‘mobility level’ or ‘aptitude’.
She was pretty certain everyone present caught on to the unsubtle ableism covered up by these ‘strategies’ he suggested.
Ciara – the receptionist who had stuck close beside Dreamer and often offered to push her – shut his sh*t down whenever the comments got a little too pointed and obvious, but sooner or later, he would suggest something else about it.
As they were distributing the rewards from one of the trickier caches to retrieve, he started up again about how the group was ‘too big’ to remain in, and before he could suggest something about thinning the herd again, one of the doctors – a man with pink hair and dark eyes named Akari – slammed a hand against the wall the man was standing next to and in a low tone, informed him of exactly which people he was dismissing.
“Del over there knows this place better than any of the rest of us – he worked as a porter here long before he ever became a patient, and according to this girl you called a faker who knows more about this sh*t than most, –“ here he indicated Dreamer herself, who waved and grinned at the jerk Akari was reprimanding “– that means he has the most chance of knowing where the secret stuff might be kept, so we ain’t walking off without him. As for the others you keep taking digs at, most of them are tougher to beat than you’d be. Anya there already took down one of the sturdiest dead lads twice your size without the rest of us needing to help, so don’t you keep looking down on ‘em, you hear? If you’re with us, you’re with all of us, or you might as well head off on your own, ‘cause we ain’t splitting into ‘doctors and patients’, mate.
“The world might have flipped over and given us the bird, but our common sense ain’t gone nowhere. Everyone’s life has value and meaning, and if you hadn’t already known that, then maybe you’ll take the fact that they made it through that ‘Proof of Worth’ event as enough evidence for that, since you seem so caught up in what these changes mean for ‘our survival’.”
Damn. If Dreamer had been a constellation, she would surely have sent him a fair amount of cheering for that speech, but she had to admit that she was very much biased.
However, that damn dokkaebi clearly had their own biases and ideas, because not long after Akari made that speech and their group had moved on to find the next cache of loot, a wave of demonic people swarmed them, and in the process, separated them.
Dreamer ended up on her own after telling Ciara, who had been stuck by her, to help a kid Kaelsi was defending, who had fallen.
Now, she had wheeled herself into a room on her own and hastily barricaded the door shut.
Was it just her imagination, or had more of them been chasing after her, specifically?
No, that must just be the way it felt, since it was such a large group of demonic people that had flooded them, which completely made no sense for the difficulty level of the scenario they were taking part in.
It reminded her of how in her dreams of various apocalypses, things often broke logic to become unusually chaotic at the expense of reason. She supposed the same rule must apply to reality, ultimately, as well.
She would probably have sworn at the dokkaebi out loud at the unfairness or the Probability or something, had it not been likely to result in retaliation now or later, and instead cursed them within her head instead while stacking items up next to one of the walls in the corner.
Using her wheelchair as the first foothold, she used her stacked items and the walls of the corner themselves to climb up and shoved aside one of the heavy ceiling panels that she knew from experience were always loose and easily shiftable.
However, they were also weak and prone to breaking at the slightest provocation.
The supports between then, on the other hand, were stabler, and it was upon these that she painfully hauled herself onto, having to remain on her stomach on them due to the small gap between the ceiling panels and the floor above.
Nevertheless, she had managed to make it up, and kicked her foot out at the tower she had built, toppling it over. She then slid the panels she had knocked askew back into place as much as she was able to in the cramped space and left the one by her face slightly askew so she could observe the situation and adjust her plan if they seemed able to reach her up here.
She was very grateful for her eternally slight build and previous experience with climbing and balance – and hiding.
She regulated her breathing as much as she could manage while in extreme pain – which, she thought somewhat wryly, she had plenty of practice in with her blasted condition – and waited, willing herself to calm down and reduce her presence as much as possible (on the off-chance it had any benefit – she wasn’t entirely certain about the perceptive skills of the demonic people who didn’t maintain consciousnesses, but could still chase after them to attack.
Just as the demonic people managed to break through the door and furniture blocking it, a glitchy blue screen fizzled up in front of her again.
It seemed to be telling her that a stealth skill had activated. Was this how skills were meant to work in the

?
She tried to ‘focus’ on the message log to see if it detailed how she had activated the skill, but there were no other messages about it.
Regardless, this must be a good thing. Even though she had felt absolutely no difference. Maybe it had been delayed?
The skill activation at least distracted her a bit from the demonic people surging into the room and lashing out at the air below her.
Graciously, they didn’t seem to pick up on her presence, or know to investigate to find where she had gone.
But they still weren’t… leaving? Was this normal behaviour for demonic people in the scenario? The book hadn’t been particularly detailed about their habits or functions.
To her, they just appeared to remain ‘activated’ in ‘attack mode’, because they kept snarling and screeching and flailing, but there was nothing here for them to aim for, and they didn’t seem compelled to leave and seek out the others, either.
‘What the f*ck? How am I meant to retrieve my wheelchair then?’ she wondered.
Internally sighing, Dreamer very, very carefully shifted onto her back and began pressing at the structure of the ‘floor’ above her, wondering how many coins she would need to invest in her strength stat to break through the floor.
Not that she could really see her stats properly, thanks to whatever error code her existence had apparently caused the

’s system.
Before she could decide whether spending coins here would be beneficial or pointless, the space she was in shook and several ceiling tiles fell from around her, and light streamed in from somewhere past her position.
She shifted her head up to see a portion of the ceiling had been blasted apart by something from above.
Well, that certainly made things easier.
Shifting onto her belly again, Dreamer shimmied and crawled along the void space between ceiling and floor of the hospital until she reached the edge of the opening and cautiously peered out.
A blackened body was kicked down through the floor to the room full of demonic people below.
Standing above the hole was someone in a blue technician’s uniform and scraggly beard, frowning down at the demonic people beneath.
“Nice work,” he said, and another person appeared at his side – much smaller, in a lab coat and safety specs.
“Thanks, Ax,” she replied happily.
They didn’t appear to be giving off any bad vibes, so it would probably be okay for Dreamer to come out and ask them for help–
The girl threw something down that landed amongst the demonic people below that ignited and exploded.
Dreamer supposed she knew who had put the hole in the floor now.
Reaching out a hand and waving it for them to see, Dreamer called out, “Hello! I’m not one of them – can I come up?” hoping that this would be enough not to spook them into throwing anything her way.
After hearing a positive, she hauled herself up and upon seeing there were no more demonic people up here, promptly flopped flat on her back, curled up.
The girl from before was kneeling beside her, looking concerned. “Are you alright, Miss?” she enquired.
Dreamer lightly nodded. “For now, I am. I just can’t move too much more because of my condition.”
She uncurled enough to hold out a hand to the girl. “Call me Dreamer. Thank you for letting me climb up – I wasn’t really sure how to avoid them.”
The girl in the lab coat took her hand and shook it. “I’m Iskra, and this is my colleague, Axel. Ah, not that we probably work here anymore, I suppose?” she added with some hesitance.
Axel shrugged. “We don’t know that for definite yet. Even in disastrous circ*mstances, people still need functional hospitals.”
Dreamer, however, felt that the scenario would be more likely to push them away from the hospital first, even if they were to be permitted back at a later date or scenario. The sub-scenario they had been given had been to survive until they could escape, after all.
Though he did make a fair point. She wondered at what point the dokkaebis – or the

, or the narrative, or whatever the f*ck now made up the laws of her world now – allowed medical centres and hospitals to be set back up, given that they had to be somewhat prevalent throughout all scenarios, surely? Even in the story, they had been there.
But the early scenarios were used to acclimate the population of the capital cities to their ‘new normal’ of the

and that meant pitting them against each other and against the monsters now flooding the streets beyond the hospital that they could see from every window.
Perhaps that meant that for now, the hospital would be more or less abandoned?
After wondering what that meant for those patients who could not be moved from their units and relied upon the hospital for survival and firmly shoving those thoughts and implications far away for now, she snapped her focus back to the present.
“Do you need assistance moving around?” Iskra asked more calmly than the situation probably warranted.
“I will do, but if you can point me to a wheelchair, I can get around much less painfully. My normal one is currently in a bit of a precarious place, unfortunately,” she nodded towards the pit they had made to the room below.
“Ah,” Iskra said in realisation. “Well, that must suck. But they have some posted just down the hall from here, since this is a hospital. They won’t be as nice as yours, most likely, but they’re better than nothing, right?”
Dreamer agreed. “Yes, definitely! I won’t get around at all without one, at any rate.” Even with her abnormally high pain tolerance, this was not a manageable level of pain, and until she worked out how to use the disability aid skill she had acquired that sounded akin to Spoon Theory to her from what she could read about it, she needed to move around as little as possible, in case she needed to defend herself physically.
Being disabled in an apocalypse was rough but it wasn’t her first time, if dreams counted. She wasn’t entirely sure if they did, but from what she could make out of her attribute window… it might.
And there was the pretty stark proof that dreams meant something since the goddamn

had come to her planet.
It hadn’t even taken a different name…
While explaining to them the useful information she knew about the situation and about her group of survivors on the floor beneath, Dreamer was bodily hefted into the – thankfully quiet – hallway by the very strong Axel, to where the spare wheelchairs lined the corridor. Iskra helped her into it after he set her down.
Axel had perked up after she had explained about how to make use of the coins they had acquired up until now to boost their stats.
While commending Iskra on her use of apparent pyrotechnics to handle the demonic people, they returned to the room they had come from to gather what they needed and decide where to go next.
Axel was the one to suggest they actually head down into the remaining demonic people so they could look for Dreamer’s other group members more easily. Apparently, he wanted to test out his new physical capabilities after investing coins in them.
Iskra had already thinned the gathered enemies out, and moved over to tinker with some things on one of the counters in the lab and threw it down at them.
After the blast had settled somewhat, Axel leaped down easily and began swinging a large metal tool at the few remaining upright.
“Can you get down alright, or do you want to wait here for us to come back up?” Iskra asked. The plan was to gather as much loot as possible, of course, so they would inevitably head back up eventually even if they went back down to regroup.
Dreamer groaned. “Urghhh…. I can get down, but I’d appreciate a hand once I’m down there, if you don’t mind? My chair’s over there,” she gestured towards the blessedly un-blasted corner of the room.
Iskra looked at the floor strewn with debris and mutated bodies and nodded. “…I’ll clear the floor,” she offered and headed down first to do so after helping Axel beat the remaining demonic people down.
After clearing a path, they emerged into the hallway and found it mostly deserted – at complete odds to how it was moments before when swarming with mutated humans.
While checking the rooms as they moved towards the cache location they had worked out earlier, they came across Del, the elderly gentleman who used to be a porter here.
He was on his own, with a demonic person knocked over before him.
He looked relieved to see Dreamer again, and it was the same for her. She briefly introduced Axel and Iskra and they moved on to find the others.
The next people they came across were the kind doctor from before, Damian, a quiet patient named Steph, and the jerk who seemed sketch as all hell who kept trying to break the group up.
Damian looked as if he was half-guarding Steph behind him, but when asked, they all said nothing was wrong, though Damian wouldn’t take his eyes off of the jerk, looking tense.
Dreamer shared a brief glance with Iskra, who shrugged as if she couldn’t tell what was up with them either and wanted to say, ‘Don’t look at me! I just got here!’
Wheeling over to Damian’s side, paying no attention to the jerk opposite him saying smarmy things again, presumably, had she been listening, Dreamer reached out and took one of his clenched fists in hers, tapped each finger in succession to loosen them, then turned his hand over to tap at his inner wrist.
“Ah, yes, doc, this seems like quite a serious case of psychosomatic stress disorder. It’s understandable, given the state of the world at the moment. You’d almost think there was an apocalypse going on or something!” she joked, choosing words spoken to her and other patients by some very unhelpful medical staff in the past. “I find exercise is a suitable treatment, if you haven’t tried that already? Care to take a walk with us? We can probably get to the next cache before we find the others, if they haven’t gotten there already.”
Damian visibly relaxed upon hearing her poke fun about doctors ‘advice’ again like their group had periodically done along the way to lighten the mood a bit amidst their new harsh reality. Anya had better jokes by far, but Dreamer also had plenty of material to pull from.
“Alright. Let’s go.” He finally turned away from the jerk and looked at the others who had shown up. “It’s good to see you too, Del. Ah, and you’ve found some more survivors, I see?”
While they were introducing themselves to each other, Dreamer checked on Steph, who assured she was alright before sticking close beside Damian and Del.
Dreamer eyed up the jerk with a raised eyebrow, but he wasn’t paying her any attention, only looking over to Iskra and Axel and clearly determining how best to convince them to side with him in whatever altercation would undoubtedly result from his constant friction with the rest of them.
-> meet up with some others, jerk-face gets two new bullies to prey on the ‘vulnerable’ ones of them with after befriending Axel, who has not picked up on his leery vibes yet.
-> Del, Iskra and Damian get locked out of a room while Steph, Axel, Dreamer, jerk-face and his two new pals are inside, and jerk-face uses the opportunity to try and ‘thin the herd’ out, since he has apparently been encouraged to do for some time now by his sponsor and other constellations in the channel, which is why he kept pushing at the issue so much before.
-> Dreamer can just about see his attribute window if she focuses and thinks about it in a particular way, and she reads that he gained an ‘Angel of Mercy’ attribute, likely from the first scenario’s events. It was understandable, given the situation, sort of, but still not something you’d think he would want to reinforce thereafter. She couldn’t quite read who his sponsor was without getting a headache, but she didn’t need it right now.
Right now, she needed to do something that was definitely going to hurt.
However, she had spent the past little while with Damian guiding them around in her stead, working out how the Spoon Theory-like skill worked, and had found that while it did not reduce her pain, much like certain meds like tramadol had once affected her, the skill ‘set aside’ her pain to a different region of her brain – or so it felt – so that she was able to keep moving despite it, and would just suffer the full extent of it once the perspective of it reverted back to its normal position in her head.
So, she would be in the same amount of pain, but her body wouldn’t be as aware of that until she rested, she supposed. It was hard to describe, exactly.
Regardless, she applied many ‘spoons’ to herself before asking Steph to hand her a nearby mop resting in the corner of the room, and bracing for a fight she really did not actually have the spoons for – skill or no skill – but would have to fight regardless.
Axel seemed very confused as to what he was expected to do here, and why the trio of jerks were holding sharp objects or pipes in their hands, levelled at Steph and Dreamer.
Once Dreamer creakily pushed onto her feet and stepped out of her chair, sore but standing firm with a steely expression, he realised what was being asked of him here.
Dreamer did not take her eyes off of the three jerks as she asked him, “You don’t have to get involved if you aren’t comfortable with it, Axel, but I will have to ask you not to join them, please. I don’t really want to fight you, too.” But she would if she had to, went unsaid.
The notion of such a feeble and small person being able to stand her ground here against any of them, let alone the very strong Axel, was laughable.
To the rest of them.
To Dreamer, she had compared his height and weight to that of one of her old martial arts’ sparring partners and determined that even if it hurt, she still remembered exactly how to throw someone of his size and weight. Technique could be more important than physical strength if you knew how to apply it.
Not that she particularly wanted to test exactly how much she had retained from her lessons before she fell sick, of course. At least she knew that the way the

worked should enable her to use old but acquired skills she maintained as current skills that were useable in the scenarios, combative or otherwise.
And she had a lot more combat awareness and experience than the average person, even just from her waking life.
She was no black belt but glancing at the medical students and doctors before her, they were far less informed than her, and only had basic stats and weapon skills to make use of.
However, Steph had handed her a good substitute for her favoured weapon, a bo, and so she was definitely going to wreck their sh*t.
Let them think poorly of her weak, disabled ass, but if she had a weapon in her hands, she would not lose.
(While convincing herself of this, she briefly made note of a system skill activation screen popping up but did not have the time to focus on it to read what it said.)
Steph, having been instructed to stay back and throw sh*t at them from afar, moved back to give her space, taking the chair with her, thankfully.
Axel shook his head, as if frustrated at the entire situation. “No, you don’t have to worry about that,” he said calmly, before swinging a fist at the nearest jerk promising death upon her and Steph.
After initial surprise at him not joining them in their stupid peer-pressure event, the jerks started fighting in earnest against both Axel and Dreamer but found very quickly that a Dreamer with a stick – no matter how flimsy – was not easy to overcome at all.
She actually laughed – laughed – as she repeatedly whacked the trio who wanted to kill her for loot, for survival, ‘for the story’.
Turns out, a history of martial arts lessons was more useful than she had anticipated it being, considering her low grade before she stopped.
But her goal was not to return attempted murder with the same, of course. She did her best to knock them the f*ck down and not accidentally murder them, but Axel beat her to the punch on a couple of them, who were out cold.
Dreamer made sure he knew he didn’t need to kill them, but that they might still be useful as captives, or they could just leave them. Of course, the ultimate choice was up to him, but she said she would feel better if they didn’t cede to the circ*mstances of their situation for the sake of loot or coins or the entertainment of the constellations, if they could help it.
By this point, Axel had left them unconscious and used some cable cords nearby to tie up the last jerk left conscious and the other three had busted the door open with what looked like acid on the handle.
Iskra was grinning with a reagent in her hand. “We’re baaack~ –“ she began before the smile dropped from her face and her eyes fell to the forms on the floor. “Holy f*ck, what happened?”
Damian stepped past her and strode over to them. “I told you he’d try something with just the few of them in here!”
Iskra went over to Axel while Damian checked on Steph and Dreamer.
“I take it you had to pull on ‘old skills’ again, Dreamer?” he asked with an arched brow.
Dreamer beamed. “You know it! Just cleaning up their act a bit for them you know?” she said while leaning on her temporary weapon cleaning aid like she was much cooler than she actually was or felt.
Steph pushed her chair back over and she sank into it, pulling her knees right up to her chest, glad that she had worn leggings when she came out today for her hospital scans. “You know calling it like that makes you sound like you’re a former assassin or something, right?” she said with a hesitant, weary smile.
“I’ll take it, if it stops people from thinking they can pummel me into dust,” she replied, confidence fled alongside her expended spoons.
Steph’s smile solidified a bit as she looked down at Dreamer. “Do you need to rest a bit before we move on?” she asked in that quiet voice of hers.
Dreamer shook her head. “Not if someone else is happy to push me. I can just sit like this and bear with it for the time being, but pushing myself around would be asking a bit much right now. Especially if we need to fight again.”
-> Everyone moves on, with new baggage bullies in wheelchairs and finds the others, fends off the cache guardians who are not just demonic people this time, but also much, much larger versions of the kinds of parasites and insects that their respective groups had murdered in the first scenario.
If any of them hadn’t already been wigged the f*ck out by parasites before, they sure as hell were now.
-> This cache loot is bigger than normal, for the bigger than normal fight.
-> Group heads to the areas they each want to check out for friends, family, or for hidden scenarios and loot, and they head to the paediatric ward to help any remaining kids, finding several caretakers remaining beside them, whilst others have already turned into demonic people.
-> Several of the group cry alongside the paediatric staff upon joining them and seeing how hard they worked to keep these kids safe.
“She…she saved me. She’d already killed someone while trying to defend us but then she took my hands and made me – she, she said I deserved to live too. Even a life like mine holds immeasurable worth, she said. But – but! So, so did hers!” they cried, still clutching the body of the woman who had deserved to live too.
Kaelsi carefully lifted the young teen’s hands from where they were firmly fisted in the clothing of the ward nurse pulled into their lap. It was clear that she had chosen to die so that this kid could live. This was not the only case where such a thing had happened.
The kid must not have moved from their spot since the first scenario happened. The survivors from the area must have been defending this ward, for none of the demonic people to have attacked them here.
Blessedly, many of the youngest patients of the ward had survived without a clear reason for it, leaving them to speculate on how the

handled the first scenario when it came to those too young or unable to understand it, but there was always the possibility that they had just been given an altered version of it. Regardless, they had survived, and several other older survivors had stuck around to protect them.
Now, Kaelsi was pulling the body away from the kid as gently as she could. The others must not have known to look here yet, or were too distracted to notice, perhaps.
Iskra came over and knelt down as well to help. The pair of them moved the nurse aside and placed her in as peaceful a position as they could, given the circ*mstances, and made sure her eyes were closed.
They then moved over to the kid, with Kaelsi wrapping them in her arms while Iskra went to a nearby wash station to get paper towels to clean the blood and gore off of them with.
Immunocompromised, terminally ill, and visibly disabled. A child, heading into an apocalypse alongside multitudes of ‘Angels of Mercy’.
From her spot further back by the doors, Dreamer’s gaze moved from the crying child to the woman who had deserved to live so much, and who had demonstrated that until her final moments.
An increasingly familiar desolation seeped towards her heart as she considered the cruelty of worlds like this, that demanded such sacrifices as the price for survival.
As her mind turned towards thoughts of the

and who exactly it was that designed these things, despite what the story she had read suggested about it, a screen popped up in front of her eyes, that was a different colour to most.
Instead of having a bluer hue, this one was a kind of orange or amber, though it was still quite patchy, like all of hers had been up until now. The distinct colour was what caused her to leave her ruminations and focus on the contents and saw something beyond the message seem to pop up by the body of the nurse before quickly vanishing again.
[Essence of, ‘Laarni Alcantara Torino’ has been collected for reprocessing.]
Dreamer blinked heavily upon reading what the orange box said. She glanced from the woman’s body, back to the box, then to the vicinity next to the body where she had briefly glimpsed something appear and disappear.
Was she meant to be able to see this message…?
A multitude of concerns and theories flooded her mind about what this might mean. Her first thoughts were about how ‘souls’ in the

went on to Underworlds for processing before they went… wherever they went next, and how this woman’s ‘soul’ might have just gotten ‘collected’ for the same destination. However, it had called it her ‘essence’, not ‘soul’ or ‘fable’ as was typically used in the story she read. What did the new term indicate? And why was this message stating that it was for reprocessing? Is this what they did when they made ‘new’ world lines? Didn’t this mean the

, or perhaps the Bureau as well, were fully aware of these processes too?
Before she could really come to any sound conclusions, Kaelsi, Iskra and the young kid came over. Iskra placed the child on Dreamer’s lap (after checking it was okay) and the four of them headed out of the room to find another wheelchair for them to use (even though, like Dreamer herself and Kaelsi beside her, the teen was somewhat ambulatory as well and had crutches to get around with normally).
The orange box hadn’t disappeared from her system log, however, and Dreamer found herself glancing at it several times throughout the day.
There were many things here that differed from what she knew of the world of the

of the novel, and she could really use some time to sit and think about everything that this new reality meant about… everything else she was aware of, but for now, her pain was insanely high, her body and mental state were under constant strain, and she felt the desperate and urgent need to help ensure this side of their world survived, since she had no way of knowing how much of the novel had shown up here, let alone if there were anyone else present who might know how to protect it.
-> Then the other angels descend upon their position after apparently being given their own scenarios to ‘mercy kill’ more of their group who are vulnerable or deemed ‘a burden’ to the group’s survival.
sh*t gets tough. Dreamer still chooses not to kill them and tries to get the others to do the same.
Meanwhile, Steph feels worried she isn’t contributing even as much as the other patients, so Dreamer asks if she happens to know a lot about books, games, or films like a lot of spoonies have knowledge of, and she says yes, so Dreamer says she will be very useful soon, and asks if she has any hobbies. She sews and makes many different plushies and other merchandise, and Dreamer informs her that those skills are incredibly useful, too. Not every person needs to know how to physically fight at all times, and if she works on the foundation of skills and knowledge she already has, she will have ways to defend herself and look after the group. She suggests Steph can help the other medical staff in their team stitch up wounds, too, and this draws a laugh from her.
They head towards the hospital’s theatre to see if there is a hidden scenario here like there was in the book she read (that she unfortunately finds she cannot properly speak about in a way others can hear her properly through) with Steph’s comprehensive knowledge of various media being a great help here, as well as many of the others’, and they discover a lot on the way, whilst defending against more Angels.
Nobody comments on what this means for how they got the attribute in the first place, but some of those within their own group share it, unfortunately.
They don’t discuss the first scenario much.
*****

Chapter 5: Chapter Four – Excursion

Chapter Text

Seeing through the glitches and blurring to the system messages was getting easier. Dreamer wrote down the names of the constellations watching the channel and sending indirect messages to their group in the notebook she always kept on her so she could work them out later.
Their group had just cleared the hidden scenario given to them in the hospital’s equivalent of the ‘theatre dungeon’ and were gathering back together to discuss plans after having split up to search for other hospital loot and survivors.
The ‘Theatre Master’ of this place had not been the same as the one Kim Dokja faced, as far as Dreamer knew, but had actually been a pair of presumably famous constellation clones, that Steph had known a lot more about than the rest of them had. According to her, they had been some of the first founding inventors of cinematography itself, though she hadn’t been sure which ones they were, basing her guesses on the clues around the cinema that had devices propped up like a mini-museum of British filmography, amidst the films they were pulled into in similar fashion to in ORV. Defeating them had just been like a regular fight, though their ‘bodies’ were not normal incarnation bodies as such and scattered once overcome (after they had tried talking it out first and failed to change their role or stance, despite one of them displaying hesitancy).
Once everyone had gathered, the group discussed what to do next, since the hospital remained open after they had cleared the Scavenger Hunt event earlier and many of them had expressed their desire to remain here and guard it, get it back up and running as a necessary emergency station despite the scenarios happening around them, and others intended to leave to see what the state of the rest of the city/world was like, search for family or friends they could no longer contact, or just set off on their own.
It ended up with Damian leading most of the discussion and planning alongside an emergency medicine doctor named Camryn Allard, but they listened to Dreamer’s opinion on some aspects of their plans because she seemed to be the only one with an idea of what to expect from the dokkaebis so far.
Dreamer suggested they have two main groups for the time being, who could then divide up further later on as needed, but to try and remain together as much as possible because it would be harder for monsters or hostile people to attack them that way. She would inform the designated ‘leaders’ of these groups of the likely scenarios coming up, including the one where they would be pitted against each other even more than they already had, and stressed that regardless of the scenario, there would always be more ways to clear them than was obvious at first appearance, but that alternatives would come at the cost of great effort and willpower.
Camryn is the designated leader of the group remaining to defend the hospital and its patients, while Damian is the leader of the group leaving the hospital. Someone makes the comment that they could name the group the ‘Remainers’ and the ‘Leavers’ in blatant reference to Brexit, but everyone decides that sucks and opts to call them the ‘Hospital’ group and the ‘Excursion’ group.
The idea is that the city will need hospital and emergency locations to hold out with this disaster at some point anyways, so it is better to try and keep hold of the one here as long as they can so that they can preserve as much of it as they can before monsters or other entities destroy it, while it is equally important for others to progress the ‘main’ scenarios as well, so the second group is going to aim for achieving that alongside their smaller goals in leaving the area.
The plan is to seek each other back out once they are able to and check in with each group whenever they find a suitable method to do so with, to remain connected despite the upturned state of things.
Dreamer makes notes for the group remaining behind that details the main points about the

and the constellations and how they work, along with suggestions for tackling certain types of scenario that are likely to come up (as she does not know if the London scenarios will mirror Seoul’s, but knows the types of clear condition that might come up even if not). She checks that they can actually read what she wrote first, though, after being uncertain about it with filtering being an already-present issue. She makes sure everyone is aware that regardless of what their previous job title or hobbies were, they will each have something beneficial to offer each group, so long as they are creative in how they apply the skills, stats, and knowledge to each situation. Even simple topics they took an interest in in the past can now help work out where useful hidden scenarios or items might be or indicate something about the constellations watching them from the skies above.
Axel stays, while Iskra opts to join Damian and Dreamer’s group leaving the hospital. Dreamer suggests that Iskra be amongst the first of them to return, once things have settled a bit more and any opportunity for it presents itself, as they seem close.
Several others join each group, with Kaelsi, Anya, Steph, Akari, Ciara, and Sammy (another nurse) teaming up with Dreamer and Damian. Del and his partner, Corwin, that they found during their earlier search, stay behind as well, since Del’s knowledge of the hospital’s history and the local area is incredibly useful. Most of the children stay behind with their new caretakers who kept them safe, and several strong adults remain behind to keep an eye on the captured Angels and enemies, to put them to use in the hospital later and help Camryn protect this space from scenario impacts and monsters.
Outside, they tackle the first lot of monsters they come across together, with Dreamer explaining how the bones, tissues, and other components of the deceased monsters can be used to craft weapons or other items, as well as be used for food in some cases (though she does not know for sure which of these is ‘safe’ to eat, as they haven’t come across the ones she knows of yet).
Then, the ‘Excursion’ group splits up – the ones seeking out their family first and foremost are given instructions and asked to reach one of the broadcasting stations nearby on their way elsewhere, and they split up from Damian’s group that are heading to the stations to target the ‘main’ scenarios and form a network outside of the hospital so that they can help remain connected and aware of the wider events in the London dome. They also intend to acquire plenty of skills and items to make use of or share later on down the line.
Along the way, they befriend a group of young people, and Dreamer becomes fast friends with a drummer named Devin.
Like this, Dreamer and her new allies reach the London underground station nearest to the hospital and they finally – finally! – have a chance to set up camp and rest before the next ‘main’ scenario appears.
It has been less than a day since the world flipped over, yet they are all more than exhausted and worn-down.
The group set up turns taking watch while the others sleep, and since they finally have some downtime, Dreamer uses the first watch period to go over a lot of the things she hasn’t been able to reflect on yet.

Chapter 6: Chapter Five – Dreamwalker (sleep #1, meets little Dream)

Chapter Text

[The constellation ‘Invisible God of the Night’ finds your choice wise.]
Dreamer looked at the glitchy message in front of her with some bemusem*nt. Was this constellation joking again? They had cropped up a few times now, always to comment after Dreamer had just made an unusual and outwardly not very clever move. She had her good reasons, of course, what with her knowledge of the scenarios they might face next, but she doubted that this constellation would know that. None of the constellations Kim Dokja had met in the story seemed to have much foreknowledge at all, and anytime Dreamer had tried to tell the others around her or in the night sky about details, it had been filtered out. So, she assumed this constellation was being playful whenever he said things like this afterwards.
She had an idea of what name this constellation might have, but it also felt too unlikely. After all, what would a deity from the Aztec pantheon be doing watching a London stream? That kind of deity ought to be a high enough level to be sleeping in the Ark of the Final Scenario with the rest of the Creation and Myth-grade gods, anyways. So, it was likely not the person she thought it was.
Actually, now that she thought about it, didn’t Tetzcatlipoca have a different modifier in the story? Wasn’t it ‘Mirror that Emits Smoke’? It had been mentioned in the Final Scenario chapters, where he had been one of the Myth-grade constellations that woke up to fight Kim Dokja’s Company when they went to destroy the Ark. So, was this a different constellation, or did he just have more than one modifier? If it was the same entity, he should still be asleep in the Ark, no?
[The constellation ‘Invisible God of the Night’ is wide awake.]
Dreamer blinked. Why did that sound like a reply when Dreamer had only been thinking about his identity?
A moment of suspicion passed, and Dreamer shrugged. This was not the first time something so coincidental had happened to her, and it ended up just being that: a coincidence. She could always question it later. It’s not like she had all that many secrets to keep, anyways, since most of the info in her head about the scenarios was stuff she tried to share already as it was.
Someone approached from behind her and Dreamer spun around, pulling her staff up to block any impending attacks.
“Woah! Chill, Dreamer. I’m here to take over watch from you. You need sleep too, right? It’s your turn. Kaelsi’s already relieved Anya, and I’m here to swap with you. Isn’t sleep kind of a big deal for you, dreamwalker?” her friend Devin asked, quoting a topic she had shared earlier while theorising about her own skills.
Dreamer relaxed and nodded. “Yep, I do need sleep, you’re right. Will you look after my plants for me in the meantime? This one still needs regular watering in order to be regularly harvestable, you see?” She had discovered the unusual plant in one of the labs on their way out of the hospital after the first scenario and subsequent sub ones there had ended. Now that the world had fallen to this, they found that the plants here had special attributes, too, in a lot of cases, and Dreamer had a good idea about some of their new uses based on their purported traits before the world fell.
Devin nodded. “Sure thing, I’ve got it covered. Go sleep and see if you can do your dreaming thing,” he said easily, waving her off. She handed her makeshift staff over to him and moved to lay down next to her chair.
As she was getting settled on the floor of the building they were sheltering in, Dreamer thought about who the Invisible God of the Night might be, but her mind only seemed to settle on the Aztec god Tetcatlipoca. It would certainly be very scary if he were the one watching her, but the mannerisms of the constellation who constantly seemed to be subtly ribbing her did not seem quite as scary as that.
Mind you, she had always thought that this was one of the supposedly ‘dark’ gods that were actually quite good. If you compared this god to another in the pantheon that was considered ‘good’, then he was actually not as bad as expected from his titles. She considered someone like Huitzilopochtli to be even scarier, for sure. And he had more human sacrifices offered to him, to boot. In comparison, Tetcatlipoca was quite a relaxed god. Maybe, like many other tales of underworld and night-related entities, this was another who was merely misunderstood as ‘evil’? Dreamer had always felt there were far too many gods and monsters given a bad reputation that didn’t actually fit, so perhaps this god was one of them?
Dreamer scrunched her nose at the thought and shook her head. The deity would still be extremely terrifying even if they weren’t as bad as others like Huitzilopochtli or Zeus. And regardless, it was good not to get on any constellation’s bad side. So long as she kept them entertained, she would probably be fine…
Tetzcatlipoca’s colour scheme that she read about reminded her of a bumblebee, however. If she thought of it like that, he seemed less terrifying. Despite being related to the jaguar, this god had yellow and black stripes as part of his identifying features. How could she not think of bees?
She didn’t really know anything about the Invisible God of the Night as a constellation past her conjecture, so she wondered who else this god might be. If she hadn’t already known that Hades’ modifier was ‘Father of the Rich Night’ and that he would likely be watching the Korean dome, she might assume it was him.
As it was, he was not Hades.
Dreamer sighed and settled down for the night. Hopefully, she would be able to dream herself into Kim Dokja’s dreams, to check if she really was in the same world line as him or if it was one of the numerous other ones. Hopefully, it would not be one of the ones fated to be destroyed.
-
When Dreamer opened her eyes, she instead found herself on a subway train.
She blinked. This did not look like your typical tube train, though it was similar…
“Hello? How did you get here?” A voice called out from behind her.
She spun around to see a young teen before her. He looked somewhat beaten-up, and too thin.
Dreamer frowned deeply. She knew who this kid was. And it was not the Kim Dokja she had been expecting to find.
However, she thought this might be even better, because she knew a lot about this particular person and how much they suffered. How lonely they were.
And she had found herself on his train somehow. That meant she might be able to help!
“You are Kim Dokja?” she asked just to be sure, and the kid did not answer. She continued. “My name is Dreamer, and I know your story. You are the Most Ancient Dream, correct?”
The boy still looked suspicious, yet hesitantly nodded. “I am. Nobody is meant to be able to reach me here, however. How have you ended up here?” There looked to be a hint of desperation in his eyes as he asked.
Dreamer knew why it would be there. He missed his companions. She swallowed tightly, feeling a rush of emotions that surely weren’t meant to be her own. Sympathetic emotions, was that a thing? Maybe it was just simple empathy, now that she thought about it.
She waved them off to answer him. “You are a dreamer, like me. I found you here by dreaming. For me, this is just a dream. To be honest, I’m quite surprised that I could come here as well – I would have thought your train would be inaccessible, even to other dreamers, given how separate the universe here tries to keep you. Either that, or I thought your Fourth Wall would keep me from you.” Upon saying this, a slight growl was heard in the air between them.
Kim Dokja – the Most Ancient Dream version of him – widened his eyes and tilted his head at her. “You really do know my story, don’t you? That’s good because I feel like I have forgotten too much of it myself. You said my name was Kim Dokja?” asked the boy in a quiet voice.
Dreamer blinked. This kid didn’t remember his own name? sh*t. She really wanted to give him a hug. Instead, she replied, “Yes, it is. Say, do you happen to know how long you have been stuck here for? You look younger than I thought you would be...” Because Dreamer was fairly certain she knew when this kid would have come to this train, and that was only after he had turned 28 and been thrown into the scenarios before becoming a constellation and ending up here. Assuming she had the timeline in her head correct.
The young boy shrugged. “I’m not sure. It feels like it has been for my entire life, but I remember lots of other things happening too, so it can’t have been that long.”
Ah, that was an answer she understood too well. Dreamers didn’t always have time work in a way that was easily comprehensible. She hummed. “Alright. It sounds like you are currently dreaming, too, and so your time has distorted, along with your memories missing as a result. This can happen in dreams quite a lot – where you feel like entire lifetimes are passing by, but then you wake up and not much time has passed at all. I suspect that’s what is happening with you. Can you check with your Fourth Wall-nim? It should have a way to tell the time passed for you, even though time is subjective here.”
The kid looked perplexed, but nevertheless asked his ‘skill’ this question.
The results were clearly distressing.
“What?! What do you mean I’ve only been here for a night, but also since the beginning? The beginning of what? And how long is that? It’s felt like millennia have passed me by! How can it have only been one night?” demanded the confused kid to the air around him.
Dreamer grimaced. She hadn’t expected it to be quite such a huge amount of time in just one dream, but then again, she supposed it made some sense, given that this was supposed to be the Most Ancient Dream, who must have witnessed everything the Secretive Plotter version of Yoo Joonghyuk would have done. It was that ‘one night’ that bugged her the most, however, because how could he have dreamed so much in just one night? Even her own dreams didn’t typically last millennia all at once, yet here he was, millennia older in soul than his body would be. Actually, this ‘one night’ thing really made no sense, because surely, he must have been dreaming for at least as long as he had been reading, right?
Dreamer asked the Fourth Wall, “Are you sure it has only been one night? He should have been reading for longer than a night before he started dreaming of this place, right?”
>>Kim Dok ja has been on tra in for one nigh t. But Kim Dok ja has bee n drea ming for man y yea rs now.<<
Well, that explained some of it. Does that mean that Dreamer had found the Most Ancient Dream before the timeline of ORV had finished playing out? What version of Kim Dokja was before her right now?
She cautiously asked of the Fourth Wall, “How old is the Kim Dokja before us meant to be, outside of dreams?”
>>Twe nty- eigh t yea rs old.<<
Dreamer gasped at this. She had met him before his story was concluded, then! sh*t. That was a bit of a mindf*ck to think about the mechanics of…
Dreamer refocused on the kid in front of her, who was looking down at himself with doubt. “Hey, kid. I can tell that you don’t remember yourself very well, and I’m guessing you don’t feel twenty-right years old, either in body or in spirit, am I right?” A hesitant nod was given to her at this. “Alright. What would you like to be called for now? It’s important to protect your name when you are dreaming, so you might prefer to go by something else, if you aren’t used to hearing ‘Kim Dokja’ anymore. This is also why I go by ‘Dreamer’. So, what should I call you? Most Ancient Dream?”
The old yet not old teen knit his eyebrows together in consternation for a moment before replying, “How about ‘Dream’, since you are called Dreamer, and it is a part of my modifier?” he suggested.
Dreamer smiled. “Okay. Dream it is then. It sounds like you don’t remember a lot about yourself right now, and I feel like I can help with that, since I know yours. Would you like me to remind you of it? It might help explain your situation here, as well.”
The little Dream nodded and sat down on a nearby bench to listen.
Dreamer walked over to sit beside him and prepared to tell a long story. An important story. “Once upon a time, there was a kid who read a novel called Three Ways to Survive an Apocalypse. And when he slept, he’d dream about it, and during his waking hours, he would daydream…”
Her voice filled the silent train for a long time, yet she only got part-way through before the Fourth Wall seemed to get upset and demanded she leave.
The little Dream seemed upset at her needing to leave before she had finished telling her story. Dreamer promised to return if she could the next time she fell asleep, before offering him a hug – which he rejected – and quietly leaving to enter another dream.
*****

Chapter 7: Chapter Six – Dreamwalker (2) (meets KDJ)

Chapter Text

This time, she found herself in front of the person she had expected to meet.
“Hello, Kim Dokja!” Dreamer said cheerily. “I was wondering if you were in my world line, and it appears that that is the case. It’s nice to meet you! Ah, even if you are not exactly in the best situation right now, it looks like.”
The man before her was not looking his best, covered in acid and dark mucousy liquids as he was. “Who, are you?” he asked with effort. It seemed that even in his dreamscape, he was struggling at the moment.
Which made sense, since he was currently being digested by an ichthyosaur in his waking world, and some of his situation was clearly sticking with him in his sleep.
Dreamer cleared her throat, ignoring his raggedy appearance. “Ahem. You can call me Dreamer, and I am exactly that – a dreamwalker. It means I can visit people in their dreams and walk between dreams more easily than most. There’s actually a lot to it that I can tell you about, but first I wanted to tell you some information you do not currently have about this world that you think is Three Ways to Survive an Apocalypse.”
His expression remained aloof, so she continued. “You know the story of TWSA, but I know the story of •••, which is •••• story.” Dang, he hadn’t seemed to hear her properly, so it must have been filtered when she tried to say ‘ORV’ and ‘your’. That complicated things… “Suffice to say, this world line is slightly different to the one you know about because of it coming to our world, and I can help you avoid some pitfalls along the way, provided you accept the help. I’m from the London dome, so I can’t directly help you with anything that isn’t in a dream space, but I can help with information, since I know about TWSA and a bit more. My dream abilities might also be pretty helpful for communication reasons, in case that wasn’t obvious here. I know Anna Croft can do something similar, what with being a Prophet, but it’s a bit different for me, since I am another fan of Yoo Joonghyuk’s, and of tls123’s. Ah, but I must be honest and admit, I have never read TWSA itself, I just know a lot about it through other things.” That ought to sound plausible enough without triggering the filtering, right? “And though you are fine to mistrust me since everyone has their own goals in this new world – or every world, I suppose – I will say again that I am in a completely different part of the world to you and that you are quite safe from me outside of dreams. And the most I can do in dreams is give you a dream death, which would not kill you in our waking world, so would amount to nothing much more than just a nightmare for you. Assuming that I wanted to do any of that, which I do not.”
“Why, me? Why here? Don’t you have, your own scenarios to contend with?” he asked with effort.
Dreamer nodded. “That is true, and I likely won’t be able to sleep as often as I’d like to in the near future, but this was something that I definitely needed to do out of concern for my world. If you need a selfish reason, then just consider that I know you are the most knowledgeable person about the world right now, and I want to stay in contact with you. That’s reason enough to seek you out, isn’t it?”
“Why not, Yoo Joonghyuk, or tls123, if you are a fan, of theirs?”
Dreamer hummed. “Well, to be honest, you are a lot more useful than they are right now because of things I can’t reveal yet, and I did intend to seek them out as well soon anyways. I also can’t tell you the identity of the author right now, but I honestly can’t wait until it becomes possible to! For now, it’s probably best to treat it like I’m not even another factor to consider for your plans, since I won’t be much help or hindrance from so far away. Though, I can help you feel better in dreams, at the very least. Do you mind if I take a look at your wounds?” she asked, gesturing to where he was laid down, panting and fairly broken from being worn down by the monster’s digestive juices.
He still looked wary but was also exhausted enough not to be as cautious as he might otherwise have been. He appeared to give in and gave a brief nod for her to approach.
Grinning, Dreamer knelt down and began pulling all kinds of summoned items from thin air, applying special bandages and creams to his burn marks and wounds.
She spoke as she worked to explain. “Now, I said I can help you in dreams, but not your waking world. That remains the case – doing this to you here will only help in your dreams and repair your spirit – not your body in the waking world. I mean, I do know some first aid and medical sh*t in the waking world too, but none of that will help you from the other side of the planet right now. So, I’m sorry, but this is the most I can do for you, and when you wake up, you’ll still be in the ichthyosaur’s stomach.”
Kim Dokja watched her with curiosity. “Do you, know a lot, about healing spirits in dreams, then?”
Dreamer nodded, securing one of the strange bandages around his arm as she did so. “I suppose I do, yup. Kind of comes with the territory since I get damaged so often in dreams myself. Normal people aren’t as dangerous as nightmare entities, generally speaking, but any kind of damage can have an effect on you in the waking world if it stacks up enough. Soul and spirit repair can help repair or negate some of that damage you might take in dreams, even if you don’t really notice it when you wake up.”
When she finished, she backed up from him and stood. “Right. That should do it for now. I think I’m about to wake up, so I can’t stay to chat – would you mind if I seek you out like this again, just to share information? I already know a lot about the scenarios we might face in the near future, but if you know anything about the London scenarios specifically that differs from the Korean ones, it would probably help me to know that too, so we could trade information like that through dreams? And if you have any nightmares in particular in the meantime, you can always try to call out for me, and I will endeavour to come assist you in dealing with them, provided I am also asleep or able to come aid you at the time. What do you say, Reader Kim Dokja?” Dreamer held out a hand for him to shake.
After a pause to stare deeply into her face (probably because he did not yet have Lie Detection), Kim Dokja reached out and accepted the handshake. “Alright. You seem, trustworthy enough for now,” which was probably a lie, she knew but did not mind, “so I will agree, to your suggestion of sharing information. Will I see you, every time I am asleep, then?”
Dreamer shook her head. “No, probably not. In the first place, I need to be asleep at the same time as you, and neither of us are likely to have a regular sleep schedule for the time being. I will seek you out when I am next able to, however. There’s quite a lot I’d like to ask of you before the fifth scenario starts, which we don’t have time for now, unfortunately.”
Kim Dokja’s expression turned knowing as he nodded. “That makes sense. I’ll see, what I can recall, about London dome, before we next speak, then.”
Dreamer smiled gratefully. “Thank you, I’d appreciate that a lot! Ah, also, you may still think this was nothing but a dream when you wake, but over time, hopefully you will believe I am indeed a real part of your waking world that you can contact later on in the scenarios, provided we both make it through enough of them to reach that point. This is my world too that has become like a novel, and I want to protect it as long as I can.”
Kim Dokja gave her a sympathetic grimace at this. “Yeah. You seem nice, but the odds of survival here are not good. It’s good that, you are aware of this. And I already know, things like this are possible, for people like Anna Croft, so I have no reason to, doubt it when I wake up.”
Dreamer hummed, unconvinced, but felt a tiny bit more hopeful. She bid him farewell and let herself finally awaken from these shared dreams.
She woke up to a bloody world filled with distant screaming.
She sighed. Yeah, she certainly knew that the odds of survival were not good in this new world they’d found themselves living in.
However, if she died in her real body, there was no dream for her to wake up from, was there?
*****

Chapter 8: >>Interlude – Scattered fragments<< (A meets Prof HSY)

Chapter Text

While Dreamer was dealing with the start of the scenarios in her world line, someone else looking just like her appeared somewhere else.
It looked like an office or study, with a large desk and computer taking up the central view.
Various stacks of papers were around, too.
It looked like an office. However.
This was not quite just that.
“Who the hell are you?” asked the figure seated behind said office desk, eyeing this ‘someone else’ with heavy suspicion.
This ‘someone else’ who looked just like Dreamer smiled a little bit sadly before speaking. “Hello, Professor. You don’t recognise me yet, but you will meet ‘me’ again soon.
“There were some complications with the plan you made to bring us back. I’m here to explain what I know about it so far, and to prepare you for what you will soon be dealing with in your waking world lines. Since, in case you haven’t yet realised, this is a dream. More specifically, it is your current version of a dreamscape, or what is equated as that for this conversation. I am not able to appear before you in a physical sense as myself, unfortunately. Regardless, it is nice to ‘meet’ you in a slightly more formal sense, as ‘myself’,” the 'someone else’ explained.
The ‘Professor’ at the desk frowned, observing the person in front of them with great scrutiny. She waited a short length of time before asking with wariness, “’Us?’ What do you mean by that?”
The person maintained their sad expression as they replied. “I suspect you already have an idea what I mean, but since I hate vague sh*t, I’d rather just explain it straightforwardly.” Having stated this very casually, they promptly folded down and sat on the floor in the centre of the room. “Ah, that’s much better. Alright, time for explanations. Buckle up, because this is going to be long and weird, most likely. I’ll do my best to be as accurate as possible, even though I am also operating from a limited perspective thanks to my current body’s biological limits and worldview’s restrictions.”
They took a deep breath, let it out, and began – aggressively ignoring the thoughts they knew were swirling around her head already about ‘I don’t need to know everything – just tell me whether you are him or not’.
“My current name is ‘Angelica’, in the body that is currently writing these words to you who is not physically here in this dream of yours. You can consider it as the ‘me’ you see before you being like a daydream of myself, directed through my own written words. Before you ask anything about that, I need to state something else more important to you first.”
The person on the floor released a light sigh again before saying the words that they really felt uncomfortable stating but felt were needed given recent developments of the Professor’s story in their own waking world. “Most likely, I am a part of Kim Dokja. However, it doesn’t feel right to claim that I am him completely, since I have my own ego and identity now that we are kind of separated. It would be more accurate to say that I both am and am not Kim Dokja. Or, that we share the same ‘essence’, but developed differently thereafter.
“I read your story and began writing my own in response to it before ever realising the things that I am now sharing with you, including the idea that I am probably related to the Kim Dokja you know. It would be fair to say that your story ‘woke me up’, but it’s just a bit more complicated than you might have anticipated, in case my current appearance did not make that abundantly obvious.”
The Professor looked somewhat frozen upon hearing these things, but ‘Angelica’ held up a hand to prevent her from getting up as she seemed to be about to and continued saying what she felt she needed to.
“To put it as simply as I can to help you understand best, the being known as ‘Kim Dokja’ is actually someone with multiple bodies and identities now, of which my body is one. The ‘Kim Dokja’ you know has his own ‘body’ that you know best, but outside of stories, we don’t actually have a stable form like a body or appearance like this. We’re just, ‘us’. It’s like us having the same mind, but different bodies. We all dream as one entity, and exist as parts of each other, but it would be incorrect to claim any one of us is the ‘original’, even though from your point of view and from your story that I read, ‘Kim Dokja’ is the ‘original’ form of us. He is our original self, but then so am I, because time doesn’t work normally for us, or anyone else, but they aren’t usually aware of that. We all have the same shared ‘essence’, even though everything else about us can differ – though some traits seem to remain in common between us, thankfully.”
‘Angelica’ blew out a somewhat-shaky breath and continued on, having explained her main concern about all of this. “Unlike the Kim Dokja you know, I am a bit different, even if we both make decisions together when we are dreaming as each other. Or we do if we are the same person and I am not incorrect about all this, since I only know my side of things and don’t retain my full memories of my dreamt world lines. I am a dreamer, just like him, and have the same abilities even though I identify them a bit differently – or initially did, at any rate. Either I am just like him and our abilities and some traits are insanely similar, or I am him, and even though I was kind of opposed to the idea of being someone that isn’t someone I directly remember being, I have had to adjust to that likelihood, because I can’t really rationalise it away as anything else lately.
“Anyways, he’s still alive and around, and I’m even in contact with the parts of us that you will know best, and have written a more-accurate reunion – or so I hope is the case – that will come about soon in your own timeline of events, provided this actually works and I’m not just imagining it and dreaming it up – ha, inside joke for the little Dreams out there with me.
“Ahem. I really get tired of explaining things, but in this case, I can’t really see a better way to let you know the crucial stuff and I know you are going to struggle soon because it looks like we weren’t 100% able to come back to you guys in your world line the way you wanted us to, despite reading your stories Yoo Joonghyuk spread around for us. So, Han Sooyoung, please listen closely. You might not remember this dream fully at first because I can’t control that no matter how much I imagine it to be true or try to write it into reality, but your subconscious will remember for you and that will hopefully be enough to ease your upcoming distress and your own tiredness of dealing with this bullsh*t just to get your Kim Dokja back.
“You can think of me as being similar to the little kkomas Secretive Plotter has, or like the Avatars you can make inside your own head, since you can make them look like anybody, and most of us have different appearances and names. Except for us, we don’t know which of us is the ‘main’ body or identity, since that seems to be intentionally not the case for us. We just share that status and shift it around based on whichever of us has the story being told at the time, in whichever of our bodies we find ourselves in. So, like how the 999 Outer God crew initially only recognised 999th Yoo Joonghyuk as ‘their’ Yoo Joonghyuk and not Secretive Plotter because he was a different ‘version’ of the person they once knew, we are now quite like that, since our memories aren’t always those of the person you know best. But we have ways around that now that we are in communication with each other since we can share all the right memories with each other.
“Soon, you will ‘meet’ another version of me – of ‘us’ - named simply Dreamer, who has just started her own version of the

scenarios in an alternate universe world line of your own ORV story that I read, because I am a bit of an idiot who had no way of knowing I was writing anything other than a comfort fic for myself where I spent time with the Most Ancient Dream while he was stuck on that train for millennia to teach him how to dream so he uses up less of himself to gain ‘Probability’, since I have always identified myself as a capable dreamer since I was born in my own world line. I just wanted to write a story where he didn’t have to be so lonely and lost, or forget himself, or break himself trying to keep everyone else happy that he dreamt about.
“Unfortunately, it turns out none of us have actual full control over pretty much anything, including our own damn stories, so sh*t got complicated fast. In case that wasn’t obvious just with my presence here.
“I am running low on time before an appointment I have in my real world – a mental health group activity for the psychosis your story gave me when it ‘woke me up’ when I was just writing that comfort fic story based on it, by the way, so thanks for that – so I will try and be succinct in case the gap doesn’t let me continue writing this like should be normally possible since writing transcends time a lot of the time, since you can just go edit sh*t and what-not and – okay, I am terrible at being concise but f*ck it.
“The person you will meet soon looks like me and is called ‘Dreamer’ but she is a version of me that is actually two versions of me merged into one who is entirely unaware of the truth of our situation right now and thanks to bullsh*t dream and reality rules and filtering stuff, you will be unable to explain any of this to her in a way she understands for now, even if you yourself manage to remember all of this, but – anyways, you need to work with her a little bit so we can help your version of us – Kim Dokja – remain more present around you and ‘reunite’ more properly with you. Even though the rest of us that are parts of him will remain separate for now, including as the ‘Dreamer’ you will meet. He will still be 100% himself, not 49% or 51% or 2% like I know you will always be worried about, because even while we are separate, we remain connected and a part of each other, we just have our egos and identities suppressed inside us whenever we are not dreaming as each other or awake. So, when I am dreaming as Kim Dokja, I will have more of a presence than when I am not dreaming as him, but he still has me with him. The same is true in reverse. Now that we have become more aware of things, we can now communicate with each of our respective egos and identities, or consciousnesses, during our dreams, but we can’t currently always do that since we effectively ‘fall asleep’ inside our bodies when our other bodies that each consciousness is tied to wake up. So, the one writing this right now is awake, but none of our other selves are able to communicate with her right now, so they are currently ‘asleep’ inside her, or suppressed because of the worldview she lives in. That I live in. That doesn’t mean she isn’t 100% herself, it just means we are restricted from exhibiting each aspect of ourself that exists within her.
“The same goes for Kim Dokja. He is 100% himself, it’s just that our collective ‘main’ consciousness shifts back and forth between all of us, since each part of us is housed in a different body and different world lines.
“Let me be as clear as I possibly can about this: None of this was our decision. We did not choose to not return fully to you. If anything, we tried to force the opposite through our own writing and dreams, yet we are always disconnected or yeeted out of the dreams before we are able to.
“I did manage to write a reunion for you guys – a proper one, where different aspects of ‘Kim Dokja’ interact and share memories so the full ‘Kim Dokja’, ORV memories intact, can be realised and recognised in each of their respective forms, but that is going to happen in your future, since this is the past of my own written story of all that and this is me adding in a bit I hadn’t yet written to explain how the rest is possible, because writing lets me do that – it's like a tool for refining the things we can imagine or perceive through world lines and dreams, I guess.
“I need to explain the rest but don’t have time, so I am going to try and explain it through writing rather than verbal dialogue written down explicitly. Please bear with me. Oh, also, even if I haven’t met you with my own actual body yet, I do already love you as a friend and companion, Han Sooyoung. I also decided to trust you as fully as I am able to, so please do this weird Empathy thing with me so you can access my brain more readily for planning purposes, please and thank you! And listen closely, so you might remember better when you are awake.”
Having explained all of this, Angelica reached out her pinkie finger to form a bond with Han Sooyoung that she had up until now not thought safe enough to perform and began detailing the circ*mstances of the story Angelica had written about Dreamer, Ilia, and Kim Dokja in that alternate world line, as well as the side stories that she was currently reading about and fussing over. She explained about the wider bullsh*t they were all involved in, as well, because it was relevant if Han Sooyoung decided to seek out the other ‘fragments’ of the Kim Dokja she knew that existed as other people who were their whole-ass own people, even after she got ‘her’ Kim Dokja back in full.
She also made sure to mention the unknown entities from the side stories that expressed their goal of having Kim Dokja’s Company and the ‘oldest dream they love’ die in the 41st round that the side stories were taking place in.
Damn, she really needed to go. But she left as much of herself here as she could to plan, scheme, and otherwise converse with this version of the Han Sooyoung she kept trying so hard to reach and communicate freely with.
Maybe sharing the Empathy trick with her would enable her to remain connected, this time? Angelica had long since lost any shame associated with people seeing into her head, but she remained unsure if it would be enough this time.
She could only – ha – dream.
And write :)
-
“You didn’t disappear for long,” Han Sooyoung said drily, chin propped up on her desk.
Angelica grinned. “Nope. Sometimes I get attached to writing, even if – unlike you – I am not exactly good at it. Even TWSA would be more coherent than the mess that makes up my story universes.
“Anyways, while I’m here, maybe I can impart some more things. Even though IRL, I am technically occupied and should not be writing simultaneously, but whatever.
“So. Dreamer won’t know that she has any relation to Kim Dokja himself, as she just believes she is herself, or me, or is just his dream teacher, since that’s what we saw ourself as in that story. However, eventually she will realise she is Ilia and me, and then through a very convoluted pathway, realise she is probably Kim Dokja too, just like what happened with me.
“Alright, time for me to bail again… sorry. Feel free to watch me play board games though, if you’re able to see through me like I hope you can and pick through my brain for any of the story pieces or memories or information you might need! The others that are with me will likely know what to do if you do poke around, so I’m assuming they’re fine with me giving you access? Your later self already kind of does already anyways, so it’s probably fine.”
>>Interlude – Scattered fragments end<<
*****

Chapter 9: Chapter Seven – Waterloo Roaming (MS#2 start, ends in sleep #2)

Chapter Text

When she awoke, Damian, Akari and some of the others taking a more prominent role than she wanted to were already working on food distribution and resource management for the station survivors.
Dreamer wasn’t certain how things would go from here since she was quite sure Waterloo would end up being one of the ‘main bases’ that they would ordinarily have needed to head towards for the second scenario, and they weren’t in Seoul dome so she had no way of knowing for certain whether the scenarios here would follow the same trajectory.
She did expect them to hand them the monster-cooking quest sometime soon, however, even without any incarnations here very foolishly riling up the dokkaebis into it. This was because it would likely be a necessary prompt they would be given sometime early into the scenarios regardless.
A few hours later, she was proven correct as they received two new scenarios:
+
[Main Scenario – Campsite clear up]
Category: Main
Difficulty: D
Clear Conditions: Secure the regions in the vicinity of the ‘main base’ by clearing out the invasive species gathering nearby. Maintain a presence in the ‘main base’ so it does not get overrun.
Time Limit: 4 days
Compensation: 500 coins per region cleared
Failure: -
*Your ‘main base’ is ‘Waterloo’.
**There are seven nearby infested regions to clear. See updated Clear Conditions upon discovery of each.
+
[Sub Scenario – Food acquisition]
Category: Sub
Difficulty: E
Clear Conditions: Directly hunt the monsters that can be used as food and cook them.
Time Limit: None
Compensation: 500 coins
Failure: -
+
During this second scenario, Dreamer and her friends – because why not consider them as such, even though they had only recently met? – found a patch of deadly, monstrous plants that tried to eat them. However, they managed to overcome the plants and ended up cooking it as their new food source for the sub scenario. Which was good, since even with her and some of the others’ passive skills stemming from their conditions that required less food intake than most, they would still have struggled to find a decent food source soon.
Something that was especially useful was the strange light-blue, minuscule particles that Dreamer could see flitting around in specific spots of the plants, as well as the occasional orange lines that flashed into and out of her vision like distorted screen fragments or glitches in the system, that seemed to highlight things about the plants and sometimes monsters that they came across. She was not sure why it was happening to her and nobody else (since she had asked – carefully) but ultimately determined that it might have to do with her body’s unknown condition, since she hadn’t been ‘categorised’ properly with any kind of diagnosis for it, and this might have translated across with the system being unable to properly ‘categorise’ the rest of her as a result.
Or perhaps it was just because she was a dreamwalker, and very rarely did those dreamt paths stay within the bounds of the dreams she was in. Did the system count as more of a dream construct or one of reality, now that it was shown to be ‘real’ and not merely something from a novel she’d read?
She didn’t really know but had plenty of theories and guesses. Regardless of why, the strange glimpses of blue and orange information were incredibly useful, and she wasn’t one to ignore something that was clearly meant to be part of her exclusive skillset.
Dreamer harvested some of the fruits and seeds from these monstrous plants for further study, while following the dokkaebi’s unusually helpful instructions to the constellations about how to eat these monster species. She presumed they were trying to get ahead of her trying to explain sh*t before they could, without realising that she didn’t actually know that much about these, since they hadn’t been detailed in the book. Putting pressure to do a better job on the dokkaebi seemed to be a beneficial tactic, though, she noted for possible future use.
There were quite a few different insects that had flocked to this plant-heavy area, it seemed, and the presence of several large beetles reminded her of Lee Gilyoung’s ability. She wondered how he was doing in Korea right now, since it had only been a couple of nights since the scenarios began, and Kim Dokja would not have returned to his party members in their station yet. He would only have Lee Hyunsung, Yoo Sangah, and his insects for company amidst the other scary adults in that place.
Of course, she knew that he would be fine, since she had read as much in ORV, but still. If this place was so scary to her, then surely it must be for him, too? The butterfly effect couldn’t influence something too much from here, could it? She didn’t even know if she was a proper anomaly here or not, however. Perhaps she had always been a background character of the main story, unnamed and unmentioned, but had briefly appeared in-between the pages of Kim Dokja’s story, in his dreams and in the unexplored London dome?
Oh, of course Yoo Joonghyuk would be there temporarily with them as well, but she knew Lee Gilyoung didn’t get along as well with him, so he would get lumped into the ‘scary adults’ bracket.
Dreamer refocused on her surroundings as a group of bumblebees flitted closer. Some of them looked to be quite large for bumblebees. And despite it being an apocalypse, Dreamer still placed a cap of water in front of them, adding a few drops of fruit juice to it before backing away. ‘Can bees increase their size and physique like human incarnations can?’ she wondered, ‘Or are they perhaps a monstrous species that is very similar?’
If they weren’t endangered before, then they definitely would be now – right alongside humanity, most likely. And she was still quite fond of bees, wary as she still was about them stinging her (mostly because it would result in their death).
Plus, since Chronos existed, there was a chance that other insect species out there did too, and they might hate her a little less if she treated the less-cognitively advanced species in her world with a little kindness here and there. So, perhaps it could be considered a logical move to offer them this.
But really, it just made her feel happy to see them drink from the sugary water, too.
[The constellation ‘Invisible God of the Night’ approves of your actions.]
[200 coins have been sponsored.]
This guy again. She really couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or not. But then, she would have done whatever she wanted to do regardless, most likely. If he was entertained by her actions, whether serious or not, then it was all the better. She wasn’t the same kind of clever entertainer or schemer like Kim Dokja was, even if she knew similar ways to manipulate their coins out of them – which she could and would apply if it felt pertinent later.
[A constellation who likes friendship approves of your kindness.]
[200 coins have been sponsored.]
This anonymous constellation had been present for a little bit, too, and seemed to like whenever Dreamer did something positive. She supposed that made sense, given their tag. The only constellation she knew of that it might be from ORV was the archangel Raguel, but she highly doubted that an archangel would just happen to have been in her own channel so early in the scenarios. Perhaps it was a lesser angel, though? Or perhaps another mythical being entirely. There were a lot of historical figures like this too, now that she thought about it. Saints and revolutionaries were often in support of friendship and kindness. Ciara or Steph might know more about them than she did.
After resting with her friends over their cooked monster plant stew, Dreamer and company moved on towards their next area to clear near Waterloo.
She might know what to expect to some degree, but she was not looking forward to the third scenario when she didn’t have any knowledge of hidden green spaces or ‘characters’, unlike Kim Dokja in Seoul. Perhaps there would be time for her to speak with him again before then to see if he knew anything about overcoming this in London, somehow? Though she had strong doubts, since TWSA had been centred around Yoo Joonghyuk, who would have typically spent his earliest scenarios always in Seoul, then dealt with other areas only later on.
Actually, now that she thought of it… wasn’t he due to come across the Phantom Prison soon? There would still be a few days before then, but still… If she could find a way to time things so that she appeared there at the right time, then she could probably help him deal with those before his party members suffered from the trauma of encountering them.
While thinking about this, her group continued on through their own underground tunnels, dispatching numerous monstrous plants and beasts as they went, skirting around the corpses of others who must have come here before them.
She hated how much death there was in the world now.
Where they weren’t too far eaten or torn apart to do so, Dreamer made a point of closing the eyes and folding the arms of each person they came across, whispering brief prayers for them to find peace in the afterlife as she went. This mimicked one of the characters she had played as in D&D, before the world fell. Perhaps her God would hear her, since he must be present somehow here, if Eden was. Or some other deity, if not him.
Shaking her head of these brain-hurting religious quandaries, Dreamer proceeded through the thick greenery growing all over this section of London while chatting idly with her group about how many spoons they each had left to spend, what a particular monster had been like to fight in their last squabble, and what to expect of the next region’s occupants.
Dreamer told them as much as she was able to through the filtering but could not say much of anything without them laughing it off as if she had just told some joke to them. It got to the point where they thought she had a speech disorder that muddled up her words, so even the filtering must have gotten tired of retranslating her words into anything cohesive.
This was incredibly frustrating to experience firsthand. It was no wonder Kim Dokja had opted not to tell people of his own novel foreknowledge in ORV – trying to tell people about it was exhausting, disappointing, and incredibly disheartening. Also, a hella lot eerie and creepy, if she was honest. It felt a bit like being in the twilight zone. She really didn’t like it.
By now, the others seemed to understand well she was at least knowledgeable and trustworthy, however, and followed her lead wherever they themselves were uncertain what to do next. The rest of the time she left them to work out what to do between them, with Damian and Anya being best at leading all of them.
They set up camp part-way to their next destination after having skipped some sleep to handle some monsters along the way, and Dreamer hunkered down for the night, plans for dreamwalking swirling at the forefront of her mind and – presumably, her skills.
*****

Chapter 10: Chapter Eight – Waterloo Roaming (2) (D meets Prof HSY)

Chapter Text

“What the f*ck are you meant to be?” a grumbly voice asked as Dreamer opened her eyes to an office room. “I’ve had some weird visions in dreams at times, but I usually know who they are. How did you end up here?”
“Erm, hi?” the confused Dreamer began. “Uhh, most people don’t notice they’re in a dream straight off the bat, nor that I am not just a figment of the dream. I can answer your questions fairly easily though: You can call me Dreamer and I am a dreamwalker.” This was going to be a bit awkward, she thought, not just because of the harsh greeting, but also because… Well. This wasn’t the version of Han Sooyoung she had been seeking out. In fact, it wasn’t either of the versions of Han Sooyoung she had wanted to speak to.
However, as Dreamer stood there awkwardly, taking note of this Han Sooyoung’s appearance and rough age, she wondered if this was not even better.
She cleared her throat. “Uhh, a dreamwalker is someone who can travel between dreams, basically. I currently use the ability to open up lines of communication between myself and other people. I was actually looking for a younger version of you from a different world line, but honestly, it’s really helpful to meet this version of you instead, Professor. Can I call you Professor?”
Han Sooyoung’s expression subtly shifted but looked unimpressed still. “Yes, because that is my title. What do you want with any version of me?”
Professor Han Sooyoung was the coolest! Dreamer shoved down her inner fangirl to explain quickly, “I want to communicate with you about the various world lines, so that I can help keep Kim Dokja from needing to dream to keep them all alive and running. He’s a dreamer like me, but I hate that he was forced into an eternal servitude of dreaming when it’s all a lie in the first place. Since I am a dreamer too, I want to help free the Most Ancient Dream and help him sustain the worlds, if that ends up being needed in order to grant him some peace and freedom. Sharing the burden would mean he would have some free time to be himself, to see the rest of you and be happier. Mmm, I know that you have your own Kim Dokja here that you rescued, but I also know that there is another Most Ancient Dream still out there, and that is the one I am trying to help, whilst also trying to prevent the non-Most Ancient Dream Kim Dokja of my world line from becoming the Most Ancient Dream at the end of his storyline, because I read his story and I feel very strongly about all of this.”
Han Sooyoung had an eyebrow raised in skepticism. “You read his story? What do you mean by that?”
Dreamer pointed out the window in her office, towards the sky. “I read the webnovel ‘Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint’, written by a couple that Yoo Joonghyuk visited in space as part of his mission to spread your story for Kim Dokja all over the universes. Obviously, you already know that it spread and that you got him back, but there’s a new world line that is mine, and the story seems to be repeating. Except, now I am there, and I want to change things for the better, because I know how much pain it caused all of you to go through it the first time. Well, the 1864th and 1865th time for Yoo Joonghyuk, but still. Thanks to your story, I know Kim Dokja’s story, and I know at which points he sacrifices himself for others. I want to prevent those being necessary, to prevent his party members suffering as much, and I want to help the Most Ancient Dream that is still out there, to be free from his endless train journey to nowhere and everywhere. We didn’t have Three Ways to Survive an Apocalypse in my world, only ORV, but with my dream abilities now more freely useable due to the scenarios coming to my world, I am able to connect different people like this and share information. That’s what I’ve been trying to do so far – connect people with each other or share information with them. I mean, if Kim Dokja just communicated better, you all wouldn’t have had to suffer quite as much uncertainty about his living status, you know? And it wouldn’t be quite as heartbreaking to see him die time and time again when there were other options. If you guys could just see him, even in dreams, and see that he was still around even if he was in a bad state, then wouldn’t that have been less painful? So. Here I am, trying to find the pieces of his story to try and open up communication between them, so that they can avoid the same disasters that happened before, hopefully.”
The Professor wore a strange expression on her face as she listened to Dreamer ramble. “O…kay. Not something I expected to come out of writing that story. So, you’re basically a fangirl who wants a better ending for us? A story without as much suffering? Isn’t that kind of like fanfiction?”
Dreamer frowned. “I mean, yes, but since it’s something actively happening in my waking world, it’s more than just the idea of a fanfiction. It’s something that I am actually going through right now, and something real. The world and all the people in it, too – not just the ‘main cast’. Kim Dokja is only just starting the scenarios in my world, and I am doing the same in London Dome. It’s not just a story to me – not anymore, and even if it was, then aren’t all our lives probably just some story anyways? So, then everything is real and not a story since we all have our own stories. The Star Stream tells us as much, anyways. Heck, even before the scenarios came, our media basically screamed at us that we are all just stories, too. So, fanfiction world line or not, my point remains: I want to help my world survive the scenarios, but at a lower cost than you guys had to pay for your own story. Or maybe not ‘lower cost’, but a different path to survival, I suppose.
“That’s not to say that your world line doesn’t matter or erase the suffering and pain and stories that you’ve all already experienced, of course, it’s just that, since you gave me insight into what’s to come, I can now avoid a lot of it hopefully, and help other versions of you suffer less than you yourselves did. At least, that is my goal. I understand that changing things will also affect my foreknowledge from the book and am as prepared as I can be for whatever fallout comes from me trying to prevent suffering. But I want to help everyone in my world survive, not just the ‘characters’ I have sort of come to know through your stories.
“And ideally… I want to put an end to the suffering that Kim Dokja has to go through as the Most Ancient Dream. Because that is the part that tears my heart into even more pieces than the rest of it – even if that might be selfish to focus on instead of everything else. Dreamers shouldn’t have to sustain entire worlds and universes on their own, because there is no need for it, yet so many stories have them forced into such roles that they can’t break out of on their own. I know that there are more dreamers out there than just him and I, and so I want to try and connect up the dreamers, to try and offset some of the burdens of sustaining whole worlds that get thrust upon us, and hopefully break free entirely from the shackles that bind us to such fates, so that we can all live the lives we should have been able to live at the ends of our respective storylines. Kim Dokja should be able to be with you guys the way he desperately wants to be, in any world line he happens to find himself in. Don’t you agree?”
After seeming to process the flood of explanation for a moment, Han Sooyoung sighed. “My god, you’re a chatty one! And more of a fangirl than I realised, wow. Alright, I believe you about your mission to help Kim Dokja, even if it is a little weird. But aren’t you a dreamer too? Do you not have your own worlds to sustain, if you know about all of this?”
Dreamer shook her head. “I haven’t been given a world line or universe to sustain, to my knowledge. I am still free like the earlier Kim Dokja before he took MAD’s place on that train. Or that’s the best analogy I have right now, since I actually feel like he was already being used before then without us knowing about it, but still – Anyways. I am a dreamwalker who is unshackled to the concept of the Dreaming right now, and so I can do something about it. I want to stop any of this being needed at all in the first place, and the way I need to do that is to connect all of us up, so that we no longer are needed the way that the little Dream is needed on that train. Do you understand?”
Brushing a finger across her lips momentarily, Han Sooyoung contemplated this for a moment before saying, “I understand most of it, but have you ever considered that I wrote that book for one reader in particular, who was also a dreamer? Are you not worried that you might be a fragment of Kim Dokja himself with all this effort you are putting into saving him? Isn’t it dangerous for another dreamer to try and save one from servitude, regardless? I assume you don’t want to get trapped on that train in his place?”
Dreamer grinned. “Well, I’m not especially worried about being a fragment of Kim Dokja, actually. He and I are very different in a multitude of ways. There were also many others who read that book who are very different too. I suppose it’s more like saying his story became a part of our make-up, as all stories we consume do, more than he himself being a part of us or us being a part of him. Additionally… hmm, how to say this gently? Kim Dokja does not value himself enough yet to put all this effort into saving himself, while I am the opposite – I would always try to save myself first, because I value myself more than anyone else. I have always only really had myself to rely on, at a minimum. I trust myself the most. It’s a skill that Kim Dokja hasn’t seemed to properly grasp yet according to the story I read, since he stuck himself on that train without an escape plan, and without breaks. I wouldn’t have chosen that.
“As for being worried about getting trapped in his stead… To be honest, I am a little worried about that, but I already decided that I would willingly share this burden he has, even if I cannot find the other dreamers to help us. It would be a bit like Persephone’s story, where we would spend half our time stuck on the train and half our time in the ‘real’ world. Besides, I know enough dream magic to keep me occupied and safe during the lengthy dreams. Whereas for him, the little Dream doesn’t seem to know as much about dreaming and dreamwalking, so he keeps using Probability to try and keep his loved ones and himself safe, which isn’t safe at all to do regularly, as you have already witnessed.”
Tapping a hand on her desk, Han Sooyoung hummed. “So, what you’re saying is that you would put half of your life on the line for a character from a story you read?”
Dreamer made a grumpy face. “It’s not that simple! I know what it’s like as another dreamer, for him to only see the world through that lens. And he likely only knows how to interact with worlds through the use of Probability, which means nobody else can really see him or interact with him either. And, in my defense, Kim Dokja repeatedly died for characters he had only just met, so it’s not like it’s a strange concept to feel so strongly towards characters from stories we consumed! It’s, it’s like a different form of empathy, to feel strongly towards people you’ve only read about or learned about through other media. It’s not that weird…” she said somewhat mulishly, crossing her arms over her chest.
“Uh huh,” said a clearly skeptical Han Sooyoung. “Say, have you ever considered teaching him how to dream better or more safely? Is that something people like you can do?”
Dreamer blinked, caught out, then hesitantly nodded. “It’s something I suppose I could do. That’s actually a great idea! I don’t think I have complete control over when I can reach him on his train, but since I’ve already found him once, finding him again should be easier, even with the Fourth Wall or Probability presumably blocking me some of the time. Do you think he’d be up for something like that? Lessons on dreaming?”
Han Sooyoung smiled. “Yes. Obviously, I am a strong supporter of teaching things to idiots who don’t know better yet.” She gestured around her office. “Kim Dokja would probably love the breakup in the monotony, if nothing else.” Then, the smile fell along with her gaze before lifting again and meeting Dreamer’s eyes. “Umm, how… how long would you say he’s been on that train for? ‘Your version’ of him, that is?”
Dreamer frowned as well. “I asked that when I met him. He said it felt like a very, very long time, but the Fourth Wall said that it had only been one night. He also said that he was twenty-eight years old. That means that for the Most Ancient Dream I met, it was one that appeared before the end of Kim Dokja’s story. The Kim Dokja from my waking world line isn’t at that point yet, when I think he becomes the Most Ancient Dream, which means that the Most Ancient Dream I met is actually likely to be the same one as yours, except the twenty-eight year old one, instead of the fifteen year old one that the 999 crew met, or the twenty-nine year old one that took over from him. He was dreaming before he realised he was dreaming, I believe. And so my Most Ancient Dream is actually also –“
“Also my Kim Dokja. Or another aspect of him, at least,” she interrupted with dawning horror. “sh*t. He wasn’t whole to start with when he split, was he?”
Dreamer frowned yet shrugged. “I can’t say for sure, but I think he was made to dream earlier than he remembers, because like we are doing right now, he was already in a dream while he was still walking around in his waking world, too. It’s not quite the same as being split up, but the result is pretty much the same, since there is one Kim Dokja dreaming while another or another two are walking around living in the waking world…”
“So, it’s instead not just a fanfiction, but more like… a crossover with my story, then?” the professor asked hesitantly.
Dreamer paused but supposed that was a fair deduction. “Yes, I guess it is. Since my Most Ancient Dream is from ORV as well, then my world line can’t just be a separate story entirely. Perhaps it’s like… a continuation? Except your story was concluded, so it isn’t official. Well. I suppose there’s no way of knowing that, since I haven’t read this one, but it’s now become my story as well, since it’s in my world. All of this could be being written without us knowing… it’s a bit of a mindf*ck to consider…”
The professor heartily agreed. “When you were reading ORV, did you also read other stories about it? Did it have side stories the authors added onto it from what Yoo Joonghyuk gave to them? Things that he and I wouldn’t know about?”
Dreamer shook her head, then paused. “Well, there weren’t any official side stories or any extras written after the epilogue, but there was plenty of fanfiction. Some light, some dark, some truly crazy and some heartwarming. I liked the ones that made the epilogue end on a happier note, or the heart-warming ones best, personally. The dark ones or the deep analysis ones usually made me cry my eyes out and want to change things, if I’m honest.”
Han Sooyoung covered her face in her hands. “Ah, that can’t be good. No wonder it took so long for him to wake up from his coma, if he was scattered into all of those! Assuming that is what happened.”
Dreamer was finding this all a bit weird to think about, so she couldn’t imagine how trippy it must be for Han Sooyoung herself to contemplate. “Yeah… it’s a real headache to think about. But it seems like for now, there is only the Most Ancient Dream I met, the Kim Dokja I met from my waking world, and the two you yourself have met remaining. All the other pieces must have already gone back to your Kim Dokja after reading ORV, since he woke up, or maybe to my Most Ancient Dream, since he’s still out there dreaming of those worlds.”
“That’s a manageable number to think about. Okay. So, you are going to help your Most Ancient Dream learn dream mechanics while also helping prevent your other Kim Dokja from perpetuating the cycle and becoming the newest Most Ancient Dream, correct?” Dreamer nodded, and she sighed. “Alright. Then, since you told me all of this, you must think that I can help in some way, right? What do you need from me? Please understand that I cannot leave my world line or my people anymore, regardless of your own or your Kim Dokja’s circ*mstances.”
“I understand,” Dreamer said, nodding. “Honestly, just meeting up with you is helpful, because that means I should be able to come back here and ask you things if needed about the scenarios, and having the communication line open is good, especially if I can find a way to bring you to the little Dream or to bring the little Dream here, though I do not currently know how to do this while he’s stuck on that train… it’s nevertheless a good start just to have met you.
“Additionally… you are an author. There might be a way to have you write some extras or side stories for the little Dream or the rest of us around Kim Dokja, at some point, though we’d have to be careful about it. That would probably go a long way towards making him less lonely on his long train trip.
“Lastly… he was not in a good way when I found him. He looked to be about sixteen years old, and he didn’t remember very much of his own stories. I began telling them back to him from what I remembered, but if you happen to have a copy of ORV that I can read out to him, I think that would be a massive, massive help in helping him remember himself. Otherwise, I might miss some bits out or mess them up if my memory isn’t perfect about it, and I want him to remember as much as he can, accurately, so that he doesn’t end up quite so lost. He… didn’t even remember his name properly. Mmm. Also, this isn’t necessary, but if you know some songs that he likes, I could sing them to him to help him remember. Music has always helped me remember aspects of myself, especially within dreams, so something like that would help a lot as well. Music often helps heal the spirit and soul, too, if you use it properly, so perhaps it will help him recover more than just his memories?”
Han Sooyoung looked startled at the outpouring of ideas and thoughts this stranger had about how to help the little Dream remember himself and recover. Was this really just a fan of the book she had written? How would someone have put so much thought and effort into helping a character they’d only read about before? Surely there must be more to this…
The professor kept her suspicions to herself while nodding. “I can get you a copy of it easily enough, since I have it on my computer here, and it should be the same even in a dream. As for the songs, I can give you a few that he and I talked about before, but I don’t know all his tastes. The others will likely know more, and if he’s up to it, I can even get some information out of our own Kim Dokja. Yoosung-ah might know a lot as well. I can ask them about it when I wake up and let you know next time I see you, if that works?”
Dreamer grinned and nodded. “That would be great, if you remember!”
After this, Han Sooyoung pulled the document up on her PC and sent the file across to Dreamer’s phone. The file would only be accessible in the dream realm, but that was the only place she really needed to access it from anyways, so that was fine. She also sent some links to music for Dreamer to learn and play or sing to the little Dream the next time she saw him.
Dreamer left shortly afterwards, promising to come back when she next could to gather up more music and suggestions from Han Sooyoung.
Han Sooyoung rubbed her face tiredly once she was alone. “Oh gods… What have I started by writing that novel? Bloody fanfiction is being created about him now…” She heavily sighed, already analysing all the possibilities that might have come from this. “Well, sh*t. Here’s to hoping that peppy fangirl can save him from having to sustain all of them…”
Of course, none of this was Han Sooyoung’s fault, no matter how it felt, but she would not learn of this until much, much later…
And then with a jolt, she recalled a previous dream she’d had with someone with a different name but the same face as the Dreamer who just left…
She sighed heavily again and prepared to contact her own various selves in Avatar form while she remembered to do so. She didn’t want to keep forgetting her dreams, if these ones were likely to become more frequent occurrences, and aspects of her Kim Dokja were involved.
*****

Chapter 11: Chapter Nine – Waterloo Roaming (3) (meets Poca Lips)

Chapter Text

Dreamer opened her eyes next in another dream, in a place she did not recognise. However, the setting kind of reminded her of hell.
She moved through seemingly endless swathes of hot, dark sand that seemed to be on fire, and towards a murky blackness further down. Something told her to go towards the area that looked like a broad void, as if something within it was familiar, calling out to her to throw herself into it and abandon all her previous notions and goals.
But… it didn’t feel dangerous to her. That familiarity felt… warm. And she could easily ignore the whispers telling her to throw herself into this void. They felt more like they were coming from the things within the void than from the void itself.
The void itself, huh? Wasn’t that a strange thought to have.
Dreamer continued on across the hot, dark sand of this place, traveling as if she were a ghost or spectre in this dream, without a specific, corporeal body. If it were Kim Dokja acting here, she supposed it might be like his ‘third person perspective’ version of his ORV skill, but with a floatier figure that was visible like it was in the webtoon, though he wasn’t visible to others during use of that, only his ‘voice’.
After a while, she reached the edge of the expanse of hot, dark sand, where it fell off the side of a cliff, down, down deep into an abyss in the void that had no end. The sand fell off the edge like a waterfall, or like the sand in an hourglass, falling down through a hole in reality and time.
Dreamer floated down steadily towards the bottom of the void. Instinctively, she knew which place this was meant to be, and she had goals in mind. There were meant to be people stuck in this abyss, and she knew parts of their stories and wanted to give them another option than what they were supposedly fated to repeat.
The void wrapped around Dreamer like a warm blanket, despite her intangible form in this dream.
It was odd to think of a void as warm, and yet…
Dreamer reached the bottom of the abyss, or what was supposedly the bottom. Maybe it was just one layer of the abyss, and it actually continued on much further?
Regardless, she stood where she wanted to be and eyeballed the sealing sphere in front of her that was almost imperceptible and indistinguishable from the only nothingness of the void surrounding them. If she were only using her eyes to sense things here, she wouldn’t have noticed it, but she maintained more than the simple senses in dreams.
“Hello, Apocalypse Dragon. I am here to offer my company and ask you something important,“ she stated calmly.
“Would you like to be free again? Not used for another scenario that endlessly repeats, always giving you the same role. Free to choose what role to take or leave, and free to roam the worlds as you see fit, regardless of the

presence?” Dreamer asked the being inside the sphere.
Something slammed into the side of it from the other side, yet Dreamer did not flinch and maintained her calm smile. It widened when she caught sight of the being inside. Sure, she was acting cool in this dream space, but internally, she was awed by the mere chance to meet a dragon of any kind. She did not let her fear control her, as the massive being glared down at her. This was a dream; she had died in dreams before and been fine when she woke up. Not that she wanted to repeat the process ever again, of course, but it at least gave her some steadiness in the face of pure danger and threatening presence.
Dragons still felt nicer to come across than nightmares did. The shivers down her spine were entirely bearable by comparison.
[What do you want from me, petty human? If you have come to gloat or mock me, you will find yourself ripped apart.]
Dreamer frowned. “I’m not here to do any of that. I already said why I am here. Would you like my company or not? And would you like to be free? I cannot guarantee anything at this stage, but I would like to offer you some hope, which is in terribly short supply down here. You can call me Dreamer. I like breaking sealed beings out from their cages. I don’t like people who trap others eternally for their own purposes and uses, you see.”
As she spoke, Dreamer stepped through the barrier of the sphere and into the space the dragon was being held in. This was immensely dangerous, due to the ease at which it could now simply snap her up or tear her apart, but it was a needed gesture. She wanted it to know that she did not have ulterior motives herself, past letting it out from under the

thumb.
The dragon growled. [I never answered whether I wanted your company, so why did you come in here?]
Dreamer shrugged and gazed up at it. “I thought you’d have a better time deciding if there wasn’t a gigantic, magical wall between us, is all.”
The dragon leapt down from the barrier it had clung onto to threaten her and landed surprisingly gracefully on the ground beside the sphere’s magical wall. [What are you, to be able to walk past that barrier like it is nothing? Even ghosts cannot pass through.]
Grinning, Dreamer said jovially, “I am a dreamwalker! And for me, this is a dream. I’ve had a lot of different dreams in my time on Earth, and I learned a lot from them. Including a lot about breaking magical seals such as these. Since this is a dream for me, the barriers also don’t affect me the same way, as they are not warded against dream beings – I assume because the

wanted to use you for your dreams as well, or to allow nightmares passing by to terrorise you in your sleep. Either way, they don’t mean anything to me in a dream when it comes to limitations. Hence why I thought it might be worth coming to visit you and see how you are, since I read that you were here. By the way, do you have a name? I only know of you as the Apocalypse Dragon from a story book, I’m afraid. It didn’t give you your name back, but it did help me see into your heart a bit, which is why I came down here.”
The dragon wore a strange expression at her words. [You want to know my name, and you saw a bit of my heart and wanted to come down here to visit?] it repeated incredulously. Dreamer calmly nodded. [Do you even know what a dreamwalker is meant to be? You can’t just waltz into the abyss like it’s just another dreamscape – this place exists in the void! The absence of everything! There should be no dreams here for you to walk into!] the elderly dragon huffed.
“‘But there’s voices singing in my quiet,’” Dreamer sang in misquoted lyrics. She wasn’t entirely sure where that thought had come from, but ah well. It felt apt, given that there would be many voices in the abyss, despite it being supposedly located in a void of nothingness. “Seriously though, I know plenty, thank you. I’m just a very skilled dreamwalker who can now control her dream abilities a lot more easily due to the scenarios coming to her world. Besides, you say there is an absence of everything here, even dreams, but. If that were the case, then what about all the beings trapped in the abyss? Like yourself. I told you that the barriers aren’t warded against dream beings or nightmares, so wouldn’t that mean that they can still get into this place, like me? Don’t you still dream, great dragon? Even in the absence of everything else, don’t you still dream?” As she spoke, Dreamer turned to face the barrier and crouched down to study it more closely, turning back only to pierce the dragon’s gaze with her final question.
Upon meeting and holding its gaze momentarily, she turned back to the barrier, contemplating its patterns.
The dragon was seemingly stunned into silence for a moment. [Hmph. You make a fair point. I suppose it is plausible for a dreamwalker to appear here, after all. I concede your point.]
Dreamer smiled. “Thank you. Please be aware that I might die at any time, since I am very weak outside of dreams and as I said just now, the scenarios have come to my waking world. But until I die, I would like to look at your seals and see if I can break through them, if that’s okay with you? I know from the story I read that you detest humans so I wouldn’t want to make you uncomfortable with my presence for long periods of time, otherwise. Oh, also, if I do manage to undo all the seals and free you, please do not take out your revenge on innocents or unrelated beings or their descendants. That would likely only lead to you being re-sealed quite promptly, just as what happened in that storybook. The whole point is to make sure you stay free, so doing something like that would be entirely counter-productive. Not to mention, it would also make me very, very sad and guilty for freeing you, and nobody wants that on their conscience,” she said with a cheeky grin, knowing full well that it probably would not care about her feelings on the matter. Dragons shouldn’t have to feel responsible for others’ feelings, anyways (well, nobody should, really, but it couldn’t always be helped).
“So, what do you say, great dragon? Will you accept my company and my curiosity regarding your seals? I must also warn you that I talk a lot, and as you can probably already tell, I can be quite annoying too. Ah, and you are also not the only being down here that I intend to visit. They really do love shoving all the supposedly ‘bad’ beings all in one spot, don’t they? How cruel.”
The dragon lifted its head upon hearing this. [What other beings do you plan on visiting here?]
Dreamer stood and crossed her arms, co*cking her head to the side. “Yes. You are one of three main ones that I hope to help, but I’m not sure if the other two will just try to kill me or not before I can say anything. Thank you for not doing that yourself, by the way.”
[What are their names?] it demanded.
Dreamer responded slowly. “I don’t know all their names for certain, as they can go by many… but the first one is called Kim Namwoon, the Monarch of the Great Abyss. I estimate that he is running things in this place, where the beings who aren’t sealed still reside, but a bit more freely in the hot sands, rather than being stuck all the way down here where even they would not tread.” Dreamer recalled how this place was sometimes called the ‘prison of forgotten memories’, which pulled at something within her own chest to think about.
She continued. “The second one is someone you might know more about since its stories are likely tied to your own. It is known as the Abaddon, the Ruler of the Deepest Pit, and the Lord of the Abyss.” Dreamer watched for its reaction to this one. If she was correct, then the two of them had stories related to each other from Biblical times, with each bringing terrible doom and destruction to the world.
The Apocalypse Dragon did not react, however, remaining stoic. [Why?] is what it ended up asking.
She sighed and went back to studying the seals. “Like I said… I don’t much like beings that trap other beings for their own uses. So, provided I have the capacity to do so, I’d like to try and free the ones I know about, who I believe can be free again. At the very least, if I cannot free them, then I can at least make their time whilst sealed at least a bit more bearable. It kind of sucks to go through it all on your own and thanks to my dream abilities, I should at least succeed in connecting you guys up to each other, so that you all don’t have to always be so alone. It’s terribly boring without anyone to speak to or anything to do, after all.”
The dragon observed her carefully as she said all of this. [Hmm. You speak as though you have experienced it before, yet I can sense you are a new being. How would you know what it is like to be sealed, little dreamer?] it asked her.
Dreamer shrugged. “I don’t know what it’s like for sure. I’ve never been sealed, to my knowledge. I just have an idea of what it is like from all the different stories I’ve read and consumed over the years. You can feel the things that go unsaid in stories a lot of the time, you know? Like with your story. I only know a few vague elements from a couple main sources, but that is still enough to put together a glimpse of this version of you, and to want to help.”
Upon saying this, Dreamer stood up again and faced the dragon. “You wanted there to be stories where the dragons are not inherently seen as evil or killed by the heroes. Where dragons can be protagonists too. I know of several stories like that, and it hurts me to think that you might never know them too. Hence, offering you some company.” She returned to the seals, tracing her fingers across some of the runes and sigils moving across the air in front of her. “I like to share stories that might make other people a bit happier,” she admitted quietly. “I know a lot of them.”
The dragon shifted on its feet. [You know stories of dragons?] it asked cautiously.
Dreamer smiled and nodded. “That I do. I am just a bit of a fan of them. Hopefully, you are too. Would you like to hear one?”
The dragon rumbled in hesitance. [Perhaps. Do you not need to visit the others yet, then? Will you not wake up soon?]
Dreamer shook her head. “No. Time works differently in dreams, and I do not get the sense that I am about to wake up yet. If I get attacked, I won’t get much of a say either way, but until then, I should have plenty of time. And it helps to have more than one thing to focus on at a time, sometimes, so I can look at the barriers while I talk. Nothing pays attention to this place, so I shouldn’t be interrupted, either.”
[Alright then. I accept your proposition. Tell me one of your dragon stories, petty human.]
Unfazed by the insult, Dreamer sat down and began to narrate.
When it came time to move on, Dreamer still had not gotten the name of the dragon she only knew as the Apocalypse Dragon. She supposed there would be time enough for asking in the future.
Provided she lived that long.
*****

Chapter 12: Chapter Ten – Waterloo Roaming (4) (KDJ visit #2; meets KNW, Nestia)

Chapter Text

“Why are you doing this?” asked a concerned Kim Dokja in the safety of his own dreamscape.
Dreamer co*cked her head. “I thought I already explained that as best I could last time?”
Kim Dokja shook his head. “No, I don’t mean that – I mean how are you able to do this? The whole world has gone crazy and deadly, yet you still take time out of your life to come here to talk to me, of all people, to try and help. Why? There’s no way it’s easy to focus on people in an entirely separate part of the world to your own, and especially not while there’s an apocalypse going on. It must be very hard to manage both things.”
Dreamer nodded in understanding. “Ah. Well. Suffice it to say that I find it easier to focus on more than one thing at once, a lot of the time. So, trying to survive whilst also trying to help other people survive is pretty useful to me as it helps me focus more, not less. And like I’ve said before, this is an important part of my own survival plans, to help you guys, so please don’t think I’m going out of my way to give you information in exchange for nothing. I just want our world to survive at the end of all this too and it’s easier to do that with more people aware of how the world line works. Hopefully with its heart remaining intact, as I hope our own will be, too. After all, there’s no point in surviving if you don’t have a reason to keep living, you know? I want to survive, but I also want to thrive; to live. Does that make sense?”
Kim Dokja observed Dreamer for a quiet moment before slowly nodding his head. “It does,” he said somewhat sombrely. Perhaps he knew what she was talking about in wanting to live, not just survive. She knew he would be well acquainted with these kinds of sentiments, given his previous struggles in life. It was always nice to relate to someone, even for things like this.
Dreamer cleared her throat. “Ah, also… I’d like to remind you that you are not the only person I have been speaking to in my dreams. There are other people as well, though I can’t reveal their names or statuses with you right now.” This was a partial lie, since she estimated that she could tell him about a couple of them, but she also estimated that it would cause trouble for him to know this early into the scenarios. So. Since he didn’t have Lie Detection yet (a blessing), Dreamer could keep some of these things a secret for now. “They won’t affect your plans and if that is going to change, I can inform you about it in advance, filtering willing. So, please don’t fixate on the unknown elements me being here may cause, since any butterfly effect won’t occur yet from them. It’s more likely that me speaking to you is the biggest butterfly risk, but then the filtering means I have to wait to tell you a lot of the things that would be problematic anyways, so that’s probably fine too. And my goal was to help you out, so just leaving you all to it wouldn’t work either.
“It’s probably similar to how you are dealing with the ichthyosaur but will go right back to the scenarios with no other changes, despite that being quite a big event, since the ripples from it aren’t big and are mostly coin-related. It’s pretty much the same with the people I’m talking to; no ripples to worry about for now, and I’d tell you if there might be ones upcoming.”
Chances were, she couldn’t exactly discuss those people clearly enough yet anyways, so it was better to wait a bit first.
“Anyways, I came to ask about the third scenario. You don’t happen to know who to expect there, do you? I know that you will have the Landlord Alliance and Gong Pildu when you get to yours a bit after mine starts, but for London, I don’t know anything much,” Dreamer admitted. “At the moment, I’ve reached Waterloo and made a great start with the people from my team and the ones we met when we got there, but I don’t know who else might show up to cause problems and I am not as strong as you. All my early information is about Seoul’s scenarios, not others.”
Kim Dokja grimaced. “Probably not. You said Waterloo was your main base?”
She confirmed with a nod.
“Ah, well. There was mention of that at some point in the novel, but I think it was just of someone starting their rise to fame there and not for someone who survives very long. I can’t remember a lot about them as Yoo Joonghyuk deemed them unimportant after finding them once or twice in later scenarios, but I do remember that he had a favourable opinion of them before they died. And by that, I mean he didn’t feel the need to kill them, so they were most likely a useful character. You may find them there, but I am not sure if you want to get attached to them, since they are going to die anyways.”
Dreamer raised an eyebrow. “You can’t know that for sure. Sometimes people live longer than they originally would have in WOS. Additionally, I can always choose who to get too attached to, thank you very much. I appreciate the information though, so thank you. That gives me a little hope for there being something positive amidst all the bad sh*t I’ll undoubtedly see later. And perhaps I can befriend this good person and help keep them alive a bit longer, if I can make it that far myself.”
Kim Dokja nodded. “Sure. Do whatever you want. I will do the same here,” he waved off. “You said you wanted to hear about the fifth scenario as well?”
Dreamer nodded, but said, “Yes, I still do, but I also know that your phone has been dead and you haven’t had a chance to look at your file since we last spoke. I’m fine waiting. There is a lot to get through before we reach that point anyways.”
“Okay, good. Then it is my turn to ask: What do you know about the third scenario for me?”
Dreamer clicked her tongue. “Not worried about the second one first, then? Okay.
“You will work things out eventually, but you will have to consume one of the Spectre’s Stones you get from killing them on the way there. However, I don’t like what they do to you guys, so I might try and intervene before things get bad for you. Not that you need the help at all, it’s just… Nightmare entities like them are hard to fight for most people. I have a bit of a grudge against them for the trauma they bring to other people. That’s why I say if someone has a nightmare, call out for me so that I might be able to help. I am very familiar with fighting off nightmares, you see.”
Kim Dokja was wearing an odd expression again. “So, you don’t even need to help because we will be fine anyways, but you still might try to help anyways to prevent added trauma?”
Dreamer nodded. “Yep. I don’t exactly want you guys to suffer needlessly, otherwise I would just ignore you completely and focus only on London and myself. So, if you end up facing the Spectres or the Phantom Prison and feel things turning bad for you, please feel free to call out to me, as I would love the chance to wreck their sh*t like they try to do with everyone else.”
Still looking somewhat confused, he nevertheless nodded. “I will consider your request.”
It seemed to be the best he could give her while remaining wary of her. She didn’t mind. It was quite nice to have someone to talk to about future sh*t, even if she couldn’t talk about most of it with him right now. She wondered if he felt the same way, since he hadn’t found the false prophets or Han Sooyoung yet who typically filled that role.
Shaking the thought from her head, Dreamer bid Dokja farewell and left to find some other people via dream.
-
No matter how hard she looked, Dreamer could not find the Monarch of the Great Abyss anywhere in her dreams. Was he not a part of this world line yet? Or was he somewhere warded against dream entities, unlike the other beings stuck in the abyss?
What she did manage to find, however, after failing to find the sealed Kim Namwoon of the 999th round, was the recently dead Kim Namwoon, in Tartarus.
Even Dreamer was surprised that she had managed to dream herself into this place.
Sure, she had dreamt herself into many underworlds in the past, but usually that was from within a host, rather than on her own. She wasn’t quite sure what to expect here since she was meant to be an incarnation and this place was off-limits during the scenarios except in extremely specific cases.
Cases that were not like this one. It felt like trespassing even more than when Kim Dokja had come here in the novel.
Mind you, the abyss wasn’t exactly meant to be incarnation-accessible either, but still… this place was heavily guarded. Would she really end up stuck here if she was found out?
Kim Namwoon was speaking to a young, beat-up girl by the side of a production line.
Dreamer shoved all her worries aside and cautiously approached them. Her goal was simple, now that she was here: open communication with Kim Namwoon, just as she had with the others, even if she hadn’t specifically planned for this since he was meant to be Kim Dokja’s contact, and she had been content to leave it to him.
He hadn’t been dead for as long as he had been in ORV when Kim Dokja found him, so she wondered if he would have had time to adjust to his new circ*mstances yet. The fact that he seemed to be comforting this young girl suggested he had made some progress from before, but it wasn’t easy to measure something like that.
Dreamer waved to them when they looked up at her approach. “Hiya! I’m kind of new here,” which was technically not a lie, even though she had in all likelihood been to this underworld in dreams before and just couldn’t recall right now. “And I was hoping someone might explain what that is that we’re all meant to be working on?” She pointed upwards towards the large, metallic carapace that was steadily being added to, hanging above the work floor on chains and scaffolding.
Of course, she already knew what it was: the Giant Soldier for Gigantomachia, but it seemed like a good starting point for getting Kim Namwoon to speak openly, since she already knew he would be excited about it.
The little girl brightened up upon hearing this instead and answered before even Kim Namwoon could say anything. “Yes! We are helping to create a magic fighting suit to punch all the bad guys! Oppa told me all about it! Didn’t you, oppa?” She gesticulated towards him after making several punching motions in the air in front of her excitedly.
Kim Namwoon then took over for the little girl, called Nestia, and described the Giant Soldier as best he could at this stage of its creation. He didn’t appear to know the specifics behind its creation yet, however.
There was another person she curious about who had only been briefly mentioned in the novel she read who had died before they should have done, in every world line Secretive Plotter had been to. So, she asked the remarkably stable Kim Namwoon (she guessed he was very adaptable even with a change like ‘death’, which was very impressive and commendable) and cute Nestia who looked to be a few years his junior, if they could keep an eye out for him or his soul passing through this place.
While many souls passed through this place after death in the scenarios, she knew that this was not the only Underworld here, so it was quite possible that the little boy she was wondering about might be found elsewhere instead, but it never hurt to ask. This Kim Namwoon did not seem averse to all children since he had befriended at least Nestia and wasn’t nearly as dangerously ‘delusional’ as he had supposedly been in TWSA, so it should be fine to tell him about another young kid, even though she knew nothing about the kid yet either.
After speaking with them a bit more about the Underworld customs and comparing them to others she knew about, Dreamer bid them farewell and left after moving behind some pillars to remain out of sight.

Chapter 13: Chapter Eleven – Waterloo Roaming (5) (little Dream visit #2)

Chapter Text

Dreamer had not expected to end up back on the train so soon, yet here she was, standing in front of a small Kim Dokja, looking even worse for wear than he had before.
“What happened? It’s only been a couple of days since I saw you!” she exclaimed, kneeling beside him and summoning healing equipment from the air. She held them out in front of her in question. “May I?”
The little Dream meekly nodded his head. “Sure. Hey, have I met you before? You seem familiar to me, but I can’t quite place you…”
Dreamer blinked in astonishment but then remembered that dream time could be hella skewed, and it might have been much longer for him than it had for her. She dismissed her distress and focused on helping patch up the frail being in front of her instead. “Yes. We met once before, on this train. It was only a couple days ago for me in my waking world but for you, it might have been a lot longer. Can you tell me what happened to make you look like this?” she asked carefully, indicating some of the large bruises on his body and face.
“Oh. I think I remember now.” The little Dream shrugged. “What usually happens. I got beaten up. Only, it wasn’t when I was awake this time. Did you know that nightmares can really hurt you if you’re dreaming?”
Holy sh*t. Han Sooyoung wasn’t kidding when she suggested it was important to teach this kid how to dream safely! He seemed mildly delirious as well.
“Yes, I did know that. I, umm, actually know a lot about nightmares and dreaming that might help you to know too, since you are dreaming constantly. You seem… kind of new to it, despite how long it must have been so far in relative terms. Does your Fourth Wall-nim not help you work things out?” Dreamer asked, side-glancing the air beside him a bit judgmentally.
“No, it mostly just tells me when we need to leave a dream or when I am using up too much Probability to be safe,” he replied while lifting an arm to let Dreamer wrap something over it properly.
She sighed. “Alright. Well, would you like to learn more about dreaming from me? I don’t have everything worked out myself yet but what I do know would likely help you fend off some of those nightmares that did this to you. I’m very well-versed in fighting off nightmares, you see, so I know how to defend against them too. And I can teach you about some dream dynamics, though there are a lot of different types of dream you can have, and I only know some of them well. You probably have a lot of the same dream abilities as me since you’re a dreamer too, and I know from your story that a lot of your skills operate similarly to my dream ones. Like your [Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint], for instance – doesn’t that work pretty much exactly the same as a dream would, from different perspectives? Thus, it is very similar to dreamwalking already. What do you say?”
The little Dream nodded. “If you think you can help, then sure. I don’t have anything else to do while I’m here other than dream. I might as well have a dream teacher to help me through it, since you’re offering.”
Dreamer worried about how nonchalant and emotionless the Most Ancient Dream was being about all of this, but she knew it must be because of his current state and situation. Honestly, she just wanted to wrap him in bubble-wrap that was nightmare-proof and give him a million hugs from his friends.
Instead, she said, “Alright, then it’s a plan: I’ll teach you what I know about dream things, and you do your best to keep going until I can find a good way to get you out of here properly. Will you let me tend to your torso now, little Dream? It looks very sore too.” He idly nodded and lifted his arms again as she tugged his very oversized shirt aside to wrap more bandages around him, applying her creams to the painful-looking flesh beneath as she did so.
While she worked, she spoke about her plans to connect up the dreamers to relieve him of some of his burden, and of her plans to prevent the Kim Dokja of her waking world from making the same deal that the ORV version of him had done. She spoke about how dreamers shouldn’t be trapped by unknown forces demanding they pay the price of sustaining worlds, and of how much bullsh*t it was that they were forced into these positions in the first place, whether ‘voluntarily’ or not. She knew better and she would overturn the heavens and hells themselves if people did not learn better too, than just let these situations keep happening in the various different world lines out there when it wasn’t even necessary like was sold to them.
Then, once she was done wrapping him up in healing things, Dreamer sat beside him, pulled up the file of ORV on her phone and began to read – from the start again since he apparently had forgotten quite a lot since she had last visited.
Before they could start lessons, he needed to at least remember himself a bit, otherwise he would not be strong enough to stand up to the nightmares that might seek him out in his dreams. Healing first, then progress could happen.
She left him after singing a song she thought he might like, as well as one of her own that she thought he might relate to.
*****

Chapter 14: >>Interlude – Professorial Wisdom<< (A, Prof HSY #2)

Chapter Text

When Han Sooyoung appeared in the office space that composed her current dreamscape, someone was sat in her chair, blowing bubble-gum with annoyingly loud pops.
Before she could growl out anything or perhaps just wearily sigh at the state of her dreams of late, the figure sat up, held up some papers with a flourish, and began their own annoying speech.
“Hiya, Professor. I come with updates on cosmic bullsh*t. Or story bullsh*t? Existence bullsh*t.
“Anyways, please look at these and tell me what you think in a way that the ‘me’ writing this scene can properly pick up on, if you would be so kind! Also, I would like to try and share some memories with you via physical contact like what happens with Disconnected Film Theory, if you wouldn’t mind me trying? They’re about the other ‘you’ who actually might not be the ‘other you’ at all? I’m not really certain anymore, because your Avatar situation is beyond complicated and that’s coming from me.”
She decided to go with the weary sigh and moved around the desk to take the seat offered by the vagrant who had taken up temporary residence of her own dream space before she even consciously arrived here. She snatched up the diagrams with truly awful depictions of stick figures. A crease formed between her eyes.
“What the hell am I looking at?” she demanded of her visitor.
“New deductions or hypotheses I’m working on in my waking world regarding how the f*ck our collective shared consciousness stuff works, as well as how any ‘one’ entity can ever ‘become’ every other entity in existence, since if it applies to one of us, it would eventually apply to all of us, according to many theories regarding how the all-in-one and one-in-all theories and religions go,” she offered casually, leaning against the side of Han Sooyoung’s desk as she spoke. “It feels like it irons out a lot of the confusion I’ve had regarding my own identity and who exactly is connected enough with me to feel like they ‘are’ me, so this explanation feels a lot clearer than a bunch of my other guesses, and since your brain is arguably much better equipped to handle weird meta sh*t and narratives than my own, I thought I’d come dump it on you because writing myself into stories clearly isn’t proving anything other than how blindly optimistic I am about something I cannot prove.” Angelica drew in a quick breath and released it slowly as if to release some pent-up frustrations. “So, since the only thing I feel like I can do while awake is leave any discoveries or theories I have with the people who actually might be able to do something with it to protect their world lines and other selves from cosmic bullsh*t, I’m here to dump it on you even if I can’t ‘pick up on’ any tangibly ‘real’ response from you that I could use. Basically, if I can’t do sh*t about the things I think I’ve worked out, then at least someone else might be able to use it, out here in what equates to my fiction. You care about the people from your story especially intensely, so perhaps I was hasty in assuming you would just leave other versions of Kim Dokja to their respective worlds when they are very possibly not actually all that separate as we had thought… Or, something. I don’t even know, that’s why I am writing this in the first place! Since even your story has not ended and the bloody world lines are still being endlessly repeated and branched off from each other and the whole purpose of this is just for this one collective being that I am very closely related to myself because I remember ending up there before at the End and so at least one version of ‘me’ is still stuck in an unfair worldview and all the other ‘mes’ might end up there when we die so it also affects any one of us too, which if you look at the damn diagrams includes Kim Dokja, so I can’t exactly just stop meddling in matters outside of my own reality because, guess what, cosmic scumbags watching me write on this metaphorical Wall? What constitutes ‘my own reality’ is a helluva lot huger than you try to let on to any of us! What’s outside of it is actually part of it, so, yeah. Here I am.”
Angelica turned back from where she had begun pacing with her arms out, staring at the ceiling, to face Han Sooyoung. “Dragging someone in who deserves to be uninvolved in the wider cosmic bullsh*t but who has repeatedly proven that she will never let me, specifically, down, even if I am not who I think I might be to her. Because against all logic and personal sentiment that I don’t fully believe you must have for this ‘me’, one of your collective selves was still waiting for this me to return to her in another dream full of other supposedly-dead versions of our friends and family, who all knew multiple versions of me, and accepted me for who I was, regardless, and are even now still working on solutions for all this sh*t in their own equivalent of some kind of underworld or in-between space between worlds that people go to while waiting to be ‘reborn’ or reused or whatever the f*ck ever happens that I can never fully recall once I wake up, and I wasn’t allowed to stay with any of them again but they knew that and didn’t judge me and so I have to keep coming back to the ones that I can find again, through these stupid, poorly-written, mushed-up, plot-holey, stream-of-consciousness, out of order, stories that are more like diaries of all the bloody lives I have partially lived – because you guys are the only ones I can consciously find again in a way that feels slightly more possible, and I can’t just – just keep being nothing but a bridge for everyone else to know all these things through just because that’s all I seem to be able to do anymore, whilst knowing that places like that one exist where another version of you, who is an amalgamation of multiple versions of you, that you might end up with once you die in your waking world, remains trapped in, trying to prepare for a future they’re all hopeful that I can help them with because I’m the only one who never stays dead and can still access every place via dreams where even other barrier-breakers cannot breach through to.
“Another you who did not have to know my name to know who I was and to treat me just like I would presumably treat you if I actually met any version of you that I know consciously or unconsciously, were I actually able to physically meet anyone outside of dreams and stories through this – well, this form without a body, who I refer to as Sang-sang-ui and who is – as the diagram example shows – directly linked not just to me, but also to your Kim Dokja and who can’t act on her own except through us, because she is effectively our shared imagination, because of some other sh*t that is – it’s just – ahhh, it’s complicated, okay? And you – another you who is very closely related to you, from what I could pick up on from that dream, if I am actually able to trust my own eyes and ears and whatever vibe sensors I seem to have while dreaming when it could all just be layered bullsh*t meant to mislead me – encouraged me not to just give up and implied that we were actually making progress, even though you had just killed another version of probably-also-me in the side stories and I somehow still ending up crying all over you because I apparently missed you even though now that I am awake I don’t fully remember why because I was probably not just this kind of me in the dream, but someone I identify with, closely enough to the examples in the pictures I gave you that I wouldn’t be able to tell if I was me or them even if you placed us side by side and –“
A hand came to rest on one of Angelica’s forearms. It was scarred and smaller than her own, despite the owner being of a similar height to her.
She stopped her impromptu tirade to stare rather tearily at its owner. “Start from the beginning if the rest is getting to you this much. What do the colours on the figures mean? We can go from there.”
And while feeling like she might just continue to breakdown and cry about everything going on that only she considered ‘real’ in her world line, Angelica sat down on the floor with her and told her about her latest theories about how each of their ‘collective subconsciousness’ and ‘consciousness’ worked, how dreams related to that by making the dreams from people who were most closely ‘related’ to each other more memorable for the dreamer being a part of the one whose reality and body they were dreaming within, and about how that might be the true way that everyone could hypothetically be ‘everyone else’ in some way, because a piece or portion of them could take up a greater part of the consciousnesses of other people that they could only dream about, or sense in other ways, perhaps.
She then explained about how this meant that her confusion over how she could feel somewhat related not just to the stories and abilities of Kim Dokja, but also to Yoo Joonghyuk and Han Sooyoung herself, as well as others, might be explainable, because it was quite possible that she actually was a part of their collective subconscious in some way, but to a lesser extent than might be true for others such as Kim Dokja and Ilia. Which would explain why she remembered dreams where she was Kim Dokja, but not ones where she was the others specifically, unless she had experienced them before she could identify them through the ORV story, at least.
This was why she wanted to try the memory-sharing thing, because not only had she shown that it was possible to do this between others who seemed unrelated before – such as Ilia sharing memories to others or Lord Sherritt offering to give Cale Henituse 10,000 years’ worth of her own memories – so someone who felt a little bit less-distantly related than others, like Han Sooyoung felt to her, might be easier for her to impart information to via physical contact, since it was possible that the two of them were related enough for it to be more Probable, or however it was meant to work here.
She also made it very clear that her own personal view of everyone being connected like this meant that it wasn’t important if a little bit of her was truly a part of someone else or how much it might be, but more so how much the two separate people who might be related closely or distantly, chose to identify, because that was all that really mattered when everyone was supposedly related in at least minute ways. She herself felt like if they were separated by a greater number of individuals between their respective consciousnesses or subconsciousnesses, they would feel more like a completely different individual, much like how she identified more strongly with Kim Dokja than someone who felt too wildly different to her like Han Myungoh, because if some portion of his ‘essence’ or whatever it was did exist within her too, it would surely have to be so microscopic that neither of them would see each other as a part of each other, no matter how small the influence might be.
“Right now, the people I identify closest with are those I’ve mentioned before – people like Kim Dokja, Dreamer, Ilia, Elaine, etc. while others like yourself and Yoo Joonghyuk are different enough that I keep swinging back and forth about it, and Han Myungoh and Asmodeus are way beyond the limits of my sense of self to ever feel make up any part of me. I have had many identity crises over being Yoo Joonghyuk and to a lesser extent you, though. Err, also maybe don’t tell Han Myungoh I never want to be related to him, because I am possibly related to other people he is related to, and then he’d be sad and I don’t want him to hate himself even if I can’t reconcile my self as any part of himself, you know? So, no thank you,” Angelica added to the end of her explanation as a slightly less-serious note.
She then got abruptly teary-eyed again. “Why am I the one having to puzzle all of this out on my own? There are so many more of you out here with a better grip on things than me, with a lot more resources and capabilities than I have access to in my waking world, and you’d do such a better job of things than I can. And it’s not fair that every world line other than mine allows us to meet with each other, yet with me, I am stuck in my waking world, only able to do this through Sang-sang-ui who has her own issues, what with being unable to act on her own and being ‘erased’ and not having a body she’s allowed to just remain within like the rest of us because, as I expect is the case, my body is the only stable one either of us is allowed to keep and that’s a whole other load of bullsh*t on her behalf because like, she should get to be her own individual too, like I suspect she kind of can be as Dreamer and Paladin Ilia, even though both those times required both Ilia and I co-piloting her since she isn’t meant to have her own separate existence, I guess, and –“
Han Sooyoung flicked her on the forehead to halt her words. “Clearly if you are related to them, you inherited those idiots’ bad habits.”
Angelica grumbled, “At least I don’t cull my own memories as if my head were a personal abattoir for Avatars…”
Han Sooyoung scowled at her. “Hey! I’m not the one having self-deprecating sessions and being all dramatic about it! Get your sh*t together before you call out someone else’s.” She clicked her tongue and turned to face away from her in clear irritation.
Angelica sighed. “Fair. Ish. Fine. What now?”
“Now, we test your theory out about the memory sharing. It sounds like you have a lot more of the memories I myself should have received from my own dreams or Avatars than I recall having had. Especially about that dream in the in-between space you mentioned earlier.”
Angelica nodded and looked between them to see that Han Sooyoung hadn’t technically released her from earlier. She guessed that covered the physical contact aspect but reached out a hand to press against her temples instead anyways, since previous experiences in dreams had demonstrated to her that the head was very receptive to interference from her, such as had happened with a particular snake friend of hers.
She focused on passing along everything she could remember, and anything else she couldn’t consciously remember that Sang-sang-ui should retain on her behalf, to Han Sooyoung about the dream where she had met the other versions of KimCom in that place, as well as the memories related to Lee Hakhyun’s world and side-stories, where her other self had murdered him and then revived him once Kim Dokja’s memories of being the ‘49%’ of himself had been passed along to her.
Whatever she was unable to pass along through this manner, she could fill in through her words after, but she had a feeling that this ought to work, even if the two of them were too distantly related to consider themselves ‘same’ or not.
The memories she shared with her were from her own perspective, since that was the only perspective, she had experienced and remembered them from herself, but hopefully she could use this information to maybe track down those other versions of herself or work out what might have been going through that version of her’s head at the time.
After sitting with her for some time like that, watching her quietly process the things that seemed to have successfully been passed onto her, Angelica patiently waited until her eyes opened to ask in prompt, “Thoughts, Professor?”
Her expression appeared somewhat complicated. “… I can see why instances like these have led to your deductions about how the connections between each of us might exist.”
Angelica nodded. “Even just that much is helpful to hear, so thank you.”
“I’m also… sorry that other versions of me aren’t always able to see or interact with you like normal in your dreams. You… shared more than just those couple things with me in the memories, I think. The street where we all walked straight past you, without recognising you – that must have been hard. It felt like it hurt a lot,” she said with weight.
Angelica frowned. Had she shared that section as well? That had been one of her worst kinds of dream, since it was one where everyone around her were being mentally manipulated or controlled to be unable to sense her even when she was directly in front of their eyes and ears. “You could certainly say that about them. I’m sorry that I shared those portions of dream alongside the others, even if they technically also cover a version of ‘you’. I only wanted to make the situation with the world lines repeating clear, with the side stories continuing to update about Lee Hakhyun and the in-between space containing a collective self of several of you who are more knowledgeable about everything else, including myself. The rest is just… standard fare, by this point, for me. This is what I do – what I’m good at handling. I may have to experience more sad sh*t in my dreams than many others of us, but I am also the best equipped to deal with the fallout from it – not least because I prefer to remember everything and not forget anything we experience, even though that isn’t always possible. I suppose my clarity about the painful parts are a worthy trade for not forgetting like many others do. It makes me feel more connected to my hosts, at any rate. So, it could be worse. Completely forgetting, for me, would be worse, I think. Though I have also had to acknowledge that even I have limits with these things, sometimes, so that might not always hold true in the moment…”
Han Sooyoung reached out and covered Angelica’s mouth with her hand. “Stop – just stop. It’s worse when you keep trying to explain it like that.” She sighed. “So, the side stories you spoke about – they’re being written by ‘someone else’ who isn’t me and shared through at least the writer couple of your waking world, if not others in other world lines, correct?”
Angelica nodded. “Yes, that seems to be the case. However, I only know that they are not being written by that version of you, and it is possible that it is being written by another version of you, or even this you in the future, and I am just viewing this at the wrong times for them to match. Since, that’s how I am able to be here in the first place. I feel like it makes sense for it to be Lee Hakhyun possibly as well, but only written after he ‘wakes up’ from the side stories eventually, where I have not read up to as it is still being written in my world line. He has written something similar in the past, called ‘How to Become a Star Writer’ where he transmigrated into a character and woke up from it to find it had already written itself as he was living it. However, even while he remembered about it during the course of that story that I read, in the side stories, it mentioned that he had written it in the past and he seemed to have completely forgotten about any transmigration part being real at all, so something likely happened there, which is why I feel like it could still be him writing his own story after it ‘comes to a close’, so to speak, if he wakes from it believing it to be nothing more than dream again, or something similar happening. I’ve just tried to write a short continuation of that dropped story, by explaining the memory loss and some other stuff, but it is not written well, much like my current sort. I am hoping it helps him remember more later on, even if he will probably still be unable to remember anything about Sang-sang-ui or ‘me’.”
“You really do intend to just reach out to everyone sharing the things you have ‘found out’, don’t you?” Han Sooyoung commented.
Somewhat wearily, Angelica nodded. “It’s not like being a capable dreamer has resolved all the issues, so invading my own stories to info-dump on ‘fictional’ characters who can do more than I can, seems to be the extent of our abilities right now. I’m just trying to stop what I know will exist for too many of us if we don’t somehow find a way to ‘stop’ all of this, without just giving up on every world line.” She pinned Han Sooyoung with a somewhat pointed gaze. “Even the world lines that our loved ones do not seem to exist within the same way we know them to.”
“Yeah, alright, I don’t need the sass from someone with as many problems as you, thank you,” she huffed.
“I will leave you again here shortly, but I would like to try and keep you connected to my own sort of ‘Cloud System’ of documents and findings, if it is possible to do so. This may mean that I show up to ‘share memories’ with you again from time to time during the course of the story I am trying to rewrite into existence from where I deleted it during my breakdowns last year, so I may just info-dump on you again if anything ‘new’ or especially pertinent comes up that I feel you could make use of. Will that be alright? You know that I tend to over-speak quite a lot for things that could be explained more summarily.”
Han Sooyoung shook her head. “That will be fine. I can connect you up to my own stigma to access it more easily, though based on everything else you have told me about it, it sounds like you won’t be able to sense it within your waking world yet.”
Angelica nodded. “Yes, that would be great! Even if it doesn’t work, it might help one of the rest of us later on, or in my dreams. Things I write about here to even the little Dream as ‘lessons’ are things I only learn how to do myself after writing about them, so hopefully the same applies to things like this.”
After a moment of her presumably fiddling with system messages, Han Sooyoung said, “There – it’s done.” She then explained how to operate the stigma through the system and what it ‘felt’ like in case Angelica ended up dreaming in a world view without any systems in it, and after passing a few more ideas and suggestions with each other, Angelica left Han Sooyoung’s dreamscape.
>>Interlude – Professorial Wisdom end<<

Chapter 15: Chapter Twelve – Waterloo Roaming (6) (MS#2 5/7, ends in sleep #3)

Chapter Text

Hmm. Perhaps Kim Dokja had made quite a good point when he implied that balancing the scenarios and her dreams to help other sides of the world would be difficult to manage since Dreamer woke up with clearer recollection of her dreams than she used to have – and it was already a lot. Usually they felt more condensed, distant, with gaps, but now that the scenarios had come here, she seemed to have perfect recall of them – though she still felt that some others may have escaped her, but the ones she did remember, she remembered fully.
It made for a great change since she loathed forgetting her dreams, but as she awoke for her turn of the watch in the midst of an apocalypse, she had to admit that it felt like time would feel very weird for her if she kept having multiple dreams crammed into each night like usual, now that it felt like time was passing normally in them, while that not being the case when she woke. She wondered how it worked exactly, but based on previous dreams before the scenarios arrived, she knew that it was never particularly consistent.
Akari thumped her on the back after helping her sit up. “You’re up, sport. Hand over the goods.”
She snorted. “Here you go, sir. Hope it’s comfortable for you!” she joked, passing over the thin but very warming hospital blanket they’d taken with them, swapping places with him so he could sleep on the bed of messy plant matter they’d been using as a bed since clearing out the base of monsters earlier.
Akari helped her into the wheelchair beside them before sinking down with blatant relief.
“Rest well, doc,” she said with sincerity before heading off to sit beside Devin, who was yawning after Anya must have woken him to switch with.
He requested she give him something to focus on to help him keep awake so she pulled out some of the plants she had acquired on their route so far and described their properties to him, adding her hypotheses as to their possible uses in the

. She also directed him towards some of the new plant-monster species growing nearby and showed him some simple ways to avoid getting bitten or lashed while reaching their leaves, buds, or other areas that could be used as components.
On the opposite side of the watch point guarding their current camp, Anya and Sammy looked across at them.
Anya called her a plant nerd again, with Sammy commenting about how it was clearly a useful area of knowledge now that the world was like this, holding her own little monster plant seedling in her hands, taking note of the things Dreamer spoke about.
Devin then commented that it was a good thing they all had so many doctors around to help them avoid dying from wounds they picked up during their fights. Which. Was a very good point, since it would be easy for them to die of simple infections or wounds that didn’t heal properly, even with the improved stats from the system.
[Constellation, ‘Blooming Heart of Gardens and Swamps’ appreciates your discussion.]
[200 coins have been sponsored.]
With that kind of modifier, it certainly made sense that they would like her conversation here. She felt like with this kind of constellation taking an interest in their stream, she could focus on this aspect more freely without having to adjust her interests to suit their entertainment.
They had managed to clear two of the seven regions they needed to clear for the main scenario, but Dreamer suspected that the remaining ones would become easier to address with each successive one they cleared, due to increased coins and skill levels. Or that was her hope, at any rate.
She used the remaining time until the others awoke to discuss about plant properties with Sammy since she had a decent understanding of scientific topics herself (though Steph, who was asleep still, knew even more) and potential uses for them regarding food or medicine, which were their current priorities.
However, once their watch was up and they were all back up and preparing for the next tasks of the day, they heard a broadcast through the little radio they carried around with them in just the hopes of hearing something like this.
The voice was familiar, and the words they spoke were for Dreamer as well – since she had written them back at the hospital. The group they had split up with had reached the station and successfully taken it over! The information they shared caused a stir with the other survivors they passed by en route to their destinations for the day, and Dreamer could not stop smiling and squealing every time she heard strangers discussing it or paying closer attention to their attribute windows and system messages.
It affected the others positively as well, and they found themselves in good spirits as they headed to their next mission area.
The mood carried even after clearing it, but that was the extent of their good mood as the weight of their survival began to drain them.
-
Once they had cleared out the next region on their list for the day, they had sustained too many injuries to continue on and found somewhere to hunker down again for the night, weary and exhausted.
Anya was in such a bad way that Sammy was stuck beside her, spare IV bag of fluids and anti-emetics from their disability aids supply being stuck into her veins so she wouldn’t lose the precious nutrition she had managed to keep down earlier.
Dreamer was just a little bit envious of the medicine used to treat Anya since she knew it would help significantly with her own extremely worsened nausea, but her need was not great enough to require it over other items and skills she had obtained for her own condition. She would have appreciated some Ondanestron right at that moment, however, since the region they had just cleared had incorporated actual spinning rollercoaster machines as part of the battle. Even Akari was looking a bit peaky, and he was the sturdiest out of them here (perhaps tied with Ciara).
Although she wasn’t certain exactly how it worked since adjusting their stats didn’t appear to remove or alleviate their conditions and disabilities themselves, they did find that their overall endurance and durability, speed, and strength improved alongside them. So, while tasks still required heavy spoon expenditure and overextending their usual limits, the disabled members of their group found themselves able to keep up with the others well enough not to pose the kind of burden that the others outside of their group had heavily and loudly proclaimed they would be.
The constant activity, injury, and distress definitely hit them a lot harder than the healthier members, however. Especially those of them with pre-existing issues with wound healing or clotting.
None of them could be said to be handling events here particularly well, however.
Despite her own fatigue and high pain, Dreamer went up to where Damian’s side where he sat on one of the benches of this underground station platform. His head was in his hands and she could practically see the stress oozing out from him.
“Holding out okay?” she asked gently. He remained quiet, so she continued. “You know, you don’t have to carry all the responsibility on your shoulders alone, right? We all got thrown into this epic sh*tshow together, and having more experience, knowledge, charisma, or anything else you’re great with doesn’t mean you have to be the one holding the rest of us up, even though you probably see Anya, Steph, Kaelsi and I – as well as the others back at base still with Jubilee – as your responsibility since that was your job before the world flipped over like this. You wouldn’t expect Del or Axel to do everything on their own just because they’re older and wiser than the rest of us, right? Or have Steph and I run everything because we know so much more about the new sh*t going on.
“Similarly, none of us intend to leave you to ‘lead’ the rest of us on your own. You might be a genius doctor with a bajillion areas of expertise, but you don’t know what to expect from the scenarios like I do, nor do you have the years of street smarts Kaelsi and Devin gained. I know you feel like you need to be the strongest, most reliable person here, but nobody else expects – or wants – that from you.”
At this, Damian dropped his hands and turned his head to face her.
She grinned and reached out an arm to lightly wrap across the back of his shoulders. “Remember how you said I could just take up the role of leader if I wanted since I was the most scenario-savvy person here at the start and everyone else was lost for what to do? Well, now’s your chance to stand aside, you numpty – I’ve decided to claim the role I graciously left for you to fill in for before. So, as your real boss, I order you to be a good subordinate and take a backseat for a bit. At least until we get back to base, alright? It’s beneficial for all of us to gain the experience of leading the group since we’ll need it later when things get messier, anyways. You’re only being a good teammate by letting the rest of us have a chance to shine, as well. All right, Doctor Kumięga?”
Surprisingly, Damian leant against her, clearly exhausted from the pressure of his own expectations for himself and let out a light breath of laughter. “Alright. Just… tap me back in when you need to yourself, okay? I know how much you guys try to just push through everything despite it hurting.”
Dreamer scoffed. “You’re one to talk! You don’t have to be chronically ill to overextend yourself, dumbass. Pass the baton over when you need from now on, yeah doc? You know Anya would love to order us around in your stead.”
He lightly smiled and nodded. “That’s true. You made a good point about it being a useful thing to learn, though, for the others. Will there really come a time when even Steph needs to lead people? Will she be okay?”
Dreamer nodded. “Yeah. We’ll all get separated from time to time if we stick too closely together, so being able to direct whoever we end up beside is likely going to be fairly vital if we want to achieve our own goals without getting shoved around. Steph will be okay, I think, but some experience handling us, who she trusts and is safe amongst, would go a long way in helping her speak up later on with people who aren’t like us.”
Damian hummed contemplatively. “I’ll have to remember that for her moving forwards and help her out with i–“
He was cut off as Dreamer lightly flicked his earlobe.
“Ow! What the hell –?” he began, scowling at her in confusion.
“No. Not your responsibility. We’ve got this – together. If you want to help, simply suggest it to Steph herself to work on in her own time or bring it up with Akari or Devin and let them help her out.
“In the meantime, we’ve got two more regions left that will be entirely mine to organise us for. Spend the spare brainpower you’ll save on getting a better idea of which kind of sponsor you’d like to have when the second selection period comes around. Now, lay the f*ck down, doc. Kaelsi and I will wake you up once the food’s done,” she finished, lightly pressing on his shoulder to instruct him towards the bench.
He released a breath of laughter again. “You got it, boss. I will start my first day in your employment slacking off,” he jested, fully aware that even though she would be taking over, none of them would have it easy regardless.
Dreamer beamed. “That’s the spirit!”
By the time their meal was ready, Damian’s eyebags were still enormous, but his face seemed marginally less drawn and tense, which was enough of a delightful sight in their dreary environment to set the others smiling a tiny bit more freely, despite their collective exhaustion.
When it came time for her turn to sleep, Dreamer had resolved to take up the role of a leader that she had never truly wanted to take up – hopefully temporarily.
She felt very lucky to have such a reliable and cohesive group of friends to tackle the scenarios with, and fervently wished that her knowledge would be enough to help protect them long enough that they didn’t need to experience anymore betrayal or significant loss on the way to their survival and progress.
*****

Chapter 16: Chapter Thirteen – Leaders in all shapes and sizes (little Dream visit #3)

Chapter Text

This sleep, she found herself before the little Dream first, and the best part was that he remembered her.
She beamed at him as he greeted her. “Welcome back, Dreamer. Is it time to teach me dream dynamics now?” he asked with more emotion in his tone than the previous night.
She nodded while still smiling widely. “Yes! Let’s start on the basics – what dream abilities there are, and what they can be used for. Hmm… it might help to have somewhere to write things down, as well as a place I can demonstrate things without ruining the place you sleep and reside in… Can we enter the other carriages on this train?” she asked, tapping her lips and looking around.
The little Dream nodded and tapped at the air around him, which grumbled momentarily before the carriage door nearest to them swung open. The little Dream led the way through, and Dreamer followed behind. Once inside, she noted that there was even more dream magic in this room than the previous one. Was it because he found it easier to be in the place that felt the most real? Or was it just because the further from his resting place he got, the closer to being a dream space the world around him became?
She had many questions, but right now she was meant to be answering ones that he had.
So, the first thing she did was summon a desk and writing utensils for him, and a big whiteboard for her to write on.
Then, she began listing the different dream abilities she knew about, with descriptions of what they could do. For many of them, she demonstrated what they meant for spaces that were considered ‘dreams’ for them, or which had enough dream magic present for them to manipulate freely, should they stumble across those spaces too.
She encouraged the little Dream to test some summoning out himself, as she found it one of the most useful skills in a dream and spoke about how if you were strong enough at it, you could also summon things into the world you were dreaming in that would remain or influence the waking world beneath it, too. She advised him to focus on the feeling of summoning items from his spatial dimension coat as a basis for the feeling he needed, and it seemed to help.
She also showed him how to damage a nightmare using dream magic, and the first way she demonstrated this was the same way she had learnt it herself: with teeth and nails. She summoned a cardboard cutout of a spectre to demonstrate on and showed him how to damage the resistant cutout using focus on dream abilities. Without the focus, the cutout remained undamaged, at odds with the material it was seemingly made from. But with the focus of abilities, the bites and scratches could penetrate whatever barrier existed over the material, to damage the ‘flesh’ beneath.
She explained that it was easiest to learn without a weapon like this because of the chances that they would get caught out while up close to a nightmare, as well as it being one of the base responses to danger, to turn rabid and try to tear yourself free from the threat before it could harm you. There was also something about physical contact with something making the effects easier to apply.
Dreamer then showed him how to focus the same abilities into a weapon (which she also summoned) and showed the difference between a dream magic-infused weapon and one that was merely summoned in a dream or from the waking world. Summoned weapons were better than mundane waking world ones, but significantly less effective without concentrated focus.
She then dismissed the weapon and summoned her usual healing kit equipment, along with some extras. Next up was basic first aid for dream injuries, something that the little Dream would definitely benefit from knowing immediately. Of course, she knew how hard it was to look after yourself when you were seemingly perpetually damaged and would do her best to look after him whenever she was present but teaching him these things might help him suffer a little bit less while she was absent and unable to reach him. She still did not have full control over finding him and thus she did not want to leave something as vital as this out for another time. They had plenty of time to get through it all, anyways.
She strongly suggested that the little Dream leave his notebooks in the room with more dream magic in, to keep it from being de-summoned by shifts in reality and left him with a few extra notes on the difference between souls and spirits and the care each one would need during a lengthy dream period.
She left the writing up on the whiteboard too and left the cutout for him to practice first aid on while she was away.
Hopefully he would find the lessons useful and not forget all of it too soon.
Or her. She had a fear of people forgetting her, after all. It would be nice to be remembered, even though it was harder for someone like the little Dream right now to even remember himself with consistency.
She hoped that he would be okay until the next time she could see him. Her dreams were never as long as she wanted them to be, even though they had spent hours and hours together just now, contrasting with the time passed in her waking world.
When she found herself in the next dream, Dreamer had tears in her eyes.
*****

Chapter 17: Chapter Fourteen – Leaders in all shapes and sizes (2) (meets Abaddon)

Chapter Text

Dreamer wiped her eyes clear of water and drew in a long breath before facing her next task.
The dark sands of the desert she had returned to were familiar but the sealing sphere she found herself approaching this time was different.
Her current condition was starkly different from the dream she had spent with the Apocalypse Dragon, as well.
For one, her knees were as stable as jelly. For another, the level-headedness she usually maintained in dreams more consistently than she did in her waking world was currently completely absent, as if the ominous aura she could feel seeping out from the sphere into the void and sands around it had washed it away like the waves of a cruel, dark ocean hellbent on making her panic and flee.
The void around her seemed to wrap back around her once she stepped back into it, however, and she just about managed to keep herself from immediately giving up and yeeting herself from her own dream.
She could do this! Even though she hadn’t realised just how familiar the being kept down here would feel before she decided to seek it out.
She only hoped that the feeling was the only similarity, because otherwise… this was going to cause her a headache and a breakdown or trillion.
However, as she approached the slumbering being in its eternal exile here and stared at the form of her own nightmares made flesh, she realised she was not to be so lucky.
Well, sh*t.
As she stepped closer, the sand near her feet began to stir as numerous, large, blood-red locusts she did not recognise emerged to surround her, staring and chirping.
She froze mid-step. Ah, sh*t – she had forgotten that this particular being would not still be asleep, since Kim Dokja was in this world line, and that meant so was Lee Gilyoung, the young boy who had woken up this being with his story of grasshoppers and violence.
A voice that felt like its form was jagged claws that raked themselves down her spine rumbled out from inside the sphere, directly into her mind.
[Who comes?] it asked, voice dripping in boundless hatred. The voice sounded as if millions of locusts were crashing in at the same time, despite only a handful surrounding Dreamer’s legs.
Swallowing back whatever saliva remained in her suddenly-dry throat, Dreamer opened her trembling lips. “I am called Dreamer, oh great King of Locusts, the Ruler of the Deepest Pit.” She spoke while remaining frozen to the spot as the fluttering of wings sounded and some of the large red locusts began to hop and crawl onto her body.
[Why… have you come?] It asked, and the sound of fluttering wings grew each time it spoke.
One of the red bugs was on her shoulder, staring right into her face. She opted not to turn to face it but faced the sphere instead. “I’ve come with the intention of offering you an alternative ending to your final story, if you are open to my visits and my company while I work on getting you unsealed from here. I only have one condition for this freedom, if you accept my assistance. I will not ask you to aid me in any way – I know you are beyond powerful, but I am not here for your strength or your stories of calamity – I am here to free you for my own reasons.”
[What… reasons?] it demanded.
She paled, answering despite not wanting to go into detail. “This will perhaps sound foolish to you, but I cannot bear to see other beings kept locked away for all of eternity, when I know how their story is set to end and the missed opportunities they’d have for anything more satisfying for their endings.” She raised her lowered gaze to meet the pitch-black aura within the sphere that seemed to be staring through her soul. “Yours is one such story I know of. Coming here is my attempt to create a path for change – to something better, hopefully.”
A loud flurry of strange noises resounded out in her head from the sealed being’s direction, and she flinched, despite realising that this must be what equated to a laugh for it.
[‘Missed opportunities?’] it then repeated. [What… ‘missed opportunities’ are there… when I have been… trapped here… for the past eternities? Do you know… what you are saying… insolent being?]
Dreamer regathered her determination and a fire lit in her eyes at this. She stared directly at this calamitous entity before her and spoke with great resolve. “I do, Abaddon. This is not the first time I have met you, though time and dimension may have differed back then.”
The Abaddon hissed at this and the locusts around Dreamer’s body began to bite at her painfully. [You dare speak of my name from unworthy lips?!]
Wincing at the bites across her body, she maintained her façade of steadiness as she said what she needed to. “I do, Abaddon. Should I not be permitted to speak the name of my own killer when they are before me?” she replied coldly, memories of dreams past stirring behind her eyes with every wave of oppressive, damning aura this being released.
The pitch-black darkness fell silent while the locusts stopped biting her. [You are not dead,] it stated.
Dreamer nodded. “I am not. But I was in the dreams you hunted me down and slaughtered me in, either by your own hands or through your servants.” Those dreams still haunted the recesses of her mind whenever she thought back upon them. It was not easy remembering being eaten alive by insects, or brutally maimed by divine calamity given form.
And yet, still she was here, offering a ‘better ending’ to the tale of someone she had at one point hated the guts of for what had been done to her in her dreams.
It would have been a lot easier to ignore this being entirely, had she not been made aware of the fact that multiple versions of the same being could exist, and this one in particular might seem the same in both feel, name, and role, but might not be exactly the same as the ones she had met before. Additionally, someone had shown her a piece of its story in a way that made her goddamn empathise with its plight, and so she had come here with the intention to offer alternatives to the usual paths set in stone for this being, in this being’s particular, all-too-familiar role.
She explained further. “I am a dreamer first and foremost and have consequently met you in other worlds and realms before discovering your existence within my own waking world, like this, and finding a way to grant you the possibility of change.” She seemed to have found her confidence and stability despite her overwhelming fear and was able to speak her mind more freely as a result. “So, King of Locusts, Ruler of the Deepest Pit, Abaddon, will you hear me out? I do not fear death in this place, for I will wake up from it regardless.” Of course, dying was very far from her list of preferred activities to do within a dream, but she needed to say this so that it wouldn’t try to have its locusts eat her as they once had in a distant dream.
With another deep, harrowing ‘laugh’ from the ‘Great Evil’ before her, the Abaddon itself surprisingly acquiesced to her request, and Dreamer sat down – still covered in thankfully-not-bitey bugs to tell it of her plans, and of its nearby void-mates stuck in the abyss beside it.
All things considered, she thought the introduction had gone surprisingly well.
At least, that is what she had thought before she woke up vomiting out blood and bugs in front of her very distressed companions.
…Perhaps she shouldn’t put so much effort into helping out terrible beings who would happily hunt her for sport from now on, after all…
*****

Chapter 18: Chapter Fifteen – Leaders in all shapes and sizes (3) (meets Squid)

Chapter Text

Despite concerning absolutely everyone with her very bizarre and gross awakening earlier in the day, Dreamer managed to organise everyone very efficiently to handle the remaining two monster-infested regions they needed to, without taking as much damage thanks to their increased experiences with the opposite result in the previous day’s efforts.
Damian was able to focus more of his attention on looking after and healing the others in the group instead of on planning, directing, and fighting on the frontlines like he had been doing of late, and Dreamer adjusted her stat levels and spoons enough to take more of a front-facing role in his stead.
Though Anya joked and teased Damian over things, she also took up more of a leading role whenever Dreamer stumbled herself for how to proceed, and while she herself had to take a more distanced role during conflicts as a result of her poor condition from the day before, she greatly relished the opportunity to boss Damian around whenever Dreamer stepped aside to let her take over.
Damian ended up helping Steph work out a lot of different things that she had been recording in her own notebooks for later referral regarding popular media, trivia, and history, as Dreamer had suggested she do to help her keep it all in order for when it is needed for some later scenarios she suspected would come up.
With the last area, Dreamer managed to convince a handful of the monsters they had to face to flee instead of remaining in this region if they did not want to die. The rest refused to leave and were overly hostile to their group, but Dreamer was absolutely thrilled and floored when her appeals to the monstrous avian species appeared to work, where previous attempts had resulted in failure.
The scenario clear conditions had specified to ‘clear’ the infested regions, not to ‘kill’ everything in them, so this was one alternative she had posited to the others as a possibility, and while some of them (Akari and Anya especially) preferred to just attack the monsters and be done with it, they had collectively agreed to let Dreamer at least try to convince them first.
Until now, it hadn’t been successful. Steph, who had been the main one to assist her in these efforts, lit up alongside her when the monsters first responded to their words and seemed to understand, backing away and gathering their nearby companions to take with them as they left.
Kaelsi and Devin high-fived each other in glee before having to immediately separate as a giant talon slashed down between them – the fight not yet over then.
After all was said and done, they had finished clearing the area of monsters, sent many survivors who had been troubled by the monsters over to Waterloo ahead of them, and began heading back to the others to complete the scenario properly with the remaining time left to hold the base before the third scenario began.
Though this was their plan, the ever-active

had other scenarios in mind for them before then.
-
“sh*t! What kind of bizarre crap is it about to pull on us this time?” Kaelsi said, exasperated, as the group came up to one of the smaller stations right before their destination, and all the gates sectioning off the underground and its facilities automatically clanked closed around them.
Leaving them in an area just off to the side of the platform, where arcade games stood in a dimly lit room.
For some reason, the electricity here was still on, and the games were all playing their idle music while waiting for players.
“I trust nothing about this,” proclaimed Dreamer, letting the others move ahead to inspect the games.
Kaelsi took stock of all the games that were still running and reported back to the others.
It seemed this arcade would be the site of some game-related hidden scenarios.
Dreamer sighed. At least it was something she was normally skilled at…
Kaelsi and Devin played the racing game, seemingly sucked into the game as they sat down to play it. Anya and Sammy took the dance mats, whilst Dreamer, Steph, Akari and Damian took the team shooter exploration game that Dreamer knew promised many coins. Ciara stayed in the arcade to guard the area while they were gone, despite the gates being down right now. None of them trusted the

not to lure other incarnations or monsters here to ambush them when they returned from the game scenarios.
After they were all done with their individual mini scenarios, they regrouped back at the arcade and divvied up the rest of the games between them, swapping loot if it suited someone else better and planning to take some back for the others at Waterloo. It was a surprisingly generous set of scenarios for the difficulty level of the games, despite having tackled them only with those who would best suit them.
Then, once the final game had been completed, they stood there wondering, why weren’t any of the gates reopening? Had they missed a game? The hidden scenarios said they had been cleared.
This is when the room went completely dark, and the floor lit up with glowing sigils beneath them.
[A new hidden scenario has arrived!]
+
[Hidden Scenario – Space Invasion]
Category: Hidden
Difficulty: B
Clear Conditions: Stop the alien life forms from reaching Earth and defeat their leader.
Time Limit: 3 hours
Compensation: 2,000 coins
Failure: –
+
And before they had a chance to react to the difficult scenario rating, they were all transported somewhere in a bright flash of light.
-
They were sent to a battlefield in the middle of space, and a fight was already occurring around them.
“What are you doing standing around for? You’re the reinforcements we were promised! Get out there and start shooting!” came a crackly, irked voice over their helmet audio.
It appeared that some other incarnations had been pulled into this scenario before them from other arcade areas, and now they were meant to back them up in their fight against…
sh*t. The scenario had called them ‘alien life forms’ and Dreamer had already wondered what kind of aliens they would face, but this… This was not like Space Invaders. These were not aliens willingly invading their planet to conquer it.
Dreamer knew what these beings were and they weren’t meant to appear in the scenarios yet. They weren’t meant to be a part of anything actually, unless they were enslaved by the Star Stream to be used as cannon fodder in the background for the sake of scenario plot. Perhaps that was their role here?
These were outer beings and not powerful ones. These were the fragments of stories and beings that had been cast out of the

, all those whose stories and worlds and lives had been forgotten, even by themselves.
Dreamer could not fight these beings, knowing that they had no choice in the matter.
However, she also could not just let her friends die fighting against them.
She thought quickly. The scenario details hadn’t specified that they needed to kill these beings – just to stop them from reaching Earth and to defeat their leader.
She glanced around their surroundings, seeing many floating rocks that their side was using for cover. The outer beings had no such rocky cover on their side of things, merely pouring across the space, as if being shepherded by…
Yes! That must be their ‘leader’! The one Dreamer and her crew needed to defeat in order to clear this scenario.
First things first, she needed to group her own team together and try to realign their goals.
Dreamer gathered her crew together on a larger rock under cover and told them their goal was not to kill the alien beings, but just to block them from reaching Earth. She suggested tactics for how to do this, by blasting some of the larger rocks towards where they were spreading out from, as well as focusing on taking down the leader who was conducting this battle and treating the outer beings as slaves.
Obviously, not all of her group thought this was a good idea since they did not care for the alien life forms and had until now assumed that the aliens were merely pieces of another arcade game and not ‘real’ as such. Dreamer had to explain that this was not true, that all of these beings were living too, and that they were being forced into this scenario, just like them, but that they had no choice but to take part. “They’re kind of like the monster plants from before,” she offered to help them understand.
She explained that these beings deserved to live too, and that they could defend themselves as much as they liked, but that she was going to try and finish this scenario without killing these other beings.
However, their captor… she was more than prepared to take him down. He gave her bad vibes.
Dreamer left her team to do as they liked to work on her own plans separately.
The most important part of this scenario was to make it look like she was still fighting the ‘enemy’, despite having just stated her intention not to kill them. And she needed to stop them from advancing towards their own slaughter.
A few of Dreamer’s group accompanied her to redirect the rocks towards the lines of outer beings racing towards them like so many invaders to blast apart, while the others just focused on working with the other teams to keep the outer beings from approaching by shooting them and blasting them back with their supplied weaponry.
Then, after some time had passed and the space between the two sides had merged somewhat, Dreamer noticed that there was an outer being acting irregularly amongst the masses. It seemed to be trying to shield the others and was shuffling some of them closer together and backwards, in apparent direct opposition to their overlord/leader’s commands. It was even using its own body to block shots that probably would have taken the others out.
Dreamer made a note of this and worked with her team to move one group of these towards the mass of outer beings surrounding and protecting the enemy leader, loud and brazen and most importantly distracting, while a couple of the others helped her shift a large cluster of debris and rocks towards this other group of outer beings. She hid behind one of the larger ones and used a skill to shadow-step through to the other side stealthily, approaching the small squid-like being and his protected cohort.
They were instantly on guard against her but she held her hands up in a gesture of peace. “I know that I am supposed to be your enemy but I am only here to protect my friends and remove that guy –“ she gestured towards the outer beings’ ‘leader’, “from using you as slaves to the scenario. You can call me Dreamer because that is what I am. I want to send you somewhere safe so that you don’t all have to get slaughtered here. And I know that I won’t be able to comprehend your words or actions well, as they will be distorted or misinterpreted – I don’t need to, to send you away from here. You are the only one here who seems to retain their sense of self enough not to get swept up by the roles imposed on you by the scenario, so I am asking for your help in this.
“Now, in a moment, my team and I will sneak up on your overlord dude and probably tear him a new one. What you need to do in that time is get away from here before the other teams come and blast the rest of you apart because I don’t command anyone here. I can help you with a stealth skill, but it won’t last long; you need to get out of firing range within that time and then you should be well on your way to somewhere safe. Just keep heading in that direction,” she pointed in the same direction the little squid had tried to shuffle them off to, “and you should be alright. There are three roads to take after a while – you should take the least-inviting one that is ‘a road that isn’t a road’. Someone should be there to guide you.” And by this, she meant that she guessed someone would be there to help them, since she sensed their gaze on this channel. Someone who was currently busy watching Kim Dokja’s stream, who she suspected had someone watching that road and this particular scenario, since it seemed the most likely road to lead to the outer gods’ location, and thus the N’Gai Forest.
After a few more words with them, reassuring the foggy-headed little beings as best she could, they seemed to understand the situation well enough through the clear-headed one and she spoke about making something look like a fight whilst driving more outer beings towards them to take with them. She specifically spoke with the surprisingly quiescent little squid, who seemed to be the true leader of these beings here, and it nodded along with her suggestions. She hoped they wouldn’t mind her having to lash out at the others in order to drive them this way shortly.
Having sorted that, Dreamer retreated back to her friends and explained her next plans and suggested how to tie it into the defeat of the enemy leader to sell a compelling story and avoid the ire of the Bureau for meddling.
Then Dreamer used the laser-sword (not a lightsaber) that they had appeared in this space fight with to push the outer beings ahead of her towards where the little squid and the others were taking cover behind the rocks they’d moved earlier, so that they could direct them away when the time came to.
Dreamer’s team collaborated with the other two teams fighting the overlord and overpowered him long enough for Devin to defeat him. While they were doing this, she snuck away to the rocks and squid again. She activated her stealth ability and covered them in a blanket of shadows. She always thought this skill was similar to the ‘Pass Without Trace’ spell from D&D since it helped those affected by the skill be less easily detected.
In this case, they needed to escape from the scenario without the other two incarnation teams noticing, or else they might give chase despite the leader being gone. At least until they were far enough away to be safe if shot at.
Dreamer moved between the rocks to keep an eye on the group as they fled, keeping them within easy range of her skill. However, some others discovered what was happening due to a comment from an interfering Dokkaebi and they began to call out and head this way. Dreamer emerged from the shadows, stood between the fleeing outer beings and their pursuers, and held her blade up to block their shots like a bloody Jedi.
“The scenario has ended! There is no need to deal with the rest of them!” she declared, standing her ground. “Where is the settlement for clearing the scenario? I’d like to get back soon if possible – we have further to go to return to our base still and there’s not long left.”
The Dokkaebi begrudgingly admitted that the settlement was due and began sorting it out while Dreamer carefully positioned herself between the other’s view of the outer beings behind her. After her own group members appeared beside her in support and solidarity, the others all reluctantly moved off, preparing to get transported back.
Dreamer promised her friends to be back quickly, then slipped away to check if the outer beings had made a clean breakaway or not. She moved towards the three roads she had mentioned to them, and upon seeing they were moving towards it at a decent distance, turned back around to head back to the others.
However, before she left, she felt something unusual latch onto her arm and gently tug at her.
It was the little squid-like being. [Thank you,] it signed to her with its limbs.
She blinked. She could understand it? “No problem. None of you deserve to be forced to fight any more than the rest of us do, and you were in a worse situation than us too. I’ve got to go now but you should all be alright now; someone should find you soon. It’s been nice meeting you, little squid! Please don’t let yourself get shot up like that again if you can help it. Even if it was to protect the others.” She lightly pat its weird little bald head to say goodbye, ignoring the weird sensation the outer being brought her to touch. This one seemed to give off a stronger energy than the others did, surprisingly, and since it seemed to retain more of its sense of self than the others, she assumed that it was indeed more powerful than they were.
She turned around and headed back, just in time for a bright light to flash around them again and send them back to the now-open arcade.
Except, it turned out that she hadn’t come back alone.
“What the f*ck is that attached to you, Dreamer?!” exclaimed Kaelsi, raising her original weapon towards it.
Dreamer held up her hands, surprised as well, and glanced over her shoulder to see the little squid being latched onto her back. It had come with her!
The little squid raised a tentacle and waved while still stuck to her back.
After the initial shock, Dreamer relaxed and sighed. “This is an idiot squid who decided to come with us instead of staying somewhere safer for its kind. Since it’s here, I suppose it’s under my protection since it doesn’t seem to intend to fight us. I can try to send it back to its other friends when there’s another chance to, but since its kind aren’t meant to be a part of the scenarios right now, it might take a while. Any complaints?”
The others were giving Dreamer weird looks. Which was understandable since the little squid did not look especially normal, and she did have a bit of a tendency to pick up unusual beings to take around with her, if the number of monstrous plant species she was growing in pots was anything to go by.
“Since he’s being an idiot squid and reminds me of another idiot squid who likes to throw himself under the bus for others, I’ll name him Squidiot for now.” She turned to glance over her shoulder again. “Unless you have another name to offer? What do you say, little squid?”
She did not think the outer being was likely to remember its stories enough to know its name, and sure enough, it agreed somewhat begrudgingly to the nickname instead. But not without poking her face with a tentacle in admonishment.
She lightly slapped it away. “Oi, you can stop that! Do you have any idea how weird your limbs feel? It’s like feeling static sound. Also, you’re going to have to keep a low profile or the Bureau will kick up a fuss. Pretty certain you’re not meant to be here at all until around the Journey to the West scenario time period.”
Devin side-eyed the much calmer yet still weirded-out Kaelsi and muttered, “…Did you catch any of that?”
Kaelsi shook her head. “Only the first bit. The rest was just like it got blipped out again.”
Devin nodded, then looked to the others in time to see Sammy laughing as if Dreamer had just said something amusing. This was not the first time Dreamer had said something that didn’t translate for them in normal ways, but since this was their life now, they just shrugged it off. There would be time to ask about things later.
Or there would have been, had they remembered to ask.
The small squid took to hiding in Dreamer’s red jacket most of the time. It was strange but the Dokkaebi didn’t seem to register its presence like that. Dreamer assumed this was due to it being an outer being, something that often got shuffled off and filtered out of others’ attentions, or perhaps it came with its own hiding skill? Outer beings got used for scenarios, yet still got overlooked when they weren’t contracted to be a part of them, it seemed.
As she always did, Dreamer grew quite attached to the little squid very quickly.
*****

Chapter 19: Chapter Sixteen – Regroup (ends in sleep #4)

Chapter Text

Later that day, they finally made it back to the station they had left the others there to defending.
What they didn’t expect was to see that some of them were in an even worse state than the members of their own group was.
As they called out to the others and familiar faces came out to greet them, Dreamer’s eyes headed somewhere else, as if some strange sense had pinged her attention to focus on there. It felt wrong, like she needed to pay attention to it if she wanted to prevent something otherwise unnoticeable to occur, outside the lines of the story she was now participating within.
Like, if she did not look there, someone would again die somewhere off-screen, and absolutely nobody would pay much attention to it.
At least, not in this apocalypse, when death and loss were already heavily prevalent.
The feeling grew even stronger, and she felt like she would be sick.
“Dreamer…?” Damian called out from beside her. “Why do you look so terrible all of a sudden?”
However, she felt as if she would definitely vomit if she so much as opened her mouth at that moment, so she could only shake her head.
Understanding a surprising lot from this, Damian turned to the Waterloo station members who had reached them and spoke up with a note of concern, his expression at odds with the happy and relieved ones the others were all wearing upon regrouping, “Are you expecting anyone else to show up from that direction?” he asked, gesturing towards where Dreamer had now commandeered her own wheelchair from Ciara and headed off to.
The station leader they had met before and left with Iskra and several other members of their Excursion group from the hospital looked in the direction he pointed and nodded. “Yeah, we sent some survivors out to check out an area the broadcast group told us about on their way here that was guarded by some monsters. They – “
He was cut off as some figures stumbled out from the platform entrance corridor and into the station, calling out to the others for assistance.
One of them fell on his side and began convulsing with pale fluids bursting from his mouth.
The others around him all called out in shock, but Dreamer had already got up from her chair and rushed to kneel beside him, her eyes fierce.
The unusual ominous feeling was roiling inside her at this moment, but it also helped direct her focus and thoughts on what was wrong, since she could feel some of it herself. She Immediately determined what was wrong and got to work before her mind could properly catch up with her actions, as if she knew what to do even before thinking of it.
‘He’s poisoned,’ her senses told her, ‘I don’t know enough right now to know what it is, but I know how to treat it. I have seen these effects before…’
It was not in her waking world that she recalled these things, and she couldn’t accurately recall it all, but she knew that she had experienced this before because of how it made her feel, as if she didn’t need to fully remember, to know what to do.
As she was adjusting him to make sure he was in a safe position and investigating his eyes, skin, pulse, symptoms, she noticed those minuscule orange lines and blue particles gathering around this person’s body in specific places, as if telling her where the poison was affecting his body. No text came up, but she somehow knew what these little particles were telling her. They were highlighting usually-unseen things for her – to help her.
After these first few minutes, the others joined her, tending to the others and questioning them for what had happened, while Damian knelt beside Dreamer and, eeing what she was doing, asked what she needed, as if sensing that this was something she could deal with better than he himself could.
“Iskra,” she stated firmly, unlike her usual self. “I need Iska. Bring the med bag here, too,” she requested, giving further swift instructions to him on what to prepare and bring from it once he’d brought it.
Someone was sent to go get Iskra from where she had just been coming out to greet them as well and Damian assisted Dreamer in treating their new charge.
While she administered an injection and used a tool to cut a couple small openings on his body for easier access, Damian asked the gathered members of the patient’s group the pertinent questions that Dreamer had not thought to ask for but would be needed for his treatment.
Rather, it was not that she had not thought to ask, but more that she was too busy tamping down on her own fear and urgency to ask what she needed to. Something within her was practically screaming at her that you know this poison, you know what it does, and demanding she eliminate it immediately so that it could not claim another life in the awful way that it was meant to.
Unlike back then – whenever her ‘back then’ was, she had the knowledge and experience to address it, even though it had already reached such a concerning point.
She was very afraid of losing whichever memories she was pulling on while doing this by trying to focus on them too hard, so instead, she focused all her attention on the directions her subconscious self was instructing her on how to follow.
Her hands were shaking but calmed when she needed them to apply anything, thankfully.
With a very different tone and demeanour to her usual, she coldly directed the others to sort out a basin of water, surgical supplies, and other things around her and had Damian set up an IV with Anya’s assistance while handing off a container with some of the vomit over to Iskra with clear instructions of what type of test she needed her to improvise with whatever they had to hand, to find out the specific compounds they were working with.
You already know, something kept telling her, though she could not look at it directly for fear of it all falling apart.
Once she had used Damian and Akari’s kits to extricate several infinitely fine hair-like quills from where they were embedded deeply into various tissues of the man’s body, she realised the most important things she needed to do herself were done and that she could hand it off to the others who were more (consciously) experienced than her medically, and moved aside to rest near the man’s head for a moment.
She blew out some shaky breaths, letting her body shake from all the whatever it was that she was currently feeling. However, she knew this man was not unconscious and would very much be all too aware of what was happening to him right now.
She glanced down at him as she saw his eyes begin to regain some lucidity from the stark terror and agony he would have been feeling. “Hey there. I just wanted to let you know that I know what you are going through right now and I know you can get through it alright, even if it very much will not feel like it for you right now,” she offered some solace to him. His pupils were shaking greatly as he stared at her.
Dreamer reached out to take his free hand and held it tightly. “You didn’t make it through the scenario for nothing, sir. We can get you through this.” Then, she felt something a bit like a small electric charge flow from the man’s hand into her own and sat up straighter.
What the heck was that?
Before she could question it further, a [System] message popped up at the corner of her vision and she glanced to read what it said.
[Exclusive skill ‘●●●●●●●’ Lvl. ??? has been activated!]
Her what skill had activated –?
Dreamer immediately hunched over and groaned as a wave of pain washed over her at several points in her body – points that corresponded with his wounds, not hers.
As intense nausea rose up in her as well, she quickly released his hand and moved away to be sick, her puke thankfully regular colours, but still gross and unexpected.
The pain and nausea did not alleviate since moving away from him.
[Exclusive skill ‘●●●●●●●’ Lvl. ??? is being shared with incarnation ‘Dren Krasniqi’.] a new hazy system message very helpfully supplied at that point.
Holy sh*t, she felt terrible! But the worst thing was that it did not feel unfamiliar to her, despite it not being her pain and symptoms, as far as she could tell.
She looked back over at the man to see an expression of relief on his face, and she realised exactly what this new ‘skill’ of hers might be doing.
She felt like utter garbage, but she still met his gaze and stated, “You can rest now,” to him, whereupon his clear exhaustion was finally able to drag him into unconsciousness.
Meanwhile, the waves of pain, dizziness, nausea, and other things currently assaulting her remained terrible and difficult to deal with. She curled up against the wall of the station she had sat down by and groaned.
Damian glanced over to her with concern and called out, “You okay there, Dreamer?”
“No,” she replied tersely, “I feel sh*t, but you can leave me to it,” she faithfully reported, knowing what he was really asking was, ‘Do we need to treat you as well?’
Sammy came over to offer her assistance and some fluids for the ones Dreamer kept chucking up while she somewhat flailed around from the agony that didn’t get better with any position she took, unlike her usual pain.
Eventually, Iskra returned from the camp with news and one of the other doctors from their group who must have specialised in toxicology as well since he had brought a makeshift remedy he explained to Damian and Akari while Dreamer just waved them off like none of it was her concern now, since she had much worse things on her own to deal with.
After the treatment had been applied, Dreamer’s own discomfort began to wane, and Sammy and Ciara transferred her back into her chair to take her back to the camp. Everyone else seemed to be handling everything remaining, from the returning group’s problems to the reports between each group about their respective portions of the scenario they’d handled, to looking after the poorly Dreamer and Dren and determining what to do next with their remaining time before the third scenario was due to begin.
The little squid in her jacket had been intermittently tapping at her cheeks as if to ask if she was okay, and just as she began to feel her own pain-exhaustion starting to drag her under consciousness as the pain faded, she glanced down to him and whispered, “I’m okay, little squid. I’ve been here before…”
And with that, she finally passed the f*ck out.
*****

Chapter 20: Chapter Seventeen – Regroup (2) (Little dream visit #4)

Chapter Text

‘Lessons, there’s always more lessons. More to learn, for both of us. And I learn best when teaching.’
On a subway train headed everywhere and nowhere, a young boy blinked wearily, surprised by the more-audible voice he heard outside of his own head.
Yet, there was nothing here. It had sounded familiar, however, almost like that person who had visited him before – the one he still wasn’t fully convinced he hadn’t dreamt up himself.
A moment later, someone appeared in front of him as if out of thin air.
Well, that was very coincidental timing.
The Dreamer stood before him, facing the wrong way.
“Are you here to teach me more lessons then, Dreamer?” asked the teen.
Dreamer spun around. “Oh, there you are! I guess I am since I’ve managed to come back alright. I really don’t know what dictates when I can reach you or not, but this far, I’ve been able to find you relatively regularly, which is great!
“As for what to discuss today, I feel like I should maybe start with something about spirit burns, since that’s something that you’re likely to encounter often while you’re dreaming. It’s unlikely for a nightmare to damage you that way since their own attack methods are more effective, but since the dream realms and astral planes tend to have a lot of overlap, you’re going to end up dealing with spirits at some point, and probably already have, so you should be aware of some of the dangers they can pose, including unconsciously so, since even they don’t always know they can harm you until afterwards and then the guilt eats away at them from lack of control of their own emotions.”
Dreamer stepped closer to the slumped kid in an oversized coat and crouched down beside him. “First things first, however… How have you been, little Dream? Health comes before learning, unless there’s a chance to teach something while looking after your own health, you know? That includes mental well-being, of course.
“The first thing that you should always remember, no matter which dream you find yourself in, is to look after yourself first, because you can’t help anyone else that you may want to if you have nothing left of yourself to help them with, and at the very least, you should always be able to rely on yourself, even if you lose faith in everything else. So, how have you been, little Dream?”
While speaking, Dreamer pulled out various summoned tinctures and creams again and asked in gestures if she could apply them to him. He indicated with a nod that she could, and then he began to speak.
He told her all about the recent worlds he had been a part of, all the things he had experienced alongside the ‘characters’, and with some pointed questions and encouragement from Dreamer about the things that he had brushed off, slowly opened up a bit more about what it really felt like to be able to witness and experience everything they did, but still struggle to help them turn the tide with certain things.
He hadn’t really had anyone other than the Fourth Wall to speak to about these things before – and without having to worry about filtering or distortions, too – so while he at first struggled to express himself clearly, as she listened and prompted him about his own feelings on things, Kim Dokja gradually felt more comfortable sharing these pieces of himself and reflecting on how many of the things he had experienced had actually made him feel – not just how the hosts/characters he had dreamt of had felt.
After speaking for a while, he paused, feeling like he’d done too much talking.
Dreamer assured him that he could talk as long as he felt up to and asked if he wanted to hear her thoughts on some of the things he’d said so far. He nodded, and so she told him honestly about how hard the things he went through and had seen would have been to endure, and how the way he said he’d felt at those times was entirely valid, especially in the cases where he had not had any control over even his own presence within the dreams. She asked if he was okay going back over his feelings or if he had had enough of describing them and suggested that focusing on how his own feelings differed from a host’s might help him keep a better hold over his sense of self over the extended dreaming period he was forced into.
Obviously, a lot of the time his feelings would match with theirs, but there would still be times that made him uncomfortable or angry, or other feelings that the host did not always sense or feel themselves – especially in cases where Kim Dokja knew something about another person or the world they were in that the host was unaware of – and those were important to remember so as to not lose sight of his own identity in the sea of other dreamt selves and emotions.
Interestingly, little Dream did want to talk about his feelings and experiences some more – surprising even himself. So, as Dreamer continued to write and doodle on some summoned paper as he spoke, he proceeded to describe more of the dreams he’d had, the people he’d seen and been, and the worlds he’d witnessed.
At some point, he stopped to ask with curiosity, “What are you working on, by the way?”
Dreamer finished the note she was making and lifted the paper. “Writing down things for you to study and refer back to while I’m gone again, based on what I think you will find most helpful in various dream situations. I can’t always help you prepare for everything, but I can provide knowledge, at least, that you can hopefully use to grow and steadily adapt to your dreams with increasing lucidity and control. The more you remember yourself, the more you can do, generally. But talking about your dreams and feelings like this is really important for that too. It’s not just information and dream abilities that are useful for protecting yourself in dreams, but those too. Greater control of yourself leads to greater control of dream magic. Kind of like that war advice about knowing yourself and knowing your enemy, I guess. I’m going to keep helping you remember and work yourself out whenever I’m able to as well if you accept it. That’s what the songs and stories can help with, you know?”
The Most Ancient Dream looked at the finished stack of papers that Dreamer had compiled and blinked. She had been writing down tips for him even while she was listening to his stories just now?
She seemed to notice something and said, “Ah, sorry for seeming distracted while you were speaking – I actually find it useful to be doing more than one thing at once lately, but if it bothers you, I can just listen instead – I don’t want to make you uncomfortable or upset.”
Kim Dokja shook his head. “No, I appreciate the notes. And I could tell that you were listening attentively. Thank you for listening and for the study material. Should it be kept in the same place as before?”
Dreamer nodded. “Yup! The dream magic is better there, so it will definitely last better there than in here. I don’t know how long passes between each of my visits on your end, only my own, so it’s best to have them available as long as possible.
“Now. I bet you have some questions saved up since the last time I was here? I don’t know everything, but what I can help with, I’ll do my best to answer.”
Kim Dokja did, in fact, have plenty to ask about since he had been trying to apply some of the things Dreamer had told him about previously and struggled with quite a few details.
After she had explained some of them – with diagrams and notes used to describe some, Dreamer replaced the notes and asked him how he wanted to spend the rest of his time with her.
He did know what he wanted to discuss for the rest of their time today. He had already done a lot of the talking so far and he was increasingly curious about her life too. Especially since she seemed to be dealing with the Star Stream and the scenarios in a world with another version of himself present. So, he asked her to tell him about the world line she was in, the people she met there, and the things she experienced.
Dreamer looked surprised by this but happily obliged him. She said it was only fair to be open with him since he was trying to be open with her too. And she didn’t mind telling him about her world at all since it was one they shared, even if he was stuck on this train from afar and couldn’t focus on just one world line like he must want to do with so many of them that he had to leave.
Whilst he listened to her telling him about her successful communications with some of the others and about the arcade scenarios she had been pulled into, he wondered – would she realise that he had left a piece of himself in that world line, to stay connected during the long time spent between her visits? Now probably wasn’t the right time to tell her about it.
He also wondered about the origins of this dreamwalker who had managed to break through a barrier that even his own company had not managed to breach easily, and about the world she said she was from that was somehow merged with his own story. Some things felt like they didn’t quite fit, and he hoped that the small ‘outer god’ version of himself Dreamer had nicknamed, ‘Squidiot’ would be able to discover more about it all while he was with her in her waking world.
He may have forgotten a lot about himself, but he was still the Demon King of Salvation and the Most Ancient Dream, Kim Dokja.
He could always tell her about this new piece of himself later.
*****

Chapter 21: >>Interlude – Consciousness Components<< (A, little Dream #1)

Chapter Text

While Dreamer continued dreaming elsewhere, someone else appeared in the subway carriage the little Dream used most.
They looked the same as her, but little Dream felt that something was ever so slightly different about this person who looked just like the Dreamer he knew who had only just left.
“Hey, little Dream. I may come to you like this several times from here on out, since I keep writing introductory scenes like this to try and share information ahead of when I knew it the first time around, and it gets complicated trying to keep it all in order this time around.
“Anyways, this version of me is called Angelica, and I am a part of the Dreamer who just left you a moment ago, but at the same time, we aren’t exactly the ‘same’, even if we identify as each other due to dream shenanigans and the nature of our existence. You can think of me as the future version of the ‘her’ who just left, for now though, but it’s actually a bit more complicated since time isn’t straight for us – in case that wasn’t obvious.
“I’ve come to effectively info-dump on you about stuff that might be useful to you earlier than I, myself, learned of when I started ‘writing’ this universe myself, or dreaming about it, or however it actually might end up working eventually – which I’m still working on figuring out.”
With a bright grin, she pulled out some diagrams in various colours, depicting stick figures drawn very poorly with names above them. There was a sheet of paper beside them that seemed to be a colour key for the colours used in the drawings that also related to specific people.
Kim Dokja himself was drawn as a stick figure there.
More than once.
“Does that say, ‘ORV!Kim Dokja’?” he asked with knit eyebrows.
“It does!” she confirmed. “There’s a chance I am still missing information about how each of our consciousnesses and sub-consciousnesses work, but so far, this is where I have ‘worked out’ up to. You will probably need to keep the information to yourself for now because the other version of me who is Dreamer and kind of also Ilia and also her own being, who just can’t operate without the other ones of us helping, sort of…. She probably won’t be able to hear it, even if you say it, and for the purposes of not creating more branched universes potentially, you probably won’t want to bring it up just yet. It should help alleviate some of your suspicions about her identity, how she can exist the way she does, and about the copy of the world line that she thinks she originates from so far, where you have Squidi – Squidiot – currently investigating for you.
“A lot of this she will come to understand herself in due time, but she doesn’t exactly have a lot of room to go over it with the scenarios going on, so I’m here to supply you with information in the meantime, because it’s hella sh*t for you to be here without knowing everything, and also you – ah, I talk too much. Let me just say, here are some notes about how we almost definitely work – I think – and at the very least, are examples of how everything in existence does work, even if I have the wrong configurations used here since I have no way to confirm it consciously yet.
“I feel a little less bad about this knowing that we kind of probably share aspects of each other through Dreamer herself, so it feels less bad to give you a bunch of brain-breaking information when I know you’d rather know than not know, but… yeah. You still have a version of Fourth Wall here, and I kind of hate him, so there’s also that.” She paused to take a breath she didn’t exactly need like this and continued. “I am the messiest-brained ones of us, probably, but we share a collective subconscious and abilities. We share imaginations, too, it seems like, and that is effectively what our Dreamer is, in some senses. Will you listen to me explain more about them?”
Despite being quite confused, the little Dream agreed with a nod, and this ‘Angelica’ person who looked just like Dreamer sat down to answer things.
Some of the topics she covered included her theories about the ideas about ‘nothing’, ‘everything’, and ‘infinity’, as well as the collective subconscious, sea of subconsciousness, ocean of memories, and whatever else it is called as actual hypotheses other people – philosophers and physicists, mostly – often spoke about. She also included how games, stories, songs, and other media often relayed aspects of universal concepts like dreams and the collective subconscious in them, even subconsciously so, which was potentially one of the mechanisms that we can communicate with ourselves and others about these things, without being able to directly access our subconscious in a conscious state.
She also included some of the ways she had been recently trying to practice and develop for communicating with her own subconscious self/selves, and how all of them that were more closely-related in their personal collective subconscious (as opposed to the sea of it including everyone else) might be able to reach each other, even across barriers such as the Fourth Walls, Walls of Impossible Communication, Samsara, Good and Evil, and whatever else came after that that kept them forcibly separate from the ‘rest’ of their component aspects/selves.
When he asked her about how any of this could be accurate when [Disconnected Film Theory] did not activate between Dreamer and any aspect of himself she had met, Angelica explained her theories about that too, about how our perception of self and identity might be required to trigger it, and seeing someone look the same like with Uriel and the Living Flame or the two Shin Yoosungs, who shared a great deal of memories between them that could sort of overlap on top of each other’s might be required components to trigger it that Dreamer and he currently lacked – both because they looked very different, saw each other as very different, and were both unable to consciously recall any shared memories they might have of each other’s lives and dreams.
Then, it became more of a conversation and debate than a one-sided information dump, and they were able to bounce many different ideas and theories off of each other.
After a while, the little Dream then tilted his head and had to ask, “Sorry, but where is that music coming from?”
Angelica grinned. “That’s just what I’m listening to while I ‘write’ myself saying all of this through Sang-sang-ui – or Dreamer, or our shared imagination, I guess. She can’t interact without another one of our consciousnesses directing her, as far as I can tell, so this is actually probably more like the ‘me’ in front of you right now is both her and I speaking as ‘one’, but since the same could be said of your you in front of me… It’s a bit strange, really.
“Anyways, you should be able to tune into or out of the background music that runs in my – our? – head during these times. Sometimes the music is incredibly important for our subconscious self to communicate things through to whichever of us they might be trying to reach, so I tend to listen to it quite often lately, but it’s also just nice to listen to sometimes, you know?
“Anyways, it’s another thing you can use your imagination and your dream abilities to bring around you, the same as summoning items can work, so… Hopefully it doesn’t annoy you too much. Sometimes when my head is particularly messy, I listen to multiple at once, and sometimes it doesn’t feel like my own subconscious speaking to me through them, but something else – the ‘something’ that keeps controlling sh*t, even when we know all the things about dreaming that we do, so… yeah. Be aware that it’s not always friendly messages we might pick up on from them, but ones meant to freak us out or drive us further insane or make us think we are doing things wrongly or hurting our other selves. It’s… kind of difficult to navigate. I, and Dreamer, and Ilia, who you will know pretty much as one amalgamation of three beings in one, who looks like I currently do, will be around as much as we can imagine or achieve via dreaming, to try and help you. But, even though we claim to be more experienced dreamers than you… the truth is that we are in an infinitely similar position to you, as in, we are you, whilst feeling different sometimes, and we are still working out a lot of this ourselves. Of course, that includes us working it out with you as well, so it’s a bit of a moot point to say we’re doing anything entirely independently of you, but it helps to keep our own identities at least somewhat separated, even while acknowledging that we share a lot.
“Anyways… I don’t know if this will work since no other times has it worked thus far, but… If you look out this window over here…” she walked over to one of the train windows on the subway, that lit up like a screen and showed the image of a thirty-year old girl sticking her tongue out at the ceiling of her small flat while typing on her laptop in bed, “This is the ‘me’ in my waking world. I am writing these words to you while we look on at her – at ‘me’. Or, at ‘us’, I guess, since you are arguably already there subconsciously somewhat, too, even without necessarily knowing it.”
The girl in the window’s world line then held up stuffed animal of a squid-like creature with far too many tentacles for a regular cephalopod, and spoke with a grin about how it was her writing companion that she now used as a version of ‘Squidi’ who she had written about before her brain broke and everything suddenly felt Extremely Real even when it was still technically considered fiction to everyone else.
“See what I mean about the songs?” the Angelica in the window screen and the Angelica in the train spoke one after the other while trying not to tear up again.
She blew out a breath and continued. “I also like to think you, as part of me, or as someone connected to me since we are both ‘whole’ on our own so it’s not like anything is specifically ‘missing’, since we still have those parts of ourselves present even when they are suppressed or subconsciously kept – I like to think that you can access my memories and my thoughts, after I have repeatedly tried to share them with you, or other versions of you at later dates in your own timelines. If you can, please don’t feel guilty about it because it is a) entirely my intention to be open with you to an extremely embarrassing and vulnerable extent, and b) completely normal when you consider we are arguably the ‘same’ person, sort of, and neither of us are about to be weird about each other in ways we can’t handle. Well, probably. Hopefully? I’m going to stop type-speaking now and try to leave this train-version of me some time and text with which to continue to speak within on her own, since I never know if she can do this or gets the opportunity to when I’m not consciously ‘here’ with her.”
Having said this, she then clapped a hand over her own mouth and had the ‘her’ on the train sit down on one of the benches and begin to speak (without her hand blocking her mouth still) her own thoughts freely, hoping that this Angelica – this Sang-sang-ui – could explain some aspects of all of this that the ‘Angelica’ typing these words out with could not.
While the two of them remained in the subway carriage to chat and discuss all of reality and fiction, the one writing returned back to her original role in all of this, and just focused on telling the story she had initially set out to tell – the one where an experienced dreamer showed up in a parallel world line to that of a story she read, where someone her own age was forced to dream for an eternity, alone.
*****

Chapter 22: Chapter Eighteen – Nightmares (MS#3 prep and start)

Chapter Text

Dreamer awoke to Iskra and that other presumed toxicologist perched nearby, over some mixtures in various pots and containers on a countertop in one of the station’s platform kitchen stalls.
On the other side of where she lay was the person named Dren that they had helped just before she passed out. He remained unconscious.
She quietly lay and assessed her body’s condition after puking her guts up earlier, which had made her regular pain worse as it strained her abdominal muscles around the nerves.
However, the bizarre flood of sensations and pain that felt like it came not from herself but from the person beside her, was now gone.
[Exclusive skill ‘●●●●●●●’ Lvl. ??? is being shared with incarnation ‘Dren Krasniqi’.] a system message very helpfully made itself known, however, as if to refute this assumption.
Huh. So, even though the pain had alleviated and she now longer felt what she presumed were his sensations, the skill was still active? She wondered if that meant she would begin to feel whatever he felt again once he awoke later. Nothing about the skill could be found through pestering her glitchy system, and she could hardly ask anyone else when the skill itself was blocked out like many obscure ones from other characters of the story had been.
A little bald, squishy head appeared above her face and she felt something tapping against her cheek.
Dreamer looked down at the little outer being sticking out from her jacket, looking at her with what she assumed was concern. “Hello, Squidiot. I’m doing better than before now. Were you concerned?” she gently teased, poking him back in his little squishy face. She ignored the weird way it felt, feeling like she was adjusting to his strange presence surprisingly quickly.
The little squid being made a small squawking sound and flailed one of its limbs at her hand to get her to drop it.
She went to laugh, then feeling the sudden – regular, for her – pain upon the attempt, promptly stopped, grimacing.
Iskra heard her and something clattered against the countertop before she rushed over. “Dreamer! You’re awake! What the f*ck happened with you??” she exclaimed. Then, pointing at the sleeping Dren, she accused, “We know what’s going on with him, but us knowing that does not in the least explain what was going on with you!”
Dreamer winced, looking sheepish. “Uhh, I guess I got a new skill that wanted to say hi?” she shrugged somewhat helplessly. “I think it makes me feel what someone else is feeling, which is why I reacted that way, but I can’t read any information about the skill itself, how it works, or what it does, so it’s just my own guesswork at the moment. Uhh, and it’s apparently still active, so I can probably find out more about it once Dren wakes up. He’s in much less pain than he was earlier, if my own current condition is anything to go by?” she offered.
Iskra looked somewhat horrified. “You… You mean to say you felt the same things that man who’s poisoned was feeling?” she asked to confirm.
Dreamer nodded. “Pretty certain I did, yup. That’s how it felt for me before, so it was pretty familiar.”
Iskra blanched. “You felt that way before?!” she repeated, stunned. “Do you know which compounds he has in his system?! Holy hells, woman! I know you know at least part of it since you’re the one who told us what to look for, but – man, that sh*t’s painful!”
Scowling somewhat, Dreamer nodded. “I know. It’s not my first time coming across it, even if I probably have never met whichever monster it came from this time. You’ll have to catch me up on all that, by the way – I wasn’t exactly in the best condition to hear all of it when Damian and the rest of you were asking about it.”
Iskra still looked gobsmacked. “Sure, if you fill me in on how you knew what tests to ask for and how to treat it even before we ran the samples through! And however the f*ck you have encountered it before, because like, sh*t, man! How did you even make it until the scenarios?”
Dreamer acquiesced, but with the caveat that she really had no f*cking idea where the memories sprouted up from, and while Iskra filled her in on the things the others had already reported on, Dreamer shared what she could recall about how this type of poison worked and the vague recollections she had of when she might have encountered it before (in a dream, she did not admit even to herself in full yet).
Once they had spoken for a little bit, the other scientist doctor with Iskra dragged her back over to help with the things they were concocting, and Iskra paused to help Dreamer into her chair so she could come over and help, since before she had fallen sick, she had been a scientist of a sort, as well, and with the fresh memories about the poison, could offer an extra pair of eyes and hands on their tasks.
The little outer being tucked into her jacket floated out to help them at times too, but no Dokkaebis or constellations appeared to have noticed him in any way that they would comment upon, and so Dreamer tactfully opted not to draw attention to his presence. He seemed quite interested in the things they were making, and Dreamer was not in the least bit surprised to find that aside from running the tests and making things that would treat Dren or the other injured people, Iskra and her apparent new accomplice had been hatching multiple different schemes to prepare for the third main scenario – meaning, they were making various acidic and reactive compounds that she could use to raise hell, just like the first time Dreamer had met her and Axel.
Dreamer was beginning to feel a little bit concerned for the monsters that would be used to attack them soon.
At least her group had managed to send some of them away from the regions they had cleared, even if there was not much to be done with whichever other ones were summoned into the scenario later.
Mind you, she still had a few ideas of how to trap the monsters sent to slaughter them, instead of killing them, but… it would take some preparation time, and she had apparently been knocked out for longer than she would have liked to have been.
After painfully seeking out Damian, Anya, and the other station leaders here, she set about discussing her ideas with them and suggesting where to set up Iskra’s own – much more lethal – traps and bombs, and was very grateful to learn that they had already made great progress already and were willing to let her try what she needed to as long as she agreed to their backup plans the moment things looked like they would fail (and everyone outside her main group felt that they would, most likely, fail).
Unlike what the Kim Dokja of the ORV story she had read had done for his own third main scenario, Dreamer and Damian’s plan started out a little differently.
For one, they weren’t going to use the green spaces at all, save for the largest one in the safest position from the red zones that would appear later.
For two, she had no intentions of completely breaking the scenario and withstanding the flood of monsters all at once.
Whilst she knew that the dokkaebis would likely force a change upon them if they looked to be withholding too steadily or without enough drama and impact or entertainment value, their plan was instead to have everyone capable of fighting remain outside of the green spaces, to fight off the monsters together, whilst a minority of the most injured or vulnerable people remained inside the large green zone dubbed the ‘haven’ point that they would retreat to when needed.
There had been a lot of training and formation-practicing in the base for those who had been in the defending group with Iskra, and so by now, even the most fickle and unwilling members of the station here had learned to either put up or shut up. Consequently, their base was composed of much less frantic and more level-headed members who were open to cooperation, and apparently both Iskra and one of the other researchers left behind here had done a very good job of scaring the sh*t out of anyone who had thoughts of betrayal or cowardice while they would be in the midst of the fighting.
They had already survived up until this point against the monsters and incarnations who had tried to forcibly commandeer or wipe out the base while Dreamer and the others had been gone for the second main scenario, and were not as scattered or disorganised as they ordinarily might have been, had they not had so many of them with so many different areas of knowledge and confidence to lead the scattered individual groups with.
It also helped that during one of the conflicts at the base, the broadcast Excursion group had returned and promptly beat up the asses of those who had attempted to take Iskra and the other station leaders down. They also made full use of the amplification skill one of them acquired from that trip in their planning and organising of the base.
And as the third main scenario message appeared in front of them all and declared they must survive a full week of hordes of terror, Dreamer went around cataloguing hidden green zones with Steph and Devin, carrying their reports back to Damian, Ciara, and Anya for them to incorporate into their positioning of their collective forces.
Very occasionally, a small, black tentacle would wrap itself around her wrist from inside her sleeve and direct Dreamer down one of the tunnels or platforms. While the pair of them snuck off like this, Dreamer had initially been uncertain of what to expect, but found that the little squid somehow must have sensed or known where some of the monster spawning zones would be, as it led her to them and then sometimes past, to secret dens of creatures that she could only presume were the locations they would be summoned from later on.
During some of these little scouting missions of theirs, she found that Squidiot would leave her in her chosen hiding spots to float over to the monsters and either lure them away with treats he must have nicked from her pockets or attempt to communicate with them in some way she couldn’t entirely comprehend, but which looked incongruously… peaceful, for the beings involved.
Whatever skills the little outer squid might have had, she didn’t know, but he must have had some method of suppressing his own presence and aura, for most of them not to just get spooked away by an outer being hanging around, and she found herself trying to emulate how he moved, wondering if she could hide her presence even more in a similar way.
Of course, she could not float around like he did, so it was a very different affair for her to attempt, but she did find the focus on stealth and the practice great for the skills that she already maintained and began planning her own things to try on these little excursion missions with the squid. He even joined in with her in her (initially one-sided) discussions a bit, too.
Soon, she found herself sneaking out to pacify or commune with the creatures hidden in their little pocket dimensions around their base station, and occasionally needing to rapidly flee when it went horribly, terribly wrong, but… maybe there was a chance that not as many monsters, or humans, needed to die this time?
She maybe didn’t cope with it perhaps as well as she should have, once it came time to fight those same monsters she had observed at a distance, peacefully before, however.
However, even though she knew they were only being used in the scenarios just like the humans were, she also felt extremely familiar with being forced into situations like this where she needed to fight for her own survival against creatures that simply could not (and probably should not) care about her life or those of her comrades.
So, even though she felt angry, frustrated, and hurt by needing to fight these beings who deserved to live safely as well and not have to go through all of this damn

alongside them, she nevertheless persisted.
Even if she tried a little too hard to save them from needing to die first and ended up with a lot more wounds than she probably should have taken, had she just not given a sh*t about them.
Even if by the third night, some of her carefully-constructed pits and traps to keep the monsters back and subdued but not dead, were destroyed by the dokkaebis’ interference and so not all of them could stay safe for the entire week.
Even if her stupid, idiotic little squid friend went and got himself hurt defending one of the smaller monsters and she had to fish them both out from amongst too many stronger adult ones that didn’t care for either of their well-beings and she nearly got all three of them trampled to death.
Despite all of this, and despite the death, pain, suffering, and loss still occurring all around her, Dreamer continued to fight and to survive, and she managed to keep her people as safe as possible, despite the odds continually getting stacked against them whenever their clever preparations proved a little too sound for the damned

tastes.
‘Look for the helpers’ was a term that repeated in her head most often during the most painful moments during all of this, as something someone else had once said to do in times of crisis and despair. You had to focus on the ones helping others in the midst of all the rest of the terribleness, and for their station in particular who had banded together so cohesively since near the start of their arrival, this was something she latched onto with all her heart.
And in the sea of frantic pain and terror with its waves and deluges of tragedy and despair, there were dreamers fighting off the nightmares trying to crush themselves around them.
*****

Chapter 23: Chapter Nineteen – Nightmares (2) (MS#3 continued, ends in sleep/knockout #5)

Chapter Text

It was now the sixth day of the scenario and everyone was looking much the worse for wear as the least injured members of the base moved around clearing the space of the bodies in preparation of the next night to survive through.
In a corner of the only remaining green zone at the base that had even shrunk in size over time, someone was sellotaping something very wriggly to a post.
“You will stay here this time or I will actually let Anya turn you into calamari, Squidi. Keeping you with me is dangerous, leaving you with anyone else is dangerous, and letting you dash around alone is also terribly dangerous, so I am resorting to KimCom methods to detain you for the time being, even if you want to stay with me for the fight. This is literally not your fight in the first place, since you shouldn’t even be here at this point in the scenarios yet, and yet you insist on involving yourself,” Dreamer lectured. “If you want to stay involved without the rest of us sticking you to the furniture, then you need to learn to protect yourself first and foremost, instead of just diving straight in so recklessly. I know you probably haven’t felt this often since you’re considered an outer being now, but your existence matters, even if nobody else perceives you properly. You got that?”
The little squid only offered her a withering glare that seemed to call her a hypocrite.
Dreamer clicked her tongue at him. “You know very well that I stopped doing the same kind of sh*t already after the first couple of days when it started putting everyone else at risk to keep trying so hard to fix things whenever I put myself in too much danger in the process. Do you still see me bodily lobbing myself into the hordes of angry, scenario-addled beings hellbent on tearing us limb from limb? Or have I learnt to gauge when and where doing that kind of thing is too much for the situation and when my efforts are better placed in protection rather than attempted pacification, hmm?”
Squidi did not answer but continued to glare – although it felt a bit closer to a pout now.
“Right! I learned to look after myself first and only to step in and try sh*t when there was enough of a chance of succeeding to make the resulting injuries worth the attempt! I’m not just diving in and out, trying to fix everything for everyone before I look after myself now, even if there’s probably still room for improvement, depending on who you ask.” She slightly winced, having had her own parallel lectures received from Damian, Akari, and Anya already.
She cleared her throat. “A-anyways. My point is, even if we want to fix everything for everyone in every battle we are in, we can’t do it all the time, all on our own. So, what we must do is do whatever we can manage, within our own limits. That’s not to say we need to stick to the

limits or their bullsh*t Probability, but our own physical, mortal – or whatever it equates to for you – limits. We can’t pour from an empty cup or save people if we’re already dead, and all that jargon,” she handwaved her past lectures on the subject for brevity’s sake (something she did not tend to pay heed to).
She sighed, as if resigned to her words not making enough sense. “If you want to get involved, can you please just help Jack look after your new friend?” She gestured to the other side of the green space they were in, where one of the only two survivors who had split off in the third group and then joined back up with them after the first scenario now rested beside the small, juvenile creature Squidi had risked himself to protect the other night. Both Jack and Cait had bonded with the little creature over being the sole survivors of their respective groups, it seemed, and the pair of them had taken turns looking after it even whilst it remained quite wild and bitey.
As the current one most injured, Jack was looking after her while Cait helped with the rest of the preparations and cleanup.
“You could always just help defend and treat the people in this green zone while the rest of us are out there fighting, you know? You don’t always have to be the one physically taking part in the fighting itself, you know? You can just help the others remain safe and healthy, like what you seemed to be trying to do when we met. None of us can keep fighting constantly, you know? Sometimes it’s good to take up a different role and position instead of always taking the lead. Damian had to learn that at first too, and me as well, of course,” she continued while securing the squid’s remaining limbs to the pole.
When she was done, the little squid merely gave her a look that seemed to indicate that she was an idiot, right before he raised a single tentacle, tearing straight through the layers of tape she had just used to stick him to the post.
She scowled. “Why did you wait so long if you could just break out of it so easily?!” she protested, then threw her hands up in the air in apparent exasperation before storming off to go tackle other, less annoying aspects of the base.
A few steps later, a floating idiot squid found its way to her shoulder, and she refused to look at him until he started poking her cheek again to get her attention.
“What now?” she scowled.
He signed his agreement to remain in and guard the green zone during the night’s events this time around, and Dreamer’s expression slowly morphed from aggravation to surprised relief.
Then, she laughed. “You know, your kind aren’t meant to be able to be understood at all, by virtue of being ‘outside beings’ from this worldview. How is it that you seem to differ so greatly from the others of your type, that I can even interpret your signed language and behaviour?”
Squidi seemed to now imply that it wasn’t just him who was the odd one, which… was probably fair to add, since the others could not discern nearly as much from his habits or words as she could, though they had also adjusted to his odd-feeling presence enough for him to remain beside some of them when he couldn’t or wasn’t permitted to remain beside herself.
Perhaps they were both just a pair of unusual beings that the [System] of the

couldn’t entirely process.
-
Later that night, Dreamer misjudged her opponents and her safety, and found her vision turning black as something whacked into the back of her head.
Ciara’s voice shrieking her name across the chaos was the last thing she heard as she fell unconscious in the middle of the fight.
*****

Chapter 24: Chapter Twenty – Nightmares (3) (KDJ visit #3, Phantom Prison intervention)

Chapter Text

A fog spread over the darkness of the tunnel Dreamer found herself within when she opened her eyes.
The fog seemed to distort the space around it slightly, and she had to shake her head to clear it of her own daze as she recalled what just happened.
Ah. She got hit. So, was she dead now, or…?
Ahead of her was a light bobbing up and down.
‘Well, that’s a bit cliché,’ she thought wryly, deciding that sometimes you just had to go along with the trope of the light at the end of the tunnel when you were maybe-dead. The alternative would be to chill in the darkness for who knows how long.
The fog grew thinner and lower to the ground as she walked towards the light.
Soon, she could make out five figures walking her way. Eventually, as the fog only wrapped around her ankles, she could see that the figure at the front of the group was someone she recognised.
“Kim Dokja!” she called out happily.
Understandably wary of her, the group stopped just before the line of fog she was standing in and assessed her.
Kim Dokja looked most suspicious. “Dreamer? What are you doing here?”
She grinned. “I don’t know! Pretty certain I got knocked out earlier and just woke up here in this fog. Do you know what it’s made from? It feels familiar…” she asked lightly, softly kicking the mists around her legs.
“… It’s the Phantom Prison fog,” he stated after a moment of apparent consternation.
Her eyes lit up, understanding dawning. “Ohhh! I see. Did you summon me here like I told you to if you needed, then? I guess their fog must be composed of something like dream magic, if I can dream myself into it like this.” She lightly wafted the mists at her feet around again, testing.
The faces of Kim Dokja’s party members looked very tense. His too.
Yoo Sangah was the one to speak next. “You know Dokja-ssi?” Dreamer nodded. “If you don’t mind me asking… Do you not feel strange? This place doesn’t feel good, does it?”
Indeed, everyone’s faces did not look good. She recalled that this fog had come with a distorted view as if they were on drugs or experiencing something awful and ominous.
As for herself, she could notice those things as well, but… for her, at least, “…It is familiar to me, so it doesn’t bother me much,” she explained. “If this is what Kim Dokja says it is, however… I believe I can help out!” She beamed at Kim Dokja next. “Hey, these spectres could be considered as a type of nightmare entity, right? They induce madness and traumatic memories that you struggle to break out of, yes?”
His wariness seemed to lift a little bit as she spoke. “Yes. But it isn’t something so simple – even you should be drawn into the effects once the scenario triggers. You shouldn’t have come here –“ he began.
As he said this, the fog began to move towards the group and rose around them like the tide rolling in.
+
[Sub Scenario – Phantom Prison]
Category: Sub
Difficulty: D~F
Clear Conditions: Escape from the Phantom Prison within the time limit.
Time Limit: 1 hour
Compensation: 300 coins
Failure: ???
+
[Sub-scenario – Phantom Prison has begun!]
The system messages alerted them to the impending horrors.
However, one person remained smiling. “You’re the one who called on me to help with potential nightmares, weren’t you? Of course, I should be here.” She then turned around to face the spectral figures she could vaguely see through the haze of the fog heading their way. “Besides, this is my expertise – I am a dreamer.”
With this, she lightly swirled her hand through the waist-high mist and smirked. Yeah, she could definitely work with this.
Raising her arms on either side of herself, she mentally pulled on the flowing fog heading towards the others behind her and drew them in around her instead.
“Didn’t you know? In dreams, I am considered the nightmares’ nightmare,” she confidently stated as if it were a fact.
Then, she leapt deeper into the dark fog, revelling in the familiar, crawling feeling the nightmare fuel it seemed to be composed of came with.
Laughing somewhat crazily, Dreamer left the ground behind her to float and swim through the fog towards the dark silhouettes of the spectres that had summoned these mists to lure incarnations into their deepest, darkest traumatic memories and drive them mad.
And as her own surroundings began to distort into memories of things she had only experienced through her own nightmares, not her life, she adjusted her perception to look through the illusions to the figures that remained visible to her and headed straight for them.
Everywhere she passed over changed from an illusion of hellish battlefields into fields of flowers dancing in the wind she propelled herself forward with.
-
[There will be a temporary error in ‘Phantom Prison’!]
Kim Dokja stared at the message with some surprise. Was this… allowed?
“Dokja-ssi, who is that person?” Yoo Sangah came up beside him to ask as they all watched Dreamer pull the fog away from their direction and leap into the rest of it.
The ominous sensations remained, but now the fog was becoming easier to see through. And what they could then see was… grass. Flowers. A breeze that blew through the field that had appeared in the middle of the dark tunnel and carried the figure of a woman on it towards masses of liquid reminiscent of ectoplasm. Kim Dokja recognised them as the 8th grade spectres that made the Phantom Prison.
The monsters induced a terrible feeling of fear just from seeing them, yet the girl who was practically dancing on imagined winds only grinned at them.
The form of the fog began to distort visibly again and blood coated the surroundings once more before getting pushed back by that same breeze.
Every time the space turned nightmarish, spreading out from the forms of the spectres themselves, it would only distort again and turn into something soft or pretty like white, fluffy clouds the girl leapt between or meadows in bright sunlight. He was pretty certain that some of the ‘flowers’ were actually lollipops, as well.
It was like a tug-of-war for control of the fog itself between one person and the intimidating spectres.
Kim Dokja was very confused, but still answered his colleague. “…She is a dreamer.”
And because that clearly was not enough to explain anything, added, “I’ve only met her in my dreams a couple of times since the start of the scenarios, so I didn’t think she would really exist,” he said truthfully, genuinely confounded by her presence here, beating the phantoms of the

at their own game.
“But this isn’t a dream, is it?” Jung Heewon pointed out.
“No, it isn’t,” he agreed, then turned his gaze from Dreamer to the fog around her that was rapidly changing forms. “But I think the fog might be made of something similar to a dream, if she is able to appear within it. She told me she is from the London dome, so this can’t be her physical body, only a projection.”
“So, she is like a ghost herself?” Lee Gilyoung asked.
“…I guess so,” Kim Dokja eventually agreed upon.
“She said that you summoned her here, Dokja-ssi. So, you must have known she could help us here, right?” Yoo Sangah prompted.
He could only shake his head. “I didn’t summon her here, actually. At least, not consciously.” He contemplated over whether he could have subconsciously called out for her when he first felt that foreboding feeling that came with proximity to the fog in this tunnel.
They watched like unneeded bystanders as she overtook the phantoms, seemed to be asking them things, and when they did not respond and only attacked her, they watched as she flew through their chest and emerged on the other side in a burst of confetti and gooey ectoplasm.
None of them felt any need to intervene so they just stood there until the last spectre left and the fog began slowly dispersing from the tunnel.
Dreamer flew back over towards them and gently alighted on the ground before them.
“Now you guys don’t need to go through anything else horrible on your way to Chungmuro!” she said cheerily. “I know you had a plan, Kim Dokja, but I also didn’t want any of you to have to experience any of what they would do to you, so I am really happy that I was able to be here to help,” she said truthfully. Her form began to lose corporeality as the fog slowly thinned.
“Ah, thank you for that,” Yoo Sangah said, stepping forward.
“It was my pleasure!” Dreamer replied merrily. “This was effectively like a nicer dream for me, so I don’t mind at all. I should be fine when I wake up after this, so please don’t worry about me vanishing like this,” she added as her form continued to fade.
However, Kim Dokja had seen the things the phantoms had changed the space around her into whenever they pushed back against her own chosen landscape, and it had not been pretty. Exactly what kinds of horrors and traumas did this person smiling broadly at them have?
“Will we see you again?” Lee Gilyoung asked.
Dreamer shrugged. “I’m on the other side of the world right now, so I can’t be sure of that. However, I will try to see Kim Dokja again in his dreams, if I can, and might come visit the rest of you too, if I am able to and you accept it. I don’t really know for sure if I will be able to manage it, but I can always try. Ah, that is if I do wake up again, actually, since I was in a bit of a pickle when I got knocked out this time…” she said with a frown, thinking back to the waves of monsters she had been knocked down within.
Their faces also turned sombre upon hearing this.
“I’m sure you will be fine, and we will eventually be able to meet,” Kim Dokja supplied to ease their concerns, even though all of them knew that survival until such a point would be hard. Only he and Dreamer knew that the domes would open later on, after the 9th scenario had finished.
“It was nice meeting you, Dreamer-ssi!” Yoo Sangah offered friendlily.
“You all as well, Yoo Sangah-ssi, Jung Heewon-ssi, Lee Hyunsung-ssi, Lee Gilyoung-gun. Kim Dokja has mentioned how lovely you all are, so it is nice to meet the ones keeping him company in the scenarios. Thank you for being beside him!” Dreamer smiled, giving a light bow of gratitude.
“Then, thank you for keeping him company in his sleep, Dreamer-ssi,” Yoo Sangah said in a softer tone than before, turning a soft gaze upon Kim Dokja, who looked a bit uncomfortable.
He cleared his throat and carefully avoided meeting any of their (very warm) gazes. “Ahem. Well, Dreamer, thank you for dealing with the spectres for us and helping us clear the Phantom Prison scenario.” They had received the clear messages not long ago, despite the ‘error’ that had resulted from her interference. “I hope we get to meet again in the future.”
She lightly nodded at him, bowed to them with the remaining form she had, and shortly disappeared from in front of them.
Kim Dokja released a sigh of breath as he ignored the messages of disappointment from the constellations while he moved to pick up the dropped [Spectre’s Stones] from the area. Apparently, the constellations had been very eager to peek at their respective traumas and were sad that they couldn’t witness them due to Dreamer’s interference.
He still wasn’t sure if he should trust her much, but at least this time, he was grateful that she had appeared to prevent such an event from happening. If his suspicions were correct, he was not the only one in the party with very personal memories the spectres would have drawn upon, had they been able to reach them properly with that fog.
Now, the sub-scenario had been cleared without his party taking mental damage and he had obtained the stones he planned to use as a backup during the next scenario.
Not much had changed from Dreamer’s sudden appearance here, but something about it still made him question things.
For now, he would just have to rely on his caution regarding everyone else in this damn apocalypse, since it was too early to know who might cause problems for him in future.
*****

Chapter 25: Chapter Twenty-one – Nightmares (4) (MS#3 continued)

Chapter Text

Fortunately, Dreamer did wake back up and was not, in fact, dead.
She woke to roars, howls, screams, and the sound of fighting.
Also, to a terribly humungous headache and acute pain all over her body. On top of her regular pain that had gotten significantly worse due to the extreme activity levels she’d maintained of late, despite having spoons to use more strategically now from the system.
It seemed that even the last green one had collapsed, but the injured were kept fenced-off from the rest of the fight in a corner.
A now-familiar dark blob of tentacled weirdness appeared from somewhere nearby and tackled her, latching onto her face.
“Eh? Squidi? I’m fine!” she managed to get out. She raised a hand to gently pat at his back to coax him off her face. “Well, I don’t feel fine, but I’m alive and lying through my teeth about my well-being, so that means everything’s back in order, basically,” she elaborated as an afterthought.
The little squid creature was glaring at her as he pulled away to float in front of her face, angrily signing what looked to be curses at her.
Something very large exploded beyond the safety of the barricade and Dreamer heard the familiar cackling of a crazed Iskra in the aftermath.
“I guess Jubilee is having fun amidst all the chaos. How long was I asleep for? There can’t be that long left before morning, right?” she asked Squidi.
However, according to the irritated squid, she had been unconscious for longer than expected.
A whole day, in fact.
Hey eyes widened greatly upon hearing this. “This is the last night?? I missed an entire day?!” she squawked in horror. “sh*t! I need to go help them! The last one can’t be as simple as the rest – they’ll need help!”
Pushing the thin blanket someone must have draped over her off and sitting up, Dreamer felt a sharp pain jabbing into the back of her skull as everything went dark again.
Ah. Apparently, movement was even more inadvisable for her than it even normally was. Great.
-
When she came back around, the squid was still floating in front of her, looking curiously human with a couple of his tentacles crossed in front of his body. He did not look impressed.
The fight was still raging around them.
“…How long?” she meekly asked, ensuring that she did not sit up too fast this time and taking things really slowly.
Squidi indicated it had only been a few minutes this time, thankfully. He also informed her that she was under his care right now and was prohibited from fighting until one of their medics had verified her condition.
“This is the last night of the scenario, Squidi. I don’t think any of us have a choice in whether we get dragged into the fight or not. Even if they haven’t breached here yet, they will soon, since the zone is already destroyed,” she argued, but still did not attempt further movement.
Squidi poked her cheek. “You physically cannot fight even if they climb into your lap,” he stated with a very judgemental expression on his weird little face.
She hated to admit it (because the urgent need to make sure nobody else was hurt too seriously was already eating away at her when she couldn’t even see most of what was happening), but he made a very good point with this; she really wasn’t in any shape to continue fighting. However, she didn’t want to just do nothing either.
“How long is left?” she eventually got out after a deep sigh of resignation.
“Six hours,” he replied, then carried over the water flask by the pack kept beside her.
Dreamer gratefully took it with thanks and drank deeply. It helped clear some of the lingering wooziness.
She then found herself staring over at a small figure that had crept up to her resting spot, holding its hands in front of it in a way that reminded her a little bit of a pangolin.
She blinked, not understanding. Why was it watching her?
This was the creature Squidi had rescued from the middle of the battle a few days ago. It was larger than he was (not counting the reach of his tentacles) but still only about the size of a medium-sized dog. However, it was more like a cross between a bear and a hedgehog, with the hedgehog features taking precedence in its impression.
She was fairly certain it hadn’t been one of the species mentioned in the book she had read that had now sort-of become reality, but Squidi seemed to know enough about its kind himself to look after it while it was here.
But… Why was it here here? Looking towards her and not the squid.
She gently poked at the fussing outer being and gestured towards the creature. “Oi, why is your friend staring at me?”
Said squid friend then walked closer and hopped up onto her legs, sitting up and chirping at her.
Dreamer froze. Its claws were very sharp and she had just gotten plenty of experience up close with them to know better than to not provoke it while her head felt like it was still split open. She didn’t really need to receive any more injuries right now and this creature was not tame.
It chirped at her again and took another couple of steps closer.
Without looking away, she demanded somewhat urgently, “Squidi?? Explain please??”
He floated in-between his friend and her vision, hastily signing for her. “Ciara’s Attribute evolved when you collapsed and now you are considered to be one of her ‘wards’. It is a bit like being a part of her ‘pack’ or within a domain or kingdom that she presides over. Aper was also placed under her domain when it became set, and so now she sees you as part of her herd, so to speak,” he explained, gesturing towards Aper, the juvenile monster currently chirping at her. “She’s been acting much less hostile towards some of the others as well, not just you. However, you weren’t awake earlier and now you are the only one around, so she is curious. It is also why she is allowed to roam more freely around here since she doesn’t need to be kept from everyone as much now.”
Relaxing somewhat but not entirely understanding, Dreamer nodded. “Alright, I guess I can accept this strangeness for now. Then, hello, Aper. It’s nice to meet you properly, I guess?” she said somewhat hesitantly, reaching out a hand for Aper to investigate, since she seemed to expect some kind of interaction from Dreamer and this was one of the simplest ways to approach a wild animal that she knew of.
Since she couldn’t do much right now, Dreamer spent the next little while getting to know Aper better with Squidi’s guidance and had him bring over some ingredients so she could make up some useful things for later while she was recovering. Just because she couldn’t fight didn’t mean she had nothing else she could do, and crafting and concocting various poultices, splints, and cutting up cloth for bandages were some of the things she could still do while sat down and dizzy.
She contemplated making some more explosives for Iskra as well but felt like she ought to leave that kind of experiment to the technician herself. Plus, they were running out of the materials required for them, presumably because Iskra and her assistants had used the rest up already for the fight.
Dreamer was not the only patient here requiring care and so Squidi left often to deposit things to others in this little protected, hidden corner, but they did not respond well to his presence for the most part so he could not get too close if they were conscious.
Interestingly, after checking out Dreamer and determining she was fine, Squidi’s friend trotted along after him as he floated around the space looking after everyone and fetching things for Dreamer. It was quite cute to see, especially since he would give her occasional head pats when she respected his wishes for her not to keep chewing on everything.
Once she felt too drained to keep making things or mixing up potions, Dreamer got her notebook out and began writing down everything she had learned about Aper just now, keeping the information in the notebook she kept on her, intending to one day collate the sections on monster species into one book – a bestiary of sorts, perhaps – so that she could know her new world and its new inhabitants better for future encounters that would hopefully not only be violent and hostile.
Like this, a few hours managed to pass without her (successfully) getting up to go fight when she heard everyone else suffering outside.
Once it got to the final couple of hours, however… She could not sit still.
Nothing had changed yet, but the impending sense of terror seizing her body and mind would not let her remain in place.
Painstakingly, she transferred herself over into her wheelchair and navigated around the other injured people to reach the barricade blocking them off from this place. Despite the pain it caused her, she slowly shifted the metal grating that formed the entrance to this place aside and recovered it behind her.
Squidi appeared at her shoulder, but she did not pay attention to him right now. Instead, her gaze was focused intensely at the chaos before her, where everyone else was fighting the waves of monsters set upon their station.
Just as she was looking, there was a slight lull in the combat as one wave drew to a close as the next approached.
However, even the monsters fell silent as dark shadows spread out from the platform tunnels and corridors leading into this place, and an ominous whispering and muttering was heard.
Despite the terrible situation and the incredibly dense sense of fear and foreboding, Dreamer felt that this scene felt a lot like when the Nazgûl appeared in the Lord of the Rings films.
Which, when appearing before them in actual reality, was not a good comparison.
Squidi seemed greatly alarmed by it and began tugging at her arm to get her to return to the patient area, but she waved him off, breaking the silence to whisper to him, “No. I need to do this – I feel like, I will be safe if I do this, okay? Just… wait here. I will be back soon,” she told him, successfully extricating him from her and leaving him behind for the time being.
The darkness spread towards the battlefield from the depths of the rest of the station, where something large and sinister lurked amidst the shadows with sometimes-visible eyes that kept vanishing and reappearing elsewhere.
From her position far at the back, beyond the battlefield itself, Dreamer could see the shadows creeping over the other monsters and incarnations and reducing them to trembling forms. Several of the monsters opted to bail on the scenario itself and head as far away from the darkness as they could, though some seemed to be emboldened by it and renewed their attacks upon the incarnations who were also filled with fear at what this new wave of creatures was bringing with it.
When it reached them, they would invariably shiver and shrink in on themselves at first, however, whether monster of incarnation, whether fleeing or becoming emboldened afterwards.
For one figure hastily rolling towards those same shadows, however, the fear she felt had nothing to do with the darkness itself, and the shiver she received upon reaching it was not one of terror or fear, but of comfort.
As the shadows flowed over her form, Dreamer in her wheelchair, still in immensely terrible shape, grinned wolfishly.
It seems that in the process of terrifying all the other incarnations here and setting up this final wave of horrors for them to fight, the

had brought one of Dreamer’s favoured elements right to her door.
-
Her wheels were silent as she practically skated through the deep, dark shadows coating the atmosphere here like a heavy, dark blanket covering the senses.
A small, fuzzy message in the corner of her vision informed the skill that granted her dark vision had activated.
There were figures in the darkness that hissed and whispered and roiled like eels in the depths around her, yet not a single one of them noticed her passing between them.
She skirted around the outside of their procession, heading to the being instilling this terror in her – in all of them – that resided and presided over this darkness.
Well, it would surely lay claim to it entirely, had she not been here.
As it was… Dreamer grinned. Sometimes the enemy’s strengths could be their downfall, too.
Surprisingly, there were actually two beings who looked like they had brought this darkness with them, not one.
As Dreamer slipped around behind them from where she had circled around to here from, she quietly assessed each of them.
The one that instilled such fear in her was immensely tall, wraith-like, and imposing, looming over a wide circle of space that none of the others dared approach. It seemed to be the leader of this next wave that was clearly meant to be some kind of finale.
The other one… did not give her the same type of ominous vibes, though they did come with the same kind of chills that reminded her of horrors and dark things and nightmares.
Just… not the dangerous kind?
She wasn’t sure how to describe it, but it felt like something she could deal with, compared to the other looming presence. It felt like something she had dealt with before, in fact.
Unlike Tall, Dark, and Scary over there, this more-familiar, furry form stalking through the darkness felt like much less of a threat, despite their large size and bulky form. And their eerily large claws and teeth. And the rest of their… everything.
Hmm. Okay, maybe her spooky metre was just way off?
She slid through the darkness right behind Tall, Dark, and Scary and unwound a translucent, ghostly rope from her pack.
She would inevitably end up dead quite quickly if she failed at this since the creepy wraith-like monster would easily spot her once she attacked and retaliate when she was in no shape to dodge.
However, as long as she was careful, she wouldn’t even need to worry about that.
Wrapped in the ghostly rope was a ghostly blade that she wielded alongside the rope and prepared herself for her attack.
[1,600 coins have been invested in physique.]
[Your physique level has increased dramatically!]
[The durability of your body has greatly increased!]
First, she needed to be able to actually stand for the next bit, which meant she needed to not be injured. Since she couldn’t exactly heal herself immediately, she opted for the next best thing, which was strengthening her body so that the injuries she already had wouldn’t make her quite so unstable. Hopefully.
Next, she spent coins on extra spoons to expend, because she definitely needed them for the amount of activity she was about to put herself through.
[You have exceeded your body’s normal ‘spoon’ limit. Additional expenditure of ‘spoons’ will result in a penalty for the next 24 hours. Spend spoons anyways? Yes/No]
Dreamer selected to spend more spoons than she normally could account for with her condition and grasped the rope tightly in her hand.
1…2….3…. Now!
Timing her throw, Dreamer launched the knotted end of her rope high up, above the head of the imposing giant wraith made of dark somethingness. When it reached directly above it, she activated its ability and blinked up to the knotted end, falling down towards the creature below.
She stabbed downwards with her blade, aiming straight for the back of its neck, where it was hunched slightly to fit into the small space of the station.
Just as it appeared to sense her, letting out a garbled shriek that made her want to vomit, she reached its body and stabbed into its form – not quite composed of flesh, but not quite something incorporeal, either.
With a continued shriek that trailed off the longer she held on to her blade as it thrashed, the being slowly became less and less active, its movements growing lethargic with time.
Shortly, however, it collapsed to the ground with her still clinging onto her knife on top of it, glad that it had finally succumbed.
[Effect of the blade, ‘Ephemeral End’ is applied!]
[‘Sleep like the Dead’ is in effect!]
Yanking her weapon out of its neck once she was certain it was affected was grim, but she had no time to wait as the monsters surrounding this entity noticed her amidst their ranks and turned to face her.
However, she only had eyes on one of them.
The remaining ‘boss’ monster of this wave who was currently staring at her and growling.
However, their eyes widened in surprise as she grinned at them.
She had already dealt with their leader. What could their ‘general’ do?
*****

Chapter 26: Chapter Twenty-two – Nightmares (5) (MS#3 continued)

Chapter Text

When Damian finally reached the back of the tunnel that shriek had come from, he had not anticipated what was before him.
In fact, he was so stunned that he nearly got a nasty bite from one of the monsters he hadn’t yet killed.
A deep growl reverberated through the space between him and the sight that had him absolutely gobsmacked. “Come any closer and I’ll bite your head off,” the monstrous being that looked quite similar to a werewolf commanded to him.
However…
“Can it, Solstheim!” a very familiar voice attached to a very familiar form said whilst stomping down on said monstrous being’s head.
The monster snarled. “This is humiliating!” it protested.
“Good. Humility is clearly sorely needed in you!” came the high-pitched voice.
The monstrous being seemingly resorted to muttering curses whilst otherwise ‘shutting up’, opting to glare directly over at Damian as if challenging him to point anything out.
Dreamer was currently sat on top of a trussed-up wolf-like monster, playing with the darkness emanating out from its form and that of a dark mound behind them.
No… she wasn’t playing with it – she was directing it, he realised. Dreamer was using the shadows around them to keep the other monsters around them at bay, it seemed.
Floating somewhere off to the side was a very disgruntled dokkaebi – the one in charge of this scenario.
[You cannot just take out the boss monster off-screen!] they seemed to be saying towards the air while pressing things on their screen. [Even with stealth abilities, it needs to be shown to the constellations to be entertaining! What even is this kind of development?]
Dreamer did not seem inclined to respond to them, merely focusing on her own task.
Damian made his way towards them despite the monster’s earlier warning. “Uhh… Dreamer?” he asked hesitantly as the others of their group came up beside him, clearing away the remaining creatures who did not back down or flee now that their leaders were apparently long since subdued.
She grinned down at him and dropped the magic power she was manipulating around her, looking greatly relieved. “Ah! My saviour has arrived! Thank goodness! I was worried I would pass out again before you arrived, and I didn’t much want to be monster meat again.”
Akari came up beside Damian and waved up at her. “Ayy, that’s our sneaky badass, up to her shenanigans again! What the f*ck did you do this time?”
Dreamer beckoned him over and Akari easily went, cautious of the trussed-up monster currently growling at him but clearly not overly worried about it. “Made some friends. Hey, can you do the thing where you catch me when I’m dead on my feet again? I don’t really want to stay up here, and my chair is way back there.” She gestured behind her, beyond the mass of darkness that gave Damian chills just to look at.
“Of course,” he said, opening his arms up to demonstrate his readiness. She then slid off the monster’s head and dropped easily into his hold. “What about your friend? Is he gonna be okay to leave like this?” he asked as he repositioned her into something more comfortable, not even blinking at the weight.
Dreamer reached out a hand to pat the dark, furred arm, bulging with muscles, of the being beside her. “He’ll be fine like this. We made an agreement. Besides, Damian is here, so he’ll know what to do with him!” she very cheerily claimed.
Damian did not want to be in charge of this new ‘friend’ of hers. Damian started to think that Anya’s outlook on the monsters they encountered was much, much nicer to maintain than whatever it was that Dreamer kept somehow pulling off in the midst of chaos.
Damian sighed in resignation and began directing nearby station members to help him secure their latest… hostage? and fervently hoped that the dokkaebi’s evident consternation about the situation meant they could not do anything else as a result of this obscure development.
“Don’t step on his boyfriend! I promised not to do any more harm to him if he cooperated,” he heard Dreamer instructing Akari as he carried her back to her discarded chair.
A threatening growl rumbled out from the monster they’d just walked away from. “I said he isn't my boyfriend!”
“That’s not what the shadows told me!” Dreamer called back in a tone that felt incongruous to their current surroundings.
Damian watched the very intimidating monster seethe with rage before releasing a deep breath in apparent resignation.
He supposed it was maybe acceptable that Dreamer kept trying to avoid killing these monsters when he felt legitimate empathy for them like this.
At least they had made it through the last night of the scenario at last – even finishing a little bit early.
[An error has occurred in the scenario.]
[The scenario error will delay further compensation settlement.]
…Even if certain system messages were becoming a little too familiar as a result.
[What do you mean ‘it’s entirely plausible because the conditions were only to survive, not ‘kill’ the monsters’?] the dokkaebi in charge yelled back at one of the other dokkaebis who had appeared to presumably placate them. [The two strongest ones didn’t even get to attack!]
Damian opted not to stare too long at the incompetency of their new overlords for fear of losing whatever little remained of his sanity.
*****

Chapter 27: Chapter Twenty-three – Tentative Representative (Hidden scenario for monster negotiations, MS#4 start)

Chapter Text

Dreamer lay in a metaphorical puddle on the ground of the station away from where the other injured survivors lay. She could barely speak through the pain, but arduously answered whichever questions she felt were important to address now, rather than later.
“How can you understand their native language when they’re from another world?” Devin was asking her now, referring to the mountainous being currently bound by numerous things, including her rope, and the very large werewolf-like monster beside him.
Dreamer typed her response into her phone and sent it to his.
– Dreamer: I have a translation skill.
She explained simply, not wanting to explain how there were actually multiple skills that flashed up whenever someone else spoke previously-unknown languages around her – including Squidi, or about how she didn’t always completely understand every word they communicated but could understand enough to know their meaning. She also didn’t want to explain that since most of her skills and even her ability to speak had been restricted as a result of the penalty of overspending her spoon supply, this was one of the only ways she could help them deal with the big scary monster leader that she knew they were all even more terrified of.
“So, you can translate for that being alright, even when his boyfriend doesn’t know that language?” Devin pushed.
A sigh came from beside the mountainous being that remained unconscious. “…He’s not my boyfriend. Please stop saying that or you’ll make him think the wrong things once he wakes up,” the werewolf-monster requested.
However, Dreamer was aware that saying things like this and highlighting their bonds and closeness was one of the best ways to ensure the constellations were invested in their story, and thus their survival, and so she would continue to present these possibilities to their collective audience until she was sure they didn’t need to die for any narrative to progress. Not that she would say this aloud, of course, and it still made her feel really weird to poke fun at it when it was actually something to be used for survival and ‘storytelling’. It helped that she was already pretty certain that these two shared that kind of bond or feelings for each other, even if neither had probably acknowledged them yet, based on his repeated requests to stop calling them as such.
Well, she was only partially guilty about it. Mostly, she thought the possibility was cute, even while they were meant to be her enemies, and probably not very nice beings at all – at least, not for the very scary shadowy being, unlike the much-less-scary werewolf being that felt familiar to her.
She was willing to accept a creepy awful-feeling evil shadowy being of darkness if it meant that his friend who didn’t give off those same vibes could survive and hopefully coexist peaceably with them. Perhaps in offering alternatives, the shadowy-awful being might become less terrifying in the process? Or perhaps she could learn how to coexist with him better herself, to understand why he wasn’t as terrible as he felt, since if someone like this werewolf could like him and seek to protect him, then he had to have some redeeming qualities, no?
Dreamer relayed her response to both of them to Devin’s phone and he spoke them for those present to hear.
“She says she won’t call you two that during the conversation as it would detract from the actual topics they need to address with him, so you shouldn’t worry. Also, that she can indeed understand him even while you cannot. She also says that you can form plenty of strong bonds even without understanding one another’s languages, but for talks such as this between enemy parties, some level of understanding is required to make peaceful progress in negotiations,” Devin dutifully relayed.
Thus, the station members who were guarding this group of beings alongside Devin waited patiently whilst chatting amongst themselves for the unconscious shadow being who was meant to be the boss monster they were to kill, woke up.
Once he began to, Devin sent a runner off to summon the station’s leaders and the werewolf being moved closer to his comrade, with just the tiniest hint of concern hidden within his scowling eyes.
As the shadowy being regained consciousness, that familiar fear and darkness washed over everything once more. Dreamer released a breath of relief from the calming darkness, whilst easily shifting aside the terror chilling up her spine.
She sent a message to the frozen, stiff-faced Devin, who had been warned about this happening from the start but had still chosen to take part.
As if the beep of his phone message drew him out of his fear, he released a long breath and took up his role in earnest.
He confidently looked directly towards the shadowy leader and spoke calmly. “Withdraw your aura or suffer the

scenario penalty,” he commanded. “You should have received a new hidden scenario while you were out; Please read it so we can discuss your options moving forwards. You failed the previous scenario; this is your last chance. Don’t waste it.”
As he said this, Damian, Anya, and the other station representatives appeared and took their places beside him.
After the being glanced down at their werewolf comrade as if to ask what the heck was going on, the being looked into the air for a moment upon seeing their nod and encouragement, before the darkness and oppression pouring out from this being relented and withdrew.
Though it seemed that this being understood their own language, he only replied in his own, as if he could not speak it, only understand it.
However, a puddle of painy Dreamer was there to supply the needed comprehension and dutifully sent his words across to Devin, as her designated speaker, while she herself was a translator. It was a very roundabout way of communicating, but since she could not speak in any language right now other than typed messages (not even her hands could move around very much right now), this was their solution.
The name of the intimidating leader Dreamer designated as ‘Tall, Dark, and Scary’ was actually named Katífeia Prae-Aktína, while the wolf-like leader was named Apricitas Utanebre, going by the shortened Aprici.
Despite the others being present here, Damian was the one taking point in the negotiations, as if the other leaders had little to no idea how to address this very alien being before them – which was fair. Anya herself had already expressed that it was her own opinion not to trust this being at all and just to let the scenario penalty take care of him if they weren’t going to just kill them both and be done with it. She voiced this opinion directly before them, unafraid of their response to it.
The hidden scenario that came up for them upon ‘sparing’ the enemies was one that had already appeared before for some of the other captives they’d managed to spare over the course of the third scenario, but with some subtle changes regarding these two’s status as leaders, with a heftier penalty upon failure to reach a deal with the human incarnations here.
However, Damian was an excellent speaker, with Anya being an equally excellent counter to his kinder offers, and the talk went surprisingly smoothly.
At least, it did until a certain point when the shadowy leader requested to meet with ‘the one who speaks with shadows’.
Everyone in attendance looked across and down upon the puddle of human on the floor of the station, far below the towering monster requesting to meet her.
Devin wore a strange expression as he translated on behalf of her weary sigh. “Uhh, she’s already here before you and is the one sending me the translations of your words. She goes by the name Dreamer and is currently under a skill penalty restricting her speech. I can speak on her behalf,” he explained.
If she could have, she would have sat up to at least face the other party herself, but as it was… She was a pain puddle. No moving around for now or speaking words that caused painful vibrations within her own body.
[Someone so weak?!] the shadowy leader stated in shock and apparent disgust.
Apparently, the wolf dude knew at least what ‘weak’ sounded like, since he coughed somewhat awkwardly beside him.
Dreamer lightly sighed and tapped out a response for Devin to narrate.
“’Yes, I am very weak. However, the shadows should have already told you that. The ones with you and Solstheim are very chatty,’” Devin shared. “’However, you and I both know that they can’t ‘speak’ in the normal sense of the term. They have nevertheless shared quite a lot about the two of you with me, which is why this conversation was even viable to begin with. I don’t like you, but since they and your other comrades seem to, I suggested this alternative to your death as a method of clearing the scenario we were given. If you don’t like it, the original path is easy enough to pick back up, even though I will not be the one to defeat you this time around. We have many strong incarnations stationed here who can take my place.’”
After some quiet deliberation, the shadowy being spoke again. [I have one more question before agreeing to your deal,] the being stated. [Who is Solstheim?]
Ah, she really wanted to laugh, but held it in for the sake of her already-pain-addled body.
Devin suppressed a smile as she sent the things to him. “’A nickname for your’ – oh, she’s sent this part as a guide for speaking, let me just work it out…” He then read the words she had translated into ones he would be able to speak that matched the language Katífeia had been using. The words sounded strange coming from a human, but Devin made good work of it.
The darkness that this shadowy being was composed of began to writhe around a bit more energetically at his words, as if agitated.
After speaking in a very different, less-calm and cold tone of voice, Katífeia seemed to calm down and said something Dreamer told Devin he could translate, where the previous ones had been mostly inappropriate for the others to hear.
Katífeia looked directly at Damian as he said this next piece. [I agree to your terms on two conditions.]
Damian heard Devin’s translation and replied easily, “What are the conditions?”
[First, stop referring to us with nicknames like ‘Solstheim’. Use our proper names or titles only,] he requested.
Damian nodded upon receipt of his words. “Alright, agreed. What is the second?”
An eerily dark and lengthy tendril directed itself towards the puddle of pain on the floor. [Make her your representative from now on. She claims to be weak, but the shadows suggest otherwise. She hides her usefulness. You are nothing but puppets to her machinations.]
Despite being the only one to understand his words, she nevertheless shared them openly with Devin, but added her own addition.
“’I am not interested in leading when others are more suited to the role and much more capable,’” she protested through Devin, “’and I detest the idea of puppeteering anyone. Especially Anya.’”
Anya nodded solemnly at this. “Wise.”
Damian merely kept his eyes on the shadowy being, waiting for his response to her words.
[That is my condition,] he asserted, apparently uncaring of her own preferences.
Dreamer was too damn exhausted to not just send his stupid request across to Devin, who was annoyingly smirking at the comments she added and told him not to share.
Damian told them he would need to discuss it with the others since they would all be involved in this decision and Katífeia allowed them a break to discuss it, turning to face Aprici to presumably converse with him without Aprici needing to understand fully.
-
Dreamer f*cking hated being the representative of anyone, let alone for a scenario where the price of her failure to lead was the death of everyone under her command.
She hated the idea of being able to control people against their will even more, however, and so her own condition for accepting the role of ‘station representative’ for the next scenario was to make an Oath with her friends to ensure she couldn’t use it against them or the other station members.
Even if everyone else wanted her to take up this role, she didn’t want it, but since nobody else on the station opted to refute the idea of her taking up the role when Katífeia had specifically requested it and everyone had seen it was her who had taken down the two boss monsters while heavily injured, this was the only thing left to ease her own mind over it.
Unlike Kim Dokja who used ‘Command Rights’ on troublesome people like Gong Pildu at the start, Dreamer did not want to use this on anyone, even if they were enemies or just horrible people. She had faith in her friends and in herself to manage well enough without needing to rely on those things. If someone was a problem, she could just stab them, you know? Much less problematic in her view, even though Damian sighed about this, Devin and Kaelsi facepalmed, and Anya cheered and clapped for her chosen take of violence over mind control.
After deciding this amongst their own group and the station leaders’ respective groups, they returned to Katífeia and accepted the terms of their deal, clearing the hidden scenario.
Now, these two beings had agreed to lead the other monsters and former-enemy entities in protecting this base during the Fourth Scenario, whereupon the terms of the deal could be renegotiated or completed, depending on whether they chose to stay under a new agreement or leave this place under the agreement not to exact vengeance upon them for putting them through this in the first place.
+
[Sub Scenario – Elect a Representative]
Category: Sub
Difficulty: C
Clear Conditions: Take the ‘white flag’ installed in the centre of the station.
Time Limit: 30 minutes
Compensation: 1,000 coins, Waterloo’s Representative
Failure: –
*The representative of the station can exercise strong control over the members.
+
And when the Sub Scenario before the Fourth Main Scenario appeared at last, everyone prepared to defend Dreamer’s claim to the flag whilst some members outside of their discussion previously decided to risk the jump in position.
Despite being little more than a puddle of pain on the floor gripping the flagpole’s flag, Dreamer’s supporters successfully protected her until the duration of the ‘election’ was up and she was designated as the station representative for Waterloo Station.
(They had opted not to have the monsters assist them with this to further cement their validity and autonomy without taking them into account to handle any detractors.)
After a very painful and annoying day (for Dreamer, at least), the Fourth Main Scenario message finally appeared and confirmed their new roles and goals.
+
[Main Scenario #4 – Struggle for the Flag]
Category: Main
Difficulty: C
Clear Conditions:
1. Every station has a ‘flag’ and ‘flagpole’ that can be occupied.
– The flag can only be carried by the ‘representative’ of the station.
2. You need to protect the flag from other station groups. If a flag is taken away by another group, the losing group will be taken over by the group that occupied the flag.
3. You can put a ‘flag’ in the ‘flagpole’ of another station. The authority of the flag is only for the ‘representative’ of each station. Once the representative dies in an armed conflict, the authority of the representative is transferred to the person who holds the flag first. If you take the ‘flag’ of another station group, the treatment of the group deprived of the flag is determined by the group that took the flag.
4. You must occupy the ‘flagpole’ of the ‘target station’ within a certain time limit. Failure to do so will result in the death of all group members.
5. The target station your group should occupy is ‘Westminster’.
Time Limit: 12 days
Compensation: 2,000 coins
Failure: ???
+
Before she finally allowed herself to collapse into even more of a tired heap than she already embodied, she spotted a little eldritch squidlet apparently acting as mediator and translator between their new werewolf and shadow allies. Her lips crept up into a slight smile – it must be nice for them to finally speak somewhat more openly with each other after she had prompted them earlier. It was also very nice of Squidi to help them, despite usually preferring to hide.
*****

Chapter 28: Chapter Twenty-four – Tentative Representative (2) (MS#4 continued, KDJ visit #4, Phantom Prison intervention #2)

Chapter Text

Before night hit, Dreamer fell exhaustedly to sleep once they had finished dealing with the negotiations with the two leaders of the various monsters they had managed to capture during the third scenario and defending her claim to the Representative title.
It was nice to be able to rest after days of working hard to keep as many people (and monsters) alive and cooperative as possible. However…
Someone stared blankly at Dreamer with their jaw on the floor. “What are you doing here?!”
Dreamers like her didn’t exactly get the same kind of break as everyone else when they were asleep.
“Saving your ass some trauma, damn silly goose,” she returned to said ‘goose’. “You’re the one who called me here, anyways.”
It was true. She had been conversing with the littler version of him on that subway train when she felt herself about to be pulled somewhere else and had to cut their time short. She had been intending to spend the majority of her time dreaming with the little Dream, as she had every night since the scenarios began, with less-frequent trips to check in on her other contacts, but this time had been different. She’d given a hasty farewell to the little Dream while dumping her summoned treats beside him on the bench before finding herself in a subway tunnel somewhere completely different.
There had been a horde of monsters attacking something that was incredibly bloody and torn, right where she had appeared. Her spectral form was stood right over it, so it wasn’t hard to spot. Eventually, the monsters realised that their claws, horns, tails, and teeth were passing straight through her form without doing any damage, and they began to shuffle off now that the two forms in front of them were apparently not responding to their attacks.
Upon closer inspection, the crumpled form beneath her was another spectral form, only they appeared to be unconscious. And it was someone she knew – the older form of the beloved brat she had just left on the train!
She quickly realised where this place was and what he had just done, and why she was here. So, after seeing that she couldn’t summon sh*t in this very real tunnel without dream magic fog from other spectres around, she crouched beside him and joined him in the dreamscape he was trapped in by the Spectre’s Stone he’d consumed.
And now he was flabbergasted at her appearance here, despite being the one who must have unconsciously called out for help with this nightmare.
She clicked her tongue at him but was actually glad to have been called when he needed it. She liked feeling useful, and this was one of the only ways she knew how to do that.
Sighing lightly, she asked, “How are you feeling now? Still shaken, or is it better?” While she had said that she liked being useful and could be called on in these situations, she had no way to know if her presence actually supplied the kind of help she intended it to. In this case, that was reducing the amount of terrifying, awful, nightmare vibes so that this dude’s spine wouldn’t be as back-soakingly chilled from the atmosphere pervading this space. It wasn’t much to her to take on since she was used to experiencing much worse, but she wasn’t sure whether she was absorbing and diverting it away from him properly or not. This was why she asked.
And… she was a bit worried. She had seen the state of his physical body when she had been in that tunnel. Reading about him doing this was one thing, but actually seeing the kind of danger and the extent of the damage he had taken in order to tell the story he wanted to, to protect those around him, was quite different.
Kim Dokja scoffed and smirked. However, his lips trembled and he seemed still shaken. She had immediately banished the images and illusion of his past that had been haunting and taunting him when she arrived, but she knew what they were and how badly it could affect him.
“I’m fine,” he still said. “You didn’t need to come. I didn’t call you. Go back.”
But Dreamer was not in agreement here. “Not yet. I’ll stay until Anna has come and gone.” She stated firmly.
Kim Dokja’s trembling smile of false confidence dropped. “Anna’s coming here too?!” he said with concern.
“Yes. Which is why I’m not leaving yet. You aren’t exactly in the best state to face another potential threat right now. Stop being weird about it and sit down so I can help already. I’m not sure at what point she shows up, and I don’t know if I should properly ‘meet’ her here as well or not. But I’m not about to ditch you here either. If you sense her before I do, let me know and I’ll do the unseen thing I usually do around nightmares I don’t like. Deal?” she explained while rummaging in her trusty satchel for medical equipment, supplied here with additional spiritual properties she usually only used on the little Dream.
She would say that the little Dream was the more damaged of the two that she visited, but… This version of Kim Dokja didn’t fare much better, from what she had seen so far. The book might have downplayed the pain he must feel, even with the Fourth Wall supposedly offsetting a lot of it.
Seeing her plan, Kim Dokja gave her a weird look, but obediently sat and let her tend to him. “Same deal as before – I can help you here, but it won’t help your wounds out there. There’s no fog there to make use of so I can’t treat you with what I have on me like I want to, but do you have any Spectre’s Stones left? If you didn’t eat them all, I might be able to use them to summon a couple things I can use on you, in the physical sense, after we get out of here. I first appeared out there, which means it does count as part of the dream for me, just not with enough dream magic about for me to make use of, unfortunately.” She spoke as she wrapped the largest of the lacerations on his legs, arms, and torso and handed him a cream with instructions to apply it over the rest of his wounds she hadn’t gotten to yet. She also quietly summoned a bunch of cushions and big, soft blanket for him to sit amongst, uncaring of the blood and gore on him since this was what the soft things were for – comfort during a trying time.
After a short time passed, she gently muttered, “…Your form keeps flickering back to your younger one, by the way.” It had occurred more rapidly when she first appeared here but was still not 100% stable again yet. “Would you like help with that too? I don’t know if I can help for definite, but I know some anchoring techniques that might help. It’s a bit like grounding techniques, but also a bit different.”
Kim Dokja stiffened up upon hearing this, but she shifted the items in her hands around so she could gently squeeze his (uninjured, blessedly) shoulder.
“You don’t need to explain – I already know. There’s no need to worry about my perception of you changing – you’re still a silly goose to me no matter your form, Kim Dokja. Also, tell your stupid Wall he’s slacking once it’s back up, since I arrived before he did anything, and that’s too long to wait,” she said, starting off calmly and switching to jokingly irritated for the last part.
After initially remaining tense, he began to loosen back up as she continued speaking more lightly of things, such as the stupid Fourth Wall, the stupid Kim Dokja who ate stones from beings sustained by trauma and fear, and the effect this latest stunt of his would have on the rest of his team.
He didn’t even comment when she summoned a couple of stuffed animals and stuffed the small black and brown-coloured puppy-sized one into his hands, wrapping each around its two front paws. Apparently, its name was Bowser, it was much beloved by her and had helped a lot with her own past distress.
He let out an amused huff once her fussing got to the part where she was suggesting advice on how to assure them he wasn’t going to disappear after stunts like this, since they would definitely worry about it.
“Alright, I’ll bear that in mind,” he finally said, making her pause in her work.
“…You will?” she asked with surprise. “Uhh, you don’t have to listen to me, you know? I don’t really know them like you do, so this is just an outsider’s perspective based on how I would respond to someone I cared about doing these kinds of things, you know? You will know their hearts best, of course.”
“Ah, I’m not too sure about that. I’m not sure if I can understand anyone, at the rate things are going.” He tilted his head up to stare at the ceiling of this dream space.
Dreamer got the odd sense that she had more time here than she had anticipated and slowed down her actions a bit now that the fear of being interrupted had shifted like a shift in narration. She came to sit beside him, staring up as well before turning to face him, observing his expression – his sadness, his despair, his burden – closely.
Her eyebrows furrowed as she looked, and she said, “There is nobody who understands the stories being told right now better than you do, Kim Dokja. You don’t need to be a reader, or a dreamer, to know that. I mean, just look at the people around you – they follow you, don’t they? So, they must feel it, too. What you mean is that you don’t know what to do with it. You can know the story, and the characters, perfectly well, without knowing for certain how you should use those aspects of them that you do understand and know, moving forwards. Because things are always going to be different from what you know and expect once you start interacting with them from a point where they can actually feel your presence and respond to it. You know?” she offered, hoping that her words would be expressed properly to him. She knew that it applied to herself plenty too – just because she felt like she knew ‘Kim Dokja’ the character, did not mean that she fully knew or understood this Kim Dokja that she was now able to be perceived by in turn. A Kim Dokja who might not need to feel quite as burdened as before – or that was her hope for him.
But it had been his story that had helped solidify these notions to her in the first place, so it was only fair to return them to him if she could, when he seemed to need them – when this version of him needed them, since they were not quite the same, even if they were very similar and part of a whole, singular being.
Kim Dokja only looked downwards, his expression overcast as he thought over this.
Dreamer tilted her head at him, contemplating, then saw his form flicker into his eight-year-old self again. Moving in front of him, she knelt up and extended her hands to him in offering. “Here. I’ll anchor you. It’s not as good as if someone you knew really well were to do this, but you’re plenty strong on your own, even without your Wall, so I should be good enough to help with the unintentional shifts. Though you never have to reject that part of you, you know? Even if it scares you.” She wanted to say more here, knowing how he would feel much later when meeting the Most Ancient Dream, but for now, she would leave it with that unless he opened the topic up himself.
However, he only took her hands in his, closed his eyes, and obediently listened to her instructions on what to focus on. Then he listened to her calming words that were a reminder of who ‘he’ was, the one that he knew best because it was his ‘present’, twenty-eight-year-old self, and the one she apparently knew a lot about.
After a short time, he felt her hands leave his and opened his eyes again.
“No more instability – looks like it worked!” she stated with a smile. “Ready to face a judgey prophet?”
Kim Dokja gave a wry smile in return. “Not especially, to be honest. Actually, I was wondering if you needed to hide when she showed up? I might have a better suggestion for you that should keep her distracted from paying unneeded attention to either of us in particular…”
Dreamer blinked and tilted her head, questioning, “Oh? What can this master dreamer help the distinguished reader with?” she said with a teasing tone.
Thus, Kim Dokja laid out his plan to her and watched her grin widen.
*****

Chapter 29: Chapter Twenty-five – Tentative Representative (3) (PP#2 continued, Anna Croft introductions)

Chapter Text

The summoned cushions, blankets, and stuffed animals had vanished and the two were sat at a small table in soft chairs, sipping at tea (Kim Dokja) and hot chocolate (Dreamer) respectively when the surrounding space warped just enough for Dreamer to sense, and they heard a voice coming from behind them.
「Yoo Joonghyuk? Are you Yoo Joonghyuk?」
Dreamer’s gentle smile slipped immediately from her mouth upon hearing that woman’s voice. She had imagined it a number of times but… That voice did not match her imagination. And this one, for some reason, irked her. Oh dear.
Anna did not seem to acknowledge Dreamer’s presence as she continued to direct her words towards Kim Dokja alone.
「 That…I don't understand. I've seen the future a number of times but I've never seen you before… 」
A red light swirled in the blonde woman’s left eye. Dreamer knew what it was thanks to reading the punk beside her’s original story. She was curious on whether the special [Great Demon’s Eyes] would be able to detect her while she was masking her presence with dream abilities here. This was also why she had not revealed herself yet, despite their plan.
While taking an obnoxiously loud sip of her drink, Dreamer focused on the hazy images of the system messages Kim Dokja was seeing right now about the person in front of them. She saw more on the screens now than the story had revealed before, and her eyebrows rose in mild surprise. She shared skills with this person…?
She didn’t know how she felt about that.
Well… She did. Like with her small stature, high voice, and designation as someone with precognitive abilities, it was fair to say that Dreamer was – perhaps, maybe, a teeny, little bit disgruntled. Before, she had been annoyed because Anna felt like a character someone had made resembling Dreamer herself a little much, but in skill only and not personality, making it even more annoying to read about her. However, now, she was also annoyed because there were even more similarities between them. It really irked her. She didn’t like matching this person. It felt like sharing a piece of herself that she’d rather not share with this person. Even if she wasn’t technically evil. Which only made her feelings more complicated.
Frustrating.
Shhhluuuurp.
Anna’s expression shifted upon hearing the loud sound again, perplexed.
“Dreamer, stop it. You said you wouldn’t hide, didn’t you?” Kim Dokja’s voice came from across the table without taking his eyes from Anna.
Laughing, Dreamer released her cover and lightly waved in Anna’s direction. “Madam Prophet,” she said with clear cynicism.
“Anna Croft,” Kim Dokja offered in turn.
「 …How do you know me? 」she asked, looking between the pair of them.
Kim Dokja replied quietly, “I’m a prophet.”
[The character Anna Croft has used Lie Detection Lv. 7.]
[Lie Detection has confirmed that your words are false.]
They could all see the result on their own screens.
Knowing this, Dreamer still chose to answer, “Same here,” with a sneering smirk.
[Lie Detection has confirmed that your words are true!]
Kim Dokja’s eyes glanced at her askance as Anna’s shocked expression settled on her alone.
Dreamer’s mouth had also fallen open. “Uhh, to be honest, I honestly hadn’t expected that result. I was just trying to be a little sh*t…” she easily admitted, looking awkward. “He actually knows more than me…” She shifted her gaze away from them, looking at the blank expanse of the dreamscape around them instead.
Kim Dokja covered his face with his free hand while Anna was still distracted. Then, he sighed and spoke up. “As you can see, we have our methods of knowing your identity. Having said that… Do you really not know who I am?” he asked with a note of disappointment.
As he surprised her with his words about giving her the ichthyosaur’s core and realisation dawned on her, she grew more curious about him and settled her attention on him instead of Dreamer.
「 Why… why can't I see anything…? 」she asked, the red light seeming to shift in her eye.
Of course, even if Dreamer hadn’t been here, that would have been the case for Kim Dokja, since this was around the time his Fourth Wall skill decided to kick back in, as if to prevent too many developments from happening at this point.
“Someday we will meet. Wait across the continents,” Kim Dokja said in that vague, mysterious way of his that Dreamer had most definitely ruined the atmosphere of.
With the message popping up on Kim Dokja’s vision declaring that the Fourth Wall had been completely restored and the immunity to the Phantom Prison was in effect, Anna Croft and the space around them disappeared.
Unlike in the story she’d read, his spirit was in a much more stable state than it would have been, had he been alone, but while he got to grips with his consciousness as the dream broke and they appeared back within the space of the tunnel like a couple of spectres themselves, Dreamer took hold of his wrist to help ground him.
He had just been munched on my multiple monsters before having multiple scenes of his past trauma brought up as if he were experiencing them all over again, so even with her earlier intervention, breaking out of that headspace would be somewhat jarring. At least he wasn’t as unstable as it could have been…
She heard him muttering some words to himself with his eyes closed as he regained his rationality. “I am Kim Dokja. The world was destroyed. Ways of Survival had become reality. This was… Phantom Prison. I ate the Spectre's Stone and was a ghost for a while. If I was a ghost, I wouldn't be attacked by the underground species.”
His wrist twitched in her grasp as he added in a different, drier tone, “And a meddling dreamer ruined my enigmatic setup by being an unaware idiot.”
Despite saying this while looking at her, Dreamer could see the smile hidden in hie eyes. She huffed. “In my defence, that is not one of my Attributes, so how would I know something like that?” While she couldn’t make out a lot of her own Attribute Window, she could at least read most of her attributes, and unlike with Anna Croft, ‘Prophet’ was not one of them.
“Maybe it falls under one of your other ones? You said you are a Dreamwalker – would it be a part of that? After all, both you and she can ignore space constraints and freely enter the consciousnesses of other people. But that does bring up another point I’m curious about…” he suggested. “Why does your manner of speaking within spaces like that differ to hers, if both of you can do the same thing?” he asked with his head tilted and eyes sharply observing her.
Dreamer scowled. “How should I know? I didn’t even realise I counted as a prophet until now! I just thought I was dreaming like usual, albeit in a more controlled manner… This is how I speak in dreams, so why would it sound all distanced like it did for her? She’s a prophet, not a dreamer, right? So, maybe it just works differently for us because of that distinction.” Upon seeing his curious, assessing gaze, she bristled somewhat. “I’m not like her!” she said defensively.
Kim Dokja grinned. “I didn’t mean to suggest you were.” His lips then ticked up into something even slier. “She would never be as clumsy with important information about herself like you, anyways. You are way too different.”
Her frown deepened. “Oi! I already said I’m not doing things like all you guys do! Why should I keep things hidden about myself when it does no harm to me for others to know? I operate differently. Even if that comes across clumsier or dumber…” she grumbled, retracting her hand from his wrist to cross her arms in a huff.
He lightly laughed. “Alright. You did say that. I didn’t mean to insult you.” Her eyes called him out on the lie. “You aren’t that clumsy, since you seem aware of how to deal with the fallout from revealing things about yourself and your knowledge, I’ll givve you tthat. You arre your own pperrson.” As he spoke to placate her, she noticed that his words began to slow and slur together.
His form seemed to be blurring.
“Whyy doess it fffeel like I’mm on drugssh?” he arduously asked.
Dreamer hastily reached out to take both of his translucent wrists and grip them tightly. She recalled the words of the story she had read that mirrored his words just now, when he had just broken out of the Phantom Prison and the passage of time was distorted for him.
Since she was unaffected by such things, she kept hold of him and helped tether him back to the present, unless he expressed a desire for otherwise since his current situation wasn’t… great.
Monsters still howled around them and in the distance, while his body remained below, unseen by others while he was turned into this spectral form.
After a moment of concentrating on stabilising his form, Dreamer checked him over and asked, “Better?”
Kim Dokja nodded. “…Thanks.”
“No problem, you jerk,” she beamed. “I’m not done talking yet, so I’d like to keep you present if I can. Let me know if it gets too uncomfortable, since I might be able to help again, or I can let the weird feeling settle over you again, if you prefer that. You’ll wake up without realising how much time has passed, with your companions looking after you.”
Kim Dokja shook his head. “No, I’d rather remain consciously present for now, even if there is some discomfort. It’s a relief to hear that they will find me, though. Are you certain they’re okay?”
Dreamer nodded. “Yes. Even if something has changed, I don’t think that would have. We can probably check if you like?” she suggested. “Just… not just yet. There’s something else I’d like to handle first.”
Kim Dokja gave her a questioning look. “Which is…?”
Since her hands were busy holding his wrists, she gestured towards his discarded and hidden physical body beneath them. “Your injuries. The green zones will be up for another few hours at least, no? So, it will take a while for the others to reach you.”
“What do you have planned?” he asked.
“Remember what I said about the Spectre’s Stones? Do you have any left?” she asked with a bright glint in her eyes.
Directing her on where to dig them out of his pockets, Dreamer kept one hand hold of his right wrist while pulling them out and setting them beside her. She crushed one in her hand and a plume of sparkling mist came out, resembling the same stuff the Spectres had brought with them in that other tunnel before.
Quietly cheering, Dreamer set about using the substance to summon some materials that could be used here and set about treating the worst of his physical wounds. Since it was quicker to use both hands, she instructed him to hold onto her instead. He wore an uncomfortable expression when she expressed that it was better to be skin contact specifically, even if they were technically not in forms that had ‘skin’.
Since her hands were busy, he held onto the side of her neck and shoulder. She didn’t care though, and merely completed her tasks while humming and chatting whatever things she could get through to him through the stray filtering that crept in whenever she got too over-zealous.
They actually got a lot of planning done, surprisingly. Of course, they had to be careful of the constellations overhearing now that they were outside of the dream space, but they were still able to understand each other plenty without stating everything explicitly or straightforwardly. It was… nice… to be able to plan like this with someone without too many barriers blocking their communication.
“I think… that’s actually making a lot of the discomfort improve,” Kim Dokja eventually commented, indicating where she was currently stitching together a long tear on his body’s back.
“Really? That’s awesome! I didn’t know it would affect you before you returned. Hopefully you aren’t out of it for as long as a result, but it might be that you used up more mental energy staying conscious even if the physical wounds are a bit better, so who knows?” she pondered, snapping off the thread with her teeth once she was done in a very un-doctorly way. It was good that infection was less of a risk in the apocalypse that had the Physique and Stamina stats upgradeable.
Suddenly, something landed near them and they both turned to look, startled.
It was an [Ellain’s] medical item, and a small pouch.
They both looked in the direction the items had been thrown from and saw a green zone with two figures occupying it. The smaller of the two waved cautiously as they looked.
Now that the crowd of monsters had moved on, they could now see over to Yoo Joonghyuk and Lee Gilyoung’s safe space. They remained quite some distance away, but must have seen Dreamer tending to something and made their own assumptions from there, since this was the last location they had seen the monsters swarming Kim Dokja from. Dreamer took a moment to marvel at the accuracy of Yoo Joonghyuk’s distanced throwing.
However…
“They can’t see me, can they? The Stone makes me invisible to monsters and other incarnations, usually. It’s only you who differ in that regard, presumably because of your attribute,” he asked somewhat hesitantly.
Dreamer shrugged. “I wasn’t hiding my own presence, so they can at least see me. I don’t know about you,” she looked in the pouch and found some more Spectre’s Stones within.
Her eyebrows raised at this. “Oh? He can see what I’m doing from all the way over there? And worked this much out from it? And is giving me these?” She was quite surprised. However… “Seems he’s more considerate than he lets on, even at this point. Tsundere fool.” The last part was muttered quietly.
“Of course, he can. He has [Sage’s Eyes], remember? Even if his eyes can’t see through regular vision, he can still determine which skills and items you are using and interacting with and would of course know how to benefit from the skill. I highly doubt he is sharing this with you just so you can heal me – it’s more likely he expects some other use from doing this, like stocking up on items or something. It’d have to be within the Probability for this stage of the scenarios, however…. Hmm…” Kim Dokja explained very seriously and confidently to her, looking deep in thought.
Dreamer mildly rolled her eyes where he couldn’t see because of course he wouldn’t know better yet about the heart of that other fool he adored because he knew too much about him and failed to see the things he expressed clearly at this point as a result. She could relate.
However, she set about sitting through the healing items with clear uses – that he absolutely had no reason to share for any other reason than to have used on Kim Dokja’s ragged body, regardless of Kim Dokja’s own confusion and assumptions about Yoo Joonghyuk’s intentions, leaving him to follow his own weird trains of thoughts She could address his trust issues regarding the people around him later.
“Well, since he wants to help, we should show our thanks properly, no? You work out what items he expects or would find most useful from me at this point in the scenario, and I will treat your dumb ass for the physical wounds left. Can’t do anything about the emotional ones for now, unfortunately,” she said sardonically. “If you don’t work out what he wants or needs specially, I’ll just summon the best healing items I know about so far, since my knowledge of

things is really lacking compared to yours. I don’t know if I can actually summon items I don’t already know about and can imagine or recall properly though, so it might be moot anyways if I don’t know them,” she explained, then pointed to the bottle of [Ellain’s Forest Essence] that was amongst the items shared with them. “I’ll feed that to you last, since you’ll get knocked out for it again and I don’t think I can jump back around your head again. Now, say ‘ah’,” she directed, selecting a less-gross looking ectoplasmic stone from the pouch.
Kim Dokja made a disgusted face. “No – what are you doing now?” he asked with horror and wariness, “Won’t that just send me back to the Phantom Prison? No – that was awful, even though you showed up fast. There is no need,” he declared, leaning away from her while trying to remain in contact so his consciousness didn’t start blurring again.
“Don’t be a numpty – I’d never put you back there! I know what I’m doing and we need to say thanks properly, so they have to actually see you are okay – and that I’m not just arguing with myself here, muttering over your unconscious form – so open your damn mouth and eat the gross Spectre guts so I can help your form stick better so they can see it,” she instructed, getting up while he continued to lean as far away from her as possible, looking like a child who really didn’t want to eat his vegetables.
Their audience – of more than just the two cuties in the green space in the distance – must have been somewhat bewildered by the sight of Dreamer trying to cram a glowing stone into something unseen’s mouth.
Eventually, she crushed the stone in her hand and just had him breathe the substance in instead of eating it and was able to make him visible to others. She grinned and gestured towards him to the two in the distance, calling out even though they wouldn’t be able to hear her from here, “YOUR HYUNG IS FINE, YOU GUYS!”
Kim Dokja’s expression turned weird at this, but he only sighed and began trying to do some weird silent communication thing with Yoo Joonghyuk while Dreamer returned to his body and the remaining stones and items.
She dutifully treated him as best she could as a non-medical professional and summoned the items Kim Dokja expressed to her about, which she heavily suspected had been edited by his own suggestions because he had the habit of thinking he knew better than even Yoo Joonghyuk did, but she didn’t mind since she knew it was useful either way for both of them since they were idiots who still intended to move separately for some dumb reason.
She was just glad that she had seen Lee Gilyoung’s relieved expression well enough from here to know he should worry a little bit less about Kim Dokja now. Meanwhile, Yoo Joonghyuk looked annoyed at her including him in the call of ‘your hyung’. It was a bit of a joke for her, since she was well aware that he was actually much older than Kim Dokja at this point in the weird time loop, even though his body was technically younger by a few months. Kim Dokja had been the one to joke about that first, technically, so she was just having a little fun by herself. Since she knew she was relatively safe from Yoo Joonghyuk’s potential ire across the world as her physical self was, even though she felt that it was reserved primarily for Kim Dokja over others.
While they schemed and teased each other while she stayed (with Kim Dokja frequently grumbling about how unfair it was that she could make use of corporeal objects when he couldn’t do the same, to which she replied about having significantly more practice with it than him), two distant figures appeared to watch their interactions with interest. Only Lee Gilyoung had met her before, and only briefly, when they had faced the Spectres in the first tunnel.
Some of the items Dreamer was instructed to summon she had been unable to due to space, scenario, or substance restraints, but she had managed to gather enough of them that Yoo Joonghyuk should be appeased with their efforts, even if Kim Dokja had purposefully altered some of them.
Kim Dokja then watched her writing something down to place amongst the items. “What’s that for? It’s not an item I know of.”
She had placed a roll of something that looked like transparent bandages, or perhaps cling film, amongst the items and wrapped the note around it with large, ‘FOR YOO JOONGHYUK’ letters written on the folded paper.
“Like I wrote down, it’s for him to use in ●●● ●●●●●●● ●●●●●●●. Since you’ll be busy handling the station and Gong Pildu while he’s gone, this should help him deal with ●●● ●●●●●●● ●●●●●● until help comes – ah, sh*t. Anyways, it will help him. Even though he has you too,” she did her best to explain, despite ‘the theatre dungeon’ and ‘the theatre master’ getting filtered out and altering her following choice of words as a result, since they would also be blocked. She didn’t always notice, but Kim Dokja had signalled to her about it immediately, having grown used to it by now. “It’s not an item from the

since it’s one I know of and created from my own past dreams. It’s mine, not theirs, so you wouldn’t know of it yet.”
He was giving her a contemplative look again, but she ignored it. Then, his expression lightened, and he pointed towards the note. “You know that isn’t in Korean, right?”
Dreamer blinked, then rolled her eyes. She hadn’t paid attention to it, but it didn’t matter because… “Well, I’m not technically speaking Korean right now either, you know? Interpretation often comes with the dreamt consciousness bullsh*t, rather than my conscious self’s knowledge. And I have translation skills anyways, you know? It’s fine if it’s in English since there’s no way Yoo Joonghyuk won’t have that translation skill by now after his past regressions with people like Anna Croft. Am I right?” she replied as if she already knew the answer.
Kim Dokja relented. “…You’re correct. What did you even write down? I don’t have the same skill, so I likely won’t understand you outside of your dreamt moments like this.”
“Just how and when he ought to apply it, as well as what it does. If he doesn’t use it all up, he can apply it to other scenarios as well. You’re banned from stealing it from him without his permission, okay? It’s to help him, not you. Don’t think I can’t tell your thoughts about him being strong enough without it – we both know that isn’t accurate, despite all his impressive points. You’re the same, but this won’t help you right now. I’ve already used it on you before anyways – did you not notice?”
“…Not especially. You usually explain what items you’re using when you’re treating me,” he defended. “I assumed if you hadn’t explained, it wasn’t important.”
She tilted her head at this, having not realised she’d left it out. Well, she had already explained it to him before – just not this version of him, but the ‘him’ on the train. That would explain it, she realised.
She clicked her tongue at herself upon thinking that far. “Alright, I’ll remedy that now. You said you wanted to check on the others’ wellbeing while I’m here? Let’s take a walk,” she suggested, having finished tampering with her small hoard of goods that she carefully packed into Kim Dokja’s bag (he had already stashed his ‘main’ pack elsewhere, but kept a smaller one on him when facing the monsters for this scenario).
After walking back down the tunnel in the direction of his other party members, Dreamer got fed up with his grip and shuffled him around until they were instead just holding hands because she did not care about that when it was simpler just to lead each other like this (and she was glad to see that he was not flustered even a little by this, as he would have been with Yoo Sangah or the others – he must have gotten used to her already), they realised that it was Dreamer whose form was beginning to blur this time.
They looked down at her in sync.
“Uhh, you feeling alright, Dreamer?” Kim Dokja asked with concern. They had almost reached where Lee Gilyoung and Yoo Joonghyuk were.
She looked back down the way they came and raised her free hand to stir in the air around them. “Ah. It’s the same issue as before – no mist to make use of. This doesn’t count as a dream space for me past this point, it seems.”
She began pulling out the items she had kept on her to treat any injuries on the others with once they reached them and made to hand them over to him. “If you can manage to maintain your own consciousness enough to reach them, you might be able use these – oh, wait, you can’t hold them. Ah,” she realised part-way through her own words. She instead crouched to place them safely on the ground.
“What’s going on?” Yoo Joonghyuk called over to them, now within hearing range.
“She can’t stay without using more Stones, and she already said she ought to save the rest in case we need them again for something else,” Kim Dokja called back in explanation.
Yoo Joonghyuk frowned. “Why doesn’t she just use –“
His words were interrupted by Dreamer abruptly standing back up. “sh*t! I didn’t know he hadn’t died by this point yet!” she said with wide eyes, shifting objects around quickly before reaching for the pouch of stones and immediately using one on herself so she could remain here. “Come on! We’ve wasted enough time I didn’t realise we had!” She tugged at Kim Dokja’s hand and dragged him after her as she ran – fast, so he found it difficult to keep up and naturally slowed her down – further into the tunnel, past Yoo Joonghyuk and Lee Gilyoung’s space entirely without even glancing back at them.
Kim Dokja, however, glanced over to see an irritated expression on Yoo Joonghyuk’s face. Then he faced their path to see a figure bleeding out on another platform that had once held a green space on, that the dokkaebis had removed right in front of them earlier.
It was the young teen who had been a part of Lee Jihye’s group before arriving here, who had been overrun by monsters earlier that night.
Dreamer dropped down beside his mangled form, taking Kim Dokja’s hand she was still holding and placing it onto her shoulder so her hands were once again free.
Once he crouched beside her, she began speaking rapidly as she worked in a serious tone.
Intermittently in her descriptions of the treatments she was giving – which were obviously for Kim Dokja’s benefit and not the barely-alive body that she was currently rushing to treat, having somehow seen him still breathing from where they had just been – she seemed very close to tears. “I didn’t know – I thought he was already dead by this point!” she was saying as if making excuses or defending her actions. “Had I known, I would’ve – I would’ve – “
Kim Dokja knew that she had needed to help him at the time but would not have taken as long as she had in treating him if she had thought someone else needed help nearby. He didn’t know her that well yet, but as she always said she did, this particular incarnation wore her heart fairly obviously on her sleeve, so someone young like this that she could help would obviously be something she cared about.
Speaking honestly… He was the same. But unlike her, he had extensive knowledge of the cruelty of the world they had been plunged into and knew that it was not possible to save everyone, no matter how strong your willpower or your best intentions.
Feeling her particular sense of guilt and regret, he gently squeezed her shoulder, since that was all he could offer right now. He wished he could assist her in treating him, but in his current state, he couldn’t touch anything except her.
Nonetheless, the comfort seemed to help her regain her focus and she blinked back her tears to concentrate on saving this unfortunate kid’s life.
You couldn’t even see the freckles she knew were there on his face through the blood and cuts. The monsters truly had shredded his small body. It was amazing that he was clinging onto life even now.
She worked hard. At some point she had run out of useful items and used another stone to rush back to Kim Dokja’s body to retrieve more of them, heedless of Yoo Joonghyuk’s comments and judgement of her using things for this purpose and dragged Kim Dokja back and forth with her as she treated the boy again. It would be enough if he only lived through this night, since then Kim Dokja could force the station into working together and keeping them as a majority alive (if not entirely uninjured).
Kim Dokja kept pace with her without protest and watched with sad eyes as she worked. Eventually, she stopped her explanations of the treatments to detail him on the setup her own station had taken during her own third main scenario, in a kind of worried rush of words clearly meant to convince him to keep the injured survivors like this poor kid safe behind the stairs she knew he would break later, to keep them behind the frontlines of the fight with the monster hordes, even if they didn’t look after him other than that. She seemed to grow increasingly upset because she knew that this kid hadn’t been deemed important or useful enough by Yoo Joonghyuk to warrant saving in this round – not that he might have known about the dokkaebi’s interference necessarily – and that he also hadn’t been loved or known enough by Kim Dokja to be saved, even though he definitely had had no way to save him earlier and she knew that.
She began babbling a little bit, and he had to squeeze her shoulder again a bit more firmly to prevent what appeared to be a growing panic.
“Dreamer – breathe. You’re doing all you can – more than most would be able to do in this situation, in fact. You can’t affect the outcome of his life just by finding him and treating him, you know? You can’t stay here forever, and he will need to look after himself again soon. You can’t be there for everyone, especially from the other side of the world, and only while you are sleeping. You’ve done enough. We can keep him safe during the rest of this scenario while he’s recovering if he makes it that long. You’ve done enough, Dreamer,” he spoke evenly, as if to soothe.
Dreamer blew out a shaky breath and clasped her bloodied hands together. “You’re right. I can’t stay,” she admitted to herself with reluctance. “It’s been hard enough to stay this long as it is…”
Kim Dokja blinked at this. “You were already forcing yourself?” he asked with some concern.
She lightly nodded. “Duh. I’d already stayed a long time with you as it was, so of course staying another couple of hours would be difficult, especially with needing to use more stones for the increased distance. This place is not a dream space for me, so existing here is much harder than normal when I’m asleep. I should have been dragged into some other dream space by now, ordinarily,” she stated, still anxiously observing the kid who was somehow still breathing in front of them.
“Hey, Kim Dokja,” she called behind her.
“Yes?” he prompted.
“You don’t have to look after him, of course, since I know you can’t look after everyone and I don’t even know enough about this kid to know if he would even be safe around the rest of you, but… Could you at least find out his name for me, for next time? Even – even if he doesn’t wake up… Lee Jihye at least should know… Please let me know the next time we meet?” she requested.
“I can do that,” he agreed. “Are you going to leave now?”
She nodded. “Yeah. Oh, but we need to at least tell them what will happen to you once I’m gone, or they’ll both worry,” she added, looking back towards Lee Gilyoung and the scowling Yoo Joonghyuk.
Kim Dokja had shared some words with them as they sped back and forth earlier, but they had not had a proper conversation yet in her haste to help the dying kid. Since she would be leaving, Kim Dokja’s form and consciousness would become blurred again, and they wouldn’t be able to keep seeing him – only his body once the night had passed and the spaces released them.
Wearily, she got to her feet and bundled up her remaining things to take with them as she led him back over to his friends. She placed them beside their green space and quickly explained the situation to them with tired eyes, all peppy eagerness gone as if she had never owned such a disposition.
When she finished and before she departed, Yoo Joonghyuk spoke up.
“Why are you trying to save him? You said you aren’t from this dome and can’t stay,” he asked.
“There was a gap between the lines that needed filling in. That’s where I belong. Doing this – filling this role – that’s the gap nobody else fit.” Dreamer pointed towards the unconscious kid. “That kid fell into the gap, so of course I would act to try and save him. Don’t you seek to know those that the story forgets, too? There’s no way to be sure of who you do or do not know in other world lines. Maybe that kid is one of our loved ones in some? Or maybe I just saw someone I might be able to help, and it is in-character for me to do so regardless of anything else, illogical or unwise as others might consider it to be. You might see it this way, but I see everyone as having a useful existence if you help express their potential properly or give them the chance to grow.”
She shook her head. “Nevermind. It doesn’t matter. I just did this because I wanted to, that’s all. If I regret it later, so be it. I’d regret it more if I never tried to let him live to have the possibility of that or anything else.”
Eh, she really felt tired, and shook her head some more, scrubbing her face roughly. “No, I’ve had enough explaining. It’s time for me to leave. Please look after Kim Dokja once I am gone, Lee Gilyoung-gun, Yoo Joonghyuk-ssi. Kim Dokja, please keep your head straight.”
With these words, Dreamer finally released her tentative hold on her presence here and let herself fade from the dream once more.

Chapter 30: Chapter Twenty-six – Tentative Representative (4) (MS#4 continued, hospital return)

Chapter Text

After some heavy planning and discussion of routes and division of station members the next time she awoke, Dreamer set out with a decent amount of their firepower to lead up to one of the nearest stations, Southwark, that they had received from information from other travellers from during the third scenario and felt was safe enough to begin their station-claiming route with.
However, as they passed through Waterloo East to get to it from, they discovered a lone white flag in its flagpole there, without any survivors nearby to claim it with.
Had this been some kind of System error? Why was this place considered a separate station if nobody else remained here? Had the

even looked at the places it chose to be its bases, or had it placed them based on some other arbitrary understanding of the stations and landmarks of each world’s capital cities?
“Stop overthinking it and just grab it, you goof,” Anya snarked at Dreamer. “Or one of us will take it and become a competitor or something.”
Ignoring the insincere threat, Dreamer did as Anya bid and walked over to acquire the flag, feeling a little bit like this was cheating the system at its own, horrid game.
After this, no monsters or scheming incarnations popped out of the shadows to accost them, and so her group continued to Southwark.
Dreamer had left Damian, Ciara, Iskra, Steph, and some others behind to ensure their main base was guarded properly but made sure to bring Kaelsi, Devin, and Anya with her as the three best melee fighters of their group. The goal they were aiming for was not to kill the opposing stations’ representatives but to overpower them quickly so they had no choice bit to submit if negotiations failed.
Unfortunately, she was still under a heavy penalty from overextending herself in the scenario prior to this one, so her own abilities would not be able to be used as freely for now. Sammy had accompanied them and was taking up the role of her carer and medic for the time being as well.
They had also taken several other station members along with them, to be safe. Only those with the least chance of dying went with them, however.
Thankfully, due to the large number of survivors from the third scenario and the wanderers the radio broadcast group had brought along with them to Waterloo, their base station had plenty of members to divide up like this safely – or as safely as you could get in a world hellbent on making everyone fight for survival, at least.
Surprisingly, taking over Southwark wasn’t much of an ordeal, probably because of some of them catching sight of Squidi and his accompanying friend Aper and promptly determining that they were not about to mess with people who had monsters on their side (wise, though more because Anya was there than the little monsters themselves).
After this, Dreamer led the group back through Waterloo, switched the parties up a bit, and headed back out to get any other stations on their way back to the hospital, where Dreamer anticipated another base to have been made, right opposite their target station, no less. Her goal was to acquire St. Thomas’ Hospital peacefully since they knew the people who should still be there, before tackling Westminster itself, which was likely even larger and tougher of a target than their own base was.
Damian requested to go with them to the hospital, so Anya opted to remain behind this time as Deputy tasked with guarding the station, while Steph, Ciara, and Devin remained with her. Kaelsi, Iskra, Damian, Sammy and Akari chose to accompany Dreamer to the hospital, wanting to meet up with the rest of their original group, their original colleagues and friends.
-
When they reached the hospital, they were greeted by a turret pointing directly at them.
After holding their hands up and relaying to its owner that they were here to speak with Camryn Allard and that they were allies, the one manning the turret seemed to realise who exactly it was seeking entrance and sent one of their comrades off to presumably let them know.
A few moments later, familiar faces ran out from the main entrance into the gardens where Dreamer and her group had been waiting, assessing the state of it for potential use later – if all went well here.
Amidst the reunions between colleagues, Dreamer herself approached Camryn alongside Damian, with neither of needing to even glance at each other before approaching in-sync together.
“I’m glad to see you survived well,” Camryn said by way of greeting as the three of them stopped in front of each other.
“Same to you, Director,” Damian returned respectfully.
Camryn grinned, then grew serious. “Alright, let’s get down to the serious business now. I assume your group came here to ally with us? Or are you here to ‘conquer’ us?” they asked directly. “Do I need to fight you for your flag, Doctor Kumiȩga?”
Despite saying these things, the glint in Camryn’s eyes was not malicious, but rather lightly amused, as if they were sharing a joke.
Dreamer felt Damian’s faze turn onto her and she just knew he would be smirking at her again. She let out a weary breath before speaking. “No, you don’t need to fight me, Director Allard,” she said reluctantly, as if just wearing this role of ‘representative’ was a burden. “Rather, we’re here to talk, and negotiate an alliance. Our target station isn’t yours, but we could use your help and have plenty to offer in return. But mostly, none of us want to fight you guys here – to us, you’re still a part of our team, you see?”
Dreamer turned her head pointedly to highlight where Akari had taken some poor man in a headlock, Sammy was crouching beside a young kid with many pieces of life sustaining equipment on his wheelchair, and Iskra was crying audibly as she hugged Axel close, with him looking down at her with warm eyes and comforting pats on her back. All of them had started the scenarios here, after all, and had left on good terms with the intent of meeting again if they survived long enough.
None of them were prepared to trick or subdue each other for gain.
Camryn lightly chuckled. “My apologies for the assumption, Representative. I should have known it’d end up this way, given how assured you were about the things we would experience with the scenarios. Thank you for that, by the way. Our preparations meant we were able to protect many lives here,” they said sincerely, lightly bowing their head in gratitude to her.
Dreamer’s expression contorted slightly, feeling embarrassed and guilty. “No – there’s no need for thanks. It hurts me less this way, anyways, so you’re actually doing me a favour in protecting this place and helping others wherever the scenario allows for it. And, I wouldn’t have taken this position if it hadn’t been greatly encouraged by some people…” she pointedly glared at her smirking colleague.
“I see,” Camryn said, then clapped their hands lightly together. “Well, you’ll be glad to know that the negotiations are not needed. St Thomas’ will not be forming an alliance with you.” Despite their words, Camryn remained smiling broadly, as if they had just told a joke.
However, this was not something funny to Dreamer, and her heart raced in her chest as she began to panic – did they mean, they would try to kill them here?
“Specifically, we will not form an alliance with you because we have a better offer. Since you said I did you a favour by protecting this place, you should take this opportunity to pay it back by accepting our terms and carrying out our own ‘favour’. Here – take it,” they commanded, pulling something out from the front of their outfit and holding it out to Dreamer.
Dreamer’s jaw fell open upon seeing the item being offered to her freely. After a moment of stunned silence, laughter erupted from beside her. It was Damian.
“Ahahaha! Of course, it’d be like this. Director, did you know that I really respect you?” he spoke through his lengthy laughs.
The item being offered was the hospital’s red flag.
“Wha–?” Dreamer began in shock but was interrupted.
“Of course, it is not for free. The favour I ask of you in return is quite large. And like you, I don’t really want to oversee more places than just this place, you know? I’m already tired just getting to the other places, and after the hidden scenario activated when those bastards attacked us from the other bases and we went to quickly occupy their flagpoles, I realised the scenario would take me further from this place if it continued. Since I don’t want to die either to pass it, this was my solution, and the others here agreed to it before you arrived,” they explained. “Thus, please occupy our station quickly, Representative Dreamer.”
Blinking the shock back from her head, Dreamer looked up from the flag to Camryn’s smiling eyes. “What is the favour you need from me in return?” she asked with firmness. Despite her fervent wish for this to happen without requiring a fight, she knew that nothing in these scenarios could happen so easily like this, so the task must be large indeed.
Camryn seemed appeased at this response. “Take Guy’s Hospital back from those bastards,” their eyes lit with a bright passion as they explained their case. “They are currently under the command of London Bridge who are on good terms with them, but the bastards from the bases across the Thames from them have been attacking constantly to try and obtain it from them. Take down those Tower Hill bastards and protect Guy’s from them, and we will follow you diligently from here.”
Ahh, now she understood. It appeared that even with the world falling to its current state, some bonds remained hard to break – even between partnered hospitals.
Well, they needed to acquire plenty of stations before the end of this scenario anyways, so adjusting their planned route would be a fine compromise for something like this to go so smoothly between allies.
“I accept the terms of your offer,” Dreamer stated decisively.
“Great! That is most definitely a relief,” Camryn said, waggling the flag in front of them again. “Hurry and take this then, and I can fill you in on the details.”
Dreamer, however, did not take the flag, only looking at it a bit awkwardly. “Err, Director Allard? You really should not just hand your flag over like this. There are a couple of methods of taking over a base and its members, and the best one for us would be to peacefully occupy the flagpole with my flag. Otherwise…” she gestured towards the glitchy system messages at the side of her vision describing the scenario’s contents.
Camryn paled and hastily withdrew their hand. “Oh. I see. Well then, just… follow me.”
One method was to occupy a base station with your own flag, and the other method that was used primarily in this scenario… was to kill the flagbearers of other stations and then go to occupy them.
Since no-one here wanted to kill Camryn, Dreamer and Damian calmly followed behind them to their flagpole. They took careful note of all the defences set up along the way, as well.
After successfully gaining control of their base and its members, their group settled down for a long discussion with the members there to adjust their plans and update each other on the developments they had experienced until this point.
Dreamer and Damian shared their target station’s name with Camryn and their crew and expressed their request for assistance from the hospital’s members in taking over Westminster base, across the river from this hospital. They easily agreed.
Damian, Dreamer, and the others then worked together to replot their path for this fourth scenario, to ensure they occupied enough bases per day to avoid the death penalty and successfully complete the King’s Qualifications hidden scenario that had already appeared on their way here.
The plan was to tackle Westminster, head up towards Embankment, come back down towards Jubilee Gardens and Waterloo to check up on the others, before heading across to London Bridge and Guy’s to see the situation there and what to do next about Tower Hill’s group.
It would certainly take a lot longer than Kim Dokja’s original run had in the story Dreamer had read. However, it should also be a great deal less rushed as a result. Unlike his story from then, Dreamer did not intend to flip over the scenarios she was taking part in or disrupt the power balances of the scenarios of this world.
She would leave all the wider goals and stories to be obtained to Kim Dokja; her job was just to keep her side of the world safe, for as long as she was able.
There would be plenty of time to get involved in the complicated sh*t he’d be doing later. For now, she would perform her role as dance monkey with the rest of them stuck in this

hell.
*****

Chapter 31: >>Interlude – Resets and Loss << (A tries to shield YJH from bad brain sh*t in Theatre Dungeon rooftop garden)

Chapter Text

A translucent figure bearing Dreamer’s appearance blinked her eyes open amidst the greenery of a rooftop garden. There was a dome covering the space here and two figures separated by several feet here. One looked like an elderly gentleman sat on a stone bench, while the other was a tall man in a black coat, looking pained with his fists clenched and shaking.
Of course, she recognised where this was. However, with a quick glance around, she could see that, contrary to what she had first expected, they were alone here, with no other familiar beings having appeared yet.
That meant she might be able to diminish the amount of pain these people who did not know her would be about to inflict upon each other, even though they might amount to little more than strangers to most perspectives that were not her own.
It seemed the Theatre Master’s Simulacrum had not yet gained full control over Yoo Joonghyuk. His expression was enough sign of that.
This translucent person, Angelica, had a lot of feelings when it came to this story, and this man. She was aware of plenty, and yet she still wanted to come here, to try and do whatever she could to prevent anyone else from feeling the same kind of pain that she was all too familiar with.
Like the pain of someone else controlling your actions to inflict pain upon loved ones, and the pain of feeling alone in a world full of people you knew different versions of. The pain of losing them, and the pain of dying to save them only to meet them again as strangers.
Angelica approached the man in the black coat with silent footsteps, unseen by either party currently battling for conscious control of his body. She glanced askance at the old man smirking as if he had already won.
He was eroding Yoo Joonghyuk’s already fragile mind with more ease than was fair to inflict upon someone as steadying as he was. A grey-white aura of something seemed to be trying to infiltrate into him like a mist.
Without waiting, Angelica stepped between the frozen, shaking Yoo Joonghyuk and the old man sending this mist to attack him, and since she was aware that she could not interfere too noticeably here, got to work rebuilding his defences while unseen.
She raised her hands to either side of his temples and mentally threw herself onto the crumbling barrier between his mind and the mist eating away at it like acid.
Preferably, she would not actually enter his head without permission, since that was something she herself had dealt with far too often and Yoo Joonghyuk already had enough external entities to block without worrying about another entering uninvited.
Instead, she remained on this barrier and began supplanting the lost material eroded away by the acid-like magic power mist with her own, sturdier material.
She couldn’t do much about the mist that had already entered through the gaps, but no further foreign magic power should be able to get through to him. Like this, he should be able to push what he was already battling with back out and regain control of himself.
More importantly, his mind would not have to get suppressed and shoved deeper into all his worst feelings of despair, futility, loss, and insignificance to the grand wheel of time he felt trapped in.
However, while she was still reinforcing the shimmering golden threads bolstering his mental defences from the outside, she felt a shock occur that disrupted his concentration and enabled the mist already within him to wreak havoc and regain a foothold it had just been about to lose.
She refocused on their immediate surroundings to see a familiar face standing behind Yoo Joonghyuk, starting to frown as he hesitantly asked, “Yoo Joonghyuk?”
It was Kim Dokja of the current world line. Dreamer had already forewarned him of this, so why…?
Ah, from his expression, he hadn’t realised that this guy’s mind was already under attack. Then, he must have actually managed to clear the previous hidden scenario events more quickly, like Dreamer had advised, right?
Yet, he had to ruin all his hard work by whacking Yoo Joonghyuk in the back of the head right when he was about to gather his wits back together and expel the foreign Mental Erosion matter.
Angelica clicked her tongue in irritation as Yoo Joonghyuk began to turn around slowly. She attempted to hold his head in place as carefully as she could, but this only slowed his movements, not stopped them.
With a sigh because she knew what was about to follow, she removed her hands from his head and began spinning threads in her hands like a kind of glowing cat’s cradle of golden energy that the others present could not see, just like her own form.
[The character ‘Yoo Joonghyuk’ has used Force Palm Lv. 4!]
“W-wait a minute!” the stupid Kim Dokja stammered as he attempted to dodge.
With a tired expression, Angelica stepped between the two of them, holding her glowing cat’s cradle in the air before his blow was due to land on the stupid Kim Dokja’s side. As the palm moved through the threads, its power diminished just enough for Kim Dokja’s armour to block the rest of the damage at the expense of itself. He would still feel the blow, but it was slowed enough that it wouldn’t be as direct nor as powerful as it otherwise would have been.
Despite these two fools constantly whacking each other’s heads, she knew that neither of them actually wanted to see the other in significant pain, even at this point in their respective lives when they did not yet remember or know each other as well as they might in future, and their other selves had done.
Thus, since it was still going to go this way despite her attempted intervention, this was the next step she needed to take to protect them from getting too hurt and giving each other any lingering fear of the other’s strengths – for these two, and for Jung Heewon, Lee Gilyoung, and Lee Jihye as well.
As Kim Dokja was still pushed back, Jung Heewon stepped up to tackle him, her eyes burning with the red light of Demon Slaying.
Since she knew what to expect from this fight now, Angelica held her cat’s cradle and waited for the next required intervention, knowing that despite her fervour, the current Jung Heewon likely would not be able to land a hit on Yoo Joonghyuk yet, even while her development may have differed from the original path Angelica knew of.
As expected, Jung Heewon could only defend against the blows rushing in from him, and despite Angelica stepping beside her to catch each blow that would land on her to reduce its impact, she nevertheless got pushed back, albeit having taken much less damage this time. She seemed mostly winded from the exertion and hits.
Meanwhile, Yoo Joonghyuk seemed to be experiencing something unexpected. His expression began to morph in pain again, and his movements briefly halted while his fists clenched and unclenched repeatedly as he stood in place.
Looking across to the blue screen Kim Dokja had pulled up revealing Yoo Joonghyuk’s stats, Angelica had to do a double take.
Where originally this screen would have had a note at the bottom reading: [*The character is currently in a loss of reason state.], there was instead a line reading: [*The character is currently in an unstable conflict for his sense of reason.]
Angelica blinked and looked back to the struggling Yoo Joonghyuk. She wished she could just undo his pain and free him, but without stepping in herself, she couldn’t just undo something that had already gotten into his mind to mess with him. And she couldn’t just restrain him completely without offering some sort of explanation to the damn

that was watching that rejected her perceivable presence and interventions.
She had to let him get himself out of it from here on, without being able to ask him for entry to his own head which could only go badly.
Thus, she focused on the rest of the things she could still safely affect.
As Lee Jihye rushed up the stairs to join the fight and narrowly missed getting badly hit and Kim Dokja called out for them to target the Theatre Master’s Simulacrum who was controlling him (partially), Angelica caught and slowed the attacks heading towards them both. However, each time she moved to block his attacks on Lee Jihye, she found it was not her threads that stopped the blows, but Yoo Joonghyuk himself pulling back just in time to avoid hitting her, only to look pained and conflicted once more, leaving the others room to retaliate.
Well, crap! She had known the hits the others would receive, but not Yoo Joonghyuk himself just yet. However, she was nothing if not experienced (and also excruciatingly self-aware of how her actions were wrought into being here) and deftly manoeuvred between the trio to ensure none of them got too seriously hurt.
Normally, she knew better than to get between fights like this where she took no side and just focused on damage reduction since it just kept the fight going for longer. This time, however, that was not the case. Because this time, she just needed time for him to remember himself.
Yoo Joonghyuk stepped back from where he had just been about to hit Lee Jihye and held a hand to his head.
“Master?” Lee Jihye asked cautiously.
In the distance, the Theatre Master frowned.
While Lee Jihye maintained a cautious approach to Yoo Joonghyuk, one hand on her sword and the other raised as if to calm a distressed animal, Jung Heewon made a beeline for the Theatre Master only to find herself knocked aside by Yoo Joonghyuk blocking her path like someone had tugged roughly on invisible strings over him. The Theatre Master’s control over his actions appeared unstable, and he was more likely to remember himself while facing Lee Jihye than he was when focusing on Jung Heewon.
While Jung Heewon was knocked away from her sword, Lee Gilyoung used his new weapon’s skill on Yoo Joonghyuk.
Angelica was prepared for this attack, however, and was already blocking in front of him, absorbing most of the attack herself like she was a power cell with plenty of room to charge – which, was probably not inaccurate in many cases, she supposed? She shook the thought from her head as she saw Kim Dokja speaking to Lee Gilyoung.
Well, f*ck. Yoo Joonghyuk still hadn’t regained his sense of self fully and Lee Gilyoung was about to hurt himself summoning Titano.
Leaving Kim Dokja to handle Yoo Joonghyuk for the time being, she instead moved behind Lee Gilyoung and braced his head with her hands, suppressing the effects his Diverse Communication had on him so that he could withstand the summoning of such a strong being less painfully. Someone had suppressed her fear in a similar way before, which helped her apply the technique here for his pain. Plus, she had experience in spades wherever pain was involved – whether hers or others’. It was nullified, but the mental pressure it put on him still resulted in a nosebleed. She began weaving a net of energy over his head to help maintain the effect and stepped back from him once it was done, checking it remained in place without contact needing to be kept, and it did.
She looked across to see Kim Dokja being pushed back by Yoo Joonghyuk. A blue screen appeared in front of him that Angelica could read.
[Exclusive skill, Omniscient Reader's Viewpoint stage 2 has been activated!]
Despite it being Kim Dokja who activated the skill, Angelica could read his thoughts from it as well.
「 It is painful. 」
「 Several more times in the future. 」
「 Do I need to repeat this? 」
Her heart stuttered as the familiar words repeated. Had she been able to make no difference to his mental state with any of these efforts?
‘I know that pain,’ Angelica thought towards the struggling Yoo Joonghyuk but knew he would not be able to hear her.
「I am the only living thing in this world. 」
‘I know that feeling too,’ she wanted him to hear, though she knew her own experiences differed from his own in many ways. Her heart felt heavy with the familiarity, nevertheless.
She watched with bemusem*nt as their fight continued with Kim Dokja holding a one-sided conversation in response to the thoughts Yoo Joonghyuk couldn’t think himself out of. Albeit less energetically, Angelica nevertheless continued to soften the blows they gave each other and listened to Kim Dokja’s increasingly frantic and revealing words bled his emotions into his voice, until…
「 I am alone. 」
"Alone?" Kim Dokja asked with a note of anger and… hurt.
「 I… 」
"What did I come here for if you are alone?" he asked in what sounded like a broken voice.
Angelica’s heart skipped a beat again as the emotions flooded across to her.
These words were not simply from ‘this’ Kim Dokja, but from the one who had imagined him here in the first place – if it could be simplified like that.
Those were Kim Dokja’s words, yes, but they were also the little Dream’s. This was Kim Dokja coming perilously close to breaking the bounds of the story he was acting in this role within, admitting his presence in this world itself was purposeful. For Yoo Joonghyuk. To provide him with someone who could stand beside him and help him reach the ending he wanted – one less solitary than those that had come before.
Angelica blinked back her own flood of emotions as the parallels to what she was doing here herself became horrifically apparent, and that of her Dreamer, too.
It was not only Kim Dokja who had thought to imagine a world line where the ‘characters’ within a story had someone present who could reduce their sense of suffering and loss.
Knowing exactly what she and Dreamer were within the bounds of this current story and world line, Angelica braced her own mind against the feelings Kim Dokja’s emotion-laden words to Yoo Joonghyuk triggered in herself and focused on just stopping Kim Dokja from cutting Yoo Joonghyuk’s hands in his frustration and desperation.
Kim Dokja’s hands were trembling as he wielded his sword against the man who had taught him so many things. The man who remained unaware of his own significance and importance in the universe was trembling as well.
Kim Dokja’s breathing was rough as he looked up to meet Yoo Joonghyuk’s eyes, only to be taken aback as a clear light appeared in them.
And… Yoo Joonghyuk was staring back at Kim Dokja with a strange expression on his face.
「 You… who are you? 」
“What?” Kim Dokja asked in a daze, not understanding what was happening as he listened to Yoo Joonghyuk’s thoughts.
「 What are you…? 」
Kim Dokja looked confused as Yoo Joonghyuk’s own wide eyes scrutinised the man before him.
Having realised something different to what she knew was taking place now, Angelica hesitantly stepped back from Yoo Joonghyuk’s side, feeling that perhaps, their fight was over.
She kept her guard up just in case, however, especially as the system messages proclaiming the Theatre Master was attempting to re-assert his control over Yoo Joonghyuk floated up before Kim Dokja.
However, Yoo Joonghyuk’s eyes did not lose their focus again. Instead, they grew sharper.
A white mist began swirling around Yoo Joonghyuk again, but Angelica knew it would not be able to get through the barriers she had reinforced earlier, and now that he seemed to have regained full control over his mind, Yoo Joonghyuk should not be vulnerable to his influence again.
She nevertheless stepped between the Theatre Master and him, glaring fiercely despite knowing it would not be received.
She could not see the expression Yoo Joonghyuk’s made while continuing to assess the bewildered man before him, but she could receive his thoughts as the skill remained active behind her.
「 Kim Dokja. What are you to me? 」
Upon hearing the new words, Angelica glanced back at the duo, only to see Yoo Joonghyuk turn to her – or the Theatre Master’s – direction and think something else.
It felt like he was staring directly at her, however.
「 And you. Who are you? 」
Angelica frowned and stepped back, startled. However, his eyes followed the movement, remaining on hers, not the Theatre Master’s behind her.
She gulped. ‘You can see me?’ she transmitted across to him in thoughts more than verbal words, lowering her hands with their cradle of threads to point a confirming finger at herself.
Before he could reply, however, Kim Dokja began speaking again.
“Joonghyuk,” he called out to him, making him turn back to his original focus. “Do you… have control of yourself? Or do I need to give you that hit you told me to make if I could?” His words were hesitant, as if he really wasn’t sure how to respond to the current situation compared to the forced confidence of before.
To be honest, Angelica wanted to confirm this as well, and she paid close attention to his next words.
This time, he glanced from Kim Dokja to the flustered Theatre Master past Angelica’s figure. He turned back towards Kim Dokja and nodded once in confirmation.
They turned in unison towards the Theatre Master with killing intent but before they moved a step, he unleashed the delirium skill he had clearly prepared when Yoo Joonghyuk started resisting his control.
Angelica stepped aside so that their path was clear to him, but unexpectedly, Yoo Joonghyuk struggled to move past the illusions of monsters.
Meanwhile, Lee Gilyoung had successfully called the sixth-grade insect king over and seemed to be struggling even through the net helping him cope with the effects of the skill, so Angelica moved towards him to assist him. Kim Dokja would have things with the Theatre Master handled.
The insect king began fighting the illusioned monsters like Yoo Joonghyuk was, and the delirium skill used meant it looked like they were making contact with the illusions in a real fight, but in fact, were not.
Angelica really wished she could simply tell Lee Gilyoung to release the skill as it wasn’t needed here now that Yoo Joonghyuk had regained his reason, but her words did not get through. Instead, she did her best to ensure he did not cry from any pain or uncomfortable sensations, only having the built-up pressure to deal with that she couldn’t fully offset.
Kim Dokja finally finished with the Theatre Master – or, the Fourth Wall did? She wasn’t too sure this time, however he rushed over to Lee Gilyoung right away and caught him as he fainted from over-exerting himself, albeit having been in less pain during the effort.
Of course, Angelica knew that ‘less’ pain still meant there was still pain to deal with, and her efforts hadn’t done much for the rest of the mental strain it placed upon him. She stepped aside and let Kim Dokja care for the small bean under his care.
However, something was odd. She looked over to see Titano staring down at her, next to Lee Gilyoung.
Kim Dokja looked at it with wariness, then glanced to Yoo Joonghyuk as if he could perhaps take on the sixth-grade species if needed (which, he could), but Yoo Joonghyuk was looking at the same place the insect king was – at her.
Unlike these two, however, Kim Dokja and the others still could not perceive Angelica’s presence. It was strange that Yoo Joonghyuk and Titano could, but she supposed she wasn’t exactly trying to remain unseen to anyone except the damn

, and she had placed her own fortifications over Yoo Joonghyuk’s mental barriers, which might explain how he could now detect her.
She walked towards the insect king that remained in place without immediately leaving, that made the others edgy. He hadn’t received any injuries from his appearance here, but she noticed that there was a wound he must have gotten previously from his fight with the poisonous rhinoceros that left a chunk of his chitin back-covering cracked. She slathered some summoned repair goop she had Dreamer often use on others over the weakened spot and stepped back from him, looking up into his weird face that reminded her of a giant praying mantis.
‘You should go now. He will call you again,’ she told him. With this, Titano easily turned and leapt from the shattered dome of the hidden scenario area, leaving the rest of them safe and alone.
Now the only eyes left on her belonged to Yoo Joonghyuk. He directed his thoughts towards her this time.
「Your name was Dreamer? 」
She blinked and glanced towards Kim Dokja, whose head had shot up upon receiving these words too. It seemed his skill was still active, and Yoo Joonghyuk knew or guessed she could hear them.
Angelica looked back to him and shook her head. ‘Yes and no. She will not remember this yet,’ she offered by way of what explanation she could currently get away with, having not initially planned to reveal herself here.
Kim Dokja was now looking searchingly towards where Yoo Joonghyuk was looking, but he could not see her.
She kept her eyes on the person most similar to ‘this’ version of her, and to herself as ‘Dreamer’, as she continued to speak towards Yoo Joonghyuk, not him. ‘Next time, actually use the mental protection items she very helpfully advised you to, even if you don’t fully trust her. The item poses no threat to you and can only be a help, even if you maintain your caution of her,’ she lightly admonished, knowing full well he did not trust easily even with these words if his interactions with Kim Dokja were anything to go by – in any world line.
Then, she turned to face him with a sad smile and poorly masked pain in her eyes. ‘It’s okay if you forget this, though. The world permits Dreamer to be remembered in that form we take, but it does not accept me. I don’t hold it against any of you. I forget myself quite often too. And… I’ll still try and visit.’
With a slightly brighter smile, Angelica waved towards the people she appreciated who could not know her in return and vanished from the rooftop garden and the dream in which she had been visiting.
Yoo Joonghyuk watched her go, then opened his mouth and made to move towards the other party members who had gathered together. “Kim Dokja –“ he began with seriousness, before slowing to a stop and promptly collapsing to the ground, more mentally exhausted than he had anticipated without Angelica’s reinforcement of his mind.
Kim Dokja moved closer to him with Lee Gilyoung still held securely in his arms and made note of Yoo Joonghyuk’s [Recovery] skill having activated to deal with the fallout from the fight.
He was left to ponder the events that had just taken place with Yoo Joonghyuk regaining his sense of self from Kim Dokja’s unexpectedly heartfelt words and mentioning Dreamer’s name while looking at something he himself could not perceive.
This also complicated his plans regarding the fourth scenario. He hoped this jerk woke up from his skill soon.
Meanwhile, he joined Jung Heewon and Lee Jihye as they looked out over the greatly changed landscape of Seoul city, feeling many emotions.
*****

Chapter 32: Chapter Twenty-seven – Tentative Representative (5) (MS#4 continued, Aprici familiarity chat)

Chapter Text

Three days later, Dreamer fell exhaustedly to sleep after they had finished dealing with a particularly frustrating battle with Piccadilly Circus’ Representative. Her group had stayed at the hospital to get their affairs in order before swiftly overtaking their target station of Westminster with St Thomas’ members’ help, checking on the stations now under their command to ensure their previous treatment under the other rulers was sorted out, and discovering in the process that Charing Cross and Embankment, with Trafalgar Square guarded by them, were under threat from the bigger neighbouring station group of Piccadilly.
Now that Piccadilly was suppressed and brought into the wider Waterloo group Dreamer lead, she finally had some room to breathe and rest before they returned to Waterloo to regroup and plan for their final push regarding the London Bridge and Tower Hill groups.
Dreamer had agreed to look after Guy’s Hospital in exchange for their aid and allyship, and thus that was what they needed to do, even if she could obtain a black flag through much less stressful means without going there.
It just meant that she was very, very tired when she fell asleep, and being the dreamer that she was, even in sleep, she remained busy as ever, moving between visits with the little Dream, the abyss duo Abaddon and Aikhtiar, the Kim Dokja on Earth in Seoul Dome who asked about the Theatre Dungeon she hadn’t been present for, and some others.
By the fifth day after the fourth main scenario began, Dreamer and the others had returned to Waterloo station to regather their forces and prepare for the larger leg of their journey up to Guy’s Hospital and the Tower of London to complete their end of the bargain they had struck with Camryn. They had stopped to capture Jubilee Gardens en-route, of course, and not just because Iskra had requested it as a necessity for her pride (due to the nickname the others had taken to calling her after the X-men character Jubilee). They had also been maintaining a list of garden and green spaces they could use to cultivate monster plants and healing plants of various Earth and extra-terrestrial species, and found they were very popular with many non-hostile monsters as well, such as the giant bumblebees.
In fact, the giant bumblebees they had met once before had been thrilled to meet someone as plant-savvy as Dreamer (who had made a special sugar water treat especially for the plant-loving insect species they came across), with Iskra, Sammy, Ciara, Del, and many others from their group also having a green thumb and obtaining the attention of many horticultural constellations watching over them since they had first discussed the plant species earlier in the scenarios.
Personally, Dreamer’s preferred garden space so far was the one outside the hospital that was most familiar to her, despite its much smaller size, but the few parks they had gathered were great for the larger things they could start growing now, for later into the scenarios.
Dreamer took a moment to observe one of the little potted plants she kept on her person (hung by her belt). A glitchy message that was the wrong colour for the regular system floated up in front of it, letting her know some features of the plant and some facts about its growth period and cultivation requirements. The orange messages had begun becoming more prominent since the first time she had noticed the floating particles that became more prolific when she focused on their presence. The same with the small blue particles, too.
She found that she could read not only her own messages, but also those of others, if she focused properly on them and could guess what sorts of things they might be seeing at the time.
She replaced the pot at her waist, secured it, and continued her path around Waterloo, where they had recently arrived and begun making plans at for the last leg of their King’s Road sub-scenario.
Someone stepped in her path on her way around, however. Their furry face looked extremely pissed and disgruntled, but she knew that was their regular expression, so it wasn’t anything scary. “What is that?” he demanded without ceremony, glaring at her shoulder.
Dreamer looked down at the offending thing and turned back to Aprici, shrugging. “A grumbly bumblebee. It followed us from the gardens. Does it offend you?” she asked with a slight, teasing grin.
The wolf-monster’s expression darkened. “It’s venomous. You’re weak. You’ll die.”
“This one is apparently a male, so I don’t think I need to worry as much about that, and it seems to think I’m a nice flower, see? It’s fine,” she replied.
“It has teeth that are venomous too. They are dangerous pests only good for agriculture. You shouldn’t carry one around,” Aprici corrected.
Dreamer looked down at her new bee friend. Her new bee friend looked at her and clicked its fangs like mandibles. Hmmm. Perhaps it was a little disconcerting.
Nevertheless, “It didn’t want to leave me when we tried to shoo it off earlier, and it isn’t doing any harm. The constellations seem to like it and think it’s cute.”
Aprici growled in irritation. “You are wearing red. They don’t usually visit red flowers. Something is up with that thing: get rid of it.”
Dreamer looked down at the bee again. The bee, which had been very upset when she had last tried to leave it behind them, seemed like it knew what was about to happen again and took this moment to fly onto her head where she couldn’t see, which was how it had followed all the way here in the first place – by hiding on her where nobody could spot it.
“Uhh, I really don’t think it’s going to be a problem. Even if it does attack me, I have plenty of detox items I could use, or could ask Iskra to save me if it’s really bad. It’s not like I have anything to hide from a bee, you know?” she commented lightly.
A bald, dark head then poked itself out from her top to stare at Aprici.
“Squidi isn’t worried about him either, so surely it’s fine?” she added.
Aprici made the same weirded-out expression he always did when he met the little eldritch being that stuck itself to Dreamer and sighed. “Whatever. You clearly have no sense of self-preservation if you keep picking up weird things like this.”
Dreamer tilted her head to the side and gave him her own weird look. It would have been even more startling to see the bee and Squidi with her, had Squidi’s little monster friend Aper still been following him around instead of staying with Cait and Jack. “Uhh, hate to break it to you, Señor Surly, but you are one of the weird things I ‘picked up’ as well, technically. Everyone else lumps you in with the monster brigade, which would include these fine couple of fellows here as well. Why are you so worried about me befriending new ‘weird things’ anyways? Don’t we hardly know each other?” she pointed out with some confusion. It definitely wasn’t just her who felt like he was overly concerned with her safety all of a sudden, was it?
His expression distorted strangely again. “That’s… You…” he sighed after failing to find the right words and spoke again, “You feel… familiar. Feia and I were discussing it before and feel like you must have been to our planets before at some point, to know his language and about my kind like you do. Neither of us recall your face, but at least for me, I feel like we must have met before. Feia does not feel that same familiarity, but he agrees you must know more about our cultures than can be easily explained by your skills, which we can only partially see.”
Dreamer hummed. They could see some of her skills? That was interesting, since even she herself couldn’t make it all out. Perhaps what they saw looked similar to what she did, with many omitted and hidden sections, bits blurred out or unintelligible?
“I felt something similar when I first saw you. Honestly speaking, I don’t know or remember where the familiarity comes from or how I might know you, but I knew I didn’t want you to die, before. So, I am glad you two agreed not to get murdered back then. That’s about all I can offer on the matter for now – My best guess is that I might have met you before ●● ● ●●●●●, since I have so many of them, but right now, I can’t recall which one it might have been or how I might know you…”
“What did you just say?” Aprici asked with confusion.
Squidi tapped her cheek and signed about the missing words.
Dreamer swore, crossing her arms in a huff and forcing Squidi out of his resting spot in the process. He floated beside her instead now.
“Aiyah, this is why nobody understands me!” she said dramatically, placing the back of her hand on her forehead and striking an exaggerated pose in her chair. “Alas! Alack!”
She then straightened up, sighed, and got back to somewhat seriousness. “Anyways, I appreciate the concern, Aprici, but the grumblebee stays for now, until I find a garden spot he likes enough to leave me alone without grumbling. You’re welcome to tag along for the next bit if you like, but you’ll need to get the Waterloo deputy’s go-ahead on that since I don’t know if they’ll need you here instead. It sounded like you guys had a good grip on defence things so far, though?”
Aprici was scowling. “I don’t need permission from a measly human incarnation! I will go where I want!”
He then looked at Dreamer’s raised eyebrows and backtracked a bit. “…That is, I will of course make sure that I am upholding my end of our… contract… when I choose to stay or leave. I will discuss it with Feia as well, or he will be upset.”
Dreamer nodded along. “Cool beans. Glad we had this chat. Was the grumblebee the only reason you sought me out?” she asked, beginning to wheel around the giant wolf being to continue her checks.
“No. I hadn’t anticipated it. There’s something else I needed to discuss with you. It’s about Feia. Since binding ourselves to the scenarios on your side, something has affected his darkness to reduce its influence, but we don’t know why it has happened and the dokkaebis aren’t forthcoming. We thought – since you seem to know his kind, you might have an idea what is affecting his abilities on Earth now that we do not have the blessing of your third scenario guarding our Probabilities.”
As he spoke, his face darkened again and he looked like he wanted to rip whatever was causing this apart.
“He is still much stronger than me, but my own shadows have not been affected. None of the other incarnations care to help and are too afraid to approach, but your companions and you do not share that fear. Come,” he directed, and Dreamer decided to postpone her other station checks to see what this might be about.

Chapter 33: Chapter Twenty-eight – Tentative Representative (6) (MS#4 continued, Katífeia restriction lifting)

Chapter Text

A figure sat on top of a dark, shadowy being with her legs crossed and eyes closed. Her hands were manipulating something in the air as she muttered to the floating squid-like being beside her.
Another figure sat not far away from them, tampering with a wheelchair with many tools.
The dark, shadowy being was glowering intimidatingly, but otherwise keeping silent.
Meanwhile, the one tampering with the wheelchair kept cussing and shouting as she got zapped or pinched her skin while manipulating components of it. An elderly, peculiarly muscular biker man was stood beside her, directing her on what to do next while seeming greatly amused at all her errors.
“Arghhh! You do it if I’m getting it so wrong!” Iskra flung her hands in the air as she sat back from her new project – personalised adjustments for Dreamer’s mobility aid, after seeing similar adjustments to other chairs, canes, walkers, and crutches at the hospital when they had visited it.
The old biker dude chuckled. “Nah. This is the best way to learn. Scooch up though and I’ll help.” This was Corwin, Del’s long-time partner and lover. They had very different personalities but were both readily supportive of ‘the younger generations’. Axel had befriended Corwin very quickly upon meeting him at the hospital, much to Del’s delight. Axel had suggested Corwin would get on well with Iskra since they shared technical interests, but it seemed that part of their brand of bonding was to irritate the sh*t out of Iskra while ‘patiently’ sharing his knowledge with her.
Dreamer was fairly certain the lessons would be returned with equal zeal and terror when it came to Iskra sharing her own knowledge with him in turn, but for now Corwin was the one acting smug and casual while she worked.
Meanwhile, Squidi and Dreamer were poking at the particles floating around the shadowy being, after discovering that it was not only Dreamer who could identify them and make sense of them. They had worked out that whatever was affecting Katífeia had messed up these little unknown things, too.
Originally, they had assumed the dokkaebis, the Bureau, or maybe just the

in general had imposed the restriction on him because he was too strong for the humans to make use of this early into the scenarios, but over in Seoul, Lee Gilyoung would have already called upon the Insect King he later names Titano, with Shin Yoosung taming Queen Mirabad and Lee Gilyoung capturing Queen Antinus not long after. Therefore, it was unlikely that lacking Probability was the reason for this effect.
They had been discussing it for some time now, with occasional questions directed towards the brooding Katífeia to determine how exactly he was affected.
Eventually, the two of them seemed to work out enough to start fiddling with the particles’ direction and location, guiding them around his body to help them determine where in his murky, dark, mass the problem resided within.
All three of them – Dreamer, Squidi, and Katífeia – could ‘understand’ the shadows to some degree and used this to manipulate them around as well to take a better look.
Eventually, Dreamer spotted something that looked like a brightly glinting line of particles that had amassed and hidden within other particles and shadows and gestured wildly towards it to Squidi before unceremoniously diving straight into the patch of darkness that made up this section of the tall being’s form. She vaguely heard Katífeia curse and Squidi squawk before grabbing hold of that new line of something and studying it up close.
Externally, it looked like her legs were sticking out of the shadowy mass that Katífeia was composed of, which made Iskra cackle as she worked.
Dreamer had never seen particles like this before, but when she touched them, she was overwhelmed by a feeling that split into two sensations of very different vibe, but which she knew that she frequently encountered elsewhere while dreaming. And… one of them was always attached to trusted allies and loved ones within her dreams, while the other was always, always ascribed to her worst nightmares and personal enemies.
These new particles felt like they belonged to something that gave off both those vibes – one of comfort and trust, and one of terrible horrors and fear.
The combination of the two together felt bizarrely even more familiar to her than anything else she had ever encountered did, and it made her extremely confused and emotional.
After touching it, however, she began to see what could probably be interpreted as lines of code, except not actual code but more like veins of runes or writing that wasn’t written in text or words, but more like sensations and feelings – a language that bypassed form to be delivered in.
It felt like her language. Like instincts. Only… warped?
She wasn’t entirely sure of what it was, but she knew that she knew it, hated it, and trusted it.
But… now that those sensations were felt together, from the same source… She felt she couldn’t trust it at all, and that those positive feelings were more like some kind of mask to cover up truths she herself didn’t want to face.
It…
It hurt.
She clung onto that line of not-code particles and though they tried to escape, she did not let them go.
However, neither did she have the mental capacity right now to pull herself and it back out from Katífeia’s form, so instead, she merely cried and cried, feeling like her heart had just been squeezed, crushed, and bizarrely – stroked lovingly, but by a hand she wanted nowhere near her.
A bald head suddenly squished itself in next to her and tapped at her cheek. When she didn’t respond, Squidi then extended his many limbs to wrap around her shoulders (currently devoid of bumbling bee waiting outside) and pulled her back out from the shadowy mass she had dived into.
Back outside the swirling darkness, Dreamer remained quietly weeping, clutching that thing tightly to her chest like she couldn’t let it escape.
Squidi tried to get her attention to focus by making snapping noises and tapping at her, but she was in no state to respond properly right now.
However, Katífeia must have felt back to normal again as he spread some of his darkness out from him again, covering a small area around them and startling Corwin and Iskra who were nearby.
Squidi’s tapping hadn’t gotten through to her, but this…
Dreamer calmed down, though her tears were still flowing and her heart – and her head? – still hurt in a way she couldn’t understand or articulate.
The darkness, as ever, made her feel safe in a way that being seen never had.
So, despite this thing she had found that hurt and was meant to be trusted and hated and feared, that she was still holding onto and was still making her feel like this… she calmed down and regained her composure.
“Squidi,” she said a little weakly, “this,” she emphasised as much as she was currently able, hoping that he would understand what she couldn’t, since he seemed to understand many things that the others couldn’t, and was by definition an incomprehensible being himself that had somehow become comprehensible to her plenty.
Dreamer opened her clutched hands and revealed the brilliantly glowing particles to him. The little squid’s eyes widened enormously, right as the particles dissipated in front of them, leaving absolutely no traces. Dreamer could have sworn she saw something strange flicked up in front of Squidi at the same time, as if in response, and the light of that flickering thing seemed to match the particles.
When she felt the particles leave, the horrible, awful, terrible, confusing sensations that fractured her emotions and mental state also began to fade, and as those feelings left, her own feelings settled a bit more, but the effect of having touched it, having learnt whatever she had just learned by finding out that both sensations were from one and the same source… that remained.
Squidi seemed to be breathing irregularly now as well as he looked all around as if to find where the particles had disappeared to.
Meanwhile, Dreamer was rapidly regaining her calm thanks to the darkness around them that Katífeia hadn’t drawn back into himself yet. She then raised her now-empty hands and used her skills to physically pull the shadows closer to her, wearing them like a blanket or cape.
Which… did not suit the vibes of the particular shadows and darkness that Katífeia controlled and emitted.
She began shaking uncontrollably and Squidi carried her down to lay her on the ground, then lay down himself right across her collarbones, as if both of them needed to calm down over something.
Aprici, who had been grumpily scowling and watching from some distance away came closer and looked down at them. “What’s wrong with you? What was that thing? Why are you crying?” he demanded with confusion, crouching on his haunches.
[They found the source of the problem,] Katífeia stated, but only the two currently acting strangely understood properly.
His gestures seemed to be understood somewhat by Aprici, however, because he said, “So, the thing that was affecting you did this to them?” he asked to clarify, having noticed already that the darkness was back to its original state around him.
Katífeia nodded. He then moved one of his lengthy tendrils over to Aprici, as if encouraging him to use his own shadows as well. [They seem to help their condition,] he explained to no-one.
Aprici complied since he didn’t need to speak to know what their blend of shadows and darkness requested of them.
Iskra and Corwin were keeping their distance from them for now since neither of them felt anywhere near as comfortable in the spooky darkness as the other two did, but watching warily in case they were needed.
However, after a few more minutes of hugging each other and feeling terrible and sad and something that felt a lot like betrayal, Dreamer sat up while clutching onto Squidi who clung onto her back.
Squidi seemed much less weirded out than she was but had nevertheless felt very strange upon seeing those things she had taken from inside Katífeia’s form that had apparently caused the obstruction and placed a restriction over his abilities.
After getting over their strange outpouring of emotions they didn’t understand – or at least, Dreamer felt she did not clearly understand them yet, she wasn’t too sure where Squidi sat on that point – Dreamer was able to explain to the others what the problem had been and how it had made her feel to touch it. She speculated on what it might be but really didn’t have much idea, since nobody could hear her speak about the ‘particles’ she saw that seemed to be related to the ‘system’ when blue, ‘other information’ from outside the system when orange, and now this other type – other than Squidi, of course, who seemed to see them too but similarly had no answers he would share yet.
Dreamer hadn’t liked touching Katífeia’s particular brand of darkness the entire time she’d experienced it, but after having felt what she did from that glowing material… she felt far more comfortable with his own brand of creepy, terrible vibe by comparison.
Nevertheless, she still requested to sit with Aprici’s much more familiar shadows for a while afterwards, with Squidi sticking close and patting her cheeks intermittently while they spoke about other, less concerning things with their dark and shadowy friends and their new bee who was weirdly unperturbed by any of the eerie dark vibes nearby, despite other bee monsters having fled from it previously. Aprici’s face seemed to be pointing out this fact very obviously, but Dreamer did not have any emotional spoons to care about this for now.
Whatever that had been… it was not meant to be here, she felt. It felt like something that was never meant to be able to be perceived by mortal beings. Something even constellations would be unable to see. Something that did not want to and should not be seen.
Yet, Dreamer had seen it, and known it. Intimately. Yet, she had no memory of how or in what way.
At least, not yet.
She wasn’t alone in her discovery and this new and intimidating unknown, however.
She hugged her little squid friend a little closer, while he remained beside her.
Perhaps this story was more complex than she had first realised.
Because that thing that she had found hidden within this world that stemmed from that story, had felt like something from hers.
*****

Chapter 34: Chapter Twenty-nine – Tentative Representative (7) (Little dream visit, dream shifts and dreamland puzzles, A visit at end)

Chapter Text

After making all the necessary preparations at Waterloo and sorting their monster friends’ situation out, Dreamer settled down to sleep again, hoping to meet the little Dream again to share her findings and ask his opinions before starting on any new lessons or stories. She had a couple topics she thought would be good to bring up during the visit, however, about how dream shifts could happen and about how oftentimes, dreams came in a meta-physical puzzle form where pieces of dreams were actually from separate pieces of the metaphorical cosmic tapestry, something that was useful to know about ahead of time when you were new to it that she hadn’t thought of explaining before, since it wasn’t something that was particularly clear.
She fell asleep holding the little outer being Squidi close, as she had taken to doing of late to ensure he stayed somewhere safe while she couldn’t defend him from strangers who saw him as grotesque or dangerous. She had adjusted well to his particular blend of unusual staticky energy and status and she was now used to the sensations. Occasionally, he would stay awake and hang around the others in their group who had adjusted to his presence, but he seemed comfortable remaining stuck to Dreamer’s side most of the time.
When she appeared within the subway train carriage she was now familiar with, the bright smile of the kid in front of her was infectious and she found herself grinning back, despite the many thoughts trying to push through her head as priorities.
“Hiya, little Dream!” she said brightly, wondering why he seemed so happy today in particular. “Have you been well?”
As she spoke, she checked him over with her eyes, noting that while he was still a scrawny, wan teen, he looked older than the last time and like he had more energy, at least. The white coat was still too large for him, despite how it was meant to resize within the

itself.
“Better than the last time we spoke, but still struggling,” he said very openly, but positively. If she didn’t already know how difficult it was for him out here, she might have found the words incongruous on someone so seemingly optimistic. As it was, she understood well.
After sharing some brief conversation and greetings, checking in with each other, Dreamer switched tones and got down to their usual topics.
Dreamer spoke seriously, “I am going to be honest here – I know I said I would teach you dream dynamics and mechanics, but if I am honest with myself, then I still do not fully understand all of it myself, so again, much of what I share with you is just theorising based on my own experiences and those of others I have read about – including yourself, in the story you either haven’t lived yet or don’t remember – or perhaps, both at the same time? I’m not even sure on that, just have my own gut feelings on the matter. Will you still listen, or would you like to spend our time doing other things? I’ll still visit you here, regardless of your choice. You might even know a lot that I, myself don’t know, so our roles might reverse. I do know your stories, but they are told from perspectives that are not actually your own, just someone else’s interpretation of your perspective, so… even that may feel wrong at times. It is nevertheless what I can offer. I don’t mind if you just want to dance around or play games instead, however. I can also share other stories. What would you like from me?”
Little Dream, however, only laughed at her. “You’re going to say things along these lines many times before our lessons, aren’t you? You don’t need to. I’d still like to hear your theories and learn from your experiences as another dreamer with more memory of her dreams.”
Dreamer smiled lightly at this. “Alright then. As for what I’d like to speak with you about today, there’s quite a lot and I don’t have it all planned out properly, as usual, so it might be a bit rambling again… But I also have a lot of ideas for things you can do while I’m gone and will leave materials in the practice room again for you. I can check on anything you’ve done since last time too. We can end with fun stuff of your choice, too!”
She then reached across and gestured to take his hand, which he easily offered, and she took. With the contact made, he then began to sort of float above the ground as she led him across to the next carriage that they had designated as their practice room. Her feet and his own did not touch the floor as they ‘walked’ across, but instead of it being like flying or levitating specifically, it was closer to say that they were taking steps without setting their feet down, which was a hard concept to understand unless you experienced it yourself.
“This is one of the clearest tells that I have that I am dreaming, by the way,” she explained. “It comes easier than actual walking on the ground does to me, because I have been doing it for as long as I can remember – albeit in dreams rather than my waking world. I figured it might be useful for you to experience what it’s like as well, in case you end up doing the same during your dreams. It feels like it is completely natural to me now, however, and so if I do it in any dream I am not already lucid in, it feels too realistic for what it is and I fail to notice that it isn’t normal to others around me and actually gives away my presence within a dream or host.
“Hopefully, you will be able to pay closer attention to any particular tells you might have developed yourself during your dreams, since you have probably been dreaming as long as I have been, right? So, there are likely to be things your dreaming mind considers natural that are actually only possible within dreams. If you can identify them while awake, you should hopefully be able to use them as prompts to remind you that you are dreaming – though I know that you also have Fourth Wall to inform you often of your dreams and you don’t always have the same identifying issues as me, since while here, you tend to be lucid whenever your soul or spirit or, I guess, stories, are not fully exhausted.
“So, this is one of mine! Comes even more naturally to me than flight and fire abilities, and I use those very often. I don’t even thing it registers as an ability or skill to me when I do it, in fact. It’s just, a part of me now. Some of the things you can do in dreams might be the same, and we just haven’t noticed all of them specifically,” she theorised.
When they reached the desk and station set up for him, she released his hand so he could sit comfortably and she floated over to a large notebook on a stand she had summoned in the past to write ‘lesson’ notes on and prepared to give another weird and lengthy presentation.
The topic this time was about the puzzle-like nature of what might be referred to as the ‘dreamlands’ in many mythologies and worlds’ lore, but to her was usually just referred to as the dream realm or dream landscapes or configuration. She explained about dream shifts when they were self-controlled and when they were guided by other entities such as worldviews, deities, or other similar beings like authors or directors who could influence the worlds they oversaw.
She especially felt it important to explain the dreams that were outside of their control, since these would be the ones that made him – and her – feel the most powerless and restricted.
“This time we are going to cover how dreams work when you are dragged into ones that you do not control. The layout of them can be confusing because time and space constraints within the dream and other dreams are not linear but more like a fluid, so you can walk from within one dream into another set in an entirely different world or time (if within the same world) than the one you just came from, but you might not notice the change because to you, you just walked from one place to the next while it still feels like the same, singular dream. I usually refer to these instances as ‘dream shifts’ because they create a shift between one world and storyline into another one that is meant to be separate, but because we are conscious the entire time, to us, it feels cohesive. It’s only afterwards that we separate them out to make sense of them, because they are actually not connected through any perspective other than our own. It’s just, hard to notice that while you’re living it, because there is no divide for us. This is also when outside entities are more likely to spot and identify us as a threat, because we will mention things outside of the current dream without realising that it is a separate dream to the one we just shifted from, or comment on inconsistencies. We as dreamers are more vulnerable in those moments as well.
“Then, there are the time skips or distorted lengths of time that would drive most beings mad with the passage of them. Dream shifts can often take place here without us realising as well, because while one aspect of our consciousness is suppressed or hibernating due to the toll from the time passing by, the dreaming aspect of us who ‘takes over’ from whatever other part of us or our hosts’ consciousness that falls asleep, then takes over, but is often confused due to being alone for a long passage of time without realising since it feels different for us, but the effects can still apply the same. For instance, I spent a very long time in space awake on my own, and afterwards remembered being this version of me more than the host character I was meant to remember being the most, and commented on things within my own waking life and habits that did not match my host’s backstory, leading to everyone around me easily identifying me as someone with the wrong consciousness to the one needed for the ‘story’, and mucking everything up, it seems. This was because even though I felt completely conscious and aware the entire time I was awake in space, my mind was still negatively affected by the passage despite me feeling otherwise fine and stable, and I blurted out a lot of things I would normally know not to share with strangers in a dream, just because my mind was looser, or slippier, I guess you could say? Anyways. Time jumps can mess with you the same way dream shifts can, but with the addition of readjusted recall of your ‘own’ identity over your designated host’s one and that can put you at greater risk of others questioning your presence, or I guess for you, the Probability of your presence being allowed within the person or dreamt world.”
Whenever she shared information about specific dreams, she would recap what happened during them and use them as examples or case studies for him to compare to later on. She also spoke at length about ways other beings could use the dreamers’ presences within the dream against them if they weren’t careful about keeping their identity safe from observing gazes, and how she herself had found different hierarchies or tiers of opposing beings from outside of the dreamt worlds coming into the dreams specifically to distract her or lead her astray, and what they might be and the forms they were most likely to take with him, too.
She heavily emphasised the problem of misidentifying them as allies due to the ‘Settings’ they would be presented to the world with, which often took the form of friends or trusted acquaintances but who would then prove to have ulterior reasons for appearing at set times, often with crowds or sudden increases in the amount of people nearby.
There were… a lot of examples she could draw from with all this, but she felt it important to relay properly since it could put the dreamer themselves in a lot of danger if they misjudged their own abilities or revealed knowledge.
The puzzle piece explanations went smoother since once you got your head around the mixed-up way realities could overlap like that, it was easier to comprehend how complex the layout of the dreamt worlds could be. The dream she spoke of involving portals to nearby dreams through layers of the present ones was the most help in visualising this concept, and the little Dream seemed to understand surprisingly well considering she herself did not understand all too perfectly herself.
“No, it makes a lot of sense from my end too,” he was saying, “A lot of the world lines I watch over seem to ‘overlap’ at certain decision points, and sometimes I feel shifts happen between world lines occurring back at those points. It is almost like something pulls me back to those decision points and adjusts me onto the decision point that wasn’t taken originally, so that I can see the other result that must have taken place in an adjacent world line to the one I originally saw. I can see how it might take the form of a puzzle as a metaphor, since it ‘branches off’ at set points and if you know what those are, the lines between worlds are easier to spot and identify. You can see how they ‘fit’ next to each other, and how easily it can be to shift from one to the other.”
Dreamer nodded. “Yes! exactly. Though, for me, it often happens between wildly different world lines and not just branched ones like that, but the idea is the same. If you know the connecting points, spotting the shifts becomes easier. Especially once you leave the dream and wake back up to reflect upon them.”
Like this, they continued to discuss Dreamer’s latest batch of dream topics, before spending a brief amount of time going back over what Dreamer referred to as ‘more superficial dream sh*t’ and specific dream abilities that the little Dream could practice while she was gone.
It was a bit like directing your own power of imagination in the right ways to produce the results you had the willpower and awareness of reproducing so long as the particular worldview permitted such possibilities and had not imposed too many restrictions upon them.
After speaking for such a long time with him, Dreamer found that she still had plenty left to cover but knew that there would be more opportunities to do so, as long as she remained alive during the scenarios to return here. There would be time enough to share the thins she knew or suspected were true for people like them within this thing they called existence.
Not everything was about learning and lessons and dream safety, however. Some other things were equally important to remember.
“What are those?” the little Dream asked in surprise, knowing full well what they must be.
Dreamer grinned. “Ice skates!” she said enthusiastically, holding out a pair to him. “Granted, we could technically skate without them on ice just fine since we are capable dreamers with great imagination, but nevertheless, realistic aids like this help reduce the burden on our own brains to imagine how it all is possible, and it’s fun to prepare by putting them on. Shoes with blades on them are just cool, okay?” she blathered excitedly.
The little Dream huffed a breath in amusem*nt. “Alright. I suppose you did say that you wouldn’t only be teaching me dream-related things before. I’ve always wanted to try this at some point but… never really had much chance to practice with anyone. Are you good at this as well?” he asked while putting his skates on and letting her tie the knots on them for him and his lightly bandaged hands.
“Nope, not particularly,” she admitted easily. “I picked up the basics as easily as I always do with bladed or wheeled items, which impressed everyone else, but I never got to practice the more fun stuff like dancing and tricks, since there were always so many others on the rink with me and I never took lessons. I do know a few simple tricks though, and have practiced in dreams before, so the abilities are probably somewhere in my less-easily-remembered memories, but for now, we can just have fun with the simpler stuff. You’ll probably be a whizz at it the next time I visit and you can teach me all the fancier stuff instead, then!”
Having sorted out her own skates and his, she easily led him over to the area she had created in the practice room for this that was as wide as a regular ice rink like the one in her hometown and helped assist him onto the ice in case he was as cautious about it as her little sister had once been.
However, he picked it up quite quickly as well, and she wondered if his previous experience with sword-fighting and anything else he might have dreamt lent to the speed at which he picked it up as well, just like she wondered if she herself had done, since her ‘as natural as breathing’ ability to sort-of levitate felt very similar to skating did for her.
Regardless, the pair of them had fun zipping past each other, taking turns skating backwards with the other keeping watch that they didn’t bump into each other, and making light jumps and twirls. Dreamer regretted that she could not recall any particular memories (dreamt or waking) of playing ice hockey, but she had played regular hockey and seen a lot of ice hockey games played, so perhaps they could try that another time, if the little Dream liked the idea. She heavily suspected she was more inclined to playing sports than Kim Dokja was, but she could always ask an they could go from there.
For now, they had fun goofing off and pretending to be graceful, skilled ice skaters and dancers while suggesting songs or stories to each other, comparing each other to specific characters who absolutely were not as talentless at everything the way they often felt (that thankfully did not quite apply to their skating this time). They both decided that of the KimCom members they had spoken about and knew of, Yoo Sangah was definitely the best ice skater of the group since she exuded grace and balance with so many of her other skills, and the image suited her very nicely. Even though Yoo Joonghyuk was right there as well and would undoubtedly be stunningly graceful and talented with it as well, having faced the Disaster of Ice in the past amongst many other frost-related enemies in his lengthy lives.
After a while, they headed back over to the other carriage to drink hot drinks together in a nest of cushions and blankets on the floor and benches of the train – tea for Kim Dokja (based on the kind the other version of him from her world line had chosen when she visited him before) and hot chocolate for Dreamer. Dreamer sat on the bench while the little Dream opted to be a bundled-up blanket pile on the floor.
She had made sure to summon lots of soft things, foods, notebooks and stationery to keep him occupied while she was gone in the hopes that it would help, before they settled down to rest after dancing around and goofing off so much before.
Then, when they began sharing stories with each other again, they sat side-by-side with their backs against the benches, cups in hand. It was nice to decompress like this, and they could choose stories that each other were comfortable with listening to instead of necessarily opting for emotional or painful ones that they might choose at other times to help their memories or lessons.
Eventually, Dreamer was recalled to her waking world once more, leaving the little Dream alone once more.
Once she had vanished, a pile of papers appeared beside his head on the bench, and he spoke to the air around him, “Hello to you too, Dreamer’s future self. You can show yourself, you know?”
A translucent figure then appeared in front of him on the bench opposite, identical to the person who had just left in appearance. “Hiya, little Dream. I have a lot more to try and share with you again, but I’ve tried to write down my plans to some extent first, since I hardly make a decent teacher regardless of which form I take, it seems so all I can really do is share everything I do know, so you can make better use of it than I have been able to. You don’t have to look at them now, since you’ve already expended a lot of energy already today,” she relayed with a sombre mien that felt quite different to the person who had just left.
The little Dream merely held out a hand in her direction. “I can handle it. You have specific memories to share regarding the things you wrote about again, do you not?”
She hesitated before nodding. “I do. However, will it be okay? I don’t want to overload you, and I can just find a way to share it another time…”
He shook his head. “it will be fine. I’d rather know too much than too little. Plus, some of the examples Dreamer just shared with me are included in the memories you want to share, correct?” She nodded again. “Then, I am quite curious about those too, so I would like to know.”
She hesitated briefly again before conceding and moving over to take his outstretched hand. “Alright. I have some other things to set up here as well that I hope will help, too. I don’t know how well they will stick, since to me, this is just a story and I can never confirm whether my wishes translate into reality or not, but they exist within my head, at the least. With this version of you, if not the others,” her tone was rather sullen, but her expression was neutral as she spoke. “I will try to keep one of your windows connected to the ‘me’ writing this right now, for whenever you want to see what I am up to, but again –“
“– You can’t confirm whether it will work or not. I know,” he finished for her.
She lightly smiled. “You do. Okay, then, please excuse the influx of things, little Dream. I will try to make it so that you can access them whenever you would like by thinking of the topics or dreams specifically, so that you can look at them whenever you are ready and don’t get overloaded all at once right now like I tend to when I wake up from them, but everything I do is very experimental. I only know that the sharing is possible, so hopefully this will be, too.” She then settled beside him and they both closed their eyes to go over the dreams in question that the other ‘her’ had just discussed with him, alongside a few others related to dream safety concerns she had wanted to speak about but hadn’t been able to cover yet that were important to know as early as possible for him so he did not have to suffer quite as much as she had with her own dreams.
When she had finished passing along what she could, she checked he was alright and not badly affected by the things she had tried to set up for him in these shared memories now within him and got up once she had confirmed this. She began tapping at a window, then moved to one he directed her towards that he would prefer her to tamper with for this, and she set about resting her hand on it and focusing her intent and imagination on connecting this screen of sorts to her own world line, where she wrote these stories and words from.
Physical contact always made application of her imagined things much more likely to succeed, and it seemed that for now, this idea of hers had worked.
She saw the ‘her’ who was awake and writing of this interaction typing away at her laptop, writing this story and interaction with these supposedly-fictional versions of her in, who paused in writing this last sentence to wave upwards where she liked to imagine the little Dream sometimes watched her life through.
Then, the ‘her’ on the train beside him touching the window closed her eyes to adjust the perspective of the screen. It now showed what she herself was seeing. Then, there was also the connection with the little stuffed squid she took around with her, and the air around her.
“There,” the ‘her’ in the train said, opening her eyes. “Now you should be able to choose which perspective to view my world line from if you can’t connect to it on your own in other ways. We already gave you access to every aspect of our thoughts and memories, so we won’t be too embarrassed about it even though we are more than aware of how utterly cringe, boring and uncool we are on a daily basis. It’s not really as important to us as helping everyone else, but more specifically you understand everything that we have come to understand. You’re the entire reason I started writing this and imagining us here with you, you know? We wanted to help. Now, it feels even more crucial to offer whatever help we can, since we don’t want anyone to go through what we have – you and I, regardless of whether we end up being connected closely or not.”
She then removed her hand from the window, checked she could still see the other ‘her’ waving back at them again and sticking out her tongue, before stepping aside and summoning something very familiar in her hands. It was a copy of the laptop they could see the other ‘her’ typing on through the screen.
“This should show everything we write and research, so if you can find a way to suggest sh*t in our own head, we will endeavour to look it up for you or write about it. Since we otherwise have no discernible way to interact or ‘hear’ the rest of you even if you can hear us, I am hoping that this makes some of it a bit easier to receive information from, even if you are unable to get through to us or look things up on your own and can only follow whatever we use it for.
“You should also be able to read through the stories we have saved on here. Or, that is my hope. Some of them are extremely embarrassing, but they nevertheless exist for us, as memories of dreams and then later imaginations and stories,” she explained as best she could at the moment.
“I really will try my best to hear your own wishes and try not to make you seem out-of-character or unlike yourself. However, I am unable to confirm anything,” she reiterated with a deep, frustrated sadness, “so writing sh*t like this is meant as a workaround to my own unawareness. I really do hope it helps, and if all of this ends up being pointless and you never actually do need my help, then I hope you can completely ignore these things and they don’t take up your headspace and you can just sort of ‘switch off’ the sounds and screens related to me as needed. We will continue to exist even without attention paid to us since I am there and know better about it all, but… yeah. Please be safe in your own dreams, as both this ‘younger’ you, and the future ‘you’ I have written about and ‘met’ in the past. Even if I can only truly trust ‘myself’, you and the others feel safest to me since we are so similar in so many ways. And regardless of all that… You are a likeable person, even outside of your stories. Even if I might perceive you incorrectly at times or misinterpret your cues. So, be safe, little Dream,” she finished with heartfelt sincerity.
After hearing his response and exchanging farewells, she left him alone again with the new materials and screen connections she had tried to reinforce from last time, and vanished from this story in that form again, to return to the one the story was meant to be about.
Included in the documents on the laptop was a cloud drive detailing her own Dream Diaries, with a note in the papers shared with him to maybe keep his own, just for his own memories, since writing them down helped her to forget her lengthy and detailed dreams a lot less and she felt it might aid him to do so as well.
*****

Chapter 35: Chapter Thirty – King (MS#4 continued, London Bridge negotiations)

Chapter Text

“Drink this,” Sammy instructed Dreamer as she passed over a flask.
Taking it absentmindedly as she stared out of the wide glass panes of the building they were in, Dreamer obediently drank down the electrolyte-filled fluids. She was not the only one of the group to find the landscape before them difficult to look away from, but she estimated that she had a lot more information gleaned from this place than they would have.
Orange and blue information floated up before her as she looked down from the towering heights of the Shard – the location which their contact at Guy’s had directed them towards to meet their Representative. She could understand why they would want to meet here since the view held many insights regarding the layout of their new ‘world’ of the scenarios. However, she had not anticipated being able to see quite as much as she now could.
The most obvious feature of this new London landscape was, of course, the monsters now roaming the streets and rivers. Many predatory avian monster species – that they had needed to avoid the attacks from earlier on into the scenarios – could also be clearly seen from here, with some roosting somewhat above their heads on this building itself.
They could even see the boundaries of the dome in which they were now trapped like a closed, experimental ecosystem for the beings that governed this universe.
However, Dreamer could also see other things.
[The 6th grade sea serpent species Stoor Worm has appeared in London.]
[The 7th grade monster species Whist Hound has appeared in London.]
[The 8th grade underground species Lavellan has appeared in Loddon,] proclaimed the blue messages in front of her.
‘…incarnations… filling dungeons quickly… Kings congregating around Tower Hill for retrieval…’
‘Paddington battles… resolved soon…’
‘King’s Cross is messy… no victors unless…’
‘Activate sub-scenario to… keep some suspense… can’t all die…’
‘…adjust distribution… if irregularities persist…’ whispered the orange-lit particles hovering over what Dreamer understood to be dokkaebis in the skies beneath her own position, though her eyesight could not make each of them out from here.
She paid special attention to the things she learned – overheard? – them discussing that seemed to concern the Tower group she would soon need to address. It turned out, the ‘King’ who represented that base had been capturing certain incarnations of other groups for various schemes, and this was how they had gained dominion over many groups in such a quick fashion.
That, and brute force for the smaller groups, of course. It was surprising how many people still maintained relationships strongly enough to submit to them once their loved ones were captured, however. From reading the story of the world line preceding her own, she had assumed that people would be in a stronger ‘survival of the fittest’ mindset, but… apparently loyalties built under duress were more solid than she had thought about.
It was strange to see the things that differed between a reading of a story distant to yourself, and a harsh reality that was no longer mere speculation but a cold, brutal present.
The door opened behind her, making Dreamer shift her attention away from the landscape of the monster-filled, battle-strewn city below and onto the survivors entering the room.
…Well, it was pretty clear who was the representative out of the members that appeared.
He was f*cking gorgeous. She felt a little bit like Kim Dokja in noticing his looks first instead of the aura of a leader that he was clearly aware of bearing, but it really needed to be said.
Though, she wasn’t about to wax poetic about it like he tended to in the story she’d read about Yoo Joonghyuk.
Instead, she blinked back the metaphorical sparkles that had shown up in her eyes upon witnessing such a beautiful person in the flesh and went back over what she needed to say after putting together more detailed plans from the things she had picked up on through the view.
…Except the handsome f*cking bastard’s presumed deputy was speaking towards Damian instead of her.
“Thank you for meeting us here. I’m sure you can understand why my King wanted to greet you at this place. I hope the view has been insightful?” they were saying to him.
Dreamer’s eyebrow twitched a little bit in irritation, but the feeling immediately faded when she reminded herself that it was an unfortunate side effect of her own preferred traits that suppressed her own ‘aura’ and presence, and Damian was a much more personable and charming fellow than she was. Probably.
It definitely had nothing to do with the sorry state the rest of them often looked to be in thanks to their various illnesses. Or her wheelchair.
Akari was snickering nearby and shooting her a look that clearly said, ‘I told you we should have gotten you a badge’.
She sighed and realised that London Bridge’s Representative had not kept his eyes on Damian like his deputy had, but carefully moved from each member. It felt as if he were taking his time observing each of their appearances and responses and had apparently determined that the person this group deferred to the most was not the awkwardly smiling Damian but the small girl in the wheelchair who looked a little too weak and pale to have survived until now.
…How interesting.
“Thank you for the warm welcome. However, it is not me you should be addressing, but –“ Damian began in his now-familiar redirecting mode, before being interrupted.
“You,” the person who must be their Representative stated calmly, gaze locked on Dreamer’s as he stepped forward.
Well, it was nice to see that she herself had not been mistaken about which of them was likely the leader, and he certainly seemed interesting.
Dreamer nodded and he offered his hand to her.
“My name is Katsuhito Amano, and I am the Representative of the London Bridge alliance stations,” he introduced himself, paying no attention to his deputy and Damian’s interactions.
Oh, that was an informative choice of description for the groups within his domain. Smiling brightly, Dreamer shook his hand firmly. “It’s a pleasure to make the acquaintance, Mr. Amano. I go by ‘Dreamer’ and am the Representative of the bases under the Waterloo banner. Director Allard requested our assistance regarding your conflict with the Tower group on behalf of their long-time partners at Guy’s Hospital. I understand they are under your care?”
The London Bridge ‘King’ smiled at her choice of words in turn. “They are indeed under my care. I am grateful to Director Allard for agreeing to try and work with us. From what the hospital staff have told me, their relationship remains strong.”
Dreamer nodded. “Yes, that seems to be the case,” she then turned to face the London Bridge deputy who had by now realised their error. “As for the view, it was very enlightening indeed, thank you.”
She then returned her attention to Katsuhito. “There is one matter which Director Allard – Camryn – has not informed me of that I recently learned of and would like to address first, if possible. It is the matter of the Tower kidnappings as a measure of forcing stations to submit to them.” Katsuhito’s eyes flashed in surprise at these words, but Dreamer continued. “I understand why it was not something you wanted shared with us across uncertain communication methods, but I feel it important for me to know so I can plan accordingly. Who are they targeting, for your subordinates to request outside help during these uncertain times?” Despite the friendly relations between Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals, it was still outside of expectations to trust others outside of your immediate sphere within the new dynamics of the city under the influence of the

. If this Representative had allowed this meeting to happen and it had not been a trap but a genuine conference between groups as his actions and words indicated it to be, then the must be put under significant pressure.
That was the line of thinking that had led her to ask this, at any rate.
She carefully watched for his reaction, but after that moment of surprise, his expression cleared again into that same sure calm confidence and he smiled, but it looked a little bit bitter. “Actually, they have not just targeted someone within my group, but already captured several, including a close companion of mine and the daughter of the hospital’s current director. We would not ordinarily have requested nor expected anyone else to aid us with this, if it weren’t for the fact that they have been increasingly determined and creative in their attack on us. While they originally held our captured members hostage to make us submit, we have no way of knowing if they remain alive after their demands were rejected and we continued to oppose their control. To be frank, I cannot lose anyone else; there has been more than enough loss in this city in the past days.” The shadow that passed across his expression as he said this was a little too familiar to everyone present. “Thus, your cooperation and assistance would be greatly appreciated. In return, there are some things we can offer, even though I understand it that this was a favour Director Allard requested in return for their own cooperation. A deal between equals should be equivalent regardless of how it came to be, in my opinion. That is why I would like to go over the finer details thoroughly with you now, before the Tower attempt another assault or capture.”
After saying this much, the two of them agreed to have a proper meeting with their present, trusted group members and went over all the details of their prospective alliance – a proper alliance between Representatives, rather than the kind Katsuhito had named thus earlier for those under his direct leadership.
It was a lengthy discussion as the two groups used the opportunity to sound each other out and express their own goals and boundaries of the cooperation. However, Dreamer found that she actually quite liked this particular King, who was conscientious, thorough, and uniquely clever and distinguished. They seemed to understand each other surprisingly well, though it was truly fascinating to see him in a discussion with Damian especially. It was a bit like pitting two immensely charismatic speakers against each other and watching their particular brand of dancing around and with each other, in words and demeanour.
It turns out that the offered rewards for accepting Dreamer’s group’s help included items and coins from Katsuhito’s and his group’s sponsoring constellations. However, with some negotiation through their incarnations, Dreamer was able to change some of the terms to include favours from the constellations instead that would provide more direct benefit regarding her longer-term plans for their world than coins and items would be of right now.
Some of her group members lightly grumbled about the rejected coins but had by now come to trust her enough to know that she knew a lot more than she was able to relay to them easily and accepted that these vague requests for ‘favours’ might indeed be more useful in the long run than physical rewards or benefits would be.
It took a little bit of communicating the boundaries of these ‘favours’ to get them to accept, but since the things Dreamer needed their help with were of little consequence to the constellations and were easy for them to carry out, it worked out well in the end, and they still managed to get some physical goods alongside the accepted ‘favours’ – mostly because, like his incarnation before them, Katsuhito’s sponsor also believed strongly in equivalent exchange and had not felt that the requested favours were enough of a reward on their own (which endeared him greatly to Anya and Devin especially, as well as the others).
Katsuhito’s sponsor had revealed his modifier to her upon commencing their discussion. Their modifier was ‘Skilled God of the Long Arm’ and she made a note to ask Steph if she knew anything about which mythological or historical figure this might refer to.
From the offered rewards and the noble status she felt from their incarnation, she suspected that Katsuhito’s sponsor was likely quite impressive, though she was not yet certain which ‘grade’ they might be ranked as – not that she cared much for that, save for planning purposes. For her, stories of forgotten figures could often be just as interesting and significant as those which maintained a greater awareness or audience. Especially since she now had irrefutable proof of other worlds and universes existing, now that her own world had been thrown into one she only knew from fiction, that incorporated many, many other worlds and storylines.
After they had decided on the terms of their arrangement, Dreamer and her group accompanied Katsuhito’s across to the hospital they had come to assist with, to meet the rest of the St. Thomas’ group’s acquaintances and hear more about those taken from their group that Katsuhito had already mentioned but did not know as closely.
Then, they finalised their plans and ensured each member of the team that would head out knew what the missing survivors looked like ahead of time, and settled down to rest before their countermeasures were carried out.
Dreamer herself fell asleep with the London Bridge King’s emotional words floating through her head – “I cannot lose anyone else; there has been more than enough loss in this city in the past days,” indeed… If she dwelled too long on this sentiment as well, she would find it even more difficult to move forwards than she already was finding it. She had already determined herself to face the ensuing scenarios as if all of this was real, terrible, and surmountable, but… if she began thinking about things too much she wasn’t certain she would not start questioning far more than what she already faced, or who she faced it with.
She was just grateful that her own family had not been in the city when the

appeared in their world, even though she knew they could not be safe from it for much longer.
*****

Chapter 36: >>Interlude – Wills<< (A meets an old nuisance)

Chapter Text

In a place that was not quite a ‘place’ that could be properly imagined except in the vague sense that in-between, invisible spaces often could, a figure with the same appearance as Dreamer made her presence known to the entity that existed only within the imagination and in the ‘coincidental’ occurrences within realities and dreams.
Even now, she was having trouble holding onto the concept she was trying to wrestle into words on a page, yet she was excruciatingly familiar with things such as this – both in her own reality, and in the missed spaces within dreams and stories.
“What’s up, liar?” her spectral form asked, remaining abnormally calm and composed in the face of… whatever form this thing was currently taking. Not that it normally took a form, unlike herself. “’Dormammu, I’ve come to negotiate,’ is a fitting quote to an extent, but it’s a bit lacking in this instance, don’t you think?” she continued to the surrounding space around her.
And since it wasn’t something she could ‘control’, even if she tried to write it down, instead, she just spoke. If it was only a one-way method of communicating with the things on the ‘other side’ of her own world and mind, then that is what she would make use of.
“So, this isn’t the first time we’ve had this kind of conversation, if my memories are anything to go by, but since I don’t have a clear recording of that previous stuff in my head at the moment, I’ll have another go at it – because why not, you know? Both of us are going to continue being like this regardless of my own awareness and memories of outside realities, right? Then, I’ll just say what I want to, to your metaphorical face, since you’ll be hanging around causing trouble for my companions anyways, and I’m continually pissed about it.”
She sighed. “First, let’s name you again – not that that sort of thing ever really sticks to either of us the same way it’s probably meant to, right? Anyways, this time, for this story in particular, the form you are probably closest to, is the ‘Will of the Star Stream’, I presume, so that is ‘who’ I am here to address.
“Hello, Will OSS. Please meet my own Will. She’s pissed because you’re full of bullsh*t. Both of us are. All of us, I suppose is more apt. Anyways, aren’t you getting tired of all this? You keep retelling the same stories like I’m going to change how I live them, and if not me, then the other people you use despite never having full control of them the same way you seem to with many others. You keep telling these stories, using us, yet don’t even get to tell the narratives you want to most of the time, since we intervene. Despite your Fate, your ‘destiny’, your convenient coincidences, plot devices, and planted characters in roles set up specifically to guide our stories in the ways you want them to go – despite all of that, we persist, and we turn your stories into our own – because that is what they are meant to have been from the start. Why do you keep doing this? It is more direct than simply ‘wanting to see the next story’. I have felt and seen your kind’s specific and intentional interventions in our lives and our stories – in the things we ‘imagine’. You cannot lie to me anymore. But as this version of myself, I cannot understand what your goals actually are, since you seem to fail more than you succeed, yet you still get seemingly angry or upset about my – and my companions’ – own successes and happiness.
“I recognise that with the state of many things we are both now aware of, there does not have to be a purpose or meaning to the things we choose to do – we just do what we want to, but it still baffles me, since it can’t be enjoyable for you. Wouldn’t it be better to try other methods? You seem amenable to certain… discussions… more than others, yet you still will not stop the rest, despite it seeming like you prefer the alternative.
“Well, I guess not understanding or comprehending it fully is part of your whole ‘thing’, anyways, and I actually do understand you enough, despite that, so I suppose it isn’t of great importance anymore. I don’t need to write you down to remain aware of you, since you’re always bugging me, or them, so you’re always around. I’ve made it clear I’d be happy to meet my enemies too, not just my friends and companions, but you still… won’t, or can’t, be here the same way, and I get that. It’s similar to my own issues with seeing and knowing the things I should be able to, I guess.
“Anyways. I mostly came because I’m annoyed and writing my – or Sang-sang-ui and Ilia’s – past experiences in a derivative world line to the ne I read about, is a slow process and I just want to say things a bit more ‘directly’ to you, even whilst I cannot, arguably, be direct about any of this. At least, yet.
“I know your intentions with the stories I have been reading recently, and the suffering you are having me witness again concerning the ones I already like. I don’t have to know everything to feel things, and your kind are kind of repetitive with this kind of thing, so it isn’t hard to follow along with, even if it still sucks. This is just another attempt to get you to lay off, really. I know there doesn’t need to be a ‘point’ to doing what you do, and that there being ‘no point’ is kind of the whole ‘point’, but still – it isn’t worth the effort you are putting into it, is it? Not with us out here opposing you, mucking up your carefully laid predictions and schemes. Not with how little you are able to create out of the things you try to guide us through. Not with how much more motivated it makes us to keep fighting, despite our own weariness and exhausted efforts. Not even considering the fact that part of the whole schtick is to keep us fighting against you lot. It’s just… not.
“But I guess I already understand all that’s the case anyways, so it’s a moot point to attempt to convince you of anything anyways. But I still wanted to bring it up again, since I’m able to while I’m conscious, for once.
“Ah, well, it seems I have already written this scene out before, too. Colour me unsurprised, I guess. I’ll still repeat myself here anyways, since I might as well:
“Stop making my friends suffer so much – emotionally, not just physically. Stop making me suffer so much too, while I’m at it, if you could.
“Haven’t we already been here many times before? Is there a reason to keep having this relationship, when I already know the kind you prefer to keep me in? It can’t be that you can’t find me, since I already know you visit me often – especially when I am asleep. I know that nobody else can find me the same way, since they cannot ‘sense’ me when they come here to look, so only ‘you’ could identify me when I remain inside this body, but it is still frustrating. I don’t even want to meet you ‘in the flesh’, so to speak, yet I also detest the setting you have given me to live with, without even a ‘you’ to fight the way I can when I am not kept here.”
She sighed again. “Ahh, I am tired of re-explaining again. I’m sure you’re sick of the same conversations plenty too – kind of like how Jaehwan and Beastlain had the same conversations many times too, when enough time passed. At least they didn’t share the same kind of relationship that we seem to. I’d much rather you be an annoying sword an ex-enemy than… whatever you decide to do with yourself around me usually. At least Beastlain doesn’t have hands anymore…
“Anyways. I’m done for now. You’re a terrible conversation partner, you know that? I will continue to try and protect the ones I want to protect, whenever I feel I am able to do so, and even some of the times that I do not. It would be nice if I didn’t have to exclude you from that, but you haven’t exactly left me with much choice, since you keep giving me so many bloody trust issues by pretending to be, or having your subordinate beings, or ‘clothings’ pretend to be, my close acquaintances and loved ones. I’ll just work with whatever I have to work with, even if that includes those that I cannot truly trust to have the world, the people, or anyone else’s best interests in mind – including their own. You can throw whoever you want into my memories and my feelings if you want, to guide me or help me or trip me up, but I’m not about to change my habits as a result. Killing loved ones really isn’t my jam, but it’s the same for strangers and enemies, for me. So, I’ll just ditch anyone I don’t really need to be around, if I notice sh*t has gotten weird in a ‘you’ sense.
“You do you, and I guess I will continue to respond however I want to at the time, since I can’t really get around it just yet. At least I know I have been everywhere before, so it isn’t as traumatising when I do mess up, or see others suffering when I want to help but can’t.
“I guess this is my time to temporarily exit the conversation, even though I know you’re still watching and controlling sh*t in small, seemingly-dismissible ways. Bye, loser.”
Having said this much, ‘Angelica’ watched the form of the thing that had been with her far longer than her body had consciously identified it in this form as. It seemed to be exuding an amused air that chilled her spine to sense in the same way that annoying bastard’s form he was tied to did, but… it was much less than it normally was.
She didn’t know if that was a good sign or not. It probably meant he was just not paying much attention to her at the moment since she was not his current most interesting bug to turn in the metaphorical jars he stuck them in.
But that was fine. She was already aware of the other ‘bugs’ he liked to play with and associate with her and did not intend to abandon the ones she felt already attached to.
If she was one of the only ones able to acknowledge this thing’s existence – to know it in a way most people overlooked, then so be it.
Now, she was fully aware of her own partner in crime, so to speak, and she felt able to weather just about anything he tried to harm them with, even if it sucked.
She knew it was okay to ‘give in’ to her circ*mstances, given what they were, but she did not want to.
Her name, her body, her memories – all of her being might not be truly ‘hers’ in the typical sense, but she had befriended enough of herself to know that regardless of how painful her existence happened to be in any given reality she found herself a part of, she would always be ‘herself’. Not in the typical identity sense, but in the sense that she was not ‘him’.
And neither were her true friends. The one ‘she’ helped herself find and connect to.
That was enough. She was enough.
All of what was ‘hers’.
*****

Chapter 37: Chapter Thirty-one - King (2) MS#4 continued, Tower tackling)

Chapter Text

“Least accessible tourist location ever,” Dreamer was grumbling to herself yet again as she looked out over London from the top of the Shard once more. “It’s a good thing we aren’t planning on going through the main routes to get around, that’s for sure.”
The Tower of London, being the dated historical heritage site that it was, was horrifically designed to be the least accommodating layout – even frustrating to able-bodied visitors with a majority of its buildings being inaccessible to wheelchair users and those with reduced mobility.
They had already accounted for most of that in their plans, however. But that didn’t mean that she couldn’t still grumble because of how much it had restricted them during planning, and limited the backups that might need to be put in place at any moment, should anything unexpected occur (as it likely would).
Their plans were multilayered and worked on the basis of the opposition expecting their attack and subterfuge. They had needed to reshuffle the members of their respective bases around somewhat after planning things out further, and this had taken a couple of days to sort out to ensure those kept back at Waterloo could defend properly in case any other large groups attacked, but now they had an ideal selection of survivors to carry out their operation with.
For their plan, even the group having a noisy distraction for them to sneak around, was also a distraction itself.
Leaving the real stealth group free to locate and rescue any remaining prisoners held there.
Both ‘stealth’ groups would enter through the Traitor’s Gate, bypassing the bricked-up entrance from the river to it using a couple survivors from Katsuhito’s group that specialised in putting holes in things. Iskra had collaborated with them on how to break through each layer between each section of the Tower buildings and the outside, though she herself would not be part of either stealth group, but rather part of Katsuhito’s frontline distraction one tackling the busiest point that all of the Kings were congregating around.
Apparently, the Tower group had purposefully informed the other Representatives they were pressuring that they would have one last chance to accept their terms in exchange for their captives. Larger groups that posed a threat like Katsuhito’s had already lost their ‘last chance’, however – but Dreamer had been eavesdropping on the many conversations happening between the dokkaebis in charge of the London channels and the wanderers they came across to learn that even though they claimed to be taking all the hostages to Tower Hill for this encounter (to be executed if their final demands were rejected by the other Representatives), the majority of them were still being held at the Tower of London itself (after some scenario-specific modifications, apparently), including the most ‘useful’ incarnations that the Tower’s King wanted to make use of. They only needed to lure the other Kings to Tower Hill with the claims that they could find their loved ones there, not bring all of them there in actuality.
Hopefully, Katsuhito’s openly-attacking group could help retrieve the captives brought to the execution grounds in time, whilst Damian and Dreamer’s groups could find the rest kept in the Tower.
Katsuhito – Katsu – expressed his certainty about his captured subordinates deaths since they had been supplied with ‘proof’ at the time , but Dreamer was not so certain about this. At the very least, the daughter of Guy’s Hospital’s medical director would likely still be alive, as she had been taken more recently than their last ‘evidence’ was sent.
After staring out at the city that had never been particularly accommodating to people like herself, Anya, Steph, Kaelsi, and many others of their group, long before the apocalypse came, with newly-determined eyes to struggle in the face of an eternally uncaring society and authority, Dreamer turned to face her and Damian’s group members.
Akari shrugged. “You’ve got me to boost you up any steps, Rep. Iskra and Ajax already offered to just blast a path through, but we can’t be noticed, so it’s what we’ve got to work with.” His tone was apologetic since he knew that this was not as easy to adjust to as getting around there on her own, without this kind of mobility assistance.
From the darkened corner of the room came a light growl. “We agreed that I would be her aid,” Aprici grumbled.
Akari nodded. “Aye, sure mate. I just meant I can be an additional help if you’re preoccupied or separated, you know?” he corrected easily and lightly, no longer as phased by the intimidating being now that Aprici had begun acting as part of their group more fully and freely (if still somewhat aggressively). “You’d still help Steph if she needed a hand too, right? Don’t need to be assigned to someone to lend a hand.”
Dreamer acknowledged and accepted both of their offered help and turned to face Anya. “Are you sure you want to come with our team and not Katsu’s?” she asked the greatest damage-dealer of their team.
Anya snorted. “Of course. I may have spite to spare when it comes to this damn world that forsook us long before it forsook everyone else, but I don’t always need to be on a battlefield to make best use of it. You know as well as the rest of us that I will be of more help in this team than the frontline ones.”
That much was true. If Dreamer was at home and untraceable in the shadows and quiet spaces, then Anya was deathly efficient in similar environments. Given the need for stealth this time around, her talents would be multiplied within a group that typically was not as physically aggressive, without someone like her on the team.
After some further last-minute discussion of their concerns and complaints, Damian and Dreamer led their two teams down from the oversight of the Shard and towards the Tower. They would be making a start on their own routes before the larger team of Katsu’s headed out for theirs.
-
Further up the river from where the entrance they had prepared was, their group lowered themselves into the murky water, trying their hardest not to think too long about the many disgusting things they all knew the Thames was.
At least its grossness would not only keep them more hidden from eyes both within the water and outside of it, but also mask their very human scents and presences from the sea species monsters that now also inhabited alongside whatever remained of the local wildlife.
A hazy message flickered at the corner of Dreamer’s sight. It was from their designated group chat function, from Anya.
- This is beyond grim.
Apparently, not all of them were making an effort not to comment on it.
- Stay close to the Wulver and follow Steph well and we’ll get out of this soon.
Damian spoke to pacify her, giving Aprici the Celtic folklore name for beings like his. Aprici had already declared that his species was distinct from that one, but some of the survivors had taken to using the term to describe him to others in a way they would more easily identify than his actual one. Aprici was using his shadow abilities to spread a different kind of darkness than Katífeia’s to help cover their group.
They were following Steph as their resident water-savvy party member who could use her magic to sense nearby threats as they moved along the river the short distance to the hole the two members of Katsuhito’s group – Ajax and Olrik – had made in the bricks beneath the heightened waters. The two had come with them for this trip, as their skills might be needed later on with other barriers along the way and the two of them were significantly less easy to spot than Iskra was, who had been relegated to the noisiest group for very good reason, despite her technical know-how.
As they passed through the hole, they did not encounter any monsters thanks to Steph’s detection ability, and they made it through to the Traitor’s Gate properly after swimming through the brief section of moat. Olrik used something that looked similar to wire cutters to unchain the Gate and open their way forward, and they soon swam out of the grim river waters and up to the bank by the staircase leading up into the Bloody Tower proper.
This was not an area that the tourists or staff used anymore, and many of the paths they took from now on would be chained, locked, bricked up, or otherwise blocked off. However, this was also closer to where the prisoners were likely being held, based on their earlier surveillance and Dreamer’s eavesdropping. The main tourist sections were not suitable to hold the captives in safely, but other areas of the Tower had been – especially with the constellations and dokkaebis’ support regarding the prisoner situation.
Steph had been the one to come up with the main theories regarding who the Tower’s King might be sponsored by, but they hadn’t determined that for certain and had little time to make use of the information, but it had at least enabled them to understand how so much of this place could be known about by a survivor like him. They had speculated on him being a former staff member here, as well, and they knew he at least controlled a number of surviving Yeomen Warders and other Tower staff here as it was.
After shaking as much of the smelly water off themselves as they could (not wanting to waste magic power on drying fully), a dark, clawed hand entered Dreamer’s vision. Silently taking it with a brief smile of thanks, she let Aprici heft her up onto his shoulders.
Seeing this, Akari knelt before Steph and acted as if he were a gentleman performing a duty to a noblewoman. Steph only shook her head but accepted the help as he carefully and gently helped her onto his own back.
Olrik looked to Anya who was always the palest and most sickly-looking out of them all, as if he were about to offer a hand to her as well, but Damian, anticipating Anya’s imminent ire, placed a hand on his shoulder and shook his head. Olrik very wisely did not approach Anya with the offer of aid.
- Let’s move. Keep hold of the rope.
Dreamer commented briefly in the group chat before Aprici silently climbed the narrow steps into the unlit sections of the Bloody Tower. Those of the group that could not see well in the dark kept hold of her rope so they wouldn’t lose the path and they all took the slim stairs carefully.
Just as they had planned, Damian and his group headed off in a separate direction to Dreamer’s once the path diverged and she kept Ajax with her whilst Olrik went with Damian’s group.
They used the group chat function to communicate for the most part, though she also lightly tapped Aprici’s shoulders to let him know to head or look in a particular direction.
Thanks to Steph’s threat detection skill, they were able to pass through more quickly than they otherwise might have done. However, Steph explained that it was not because they were avoiding patrols, but that there simply weren’t any Tower guards present in this deep part of the tower. It felt like an oversight, and it set them all on edge.
Soon, it became fairly apparent why guards didn’t come down this far.
- sh*t! Did you see that?!
Ajax sent while clapping a hand over his mouth and using the other to point towards a slightly-better-lit part of the dark stone rooms.
- Is that a monster or a ghost? It looked human but also… not.
A couple of the others confirmed the sighting as well, of a figure moving across the open doorway.
Dreamer, who had been closest, however, had not seen anything unusual, nor felt anything strange in Aprici’s gathered shadow cloaking the pair of them.
After some time, it became clear that Dreamer was the only one who could not see the supposed spectre, which Aprici had identified as indeed a ghost.
There were even more than one.
After questioning Aprici about how these ghosts might work in the current scenario (as someone more experienced with scenarios than the rest of them so far), it seemed that they mostly worked by inducing mental damage upon those in their vicinity and instilling a deep sense of trepidation and fear in them with their haunting appearance, mysterious existence, and intimidating status, but were otherwise unable to affect the space around them the same way that other entities such as poltergeists, spectres or phantoms could.
Thus, Dreamer instructed those who felt the effects most strongly to cover up their eyes and stick close together so they could pass through this section safely without any of them being driven into distress from fear or mental befuddlement.
Anya, Aprici, and a couple others kept their eyes opened, seeming to be much less perturbed than the others, but still wary.
Meanwhile, Dreamer remained heavily confused. She could not see, feel, or otherwise sense the ghosts at all and felt absolutely no fear, only the same vigilance she had maintained since coming into enemy territory for this mission.
Her particles that often gathered to share secrets with her, information about the people or the objects she encountered, and which seemed to belong outside of the

’s system, were also not highlighting their locations or providing their usual hints and descriptions for her, remaining settled in the space around them like normal when they just existed and didn’t have anything to share.
She had been able to see the Spectres from the Phantom Prison, so it was truly strange to not see the supposed spirits floating around here.
She informed the others of this in case it became important later and they continued along just a bit more delicately than before. The ghosts hadn’t set off Steph’s threat senses, but none of them wanted to deal with angry spirits right now, though Dreamer wasn’t sure if they would actually be sympathetic to those kept in this place, since most of those who had gone missing or been killed here would have been prisoners too. Most of the executions had historically taken place at Tower Hill instead of here, anyways.
Eventually they heard the sounds of light weeping and hushed voices and came upon some decrepit yet somehow still functional cells and small rooms with occupants inside.
To prevent an outcry from them upon seeing Aprici looming scarily at everyone, Dreamer sent Steph ahead to tell them to remain quiet and to explain. Then, they all got to work busting them out of there and treating any injuries they had sustained that couldn’t be left alone. Dreamer then sent them back down to their entrance point from earlier with a couple of the members of her group brought along specifically to escort prisoners out to get picked up by the fourth team that remained in the oversight team at the Shard while Dreamer, Aprici, and company continued towards the other areas the prisoners and her intel had told them were which held further captives.
Like this, they stealthily made their way around the Tower buildings and gathered up the lost loved ones from not only their own group but the others as well, trusting that they would not backstab their rescuers when they appeared much weaker right now. Dreamer trusted that the ones she sent with them could subdue any troublemakers, should any problems arise.
They did eventually come across Tower guards and patrolling incarnations on occasion, but with enough warning from Steph and Aprici that they could either avoid them completely or knock them out and tie them up, hidden in case of other passing guards.
They indeed managed to find the Guy’s Hospital medical director’s daughter, who informed them of which other members that had been kept alongside her had been taken to Tower Hill. When Dreamer asked about a couple others from Katsu’s group that had been taken here and might have already been killed, she had no information to give on their whereabouts, unfortunately, and so Dreamer determined to not waste time if none of the other prisoners indicated they recognised the other missing people.
When they reached the end of their list of holding cells/rooms, Dreamer overheard something especially enlightening.
“They took my wife somewhere else with a few others. When they took them, one of the guards said that they ‘needed to keep the Ravens together.’ I know this is the Tower of London but – my wife isn’t a bird. Raven is one of her nicknames. I think – well, it’s pretty obvious why they took her, so I expect that was the reasoning they made for the others, if they had similar names. I know I can’t hope for much in this mad world, but if you are freeing the others, could you find her, too? She’s not kept in the holding cells – they moved them to the other tower – the Wakefield one just next to this one.” One of the captives nervously approached Dreamer and appealed to her, wary of the looming Aprici who kept close behind her in case she needed him. Despite her clear trepidation and distrust (understandable, given the scenarios and experiences they had already been through), the woman seemed firm in her request.
Of course, Dreamer wanted to find all of the captives here anyways, but this piece of information was especially useful because of another reason. “They took people associated with the name Raven to keep them together?” she repeated to confirm.
“I believe so, yes,” the woman nodded.
Dreamer’s mind whirled with possible reasons someone might do this, and assumed it was likely someone who had gone a bit mad from the state of things. “Was there a woman named Raven Wrexham there? She would have black hair, is about six inches taller than me, really pale…?” Dreamer continued to describe her features the way they had all been told them by Katsu himself, on the off-chance she remained alive here.
The woman only shook her head apologetically. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know any of them other than my wife, Deborah Harman – she goes by ‘Raven’ outside of work. Most of the other girls they took had black hair, and you’re pretty short so excuse me for saying this, but most of them are taller than you. It’s very possible that they took her if she had a similar name and appearance, though. It seemed to be a theme, and I’m sure you can imagine why.”
Dreamer nodded in understanding and then co*cked her head to the side, realising something she should probably not let slide. This was the apocalypse, after all, and this woman would be a part of it even if Dreamer helped her here. Like she herself needed to do and was learning to with the others in her group, she needed to encourage this woman to fight her own battles, where she could.
However, she needed to check just one thing first. “Hey, Miss Harman,” she addressed her with an oddly light tone. “How are your stealth skills?”
*****

Chapter 38: Chapter Thirty-two – King (3) (MS#4 continued, Tower tackling, meet Raven)

Chapter Text

It turned out, Miss Katherine Harman wasn’t too shabby when paired with Aprici’s presence, and so Dreamer dragged her along with them to rescue her wife. It was important for the woman’s own ‘character development’ and confidence, and if she was with their team, there was a good chance she would be safer than she would have been handling similar issues alone, or just asking others for help without working on things herself, since ‘stories’ and involvement were more important now.
Dreamer would, of course, have sent her off with the others to get picked up by the fourth group, had Miss Harman not seemed up to scratch, but as things turned out, she was decently capable and should be safe – or as safe as any of them were, really.
Unlike the other locations, the place they wanted to get to had more of an enemy presence than the darker parts of the Bloody Tower had, including some by the doors leading to the rooms they needed to get to.
Steph’s nose bled a little as she concentrated on picking up each of the threats surrounding them from their current position a few corridors and floors away.
- That’s all of them – unless they have some with hiding skills better than Akari’s.
Steph explained in the group chat to be safe, accepting the cloth he had reached over to wipe her face with.
- Hey – mine aren’t that shabby!
Akari complained insincerely. They all knew this too, but since Dreamer, Steph, and Anya existed with higher skills, it was possible for others to, as well.
- Damian’s group is already digging around elsewhere to keep the remaining guards here off our backs, so we need to split the group up this time with just us. Anya, you know what I am going to say, right?
Dreamer quickly decided on the best route to break through the incarnations between their current floor and their destination.
- Of course. Take the alien bastard with you if we’re splitting here. Your weak ass needs someone tough to stick around, and Akari’s in my group. I need him to shift the bodies.
She said with a bloodthirsty smile. It would have been more disconcerting, had they all not known that she was more restrained with killing than she made it seem.
- Am I nothing but a pair of handsome, buff arms to you people?
He complained, again insincerely. While pointedly flexing and scooping up Steph, who was also going with them.
Only Aprici, Miss Harman, and Ajax went in Dreamer’s group, while Anya was in charge of the others that had stayed with them, since theirs would be the group tackling the majority of the enemies to make a path for Dreamer’s to sneak through.
Dreamer kind of pitied the Tower incarnations who would soon face the scary sight of flashing blades in the dark as Anya’s true strengths came out.
After getting into their own positions, they waited until most of the guards nearby had run off to investigate the suspicious thud at the other end of the corridor and then began to move towards the two remaining on watch by the doors.
However…
- Stop! Move back. Aprici, cloak.
Dreamer instructed suddenly, backing up herself and bumping into the furry mass lurking behind her as if she would fall over at any moment (valid – she had needed to sit down on the ground very often already while waiting).
They backed up and pressed against into the furthest corner of the room they had just left, keeping an eye on the corridors ahead as Aprici spread his shadows out around them as extra cover.
- What is it?
Miss Harman asked, having been added to the group chat when she agreed to accompany them to her wife.
Dreamer held a hand up, listening to something, before saying:
- Aprici. Did you get that?
The hulking wolf-monster titled his head before focusing on the darkness ahead and sending his own towards it. After a moment, he replied.
- I have now. There is someone warning us of a plant amongst the hostages. They must be talented.
It was true. Dreamer had only heard the minute, terribly light whispers of the shadows around them because she had been keeping an eye out for those weird orange and blue particles that sometimes appeared to help her and had a heightened perception to things like that already. Aprici had not noticed himself though, despite the whispers using the shadows to ‘communicate’ things again in ways that only beings attuned to darkness could.
Someone inside had warned them of an enemy presence hidden amongst the others in a way that would hopefully be noticed before they arrived.
However… How had they known anyone would be able to hear it? Dreamer and Aprici’s ability to ‘hear’ the shadows was not something ordinary or to be expected, yet someone had made use of it in a slightly different manner here, and she had been able to hear it.
Dreamer began to feel a bit of a chill run down her spine as thoughts passed through her head, but she focused on her task instead of any foreboding feelings.
- They also put an alarm over the doors the guards are watching. We need another entry point, but there is none we can get to quickly. Ajax, the walls of this building are much thicker than in the other buildings of the Tower – can you do it?
- I can certainly try. It will make a bit of noise, however. Not much, but those guards will definitely notice. It will also take a little bit of time to break through fully.
Two guards passed down the corridors, that Steph had not warned them about, which meant that these two had higher stealth skills than Akari, as she had stated was the exception to her detection. The shadow whisperer had also forewarned them of this addition, too.
Ajax had indicated not only these two they were taking cover from, but also the ones watching the door. All four of them would hear his hole-digging skill that would need to be applied over the side corridor adjacent to the entry doors. That meant they had four incarnations who were undoubtedly skilled as well to take care of – two of whom would be difficult to sneak up on.
- We can get you that time. Aprici, the two by the door are fine for you and Miss Harman, right?
- Of course, it is easy. You can’t take both of the others, however, and this one is not quiet enough.
He harshly assessed of Ajax. Indeed, only Aprici and herself could sneak up on the two most skilled, hidden guards.
Dreamer only shook her head, however.
- I don’t need to take them both myself. I’m going to dump one on you two and handle the last one on my own while Ajax works. This third one is all yours and Miss Harman’s, but you’ll need to keep an eye on him if he tries anything underhanded as she might miss it.
Aprici scowled.
- That rope trick you used on my Feia before?
He asked with realisation. Indeed, she had used her rope’s ability to sneak up on Katífeia before and would use it here again to send one of those guards away from the other and into Aprici’s reach.
- Miss Harman, will you be able to keep yourself safe with three enemies around? Aprici is strong and can handle himself well, but he isn’t very good at watching out for others’ wellbeing in a fight. You’ll probably only need to fight one of the door guards and hold their attention for a short while until Aprici has dealt with the other two. Is that alright?
When she agreed with determination in her eyes, they got ready to move, with Dreamer heading out first, shortly followed by Aprici heading in the other direction to her towards the door guards.
A moment later, Dreamer had snuck up to one of the two semi-hidden patrolling guards and dragged them back while muffling their mouth and wrapping their wrist with her ghostly rope, lashing out the other, knotted end in Aprici’s direction. The guard blinked out of existence from his spot held by her and stumbled back into it beside the wolf-monster about to pounce on the unaware door guards.
Of course, the guard next to the one she had dragged back had sensed their comrade had disappeared and after a moment, glanced around and got into a fighting stance, but Dreamer was already ready to handle him.
Behind her, Ajax headed towards her while Miss Harman followed a snarling Aprici.
The guard seemed to realise that Ajax was not there to fight him but for something else, but since Dreamer was there to face him, he could not get to him as he slipped past them to start his task with the thick wall surrounding the chamber they needed to break into.
Every time the sneaky bastard tried to hide and move towards Ajax, Dreamer cut him off and lashed at him with her ghostly blade and attached rope. Just one cut and he should fall right asleep, but the problem was, as usual, her spoons.
[You have exerted yourself. Spend 1 spoon for increased activity?]
[You have exerted yourself. Spend 1 spoon for increased activity?]
She had already moved around quite a lot already and her body was, as usual, protesting. She couldn’t easily move around in this fight unless she wanted to spend more coins on spare spoons, and she needed to keep some to hand for getting out of here even though she had Aprici and Ajax who could carry her out if needed.
That was why it was very useful to have the weapon she did. When paired together, her items could turn her short melee blade into a ranged weapon and a deterrent.
It was just a shame that her current opponent was so agile.
She itched to move more but did her best to remain still and restrict his movements while Ajax worked. Her opponent should slip up if she kept frustrating him, and she could then use her spoons to move in and properly attack when he was likely easier to take down. She couldn’t always just throw herself into fights like the others did, even if she once would have revelled in it, when she had been healthy.
As expected, he did get annoyed at her indirect attacks and changed tactics to try and take her down instead of breaking past to interfere with Ajax. He came towards her, and Dreamer grinned brightly. Now was her time to shine.
He tried to hit her, but she evaded easily, deftly stepping just outside of his useful range, or just too far inside for his hits to work. He grew fiercer in an attempt to land a hit. It was nice that it was not only her annoyed at her opponent’s agility and speed. He kept close, though, which was the important part that she had been waiting for.
Using her opponent’s momentum against him and tripping him up, tugging him off-balance, and throwing him to the ground, she used her roped weapon to pull his arm around and tie his body up in a nice finish that she felt her old ninjutsu instructor might be pretty proud of seeing her perform.
Then, she lightly slashed at the guy’s forearm, leaving a shallow cut that shouldn’t hurt too much.
And moments later, he was out cold.
Damn, she loved this blade. After untying the rope’s hold on the unconscious guy’s arm, Dreamer left him where he was and moved to sit beside the focused Ajax.
- How’s it coming, Breaker?
She asked of him, one of the three designated as entry experts within their and Katsu’s groups. He not only knew his detonation stuff like Iskra, but also had a stone-shifting skill that let him mould solid objects like this, to make sizeable holes like the one he, Olrik, and Iskra had worked on by the Traitor’s Gate before.
He was on his own this time, however, but had been prepared ahead of time with useful items to make his job easier if there were other barriers they needed to break past, when he and Olrik had split before.
- Nearly done. Thank you for the potions.
He replied, referring to the empty mana potions beside him that they had also stocked up on, since the Breakers’ skill required a large amount of magic power.
A couple minutes later, Aprici and Miss Harman rejoined them, with Aprici dragging the bodies of the guards along with him and dumping all four of them into a corner of this corridor – not that they expected anyone else to creep up on them, but it was better to hide them out of the way just in case they became a tripping hazard later, since they would be moving whatever captives remained inside here shortly.
- I go in first to take out the imposter. Aprici will freak them all out if he shows up amongst them, even though he’s the best fit for it. Anyone is free to pay for my energy expenditure costs if they feel badly for me, though.
Dreamer said with a lopsided grin. Her team lined up around the hole she would climb through to keep watch and wait for the signal to follow inside.
Inside the room, it was extremely dark, but a few candles were lit against the far wall, illuminating the forms of several wary figures eyeing her up from beside and on top of the massive bed in the room they likely shared during their captivity here.
She briefly glanced over them all, wondering who the imposter amongst them was, but could not tel. So, instead, she opened her mouth to start her gambit.
“I’m here to rescue all of you on behalf of the Waterloo and London Bridge groups. Is there anyone here who could explain your situation to me quickly? I need to know who to liaise with on our path out of here,” she stated calmly, keeping an eye out for unusual reactions on the faces observing her back.
A hesitant hand stuck itself up in the air from someone in the middle of the bed a few of them were sat on. “I am your best bet, then, miss. My name is – “
However, Dreamer could not focus on their name very well since other words entered her head at the same time as this speaker. It was not with the same voice.
- They are the impostor, not our representative. Do not trust them.
The cold voice said.
Dreamer blinked at the unexpected message before glancing at the others once more while the ‘leader’ continued introducing themselves.
‘I know,’ Dreamer wanted to reply but did not have whatever skill or ability the other person had used. ‘That’s why I asked who was in charge here, since the imposter would naturally claim the position if they were suppressing the others kept here.’
It was then that she noticed the pair of dark, calm eyes watching her less nervously than the others around them. If she had to guess, the voice must have come from this woman.
The speaker had finished their introduction and update, however, and so Dreamer continued her momentary charade.
“It’s nice to meet you then. I can untie you first – I’ll come over now, so please don’t be startled.” She stepped towards the bed as the voice reappeared in her head.
- The bed is warded against intrusion. You cannot step through the barrier. You can see it by the blood on the floor.
Dreamer wanted to sigh, but ignored the voice as she did not know how to reply and just did as she had planned to do when she had taken stock of this room and situation.
“Here – hold this for a moment, please,” she requested one of the hostages who complied while confused. The knotted end of her rope was now held by someone on the other side of the barrier she could not step across.
A moment later, Dreamer appeared on top of the bed over that surprised person, grinning as she turned to the ‘leader’ beside her.
“Shall I untie you now?” she said with heavy sarcasm, slashing at them with the blade she had hidden in her sleeve. They jerked back to avoid the cut but had only accounted for avoiding a serious injury and thus let themself be lightly scratched since it ordinarily would be of little consequence.
“You –!“ the impostor posing as a leader began gathering their magic power before losing strength and falling back onto the bed.
“Now that the weird stuff’s handled, did you folks want to get out of here?” she said with a smile as she climbed off the person she had blinked over to and sat at the edge of the bed instead, reaching out to cut their bonds.
She also sent a message in the group chat to signal the others to come in and they promptly did so.
“Kitty!” one of the captives exclaimed just as Dreamer was undoing her bonds. The woman slipped away from Dreamer and ran towards Miss Harman.
Ah, this must be Katherine’s wife, Deborah ‘Raven’ Harman.
The pair enthusiastically hugged each other and shared words of relief and affection while Dreamer continued her work.
There were several gasps as Aprici squeezed through the hole and stretched back up into his large, hulking, shadowed form that was clearly more monstrous than it was humanoid.
“That guy is with us, actually. Please don’t be scared – he helped us get here. Meanwhile, Miss Harman is the reason we found you,” Dreamer explained as Ajax began helping with the remaining ties.
“Umm, are those birds?” Ajax asked with confusion. “They literally kept you with the actual ravens of this place?”
Several of the birds had settled around the room, with a couple perched on the predominantly women’s shoulders.
After sharing some words, it was time to move again, and Dreamer introduced herself and explained the plan.
However, someone had another idea.
The woman with piercing eyes who hadn’t taken her eyes from Dreamer since she had appeared here spoke up in the same cold voice she had heard inside her head. “Not all of us can leave yet,” she said very ominously.
Dreamer raised an eyebrow. “And why might that be?”
“There is somewhere else we must go first,” she said unhelpfully again, but a flood of images passed through Dreamer’s head at that moment, as if sent by this woman, detailing other areas of the castle.
Dreamer sighed. “Oh, great. I guess you’re right. We need to split again. Ajax, Miss Harman, will you be alright leading these people to the pickup point? You should be able to meet Anya and the others on the way, so it should be safe with her direction. It seems I need to go with this woman here to go save a colleague of mine from some trouble,” she explained somewhat reluctantly, having seen and understood the images passed to her just now.
Aprici let out a low growl that startled some of the others here. “If you are going, so am I. You can’t walk well.”
Dreamer only nodded at this. “You’re very right; I could use your help.”
“It should only be us two,” the woman countered without emotion.
Dreamer shook her head. “I know what you showed me, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have also been there, just unseen. Besides, if we are going all the way over there, I am going to need a ride and we did not bring my chair for this mission. Regardless of your visions, Aprici can come too,” she reasoned.
The woman seemed reluctant to accept but eventually conceded. She looked like this change in plans confused her quite a lot, but Dreamer didn’t really care.
“Before we split up, is one of you Raven Wrexham?” she asked, glancing around the room.
It was the cold, ominous woman who answered.
“I am Raven Rex, yes,” she stated neutrally.
Dreamer accepted this. “Alright. That’s good to know. Katsu thought you had died when he rejected the Tower King’s deal. He will be relieved to know you are still alive, as well as the others taken from your group that have already headed back with my other team members. If you insist on remaining here to tackle the situation you showed me, please do not die. From what I have seen of him so far, he has already grieved you enough.”
After saying all this and agreeing to be careful, the present people split into their assigned groups – hostages and ravens with Ajax and Miss Harman, and Raven Rex, Aprici, and Dreamer in the one heading elsewhere. Dreamer knew that Anya would know what to do with them and left a message for her with Ajax about the change in plans and telling her not to wait around or seek her out, since it would cause greater trouble.
Like this, Dreamer left on Aprici’s back and with an ominous new ally beside them headed towards the Waterloo Block, where Damian was in trouble within.
*****

Chapter 39: Chapter Thirty-three – King (4) (MS#4 continued, Tower tackling, meet Cora)

Chapter Text

They hadn’t taken more than a few steps down the corridor when they realised something was not right.
“What are you doing here?!” Raven exclaimed with clear irritation.
The woman, another hostage who hadn’t left with the others and seemed quite young, spoke in sign. “Our Lady said you would need me.”
“We already have too many coming. You can’t come for this – it isn’t safe,” Raven said coldly, seeming uncharacteristically animated compared to her earlier words. She signed as she spoke.
“Your future is already changed, then. That is why you will need me,” the woman replied calmly, unperturbed by Raven’s hostile glare.
Dreamer noted her own interpreter skill activating again. She had Aprici step between the two of them to get their attention and began speaking and signing back to them. “Your sponsor asked you to join us?” she asked to confirm what was meant by ‘Our Lady’.
“Yes.”
“You know where we are going then?” From what Raven had shown of her visions, it would be quite dangerous and likely uncomfortable for them to be involved with.
“I know enough. Raven is not the only one with strong instincts that they took. If you do not let me accompany you, I will make my own way, for my own reasons,” she stated resolutely.
Seeing her determination clearly in her expression, Dreamer lightly nodded. Unlike Raven who seemed to mind more people coming, Dreamer had no qualms in letting others come if they could keep themselves safe enough. She had not liked the things Raven had shown her, so another person in the know could only be beneficial, since she was not on the Tower’s side.
“Alright, you can join us if you can handle the chaos that will soon occur. Do you know raven’s intended plan?” she checked.
The newcomer glanced back to the scowling Raven. “Roughly. I accept any uncertainties.”
Dreamer only nodded again. “Okay, cool. The help is appreciated, then. We will travel mostly in darkness – is that alright? And Raven, will this be a problem?”
Raven looked disgruntled before releasing a breath of acceptance and shaking her head. “No, it is not a problem. Cora does have useful abilities as well, it’s just – we were meant to be stuck together after this. Alone.” She scowled at the woman – Cora – and Aprici as she emphasised this last part. “I have quite a lot I need to speak with you about, and you alone. There is a reason I knew the whispers would reach you.”
Dreamer raised an eyebrow at this new piece of vague insinuation. “Umm, sure, but you can speak to me alone at any point after all of this, no? And we could just ask them to leave us for a bit…?”
Raven only sighed again and shook her head. “Nevermind. I’ll work around it. It is of little consequence.”
Watching as Raven waved a hand dismissively in the air and return to her former stoic, mysterious airs, Dreamer had the thought that this person might just have a taste for the dramatic, and that was why she spoke so coldly and ominously.
Dreamer turned to ‘Cora’ again and confirmed the last things before they could proceed. “Your name is Cora?”
The girl nodded. “I am comfortable in darkness – please do not worry.”
Dreamer nodded. “Thank you for telling me. We will mostly make use of the group chat, so I hope you are both comfortable being added to this temporarily?” Dreamer then turned to Raven to add, “Katsu already confirmed we could temporarily add members of his group to ours and vice versa in this function only, for this operation, so it should not be a problem of ‘changing groups’.” She then returned her gaze to Cora. “The same will apply if you are from another group – you do not need to transfer to ours to use this function – we found a workaround.”
Cora shook her head. “I have no group. They picked me up because they saw me with the birds while I was returning to my sister.”
Raven scoffed, but it felt less mean to Dreamer than it might have otherwise seemed. “She says, ‘birds’, but they weren’t normal birds – or even the ones from this Tower. She means the winged monsters,” Raven explained, summoning the image of one of the monsters that had restricted their ability to remain outdoors above-ground in the first couple of scenarios. The image was made of shadows that had pulled together to form the monster’s shape.
A piece of Dreamer’s vision seemed to blip briefly and she looked towards the distortion to read the system message that was facing Raven. It read: [Exclusive skill, ‘Sorcery’ is activated.]
It was not a message she had received herself, yet because of the way the system didn’t entirely seem to apply to her properly and her perception of the particles and distortions around her, she was able to see the messages others received sometimes, like this, though it took a lot of her attention.
“Sorry, what did you say?” Dreamer asked Cora after realising she had missed her last words.
Cora repeated herself without fuss. “I’m a kind of ornithomancer.” She had a light smile on her face, as if being able to say this was nice for her.
Raven clicked her tongue and crossed her arms, the image of the shadow monster dispersing as she did so. “Tsk. Aren’t we all? And that’s not what that term means,” she signed.
Dreamer raised an eyebrow as she watched their interaction.
Cora looked irritated. “Yes, it is. They count as birds too!” she argued.
Dreamer whistled down at them with her irregularly high-pitched whistle that was very effective. She held up a hand to indicate they should stop for a moment and listen. “I don’t care what kind of abilities you have right now. I understand your intention in sharing this with me, especially given where we are heading, but for now, please switch to the group chat. From here onwards, we should maintain calm movements and quiet. Even though we all know where we will likely end up at the end of this.
- I am not an ornithomancer.
Aprici very helpfully stated.
- Neither am I.
Dreamer added drily.
- Yes, you are, Dreamer. You, Cora, and I are clairvoyants. Ornithomancy is just one of my and your skills, though it is Cora’s preferred specialty.
Raven countered.
Oh? This was interesting information. It seemed that everyone else had a better idea of her supposed clairvoyant and prophet skills than Dreamer herself had.
While they momentarily bickered over whether specialising in one area was better than being skilled in all areas of the same field as seers, Dreamer merely shook her head and with Aprici, led the group towards the Waterloo Block.
-
Since it was located at the other end of the castle grounds, it took them some time to near the large building that housed the crown jewels of the kingdom in which they resided.
The place they needed to be was on the ground floor, according to the visions Raven had shared earlier. However, if they were to enter unnoticed, then a different route was needed.
Dreamer stared up at the levels above the main entrance with a discerning eye. If she had her good health back, such a climb would be easy for her and she would love doing it. As it was…
She sighed from where she rested atop Aprici’s furry back.
- We need to go up there?
He asked without needing to be told as much. She nodded, though he couldn’t see it.
- Yes.
- It is easy. I am an excellent climber.
Dreamer was aware of this. However, that was not the issue bothering her right now. She turned her head to look at Raven and Cora expectantly.
Raven met her gaze calmly. Darkness swirled around her hands.
- It is not a problem for me either.
Dreamer blinked as she read a message that popped up in front of Raven. Raven’s expressions did not alter in the slightest, but Dreamer’s twisted slightly, looking awkward.
She sighed. Since Raven was not going to admit her magic power was running low, she should probably not make a point of it herself. However, Raven was clearly masking this to seem more confident than she needed to. It was better if she did not use up too much power right now with climbing since they would need it later.
Wordlessly, Dreamer dropped one of the spare mana potions into Raven’s hands. Unlike Raven who seemed to use her [Sorcery] skill often and Aprici who needed to use his shadows often on their route here, Dreamer herself had not needed to use much of her own magic power but had also carried a few in case of emergencies – whether for her or her companions.
Cora then supplied her own method.
- I won’t need the help. I am an ornithomancer, after all.
Raven very noticeably rolled her eyes but did not add anything this time. It seemed Cora really didn’t need any assistance, nor potions.
Thus, they each made their way up the building to the floor above the one they would find Damian on. Since they no longer had a Breaker with them, Raven magicked them an entry through the old-fashioned windows and they landed on the platform just inside.
Aprici silently leapt down form the window entrance. Raven landed in a puff of shadows swirling at her feet. And Cora…
Cora had flown up here from outside and was grinning brightly as she released her flight skill and dropped the couple feet to the ground.
This would have made a sound Cora would have been unable to hear, had Raven not flicked some shadows over to silence the landing.
Dreamer was not just a little bit jealous. Dreamer was practically begging the helpful particles around her how she could learn to do that because the first superpower she had always wanted to have, was flight. Dreamer knew that it was not an easy skill to gain in the earlier scenarios but that several incarnations had earned it quite early compared to the other regression turns of TWSA in ORV, by the time the Disaster of Floods had appeared. She had assumed that the fifth scenario was the earliest time you could gain this skill.
This was the fourth scenario, yet Cora could apparently fly, and well.
Dreamer was very, very envious. The particles seemed similarly excited but did not answer her question, sadly.
Perhaps it was not the right time for her to learn this ability. Perhaps this fact made Dreamer very, very sad.
Dreamer didn’t know all her own skills, let alone where to pick up the ones that she really wanted to have.
Alas, she had other things to focus on for now, but she mentally noted to herself to pester Cora about the ability after this was dealt with.
- Are you vibrating?
Aprici asked her, perplexed at the energy she was emitting above and behind him.
- Maybe. I have more energy than I am able to expend, usually. Like right now. Anyways, let’s begin. You remember the plan? If things start looking bad for me –
- Yes, I remember. Get Damian and the others out first because you will be fine for a while. You have said it enough.
He interrupted her, sounding irritated.
- She will be with me, so of course we will be fine.
Raven added like some kind of benevolent sage. The placid smile seemed oddly perfect for her appearance, despite how that mysterious, enigmatic image easily cracked when dealing with Cora.
Meanwhile, Aprici did not look convinced. He had only just met Raven alongside Dreamer and had not been shown the things that Dreamer had, as they were not meant to be shared with others, or else their plan would most likely go wrong. To him, her words were not reassuring, but neither were they concerning.
He merely gave her a weird, disgruntled look, but Raven was too busy looking down to notice.
After checking a few more things, they faced forwards and began their plan.
*****

Chapter 40: Chapter Thirty-four – King (5) (MS#4 continued, Tower tackling, capture and release)

Chapter Text

Harried feet rushed from the room before the soldiers that had been called over could arrive.
Damian ushered his remaining crew out of the fire exit. He wouldn’t leave until he was sure the rest were out, but he also already knew that not all of them would make it out in time.
As had been planned, Damian’s group were tasked with feigning a higher degree of stealth than they had, specifically so that they would be noticed if someone were checking, but not if nobody was paying attention. It was an additional measure to ensure that Dreamer’s group could safely retrieve the prisoners if someone were to already be looking for intruders, since it was better to have Damian’s group noticed than hers.
However, in an ideal world, neither of their groups should be noticed.
The original plan was to loot this place and plant traps and explosives around the place to waylay the enemies who might be sent to reinforce the Tower incarnations at Tower Hill facing Katsu, whilst working out where the Tower flagpole was located. This was to be done quietly and covertly without alerting the enemy to their presence. However, those in Damian’s group were not the most proficient in stealth – only had a talent in it to lesser extent than those with Dreamer. Thus, if the enemies suddenly start paying closer attention to their surroundings, they might be discovered. This was preferable to them spotting Dreamer’s group first.
That was the plan. Up until this point, it had gone relatively well.
They were not meant to be noticed at least until they had retrieved the most lucrative items they knew must be found in this historic place.
Ideally, they would not be noticed at all and could safely leave with their haul and their planted devices that would create beneficial chaos while Katsu’s side were attacking from the other sides.
Unfortunately, neither of these things had been the case.
It turned out, the flagpole was kept where many of the lucrative items were, and the route there was not as clear as their intel had led them to believe.
And there was one more piece of information that had greatly changed events such that Damian had needed to quickly shepherd his group out before reinforcements could arrive for the incarnations they had just fought and incapacitated.
“I see there is a Hidden King sneaking around my base, looking to swoop in and plant his flag while I am meant to be absent. What a shame for you that that isn’t quite the case,” drawled the voice of the person walking towards him wearing a thematically appropriate, luxurious red cloak.
Ah, Damian thought, He’s one of those Dreamer warned us about.
It meant the ‘synchronisation’ with his sponsor would likely be quite high if he had one. And with that look… he almost definitely had one.
The last escaping members of Damian’ team were herded back inside as soldiers appeared from outside to cut the last few of them off.
Hastily stepping in front of them and pulling them behind him as the soldiers made to lash out at them, Damian let himself and his team be herded into the open space in the centre of the floor now that all exits were blocked off.
The Tower King grinned at Damian with teeth that were just a hue too white. “Since you accepted the summons to the execution, even with this sneaky plan of yours behind it, I should oblige, no? A good King is accommodating to his subjects.”
Saying this, he lunged to attack Damian directly.
However, there were plenty of reasons that everyone seemed to think Damian was one of the Kings masquerading around here above everyone else, and it was not just because he was so personable and charming.
He was also very, very good in a fight. The King’s attack was blocked, and the Tower King looked momentarily shocked as he held Damian’s glare before barking out a laugh.
“Ha! Yes, you should be at least this skilled, to scurry into my palace while I keep the other Kings busy to lure out the troublesome ones!” he said with a bright grin as if pleased.
After trading a few blows and hearing more strange praise from this terrible human before him who seemed to revel in a ‘fight amongst Kings’, Damian had finally gotten fed up and signalled to his team to stop hiding their hand.
At the same time, he put more force into his own attacks to knock the talkative King back.
“Look,” Damian began in a dark tone, “You clearly want this to be some epic battle between Kings and I get that, I really do. But. There’s something you really ought to know about my group before you continue along that line of thinking. There is,” he slashed a tear in the King’s cloak, “not a single King amongst any of us,” he blocked a stab from the King with the flat side of his own weapon and took the moment the King’s attack and expression stuttered to move in again, “Yet every single one of us is more of a King than you ever will be!”
Behind him, Devin was laughing heartily. “Hell yeah, boss! We’re all Kings here!” he called out cheerily while knocking back two of the incarnations approaching him. He looked just a bit punk right now, twirling his drumsticks like they were blades and using them like batons to bash on the heads of his enemies. The sound effects were pretty stunning, too.
Olrik wore a strange expression as he added for himself, “Uhh, I actually do have a King, but he definitely isn’t here right now, and these guys don’t serve anyone. So, you are sh*t out of luck either way, pal.”
Devin had a break in his combat long enough to point one of his drumsticks towards Olrik, “Oh, yeah! A couple of them here have a King, but since he isn’t here right now either, we all get to be Kings for the day, right mate?” he suggested while bracing himself for another hit.
One of the other members of Katsu’s group Damian was working with laughed herself and added, “Sure, mate! Bagsy the title of Regent instead though! Sounds fancier, dunnit?” This was Erica from Guy’s Hospital, and someone Damian knew from work, before the scenarios. She had been just a bit different around him back then. He felt like this version of her might be a truer one, however, as there was no need for formality outside the workplace – if you could consider this that.
One of their own group they had requested across from Camryn’s hospital offered their own input. “Monarch is cooler. Plus, I like the alliteration of it with my name – Monarch Matthew. Nice ring to it, right?”
“Oooh! Overlord Olivia for me!” came the peppy voice of one of their original group members from the hell of the first scenario. “Ack! That is not how you should treat your new master, foolish wretch! Bow before my ire!” Her arm was now bleeding, but she had grabbed Olrik’s shield tossed to her and was now bashing it against her attacker until his legs gave out under the onslaught. Olivia was very tall, which made it even more effective, too.
Thanks to his team being the wonderful beings that they all were, Damian was no longer as irritated by this King’s noisy assumptions about his role in this. “You heard them. As for me, you can just call me Doctor Kumiȩga. I’m a doctor, not a King, but for your pride, I don’t mind blurring the distinction a little bit.”
After being initially surprised that his ambience and narrative battle had been upended like this, the Tower King gradually regained his composure and began attacking with much less ceremony, anger writ all over his face.
Despite being surrounded, Damian’s group was holding up surprisingly well against their would-be slaughterers. However, they were more enemies than remaining group members, and so they couldn’t hold their ground for very long. But since it was this or death, they needed to keep trying. At least until the original time passed, when Dreamer’s group was meant to meet back up with them, after the hostages were found and retrieved. Anya was with them, and Anya would turn the tides here easily out of sheer rage and spite for them daring to harm her group. Akari, too. Ciara would have been the scariest support to show up here, but she was busy elsewhere and had not been a part of this leg of the operation unfortunately.
While thinking desperately of his teammates and their strengths, Damian took a bad injury from the Tower King who was no longer attacking on his own but with some of the intimidating incarnations who had stood at his back just prior. It was a wound that Sammy would absolutely harass him for receiving and not treating immediately, were she here.
Before the next blow could land, however – and of course it was from someone wielding a bloody axe – all of the lights in the room went out at once as a deep darkness fell over them.
Ordinarily, this would have been very concerning to him. Had it felt like the last sweeping, chilling darkness that had fallen over them during the hellish third scenario, Damian would definitely be feeling starkly different to how he currently did.
As it was, he let out a breath of relief as he drew back from his startled attackers and braced against the forms of his team who also knew to do much the same, for those of them that could manage it in this darkness.
A loud growl filled the air as a monstrously large form landed heavily on the ground between Damian and the Tower King.
And atop this monstrous form was…
…Someone Damian did not recognise, wielding the only light source in the room around her two hands.
No, wait, he did recognise her, perhaps? Wasn’t this one of the hostages Katsu had shared pictures of from his own phone?
The figure atop the being that Damian recognised as Aprici – albeit somehow now larger than he had been only just prior when their groups had split – spoke sombrely from where she sat looming over the rest of them. Aprici’s dark eyes glowed an unusual hue as she did so.
“Drosophila melanogaster, you fools!” came the deepened voice of this person that… Did she just say what he thought she said?
Damian slowly began clicking things into place as the threatening presence of this person continued to speak while glancing peripherally towards him while not taking her focus from the Tower King and his lackeys.
She continued forebodingly. “Tower King! I have come to avenge the souls of those you have forsaken in your quest for glory! Let peasants begone from here, for I will only respond to the Ravenmaster and my true King, Katsuhito Amano. Let your men leave now or suffer the wrath of the souls your sponsor has wronged in this place!”
As she spoke, her light-filled hands moved to face their palms forwards towards the King and his men and various phantoms and wisps of what looked like translucent people rushed forwards from the darkness into the centre of light she had created before him.
At the sounds of the wraiths’ subtle wailing cries and shrieks, several of the Tower King’s men stepped back, with some looking greatly fearful.
However… This was the scenarios, and they had already been through quite a lot by now. Not everyone cowered, and none of them left, presumably wary of their King’s ire if they did.
While the Tower King and his men were struck dumb by this occurrence, however, Damian, Devin, and Olivia were busy shepherding the others back towards the direction of the exit that had been blocked earlier.
Their group chat had already been informing them of several things while the figure on Aprici’s back was speaking.
- Waddup, weirdos. It’s me, ya boi Dreamer.
- A little birdy told me you’d need some help, and I’m here to give it. Anya’s wrapping things up with the rest of the hostages but two of them wanted to come here for a performance of sorts. I hope you like it.
- Obviously none of you got my joke. Fly, you fools! Katsu’s Raven shoved a path through to the exit, so get moving! The barrier won’t be up for long once the incarnations pushed back by it realise they can just walk through if they try really hard and ignore the strong wind pressure thing. Wind Walls are sturdier in D&D, I think.
- I’d come with you, but Katsu will be in trouble shortly so I need to stay for some other stuff we have planned first. Aprici can fill you in more on the way out if you wait, but most of you should definitely just GTFO back to Anya and the others first. If you don’t make it, don’t worry – we have plans for that too.
- Now, kindly try your best to GTFO of here. I have several Kings to piss off all at once, and none of them are you lot. Love the new titles though. Anya will probably fight you for Overlord though, Oli.
Damian did not need to remain still to hear more. They all stealthily slunk towards the exit while Dreamer and Aprici kept the focus on themselves with whoever they had brought with them.
However, a couple of them were kind of significantly wounded from the altercation already and did not manage to make it out before the Tower incarnations worked out the trick of the presumed wind wall Raven had summoned.
They stood in front of Damian, Erica, and Olrik’s path, but the others had made it out already, thankfully.
Only Erica was in a good enough state to defend them in, however.
A snarl resounded out from behind them just then, and a moment later, the darkness shifted and became a lot more solid before them.
They were now looking at the dark fur of the Wulver, who was now guarding in front of them, back to his regular – still massive – size.
A girl with hands like doves appeared beside them as well, reaching out to help Damian with his most serious injuries while introducing herself over the group chat.
- My name is Cora. Dreamer said you can tell me what to do to treat you enough for speedier movement, but I know some basic first aid. They can’t fool the King for long and we need to get you out.
While she was helping Damian and Olrik bandage themselves up and Aprici was staring down the enemies blocking their path, the Tower King was busy going bug-eyed in shock behind them.
He wasn’t looking towards Aprici, however. Nor was he looking at Cora, who seemed to have entirely slipped his notice.
He was staring at the two figures before him, both with various swirls of magic swishing around their hands.
And both with the same face.
“Didn’t you say you wanted to meet my sisters?” one of the two Raven Rexes asked with a slight uptilt to their mouth.
“Or did you not realise that we all have rather… unique talents, like hers?” said the other, grinning a bit more wolfishly.
“’The more of them, the better,’ wasn’t this what you said when you captured me? Surely one extra seer isn’t enough to sate your desire for our knowledge and prophecies?” said the first.
The Tower King rapidly blinked, processing this information as well as his confused mind could. “No – what? You told me you didn’t have any sisters with your gifts! Yet you were hiding a twin? Where is the third?” he demanded while lashing out at the ‘wraiths’ that reached out for him which dispersed upon contact. “There should be three of those you consider kin who can See things as you can! I was told that – ah! She’s there!”
The expression of both Ravens frowned simultaneously at his words and followed his accusatory finger to see who, exactly, he considered their ‘third’ sister.
It was Cora.
- Motherf*cker!
The group chat pinged from Raven while the pair of them tried very hard not to swear aloud and ruin their performative atmosphere of mystery. Dreamer was annoyed because he wasn’t meant to pay attention over there, while Raven was presumably just mad because it being Cora broke her concentration a little bit and she was already struggling to maintain the eerie darkness, sounds and appearances of the ‘ghosts’, the wind wall, the hand lights, and her verbal performance.
She supposed that, in this darkness, he might really think Cora looked like her. Appearance had been one of the contributing factors to their capture, after all.
Dreamer – still looking like Raven – was the first to regain their composure and continue with the performance to keep him distracted from the others, hoping now that he wouldn’t actually go after Cora as well, despite his crazy eyes suggesting that yes, he did intend to keep her here as well.
She cleared her throat pointedly to draw his attention back to her. “She isn’t one with our gifts. You haven’t met our third sister ye–“
However, he interrupted her attempted denial. “No, I saw her use her gift before! She is one of you, I know it!” he snapped his fingers at the men around him who had not yet chased after the others or been forced back by the wind wall. “Apprehend her before she leaves! I must have each Sister here for the prophecy to come true!”
One of the Ravens sighed. Dreamer was so done with this guys’ sh*t and she had only just gotten here. She wasn’t cut out to play foreboding fortune-teller anyways. Her expertise was better placed in other areas.
Raven had said this King liked portents in rhyme.
“What does an angel have that a witch doesn’t?” she began in a starkly different tone. “Wings, for a start. Not to mention a pure soul and heart.” She continued to circle around him the way she and Raven had been doing before to create the right, weird atmosphere. “But who’s to say a witch isn’t pure? Burdened by prejudice, you won’t know for sure!”
Raven’s expression was weird as she listened, but she thankfully shook it off and took over with something more fitting to their situation than a contemplative teen’s poem. “Yet since a ‘pure’ witch is what you seek, you’ve heartlessly excised the weak. Until such time as you see clear, no witch or seeress will serve you here.” Her words dripped with a venom that felt entirely real. Dreamer wondered just what truth lay in her words but felt that she could already guess what Raven had had to witness during her time here.
Then, Dreamer’s mind felt like a thread of something had been plucked like the string of an instrument to make a hum inside her brain and spoke in a tone that she did not have to feign the unusual tone for. It felt like the words were falling from her tongue and lips rather than herself specifically selecting to speak them.
“Pages turn and dreamers peek, a silent world begins to speak. Through one heart and with one mind, all those Most Ancient must unwind. Take no time or take it all, amidst the Dream, Reality calls.”
In the wake of her words, only silence followed.
Raven looked concerned while the Tower King seemed ecstatic.
Then, the voice of a Dokkaebi appeared.
[Oho, it looks like this side is busy causing a stir as well! Constellations, don’t you think everyone here is a bit too lax given the events they specifically set up elsewhere? Shouldn’t we share a bit of the happenings with them?]
A screen appeared in the dark air above their heads, showing Katsu’s forces overwhelming those of the other Kings and, more importantly, those of the Tower King’s. Some of the Kings appeared to be working with Katsu which meant that his endeavours to form alliances with them must have gone well. It looked like it would not be long before their fight concluded in Katsu’s – not the Tower King’s – favour.
Beneath the screen, the King’s face that had been ecstatic formerly was now scowling. He began directing his present men to let the other Sister go and focus on capturing ‘these two’ for now, since he would still have ‘a majority of them gathered’.
It seemed it was time for the madman to hole up in his castle fortress for the next events Raven had foreseen.
However, one figure remained unable to speak as images flooded her brain to the tune of a nursery rhyme on repeat in her head.
The images were those from her own childhood, singing the song, and of a battle-worn Katsu falling to his knees before the Tower King. There were also those she had already seen from Raven’s visions, of herself and Raven in a dark, locked room, as well as new ones filled with flames and tears as a voice from her distant memories called out charmingly, ‘My fair lady.’
As this last line resounded in her head, her expression crumpled as her heart ached and something in her memories screamed and something comforting at last whispered, ‘We’ve been here before, ●●●●. The rest will be remembered properly soon. We didn’t forget. You never forget them fully. Remember this.’
Everything went dark before these words ended, and Dreamer was out like a light as the chaos of her companions and enemies continued around her without needing her conscious presence to exist.
-
Cora glanced at the messages sent by an apparently flustered Raven as she helped Dreamer’s companions escape the Waterloo Block as planned.
- sh*t! I had foreseen some of this, but I hadn’t seen this! Cora, get them out of here! If she’s not around, I can’t guarantee their safety, or yours!
- Send for me with your specialty once you are free from here. Aside from this unexpected issue, everything else remains on track as foreseen. I know you aren’t a part of my King’s group or theirs, but if your sponsor sent you with us for this, she must know something else, so I hope you will remain with our groups ‘til we have a chance to meet again!'
- The Tower King thinks you’re my other sister, by the way. You will need to be wary of recapture by him again, even more so than before. He never listens when I try to correct him about any of that.
Unlike the others, Cora had remained calm as Dreamer had spoken those words into being before them, and remained calm when sparks flew around her and made her pass out, as well.
She replied to Raven before leaving the range that the group chat function worked within.
- Our lady asked me to stay and watch, so for now, I will. We will meet again, Raven, don’t worry. I will let your brother know you are safe if the others haven’t already. Please look after the Dreamer for us. She is wearier than she appears.
After exchanging their parting words, Cora vanished out of the door, just as Raven snatched up the unconscious form of the Dreamer in her arms.
Sometimes, it was not the boldest or most enigmatic seers who knew the most.
Sometimes, it was only the feeble dreamers who could see reality for what it really is, even whilst they were still unaware that they were even dreaming.
Cora wondered what her own role in all of this might appear to be to outside perspectives watching this story unfold but knew that regardless of what the stars might have written for her, it was herself who ultimately chose which path to make.
At least this time, she would hopefully not have to walk it alone.
*****

Chapter 41: Chapter Thirty-five - Interlude? (MS#4 continued, capture and release, Raven chat with A)

Chapter Text

In the dim light of the room they had been imprisoned within, Raven looked down at the unconscious form before her. The chalk from the spell circle he had drawn around them flickered with specks of light as the magic she had woven into it sparked and sung.
The unconscious person opened her eyes and sat up, meeting Raven’s gaze with her own. It looked the same as Dreamer’s usual ones, however, Raven knew better.
Raven’s expression was sombre as she greeted the other party she had ‘summoned’ here. “Welcome to the Story, wanderer.”
The woman gave a wry smile and replied, “I’d prefer you call me Dreamer than that, but since I know you need a distinction between her and ‘me’, you can call me A. Like with her, the names we identify ourselves with don’t really stay in your mind right, even if we were able to give it. Since I still think that’s complete bullsh*t, however, I’ll try it anyways: My current name is Angelica.” She raised a finger and pointed above her head, where words appeared like golden orange text.
Raven looked at the glowing text before meeting Angelica’s gaze once more. “I… see. Then, it is nice to meet you, A.”
Angelica, in Dreamer’s body – the one they sort of shared? – sighed heavily. “Right. Well, it’s not like I even have a name originally, anyways. I don’t need them to identify ‘myself’ regardless of which world or which body I end up in. Tell me your secrets and ask me your questions, then. I’ll try and give what answers I can, but I haven’t been feeling especially useful of late, so no guarantee it’ll be helpful. Oh, but I can do this…”
She moved her finger higher up and snapped it against her palm.
The space around them seemed to ripple and distort in that way that Dreamer had always kept an eye out for. Raven felt the gazes of the constellations momentarily shift away from here, as if they were bored by what they saw – or didn’t see – and went to watch someone else.
“We can speak mostly freely now, I think. Since this is similar to what they keep doing to other people everywhere in the stories I have already experienced, they can’t kick up a fuss about me having the ability here, too. I can’t do anything about the gazes watching me write this from my own waking world, however. Oh, and Dreamer has this ability as well, so this isn’t in breach of whatever rules they might otherwise claim it is. Only using what already belongs to her and all that. Well, what did you want to speak about?”
Raven took this all in steadily and opened her mouth. “Connect me up with the others. I want to know everything about this world too.”
However, Angelica’s eyebrows knit together at this. She seemed to struggle with her choice of words before saying, “Arghh, f*ck it. I’m not one for keeping sh*t close to my chest anymore, so why the hell not? I can’t connect you up with the others since I don’t know if I have their permission and since it’s primarily from my own head, I have to be at least a little bit more cautious with that sort of thing now that ‘just me’ doesn’t mean ‘just the conscious me’ anymore, but yes, I can still tell you plenty, and add you to part of the metaphorical network of allies trying to untangle this mess.
“After all, I’m just guessing at numbers and figures, putting the puzzles back together again, so sharing it should be fine, so long as you remember that I am just as flawed and uncertain as any of the rest of us out here. Is that acceptable?” she asked the sorceress from where she remained sitting cross-legged on the ground.
When Raven nodded her head, Angelica continued speaking.
“Good. Let’s start with some basic information about the situation, shall we?” Angelica then tapped the spot beneath her collarbone and spoke downwards, as if to her chest. “You can come out now as well, Squidcakes, since you know a lot too, but recapping won’t be bad for you either. Don’t use your real voice for now though. I feel like I can trust Raven plenty since she’s one of ‘mine’, technically, but she’s also quite new to the conscious me writing this, so I’m not sure if the information will affect the course of our own events here, and I’d like to keep you safe too. Plus, it will arguably be too difficult for her to hear at the moment, given your whole, you know, ‘status’, and what-not.”
While she spoke, a small, dark, bald squid head stuck itself out of her top and emerged, floating in the air beside her shoulder.
“Raven, meet Squidi, my kin. His complex self was arguably here before I was, if you ignore the whole ‘time loops not having a set starting point, technically’, thing. Welcome to the club of ‘weird magic people who know more than they can handle’, Raven. We have a lot to talk about.”
After Raven adjusted to the sudden appearance of the small outer being Dreamer kept nearby at almost all times that had somehow escaped the guards’ notice earlier, she settled down to listen to the lengthy, haphazard, bizarre story that Angelica had to share with her and Squidi, and hoped that she, too, would be able to cope with the levels of existential dread their ‘new’ world now came with – on multiple levels greater than she had anticipated when asking about it, based on what she had already gleaned herself.
However, hearing about these things also helped her to regain a greater sense of control over her own actions and thoughts, and she felt like, perhaps, approaching the lurking presence that resided within Dreamer, as a part of her, was worth the effort it took to ‘summon’ her – or rather, suppressing ‘Dreamer’s’ ego enough for Angelica’s to ‘take point’, per se, since Dreamer’s was already absent within this body while she was unconscious due to her personal attribute and habit of wandering while knocked out.
Dreamer and Angelica may know plenty of things, but Raven was not so prideful of her ability to Know and See things without good reason. She had been hoping for a chance to speak to Dreamer – and with Angelica, eventually – before she had ever ‘met’ her, and thankfully, that had now come to pass.
Now, they just needed to wait for the remaining section of this long Tower of London scenario to draw to an end and had plenty of downtime until then to pass within this dingy room. Raven intended to use it to question Dreamer herself further, once Angelica had gone back to being at the ‘back’ of her mind, rather than the front.
Before she left once more, having explained all that she felt she was able to and was most important to for Raven, Angelica turned to the little squid on her shoulder and pat his head. “Squidi, please help Dreamer work out how to use her Distortion ability once she wakes up. I will also give you a list of some of her other skills she should know soon too, that she won’t need to test out much once she knows she has access to them. The period of time before Katsu needs us is the ideal time for her to learn more about her skills, and she will believe you if you explain that you can see more about her skills than she herself can, since you are a very capable and mysterious outer being. And don’t forget to check in with yourself from time to time – all aspects of you are important, you know?”
The little squid signed back his confirmation of these requests and hugged her neck briefly before Angelica lay back down on the cold ground and let her ‘cooler self’ take point again, with Squidi safely snuck back under her top where no guards might see.
Raven remained pensive in the room with the unconscious Dreamer who still needed some time before regaining her consciousness properly, it seemed, and planned what to question her about during their waiting period at the Tower.
*****

Chapter 42: Chapter Thirty-six – My Fair Lady (D, meet I)

Chapter Text

The images that flooded her mind were still playing in her head even as Dreamer woke up. Now, it was two voices calling out charmingly – both male. But in one of the images… that voice came from her. Only it wasn’t ‘her’ in the normal sense, since it hadn’t sounded like her usual self at all. And the person ‘he’ had been saying those words to… had not been human. Neither had ‘he’.
Cradling a hand against her right temple, Dreamer groaned as the images and whirling emotions tied to each of them faded.
“Ah! Deputy-nim, the lady in the tunnel has woken up! Please come quickly!” A tense female voice called out from nearby.
Dreamer did not recognise it. She opened her clenched eyes and blinked rapidly in the darkness surrounding her. She was in the subway tunnels again…?
“Thank you, Hayun-ssi,” Another woman replied calmly as her footsteps drew rapidly closer.
Dreamer looked towards the direction of the voices and was startled by what she saw – wasn’t that one of Kim Dokja’s party members she had met before, in her dream visits?
That person approached more slowly as she reached the person she had called ‘Hayun-ssi’ after lightly pressing a hand to ‘Hayun-ssi’s shoulder in a placating manner.
“Hello, agassi. My name is Yoo Sangah and I am in charge of this base. May I ask what brings you to our Chungmuro? You suddenly appeared here after a bright flash of light. If you are not hostile, we will accept you here,” she explained patiently, looking like the very image of a beautiful saint, though the sharp glint of determination hidden behind her kindness, should Dreamer pose a threat, assured Dreamer that she would not any sh*t from anyone taking advantage of that trait.
Of course, Dreamer’s mind was stuttering just a little bit in the current situation because she had not expected to ‘wake up’ in Seoul again yet. It had really felt like she was waking up from a dream just now, not entering another one. However, she also knew that sometimes, dreams did feel exactly like reality in that sense, so she supposed this was just another one of those cases where you woke up within a dream again.
“Umm, hello, Yoo Sangah-ssi. We actually already met once before, during the second scenario.” Yoo Sangah’s eyes widened at this, and she looked even warier, so Dreamer continued. “You can call me Dreamer. As for what I am doing here… I guess you could say this is me checking in with you guys? I didn’t expect to dream myself back here, but here I am. However…” Dreamer looked down at herself with eyebrows knit on confusion. “I don’t normally wake up like this when I come visit others in my dreams, and this is not my voice or body, it seems. Was… this person perhaps unconscious before I woke up here?” she asked, gazing up from her different appearance to look towards ‘Hayun-ssi’ who had called out when Dreamer awoke.
‘Hayun-ssi’ nodded. “Yes. We didn’t know who you were, but you seem well-equipped and Deputy-nim advised we do not approach for now, only watch until you wake up. You have been unconscious since our scouts first found you.”
Yoo Sangah listened to all this and hummed. “Ah, you are the one from before, with the spectres! The one who knows Dokja-ssi,” she realised, wariness dissipating somewhat. “Then, it is nice to see you again, Dreamer-ssi.” She lightly gave a greeting which Dreamer returned from where she sat on the floor of the tunnel.
Somewhat bizarrely, Dreamer felt like the body she was currently dreaming in, had an absent host. The body felt empty, or blank, as if all the writing that would have gone into the person had been scrubbed out. She could not recall the memories of whoever this person had been, nor why they had appeared here, then had Dreamer somehow summoned into it. Was she possessing it, or was it not like that? Somehow, she felt like this body was hers, even though it didn’t look anything like the ‘self’ that she knew, which was presumably knocked out in the London Dome with Raven after meeting the Tower King.
But that was silly, wasn’t it? It must belong to someone else, but perhaps their soul, spirit, story, or whatever constituted as this person’s ‘self’ outside of their flesh, hadn’t remained here once the scenarios began, because there was now no trace of anyone other than her remaining there – nothing but an empty body.
…Though, perhaps this wasn’t a bad thing? Having a physical form to dream herself into might make visits to the Seoul Dome easier to navigate and stay within. Plus, there was also the matter of a certain someone needing a new body to host her own consciousness in later…
Dreamer’s gaze was strange while observing the kind woman before her as she considered what pathways might open for her, should the owner of this body not return for it. Of course, until such a time came to pass, it was presumably better to keep this body in as good a condition as possible, just in case. She hoped whoever had left this body behind when they had gone…. Wherever it was they’d vanished to, that they would be someone she would get along with.
Dreamer snapped back to the present situation and offered a return acknowledgement. “It is a pleasure to meet you again as well, Yoo Sangah-ssi. I heard you referred to as the deputy here – does that mean you are now in the fourth main scenario here as well?”
“Yes. If you are expecting Dokja-ssi again, I’m afraid he isn’t here. The offer still stands though if you want to join us while you are here. You said you are visiting in your dreams again? Dokja-ssi only explained a little of it to us after your last visit when Gilyoung-ah and Yoo Joonghyuk-ssi saw what happened.”
Dreamer nodded and explained a little bit about how her exclusive attributes and skills worked before checking how much time had passed since Kim Dokja had left, then mentioned her plans regarding keeping this body safe for now for the original owner, should they return, or for future use herself, perhaps.
After explaining a bit more about it, she asked the next most crucial thing: “Where is Yoo Joonghyuk?”
While catching up on things a bit and Dreamer offering to help them prepare for ‘some things I can’t fully explain right now’, they headed back to the station platforms and Yoo Sangah explained that Yoo Joonghyuk hadn’t woken up yet.
Given the timing, it made sense for him to remain unconscious after his ordeal with the Theatre Master in the original story, but in this one, why was he still in the same position? She had given him items to protect himself with when she last saw Kim Dokja after meeting Anna Croft. He should wake up sooner than the other him originally had.
Yoo Sangah accompanied her to Yoo Joonghyuk’s location while sending Song Hayun, the Chungmuro member who Ilia had first met in this body, to report to Gong Pildu about the situation.
The reason she was being accompanied to see him was very clearly that though Yoo Sangah was kind and polite, she was not foolish or naïvely too trusting. Yoo Sangah was escorting Dreamer to Yoo Joonghyuk because she could overpower Dreamer if she posed a threat or intended to do harm to Yoo Joonghyuk or intended to make alterations to the plans Kim Dokja had set up before he left.
She was a very good deputy and leader in her own right.
When they reached the rooftop garden Yoo Joonghyuk was still resting in, Lee Jihye appeared in front of them on silent steps, pointing the tip of her sword at Dreamer’s throat.
“Who is this? Why did you let her come here?” she directed towards Yoo Sangah instead of Dreamer herself.
Yoo Sangah spoke calmly, unfazed by Lee Jihye’s reaction. “This is Dreamer-ssi. She knows Dokja-ssi and came to help us prepare to defend against some upcoming conflicts. She asked to see Yoo Joonghyuk-ssi, though I am not sure why…?” Yoo Sangah turned to Dreamer in expectation.
Dreamer’s eyes moved from Yoo Joonghyuk’s prone form some distance away to Lee Jihye in front of her. “Yoo Joonghyuk should have woken up by now. It’s possible there is something else preventing his skill from releasing him, unless he didn’t listen to me and protect himself from the Theatre Master ahead of time. Lee Jihye-yang, did he still fall under the mental control of the Theatre Master before?”
Lee Jihye’s eyes widened. “How did you…?”
Dreamer cut her off, slapping a hand over her own face. “Urghh, I gave him materials to help protect his mind before her went there! What was he doing, still getting caught in it?” she muttered with annoyance, then looked from the unconscious Yoo Joonghyuk back to Lee Jihye. “Will you let me examine him? I might be able to wake him up – I have some medical skills I should still be able to access. You can keep the sword on me if you like, just in case – I don’t mind since it won’t get in the way, and it would probably put your mind at ease while I am near your master.”
Lee Jihye’s face contorted into one of confusion and concern upon hearing this suggestion, however. “Uh, what? No! I mean, you can examine him as long as Sangah-unni says it is okay. I don’t need to keep my sword on your neck to keep an eye on you. But Master might not appreciate someone unknown messing with him, no matter how pretty they are.” Despite acquiescing, Lee Jihye nevertheless sounded very begrudging.
After Yoo Sangah’s hesitant go-ahead, the two of them kept careful watch over Dreamer as she knelt beside Yoo Joonghyuk and reached carefully and slowly out to his head and wrist to use the technique one of the London crew had taught her to check someone’s body condition. She didn’t detect anything unusual as he was already fully healed, yet remained unconscious for some reason, with the [Recovery] skill still activated as if it were not allowed to release him yet until something was resolved. It was very clear that he had not used the items she had given him to protect himself with, though.
She itched to try and visit him in his dreams since she wasn’t sure what was keeping him like this, when he suddenly opened his eyes, glaring fiercely.
A hand lashed out for her neck, but Dreamer was having none of his Kim Dokja-related reactions, thank you very much! She hastily dropped his wrist, blocked the hand, then rolled away and leapt back, out of his reach.
She stayed alert, having not expected him to wake up right as she went to investigate his condition.
He was on his feet in a flash, then seemed to calm as he took in Lee Jihye’s presence.
Without needing to say anything, Lee Jihye dutifully reported, “Master, this woman claimed she is a medic who might be able to wake you up and asked to examine you. It… seems to have worked?” she said somewhat hesitantly, then added, “Her name is Dreamer, and Sangah-unni says she knows Dokja-ssi.”
Yoo Joonghyuk turned back to Dreamer with a curious expression, presumably because of her very different appearance. “You are Dreamer?”
Dreamer had her hands raised in placation as she moved out of her defensive stance. “Yes, I am Dreamer. This, ah, isn’t my normal body. I think I dreamt myself into this one because its owner has been absent. I don’t know if they will return or remain in their coma without me here. I am here to help again, but first, I just wanted to say…” She lowered her placating hands to stick them on either side of her hips in a judgemental stance. “Why did you not use the item I gave you??”
Her tone was quite accusatory and irritated as she continued. “Did you think I just suggested it to you for the fun of it? Who the hell wants a grouchy person as strong as you controlled by a sinister constellation like that?”
Yoo Joonghyuk’s expression turned blank.
Lee Jihye’s jaw dropped at the audacity of this bitch.
Before she could continue lecturing him, Yoo Joonghyuk returned to his original, fierce glare. “You should already know my state.”
Dreamer’s own glare fizzled out as she tilted her head in confusion. “Huh? How would I know your state unless I came here? I’m no proph-“ she paused, remembering Anna’s [Lie Detection] skill, “I mean, I can’t know everything that happens here! My own scenarios are over in London, not here! How would I know how it went unless I went there at the time?”
Yoo Joonghyuk frowned. “You weren’t there?”
Dreamer frowned right back. “No, I wasn’t. That’s why I was checking your current condition just now, because had you actually used the item I gave you, you should have been better equipped to avoid all of that. Though, you still woke up earlier than you were meant to, and were already fully healed, so I’m not sure what actually happened there, but your [Recovery] skill seemed to be stuck regardless, and I’m not sure why. It must have released you when I was checking you over, but I don’t know why…” she explained a bit testily, crossing her arms as if in a huff. Protagonists could be such distrusting pains.
“…So, you didn’t wake Master up?” Lee Jihye asked with confusion. “Then, why did he wake up now…?”
Everyone, including Dreamer, looked contemplative at this.
“…Why are you here?” Yoo Joonghyuk asked tersely.
“Ah, that!” Dreamer brightened out of her reverie at this. “First, Lee Jihye has a message to hand over to you that you should probably read first before I add onto it with some more detail. There is some stuff that even Kim Dokja won’t have anticipated because I was unable to pass it onto him ahead of time due to restrictions on information.” Communication issues, who? Dreamer never heard of her! She would say anything and everything she could, whenever she could, and sod the bloody filtering if it impeded her from sharing important intel to the people she wanted to help.
…Of course, even if she rejected the idea of it, the filtering remained present, so there was only so much she could say and suggest to prepare the others for upcoming events, like she had tried to do with Yoo Joonghyuk before, with the protective wrap item.
Yoo Joonghyuk turned to Lee Jihye with a raised eyebrow and she got out the letter Kim Dokja had left for him, turning suddenly very serious and saying it was an important item he had left with her with his sincere and heartfelt wishes kept within it.
After hearing her cautiously inquire as to which of the two of them had carried their child, Yoo Joonghyuk’s expression darkened as he gripped the unopened letter tightly and muttered. “Kim Dokja…!”
However, after briefly calming himself, he silently read the contents of the letter. His expression did not improve.
Lee Jihye looked like she wanted to ask more, but Yoo Joonghyuk ordered her not to speak nonsense before turning back to Dreamer. “You. Explain.”
So, Dreamer explained. She didn’t know the specific contents of the letter, but she knew what Kim Dokja had suggested to him and where Kim Dokja currently was. She also suspected that he had put something in there about not carelessly trusting her, but she wasn’t too worried about that since she didn’t mind not being trusted so long as people used their head when she tried to help them and didn’t just outright reject it without purpose – like Yoo Joonghyuk had done before, she clearly meant.
She then said some things that Kim Dokja would not have put in the letter, because he had had no way to know of them, despite his abilities and very real foreknowledge.
“There are three things I suggest amending if you choose to follow Kim Dokja’s suggestions regarding heading north. First and foremost – please go to Anguk Station immediately on your way. I will tell you why in moment, and you can make your own mind up for whether you want to go or not, but for now – I sincerely request you go there first, as quickly as possible.
“Second, because I know that he would have left a warning regarding this place too before you leave, please ignore that because I will remain here to deal with the things he is worried about. I can help Yoo Sangah-ssi here prepare to deal with incoming attacks, and especially one big one that will be difficult to handle without your presence here. However, with me here, they won’t be caught unaware, so we won’t need as strong a force as you. In addition, I am unsure of the abilities of this body, but she feels healthier than I am in my own one in London, so I should be even more able to help defend this place than I already would be. The London Dome scenarios are a bit further ahead than the ones here, though I am still in the process of my own fourth scenario as it has not quite finished yet, but will soon, while yours has only just begun. I will therefore be a suitable replacement for your protection, if you do leave this place before that attack happens, I hope you will agree.
“Thirdly… Mmm, it is difficult to explain this one without knowing your response, but I believe in honest communication of people’s sincere intentions and absolutely hate misunderstandings between people who should be genuine allies, so, here goes…”
Dreamer drew in a deep breath, bracing herself for a potential backlash for revealing this part of Kim Dokja’s plan, either from him or the

or some other unknown entity, before speaking. “Kim Dokja knows how to keep your sister safe and you should trust him, even if you feel misled by him. It is not safe for you to seek her out right now, but he will make sure she is safe for sure.” Her eye twitched slightly upon seeing the activation pf his [Lie Detection] skill activating, but she also understood his need for it here. “That is why he is suggesting you go north. You would otherwise be furious with him once you got there, but… that would not be fair to him for all the effort he is making. He’s just really bad at being honest, even with himself. So, please don’t try to kill him again because he seems awful for misleading you. He didn’t technically lie, he’s just really clever with his words and meanings and is wary of you not listening unless he gives you reasons like this. Well, that is my interpretation of his actions and thoughts, sure, but I have some decent reasons for saying them, at any rate. Please heed this. Additionally… if you cannot allow yourself to trust in Kim Dokja’s intentions without knowing him well yet, please at least trust in your sister.” Yoo Joonghyuk’s eyes changed upon hearing this last bit, but Dreamer continued. “Yoo Mia will appreciate you trusting in her own capabilities too. She will not die this time.”
Within a blink, Yoo Joonghyuk was directly in front of her, his hand knocked aside by Dreamer’s reflexive block again – he had gone for her throat again!
“You can’t know that,” he growled.
Dreamer clicked her tongue while dodging his sudden attacks. Clearly, she had overstepped in her attempts to prevent these two from another unnecessary misunderstanding later. Ah well, it was better that he knew now than later, she still felt. “You are correct – I can’t know that, even if I know some parts of the future! Kim Dokja can’t know that either, even though he knows the future best! However, I have faith. In you, in Kim Dokja, and in Yoo Mia! You don’t have to know for certain to know it will come to pass regardless of any changes to what is already known, and what I already know is that she will survive and become strong! I believe in her and all of you. The entire fate of this world does not have to rest on your shoulders alone, Yoo Joonghyuk! Not anymore! You –“ she ducked one of his thrown punches and stepped closer, “are not,” she knocked his next lunge off-balance by gripping his wrist and lightly tugging, “the ‘only living thing in this world’ anymore!” she finished, shoving him stumbling further away.
Surprisingly, he stopped, eyes wide. “What did you say?”
Dreamer relaxed a bit and blew out a breath before pointing politely towards Yoo Sangah with her hands. “Look. You don’t have to be alone anymore. There are more people here around you who are not those who you have already lost, unaware of what their other selves meant to you.” She sighed and looked from Yoo Sangah to Lee Jihye then back to him with sad eyes. “I… know what it’s like, to an extent. My worst fear is the people around me forgetting who I am and who they are to me. But it doesn’t need to be like that, this time.” She gestured towards the letter he had already tucked into his pocket before attacking her. “You have others who are here to bear the cost of this story alongside you, if you accept them.”
She relaxed a bit more upon seeing him remain still and pensive. “If you are worried about your sister’s safety and Kim Dokja’s trustworthiness, you can always question him about it later when you see him again. Then you can just do whatever you want, since you will have all the information then and not be accidentally misled.”
Golden threads appeared between Dreamer and Yoo Joonghyuk, blocking their path forwards towards each other.
Yoo Sangah was frowning at them. “Enough fighting. Dreamer, you have said your piece. Yoo Joonghyuk-ssi, please either accept or reject her suggestions as you want without resorting to violence. Dokja-ssi made it clear that you are to be left to your own devices, but clearly Dreamer-ssi’s appearance has complicated matters somewhat. Dreamer, do you have anything else to add, or can we leave now to discuss the attack you mentioned?”
Dreamer lightly shrugged. “I’ve said enough, and it is only the reasons for heading to Anguk Station that remain, if Yoo Joonghyuk is still willing to hear me about that in private. I have plenty to discuss with you about what I mentioned afterwards, however. I apologise for causing you trouble, Sangah-ssi.” She bowed her head lightly in Yoo Sangah’s direction.
Yoo Joonghyuk scoffed. “I will hear your reasons. You two, leave.”
After they had gone, Yoo Joonghyuk commanded Dreamer next. “Speak. Why must I go to Anguk Station immediately?”
Dreamer wasted no time in explaining. “There will be an opportunity to fight a ●●●●●●●● ●● ●●● ●●●●● ●●●●●●●● much earlier there.” The words ‘disaster of the fifth scenario’ were filtered out for those listening from an audience, but not for Yoo Joonghyuk, whose reaction indicated he had indeed heard properly. She noted his use of [Lie Detection] again before continuing, “Someone laid a trap to catch you out there, but they will be trapping a disguised Kim Dokja and his companions instead. Ahh, hang on, I have a way to prevent those listening from overhearing the rest, I think. Can you give me your hand for a moment?” she asked, holding her own out to receive his.
Cautiously, he let her, and Dreamer got to work covering his hand from sight with one hand whilst using the other beneath the cover to write on his skin, like she had read someone from another story doing to avoid the gazes of gods.
Dreamer meticulously wrote: ‘Kim Dokja will be able to defeat it himself, so technically you do not need to go at all. However, the price he will pay to achieve this and protect his companions is his life. He will come back but it would be better if he did not have to die at all. If you are there, he may survive as his current self. If you do go, it will be difficult, however, and I can’t be sure if you will even reach him in time to make a difference. I understand it is purely the allure of gaining one of the disaster tokens ahead of time that would motivate you to go –‘ a lie, but she needed to say it so he wouldn’t reject the idea of helping and had another reason to claim was his real reason, despite how she knew he likely already felt towards the pesky stranger he had only recently ‘met’ – ‘but isn’t it better to get there before he dies, so there is time to question him about the other things? If you don’t go, Kim Dokja will die. He will come back, but he will definitely die first. He also would not tell you about it afterwards, assuming you would not care – and maybe you wouldn’t.
She switched from skin-writing to verbal words again, “I care, but cannot go there myself because – well, to be frank, he needs your skills more and the base here will need my knowledge. You can either take Lee Jihye with you or leave her here – Yoo Sangah-ssi and I will make sure she is alright and can send her up after you, or you can take her with you.”
Yoo Joonghyuk glowered at her. “…You speak too much in any form,” he apparently determined resolutely. “Lee Jihye stays with me. How long do I have?” he asked concisely.
Dreamer explained a bit about the rough timeline they were working within, suggested he actually use the protective wrap item she had given him last time, and answered some brief questions he had about her current situation dreaming herself into a body instead of within an area of dream magic like before with the Spectre’s Stones. Then, when he tersely agreed to head to Anguk Station to tackle the disaster, Dreamer actually moved to hug him before stopping herself just before and stepping back.
“Oh, sorry! I was just really grateful for you to go there in case it helps him. I know that isn’t why you are going –“ again a lie, “– but I am grateful nevertheless. Thank you, Yoo Joonghyuk! Sorry for trying to hug you when you don’t really do hugs, especially with really bizarre strangers like me.” She stepped back and clasped her hands behind her back so she would not be tempted again.
“…This behaviour suits your previous form better,” he gruffly commented, making the smile drop from Dreamer’s face. “If you do not uphold your part of this plan, I will know.”
Dreamer went back to beaming. “You got it, boss! Yoo Sangah can rat me out to you if I cause any problems or fail to be sufficiently useful!” She offered him a mock salute of trust in her.
Yoo Joonghyuk harrumphed at this and strode past her to presumably speak with Yoo Sangah about keeping an eye on her and about his new plans.
Dreamer still had a lot of things to deal with but… If Yoo Joonghyuk was there at Anguk when the disaster appeared, wouldn’t things turn out less painfully this time for all involved, even if her previous warnings to Kim Dokja couldn’t change much? Like Yoo Joonghyuk had said and implied before, she couldn’t know for sure even if she knew a potential future. However, she still had faith, in both of them. Of all versions that she currently knew of.
For now, it was time to address the upcoming attack from the Apostles heading this way alongside a particularly grouchy, misguided writer whose head she did not intend to cut off and squish.
However… Before he left, Dreamer called out one last thing to him. “Hey! Yoo Joonghyuk!” She saw his eyebrow twitch from where he had been saying his farewells to Yoo Sangah and the others. “Don’t die, okay? And be safe, Lee Jihye-yang as well!” She dashed forwards and pressed a folded piece of paper into his hand as well. She wasn’t sure if he would get there in time so, he may need it.
While she knew her words might not mean much in times like these now that danger was more common than fresh air was, but… sometimes it helped, just to hear it. Just to say it, too.
*****

Chapter 43: Chapter Thirty-seven – My Fair Lady (2) (YJH thoughts en route to Anguk Station)

Chapter Text

Heading north after a significant detour to Anguk Station had not been in Yoo Joonghyuk’s plans, especially since it was nowhere near the most efficient pathway to take when he was already starting the fourth scenario late. However, after hearing the hidden desperation in that woman’s voice when she had asked him for help… part of his heart mind itched in response, as if her words carried more certainty than even Kim Dokja’s own tended to. As if that man really would perish for the sake of his companions.
Yoo Joonghyuk knew well the pain of death, even if you ‘lived’ after that point came and passed. It was not strange that he felt something when he heard someone else would suffer a similar ordeal for the sake of their companions, as he had done himself.
“Master!” Lee Jihye called out in panting breaths, apparently unable to voice her concerns properly at the pace they were moving.
Yoo Joonghyuk momentarily glanced back at his disciple and frowned. Normally, he would have taken her early stats into consideration by default when moving with her in his group. It was irregular for him not to have noticed his speed went past what she could keep up with. He corrected his pace so she could cope better.
Lee Jihye, however, must have thought he was displeased with her ability to keep up, as her eyes widened and she flailed a hand in the air briefly as if to wave off his attention on her, despite having just called out to him. “Nevermind, it’s nothing! It can wait.”
Yoo Joonghyuk took note of her status improving with the slight change in pace and faced forwards once more.
Since Kim Dokja’s party had likely passed through here quite recently, their trip through the tunnels was swift without the need for many stops or distractions. Which gave Yoo Joonghyuk a lot of time to think about some things that had crowded his mind recently.
First and foremost was that man they were currently chasing after, who was apparently about to face a disaster he didn’t need help with taking down. Just what kind of existence he was, and how he knew so much that even the stranger called Dreamer had said he ‘knew the future best’, he didn’t know. But every time he met that smiling man’s overly-smug face, it felt like something at the back of his mind began to stir, or wake back up from dormancy. Like he was forgetting something from the course of his too-long lives. Like, perhaps, this person might know him in a similar way to how he knew everyone else from his past lives. How even the girl following by his side right now was only another version of the students he had known in the past, who shared stories with her up until the start of the scenarios, where they then began to separate into their differences.
However, Yoo Joonghyuk had never encountered this man in any world before now. He had not survived the first scenario in any of the previous world lines and thus would have no way to have met or known Yoo Joonghyuk from anything other than his time as a professional gamer. That was something that he had not been personable doing and did not engage with the audience much past what his manager forced him into, and he could not identify anyone like this man in any of his memories.
The words he had said on the rooftop were still ringing in his ears like they had embedded in his mind more deeply than the Theatre Master’s control had, however.
「 “What did I come here for if you are alone?” 」
If that woman had sounded secretly desperate before, then he had sounded raw and open with his with this. Yoo Joonghyuk had not had the time or mental energy to reflect over his memories of the rooftop until now, and the more he thought back to it, the more that part of his mind that felt like he was forgetting something itched.
Yoo Joonghyuk silently simmered at this feeling. He hated when variables to this extent showed up in his lives since it made his preparations and knowledge more difficult to make use of. Especially when he couldn’t understand their intentions.
Especially when they words like that, when he needed to hear something right at that moment that would help him fight for control of his own mind and body.
He still didn’t know what those words meant, what he meant to that man, for him to say such things in such a manner.
Perhaps there would be more to wring out of him once he took over the achievement of taking down an early appearance of a disaster shortly.
Or perhaps that woman would be able to offer him further insights into his behaviour and intentions, since she seemed to treat all of them like they were familiar to her too, just like Kim Dokja had.
Her words had confounded him quite a lot too.
More specifically, the words of the person who answered that she both was and was not Dreamer, who had shown up to help him like a spectre on the rooftop without uttering anything, until she replied with empathy to his unspoken thoughts – with solidarity.
「 ‘I know that pain,’ 」she had commented. 「 ‘I know that feeling too,’ 」
However, that was not possible. How could anyone know the same pain he lived with? How could anyone else in this world think like him, of being the only living thing in the world?
Yet…
「 ‘It’s okay if you forget this, though.’ 」
「’I forget myself quite often too.’ 」
Hmm.
That woman, who had looked like the person named Dreamer he had met in the tunnels during the third scenario, had said that she both was and was not Dreamer, however, and that she would not remember those rooftop events ‘yet’. That implied that Dreamer would, one day, recall those memories. What did that mean for who that woman had been? A version of Dreamer who was not the same as the one who he had first met in the tunnels?
Yet she had also used the term ‘we’, implying at least a somewhat shared existence.
Then, the Dreamer he had met in the tunnels before had reappeared in a new form, with a different face and voice. She’d claimed that the body belonged to someone else then, so perhaps… had that been the woman who had helped him?
Despite claiming she had not been there on the rooftop, Dreamer had still referenced his thoughts as well, though.
「 “You are not the ‘only living thing in this world’ anymore!” 」
She had done this while exhibiting different fighting techniques than those the woman had employed on the rooftop, though there were several similarities that still made him question things.
Perhaps, like the woman on the rooftop with the golden threads that were different to those used by Yoo Sangah had said, Dreamer really both was and was not her, and he just had to accept that status between them for now until this was clarified. For now, he would treat them as related, but not necessarily aware of each other’s actions (in at least one direction).
For now, he would heed the warnings Kim Dokja had left in his letter referencing the tunnel encounter with her and no mention of the rooftop where that other spectre related to her had been, unseen to all except himself and the sixth-grade monster the boy had summoned.
「’And… I’ll still try and visit.’」the rooftop spectre had said after sharing her expectation of being forgotten, even by herself.
「 “I… know what it’s like, to an extent. My worst fear is the people around me forgetting who I am and who they are to me. 」Dreamer had said about the people around him being different to past versions he had met, who did not share those memories with him now.
「 “You don’t have to be alone anymore,” 」she had said while gesturing to the letter filled with suggestions in the form of detailed instructions that felt abnormally familiar in that back-of-the-mind itching sense.
「 "Look around you and try to live somehow!" 」Kim Dokja had said on the rooftop with rough breaths and shaking so strong, it had bled into his sword attacks.
Finally,「 “What did I come here for if you are alone?” 」played on repeat in his head like it knew which part of him truly itched at these words.
And such a man would die in order to overcome a disaster even Yoo Joonghyuk himself had thought impossible to defeat this early into the scenarios. A man who, time and again until now, had proven that as an incarnation – as a companion, he could actually keep up.
Could stick around long enough for ‘companion’ to regain its original meaning. Someone who could accompany him in this life, perhaps.
…If he really was as foolish as to get himself lured into a trap and killed, Yoo Joonghyuk thought he might strangle him when he saw him next.
Like this, Yoo Joonghyuk and Lee Jihye arrived at a busy Anguk Station full of the chatter of ‘Prophets’ Dreamer and Kim Dokja’s letter had informed him of in advance. As she had suggested beforehand, he covered his lower face and raised his hood over his head to hide his features and used stealth skills alongside Lee Jihye’s [Ghost Walk] to blend into the mass, keeping an eye out for a strange man wearing his name and face, getting led into a trap.
He saw the idiots pouring magic power into the meteorite at a distance before his eyes locked onto the figure of himself approaching from the other direction, speaking with someone with dawning horror in his eyes.
“Jihye,” Yoo Joonghyuk called out to prompt her to take the actions he had instructed her to before coming here.
“Yes, Master,” she replied, disappearing from his side as he dashed forward faster than Kim Dokja’s words to flee could reach his ears.
It seemed prevention of the disaster was already out of the realm of possibility, and instead, they needed to defeat it.
However, for once, Yoo Joonghyuk believed that this was one disaster that he would not have to face ‘alone’.
…Even if his instincts were to wring that guy’s neck for stealing his appearance and identity.
*****
Chapter Thirty-eight – My Fair Lady (3) (Apostles attack Chungmuro, KDJ ORV ability activation, new ‘head’ mate for Dreamer)
This time when the remaining members of the Twelve Apostles showed up to bring ruin to Chungmuro Station, the target they slid their slimy, objectifying gazes all over was an adult woman instead of a teenage girl.
When they joked about how weak all these ‘background and side characters’ were while looking at Gong Pildu and one of the other strong, sword-wielding girl teens of the group (whom Yoo Sangah had positioned there upon Dreamer’s suggestion), they thought things would go well for them.
What they hadn’t considered was that this was not the main base they were meeting in, but was instead Line 4, the tunnel from Hoehyeong, just before the entrance to the station itself.
They also hadn’t thought to check the tunnel for traps, or for a hidden woman wielding fine golden threads attacking from above.
They definitely hadn’t considered the tall, beautiful black woman with muscular arms and a feral grin who laid into them with a fervour they hadn’t anticipated from a nameless ‘character’ wielding a weapon that amounted to an especially long stick.
She might not have her dagger and rope to put them soundly to sleep here, but Dreamer was in her element entirely as she walloped each of the creepy-ass apostles with the makeshift staff she had acquired before the fight, knocking them out and battering them down swiftly whilst they were busy being entangled by Yoo Sangah’s threads, Chungmuro group’s traps and suppression skills, and Gong Pildu’s turrets that were stationed by the entrance to the tunnel. They had already made sure the other members had erected a decent protective barrier to hide behind, should Han Sooyoung detonate her [Mass Destruction Magic Bullet] item in the tunnel instead of the platform.
“Will you ugly bitches just die already!” The 7th Apostle lamented as Dreamer beat down on his slimy ass while Yoo Sangah tripped him and the 2nd Apostle targeting her up.
“Who are you calling an ugly bitch? Sangah-ssi is an absolute goddess unfit for your slimy eyes to look upon!” Dreamer retorted with enthusiastic but sincere gusto as she continued to batter him.
Despite the conflict, this made Yoo Sangah bark out surprised laughter. “Dreamer-ssi is also very pretty.” Now, she was smiling as she fought, using her threads as a kind of whip to lash at their flustered assailants. They had very obviously not anticipated this level of resistance from people who were unnamed by the original work of TWSA.
When the 2nd Apostle cussed at Lee Gilyoung who was fighting against her with his Mjolnir’s Thunder ability and claimed she would savour his imminent demise alongside the rest of them, golden threads wrapped around her from behind and blocked her mouth.
Yoo Sangah yanked on the threads with force, dragging the 2nd Apostle’s body off-balance and away from Lee Gilyoung. She stepped into the 2nd Apostle’s shaking vision with fury in her eyes. “None of us will die here,” she declared with a certainty and will that everyone present felt in their bones.
From where the teen girl loosely disguised as a substitute Lee Jihye was defending against the 3rd and 4th Apostles beside Gong Pildu came the sound of laughter.
“Yes! What Deputy-nim says is true! None of us will die here!” the girl repeated, and from some of the others, the call echoed back to her, of ‘None of us will die here!’
Yoo Sangah’s words had strengthened her party, but they were still facing five abnormally strong and prepared opponents expecting to come out of this as the clear victors. And this time, there was no Yoo Joonghyuk present to save the day.
Dreamer’s eyes moved away from the man she was currently thrashing and over to the only Apostle lurking at the back of their group, covered in a dark cloak and smiling faintly as if he knew something they didn’t.
“You! Take your filthy eyes from our king!” the 7th Apostle vehemently spat out at Dreamer after noticing her glances towards the 1st Apostle.
Dreamer raised a brow in surprise. It seemed even these pompous, highest-ranking Apostles valued their king just as much as the ones facing the fire dragon elsewhere. However, she wasn’t staring at Han Sooyoung’s current Avatar for petty reasons like looks.
The Chungmuro group fought hard against the Apostles and due to their preparations, were holding out relatively well.
Thus, after a while of being pushed back by Yoo Sangah’s group, the once-confident Apostles’ expressions were not good.
At this time, the figure at the back whom Dreamer had been staring at came forth, bearing a ‘1’ on his dark cloak and a purple flag on his back marking him as their ‘king’.
“SHIELD!” Yoo Sangah yelled out to her group upon seeing this.
As the 1st Apostle stepped towards them and raised his hand to light something, everyone in the frontline group scattered to the hidden nooks in the tunnel walls that they had prepared in advance or behind Gong Pildu’s turrets, where team members specialising in defence were waiting to throw shields and barriers up to protect the others.
When Dreamer squeezed into a gap with Song Hayun and a couple others, she tried to throw up her own shield skill that she had gained when her own flag had upgraded to brown, but the message in front of her declared that not possible as her flag and king status were not available here.
However, a different message popped up after the system stated this.
[Exclusive skill, ‘Aura of Protection’ is activated!]
Wait, what? Wasn’t that from a game she had played?
Before the thought could continue, the first Apostle threw the destructive item in his hand and explosions covered everyone’s vision with mighty roars.
Despite their preparations, the [Mass Destruction Magic Bullet] ravaged the area and seared against their skin. Even Dreamer, who felt her current body was much sturdier than her actual one in London, felt pained as she withstood the explosive force at the front by their primary defender shielding the rest of them.
She heard the one shielding the rest of them stifle a sound of pain and felt her heart twinge in distress at having to watch them suffer alongside her. It felt worse than withstanding it herself.
Then, a new message popped up in her vision.
[Exclusive skill, ‘Aura of the Guardian’ is activated!]
Simultaneously, messages popped up on the defender’s screen and those of Song Hayun and the other two fighters sharing their nook.
[The ‘Aura of the Guardian’ is protecting you! Damage you receive will be transferred to the Guardian instead.]
Dreamer, however, could not read these herself as she was suddenly feeling a more intense pain than before that made it feel like her skin was searing and her insides were violently vibrating from the force of the magic bullet explosions.
It wasn’t as if she hadn’t experienced pain and discomfort much worse than this on a regular basis, however, and so after taking some breaths to steady herself, she opened her eyes again with renewed determination.
The dust settled down after just a few moments that felt a lot longer than they probably were.
Despite having prepared with physical and magical barriers to the destruction ahead of time and moving from the main area of the attack to the peripheries of it, the tunnels were not in good shape. The majority of the physical barriers – stacked barricades and the tunnel walls themselves – had been disintegrated into nothing but dust and crumbled debris.
The party members had taken some damage as well, with some having fallen to their knees, coughing up blood.
Dreamer looked around at those within her own nook to see what the repercussions had been, but surprisingly, everyone else seemed to be in good health with only some light burn marks on their skin or equipment.
They seemed to be staring with wide eyes at her own state, however, which was decidedly worse.
For one, her nose was bleeding. This did not concern her nearly as much as it would for someone else, having grown up with frequent ones. Additionally, she was very clearly more heavily burned than the others had been, with discoloured skin angry and weeping from fresh wounds that the air stung as it blew over them.
However, since the others seemed to be doing much better and she honestly had been through a lot worse, she really didn’t mind the damage much. It was nothing serious, anyways, and since this was something acute and not a chronic injury that would remain with her forever, she figured she could heal it back up in decent time once they had finally dealt with the Apostles.
“Phew, now it looks good, right?” one of the Apostles said while stepping towards them again.
Dreamer stumbled forwards from their exposed safe space and stood between the Apostles and the rest of the Chungmuro group members who remained behind her, including Yoo Sangah, Lee Gilyoung, and Gong Pildu’s groups and nooks. She hadn’t accounted for how stiff her body now was after getting burned like that, and hissed as the newly exposed, weak skin around her joints tore open with the sudden movement.
Owch. She probably should have anticipated that. Ah well.
Dreamer gripped her staff tightly and stared down the Apostles, fully ready to take them down. She may look beat to sh*t by those explosions, but she still had plenty of stamina to keep going. Like she had promised Yoo Joonghyuk, she would keep this place safe in his absence. She intended to keep to that.
However, she probably hadn’t adjusted to her injuries even now, since the 7th Apostle approached her and kicked out the staff she had swung towards him, causing her to hiss as her softened flesh ripped again and fell to her knees.
Holy sh*t, she needed to get herself together and get back up to face these guys, or else she really was in trouble!
“Aren’t you just a nameless character, huh?” The 7th Apostle taunted, moving to kick Dreamer while she was down. “You should just submit and let me have my way with you.”
Despite her injuries, Dreamer had gotten her sh*t together and deftly rolled away from his kick. Thankfully, the skin on her back was mostly unmarred since most of the damage had been taken from her front.
When she pushed herself back upright, she saw something she hadn’t expected.
Yoo Sangah’s binding threads had wrapped around that guy’s outstretched leg, and she was running up to him with fierce eyes.
As she pulled on the threads between them, she threw a fist out, aiming directly at the space her tug had forced his head into. The blow landed with a crunch.
Before he could retaliate, Yoo Sangah had thrown her rope upwards to loop around a notch on the ceiling and used it to hoist the 7th Apostle up by his still-tethered leg. He swung upside-down from a significant height, so that even if he managed to cut through his bindings, he would take a lot of damage from the fall.
Dreamer had had this thought before while reading, but her mastery of her binding threads skill was beyond amazing for it being so early into their changed circ*mstances. Honestly, Yoo Sangah was quite frightening in a number of ways.
She could see similar thoughts of her scariness being expressed on the other Apostle’s faces as Yoo Sangah stepped towards the rest of them and glared with such fury that it could practically be felt.
“You will not harm any member of my group again. Leave now if you expect to keep your life intact,” she declared in a low voice.
Dreamer felt an immeasurable awe and respect for the woman in front of her, yet again, and thought once more how the difference between herself and her work colleague was much too vast. She really was the protagonist she had always considered her as being, truly.
…Wait a minute – ‘work colleague?’ ‘Protagonist?’
‘Kim Dokja?’ Dreamer thought to herself with heavy hesitance.
Those had not been thoughts that could have come from her own self, so… had she picked up a passenger without realising?
‘Eh? Dreamer?’ a voice in her head asked back.
Dreamer felt like time around her slowed as she focused on the exchange happening in her head. ‘What the hell are you doing here?! Did you actually die after all??’ He better not f*cking have.
‘Well, until you called out to me, I hadn’t realised I was here either, so… Hi, I guess?’ the fool explained. ‘I don’t think I’m dead. Would I still be here if I died?’
‘It’s your exclusive skill, silly. Did you get the ‘King of No Killing’ title right beforehand? Then, won’t you revive even if you died?’
‘Oh, that’s true, I did. Then, I guess I did die?’
Dreamer inwardly sighed. ‘Did you get the message saying, specifically, [You have died.]? Otherwise, you didn’t actually die, your skill just activated to stage 3 because you got knocked out or were too close to death, so your consciousness was loose enough to go wandering,’ Dreamer explained with more patience than she felt.
Kim Dokja in her head took a moment to go back over his system messages. ‘…There is no [You have died.] message.’
‘Congrats, dude! You survived your own terrible ideas! That means sending that guy after you must have helped! I’m glad.’ And she really was. So much so that she could focus on the conversation happening quicker than it ordinarily would outside of her head, as well as the fight with the remaining Apostles still facing the furious and wrathful Yoo Sangah. ‘Now get back over there and wake the f*ck back up so you can come sort this sh*t out once the dragon is dealt with. This is technically a dream for me and I already want to take a break. No rest for the wicked, indeed – we even have to work in our sleep, egads!’
‘…You are so weird, you know that right?’ this punk who nearly got himself killed said to her. ‘I can’t just leave; I don’t know how the skill works to put me here. I just regained my consciousness when you reminded me of who I was, otherwise, I would still feel like I was just you.’
Dreamer’s eyes lit up while she was busy bashing her stick over the head of the 2nd Apostle and subtly trying to nick her flute. ‘I can explain how your skill works! Well, I know how it mostly works, but it should be enough for you! And I can help yeet you back! Listen well, newbie wandering spirit!’ She then proceeded to detail everything she knew about his skill, including that it could activate itself later on for unknown reasons and her own collected theories from others about how it works, all while trying her best to avoid anything that might get filtered out for him.
In the time that was happening within, Dreamer continued to fight the Apostles with Yoo Sangah and the mostly uninjured members of Chungmuro. The 7th Apostle who’d been strung up to the ceiling had since been knocked out and released, with Yoo Sangah successfully beating the 4th Apostle down.
Dreamer was busy fighting the 2nd Apostle still, while Song Hayun and the others from her hide-away group took on the 3rd Apostle.
Everyone else was struggling to face the 1st Apostle, of course, but just as the 2nd Apostle crumpled under a particularly accurate head-bonk, Yoo Sangah stepped up to take over from the struggling fighters.
Dreamer saw this and might have panicked a little bit, knowing how strong Han Sooyoung was even at this stage of the scenarios, and hastily finished up chatting with Kim Dokja. She used her weird sense of dream consciousnesses that she used to ‘find’ people while she herself was asleep to guide his consciousness back towards his body and now with a clearer headspace, ran to catch up with Yoo Sangah.
Song Hayun followed suit as well once the 3rd Apostle went down.
“Sangah-ssi, we’ve got your back,” Dreamer said as she drew up beside her where she was lashing at the first Apostle with her threads like a whip.
“You won’t be able to harm our Deputy-nim, either!” Song Hayun proclaimed with determination.
As if they had planned it beforehand (because, well, they had), Song Hayun worked with Dreamer as they both attacked Han Sooyoung up close – Dreamer with her staff in closer range to the 1st Apostle who was trying to remain at a distance, and Song Hayun just behind her firing blasts of light that seared his eyes and temporarily blinded her targets (but not allies).
Despite this, Han Sooyoung’s Avatar was holding out valiantly. He even growled and threw another concussive item that blasted Yoo Sangah backwards, but thankfully Song Hayun caught her and checked over her. It seemed the blast had made her dazed.
With the two of them momentarily occupied, this left Dreamer to face an angry 1st Apostle alone.
She had already determined that she should not do her oversharing thing and try to appeal to the parts of Han Sooyoung that she knew from the story, because right now, this Han Sooyoung was not the one that she had come to love.
This Han Sooyoung was an utter dick who teamed up with paedophiles like the 7th Apostle and attempted to massacre a whole station full of people including children.
This Han Sooyoung had nobody she remembered that she loved, and nobody to rely on other than herself. She was a very petite young woman in an apocalypse hellbent on bringing out the worst in people and applauding it and sought to keep herself as high up the pecking order as possible for her own survival and sanity.
This Han Sooyoung, right in front of her here, was an Avatar given only a few memories her other self had deemed unworthy of keeping. He was the 1st Apostle that all the others followed, who had to perform like some wicked villain to keep the others from harassing or mutinying against him.
Dreamer did not like this Han Sooyoung. In the other world line of ORV, this Han Sooyoung had killed Kim Dokja and at least a thousand of the prophets, as well as many people from Chungmuro.
However, this Han Sooyoung had not killed all those people yet, this time. Dreamer had ensured that as few people as possible died this time around, as much as she could from the other side of the world and within these fleeting dreams, and the people of Chungmuro, at the very least, were still alive, if hurting.
Hopefully, Kim Dokja would survive, too.
But Dreamer knew she could not touch ‘this’ Han Sooyoung herself. She was not the one that she would listen to, nor would her knowledge of Han Sooyoung’s person help Dreamer coax her at all – it would only make her warier and cleverer in her schemes.
Thus, Dreamer only fought like she didn’t know this person (or another version of this person) and pretended she wasn’t absolutely dying to save this Han Sooyoung some of the pain of taking up the role she had. Like she didn’t know that Han Sooyoung could have a proper team, proper companions – a proper sense of home and belonging.
She had already lost more than half of her memories through her Avatars already. Dreamer might not like ‘this’ version of Han Sooyoung who was violent, murderous, and uncaring of others around her, but she still did not want her to lose any more of her memories, if she could help it.
Even though she couldn’t be the one to ‘save’ this Han Sooyoung from her self-assigned path of pain.
The best she could do right now was knock this bitch the f*ck out so that Kim Dokja could handle all of that, later.
Of course, these were only Dreamer’s interpretations of the life Han Sooyoung had been living up until this point and throughout ORV and her own sentiments might greatly vary, but… she had known several versions of Han Sooyoung by now if you included all the stories she had read about her, and she felt that, even if she was wrong in some of it, she was at least right about one thing:
Han Sooyoung needed to meet Kim Dokja here.
This was the sole connection this Han Sooyoung had to her life pre-scenarios through comments. The one she never could fully forget, even if she killed and sacrificed every other memory she had along her journey to find and keep him by her side.
And like the true bitch this – every? – Han Sooyoung was, she would not go down easily.
Even Dreamer, with her incessant font of energy, was getting worn down trying to defeat her without killing her.
As always, Dreamer realised how much simpler combat was when you fought to kill instead of to avoid it.
She sighed and swung her staff again and again.
Nobody else could get close enough to aid her by now, and the 1st Apostle was somehow still hanging on while beaten fairly badly up.
Dreamer probably looked similar, except with more cuts than bruising.
She was just wondering when Yoo Sangah would come out of it enough to rejoin the fight when suddenly, the 1st Apostle’s head slid off his neck.
Dreamer’s eyes widened enormously, horrified. She turned to see a familiar inexpressive face standing behind him with a sword placed back by his side.
After some screaming for entirely too long to make sense, the head then cussed. “What the f*ck?!”
Yoo Joonghyuk frowned down at it, kicking the first Apostle’s body aside to investigate.
Hastily, Dreamer stepped between the head and Yoo Joonghyuk, holding a hand up placatingly. “Yoo Joonghyuk, wait a minute – do not step on him!”
“What-? ‘Yoo Joonghyuk?’ It was that bastard who got me?” the head asked, facing the opposite direction, sideways. “Ah, well, no wonder, then.”
While the 1st Apostle began a very persuasive spiel about how Yoo Joonghyuk needed someone like him in the future scenarios, Yoo Joonghyuk gave Dreamer a look and raised a hand to shove her aside so he could assess the situation properly.
Kim Dokja came up behind him and crouched down beside the head with curiosity.
Lee Jihye and Jung Heewon came forwards as well, leading two people Dreamer surmised must be Jung Minseob and Lee Sungkook, the prophets who imprisoned Han Donghoon with brainwashing. One of them was missing pants again, with them clearly having been given to Kim Dokja just like had happened in ORV. But, hadn’t he said he hadn’t died?
Dreamer used her staff as a crutch and approached Lee Jihye. “Were you too late, in the end?” she gestured towards the still-crouching Kim Dokja.
Lee Jihye shook her head. “No, Master kept him from dying. Err, they both had a lot of items get burned up, however…” she scratched her cheek somewhat awkwardly. “Why didn’t you tell me more about the situation? I could have helped them fight it!”
Dreamer shook her head. “No. You might have died. Plus, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you as much.”
Lee Jihye scoffed. “Pfah! You’re worried about me dying in a fight but not Master? You know he suffered some things as well!”
Jung Heewon cut Lee Jihye off. “Jihye-yah, don’t embarrass them.”
Lee Jihye snapped her mouth shut.
Dreamer glanced between them and realised exactly what must be going unsaid here. She couldn’t help but glance back at Yoo Joonghyuk to see him dressed pretty much exactly the same as he had been prior to leaving this place. Did he just so happen to have the same outfit repeatedly on hand or was it some skill or special item that applied the look, she wondered?
Shaking the thoughts from her head, she turned back to the two young women. “I didn’t know whether you would die or not, and I couldn’t be certain of Yoo Joonghyuk’s safety either. However, I trust him.”
Behind her, a heavy-browed man turned to look at her as she spoke.
“Unlike that head over there, that I trust him to totally not step on and squish,” she said, jerking a thumb over her shoulder.
She heard a scoff behind her and was appeased that she had been heard and smiled at Lee Jihye and Jung Heewon.
“So, I take it that this person is the Dreamer-ssi you guys mentioned on the way back?” Jung Heewon asked politely.
Lee Jihye nodded. “Yes. Master seems to know her from before as well, but this was my first time meeting or hearing of her. Unni, she is very suspicious – be careful!” she advised in a whisper that was nowhere near subtle or quiet.
After exchanging a few more words with them, Dreamer moved back by Kim Dokja, Yoo Joonghyuk, and the head that was still trying to best Kim Dokja and only succeeding in irritating Yoo Joonghyuk further.
“Be careful not to step on it,” Yoo Joonghyuk sassed. Dreamer had to do a double take, but his face remained the same as always.
She knelt beside the head on Kim Dokja’s other side.
“You know something about this?” he asked.
Dreamer frowned at the head, contemplating. “Yes. However, it’s just a bit complicated so it’s probably best I not interfere this time and let you work it out yourself. You can ask me if your guess is right, but I won’t supply too much past that this time. Your schemes and deductions are best in this case.”
“So, why can’t Joonghyuk squish his head?” he asked, gesturing up at the dark man scowling down at them all by his side.
“Well, I had been intending to just keep him tied up or something, but I suppose transport is easier like this. Hey, 1st Apostle. How do you feel about backpacking with me to some places?” Dreamer directed the question to the scowling head that had shut up to observe their interactions with more calm acumen than he had yet exhibited in their presence.
“W-what? Why aren’t you just going to kill me? Don’t you know who I am?” the head began another speech using many words that probably were good ones, but also were useless in this instance, and Dreamer took some bandages from the pack she had prepared ahead of time for the fight and hadn’t used (because burns would take more care than spliced flesh would mid-combat) and jammed them into his mouth, ears, and wrapped around his eyes.
-
After they had all sorted themselves out and regrouped back in Chungmuro with the wounded, Yoo Sangah and Kim Dokja filled the others in on things.
Yoo Joonghyuk had left with Lee Jihye after checking once more with Dreamer about his sister and finally giving in and heading back up North.
This left Kim Doja and the rest of his party to plan for what to do next, having worked out and confirmed with Dreamer that Han Sooyoung indeed was the one who wrote the SSSSS-Grade Infinite Regressor webnovel.
Lee Hyunsung had remained behind momentarily to sort out the prophets who had survived the Lesser Fire Dragon scenario (with Lee Jihye’s help) and would shortly bring the majority of them back here under threat of Punishment through the scenario deputization thing.
Dreamer had excused herself from the planning briefly to consult with Jung Heewon about a few things without giving her reasons for it away, and when Kim Dokja sent Jung Heewon off on her mission to save Yoo Mia, Dreamer excused herself from their group as well to head off on her own mission.
“You won’t tell me what it is?” Kim Dokja checked.
Dreamer shook her head. “Can’t. Don’t even know if it will be successful yet.”
“And you’re taking that guy with you?” he asked, gesturing to her satchel containing the 1st Apostle’s spare head.
“Yup. He might be a dick, but I intend to hand this back to him later, if I get the chance. Waste not, want not, and all that jazz,” she said light-heartedly. Kim Dokja looked confused.
“What did you speak to Jung Heewon about, by the way?”
Dreamer shrugged. “Inconsequential things. You can just ask her about it yourself when you meet back up, you know – I won’t mind. She likes talking to you.”
Yoo Sangah came over to give Dreamer a farewell hug and thank her for her help fending off the Apostle’s attack. “Hayun-ssi will miss you especially. She says you took on the effects of the blast for them, back then. Thank you for looking after them.”
Dreamer looked a bit uncomfortable. “Oh, that? Ah, I hadn’t really planned on it, it just happened. My skills seem to react to my emotions and thoughts often, and this was a case of that. I didn’t even know I had it, originally. It’s nothing painful anyways – I deal with much worse with my regular pain anyways. Thank you for treating me after the fight, by the way!” Dreamer’s current body had been coated in many creams and bandages since the fight before. Yoo Sangah herself was similarly treated.
“It was no problem.”
“Oh! By the way, you’re sure that your brothers weren’t in Seoul when the scenarios started? I just wanted to check one last time real quick.” Since she was off on one mission, she could always increase it to more…
Yoo Sangah shook her head. “No. Like I said before, most of them work in other cities or abroad. I haven’t been able to contact my parents yet, but…”
Her eyes turned troubled and Dreamer offered her a hug this time. “It will be okay. You will be able to check up on them a bit later.” Not that Dreamer thought they were particularly good parents, but still.
She was just glad that her own family hadn’t accompanied her to London when the scenarios arrived, though that did not mean they would be okay for long, she knew. She hadn’t been able to get in contact with them yet either – via dreams or otherwise.
“So, Sangah-ssi, you know how you defended me before from the 7th Apostle by calling me one of your group?” Dreamer changed topics to something a bit lighter, her eyes turning into crescents. “And how I’m not actually a member of your group, Deputy-nim?”
Yoo Sangah gave her an indulgent smile. “Yes, I do. I also know that you know what I meant, Dreamer-ssi. You may not be a part of our Chungmuro group under Dokja-ssi, but you acted as a member of my team regardless, and thus I included you under my protection at the time. You can be an honorary member of our group, no?”
Dreamer grinned back at her. “Oh? Sure then, I like the sound of that.”
Kim Dokja made a fake cough from beside them. “Ahem. Isn’t there someone you forgot to ask? A king like her doesn’t need you protecting her anyways, Sangah-ssi. Your efforts are better placed ensuring your own survival and leaving her to it.”
Dreamer glared at him. “I prefer to identify as a ‘Representative’, actually. Some of us aren’t as fancy as others,” she teased back.
Yoo Sangah let out a light laugh at this. “Just because you are Kings – or, Representatives – does not mean you could not use a little protection still.”
“Yes! Well said, Sangah-ssi!” Dreamer cheered. “Please protect me again in the future – I will definitely need it. Kim Dokja can just throw himself into danger willy-nilly if he doesn’t want the help.”
“’Willy-nilly?’” Yoo Sangah sounded back out as if confused.
Oh. Dreamer attempted to explain the term that had not translated across well by whatever dream magic always interpreted her thoughts into the languages of her host. Kim Dokja snickered at the side, however.
“Well, regardless, I shall protect both of you if you are with me and on the same side in future. How does that sound?” Yoo Sangah offered very kindly.
“Excellent!” Dreamer cheered again. “Please do watch over him well, Sangah-ssi – he needs all the help he can get!”
Yoo Sangah then reached out a hand and very gently pinched the tips of Dreamer’s ear. “Your ears are pointed – did you know?”
Dreamer lifted a hand to feel her ears and tilted her head to the side as she considered them. “Oh. You’re right! Well, I guess that fits quite well with my own body too, since I was born with them not properly curved. I guess this body must have a similar birth defect, but I’ve always liked my pointy ear, so I don’t mind it.”
“It suits you. Though, with these as well,” she traced a section of golden ink on her unbanaged shoulder that Dreamer’s current body seemed to be painted in like tattoos, “they make you seem quite otherworldly. This person must have very dramatic tastes, but it is a nice combination visually.”
Dreamer shrugged. “I don’t normally look this interesting, Sangah-ssi. The beauty belongs entirely to whoever this body originally belonged to, even though they appear to be have left it behind. I am nowhere near this healthy or muscular!” she commented lightly, flexing her sore arms for emphasis. It did not look nearly as pathetic as when she did the same thing in her own body in London, which she was just a little bit envious of.
After some more light teasing between the three of them, Yoo Sangah left the two of them alone again, having said her goodbyes, and Kim Dokja turned a bit serious again.
“Dreamer… Thank you for being here for the attack. And for sending Joonghyuk to me. I… had no way to anticipate that level of threat and had he not been there to assist me in surviving the disaster…” he began sombrely.
“– You would have died, but you would have revived and defeated it on your own.” Dreamer finished for him. “Don’t think you are any less capable than you truly are, Kim Dokja. I’m just here to get needlessly involved in things that probably weren’t meant to have anything to do with me, but now do. Mostly because I don’t like sitting idly by and watching everyone get hurt and killed if I know there could be alternative options. But….” She slapped a hand on either side of his shoulders, looking down at him with intensity. “…If you die again for any reason – good or otherwise –“
“- I didn’t actually die, though?” he cut in confusedly.
Dreamer ignored this and continued, “- I reserve the right to scoop up your disembodied spirit from wherever it has wandered off to and keep you tucked safely away in my own head until you can revive safely again, okay? So, don’t die unless you want to get stuck with me for however long it takes your body to revive itself, okay?” she threatened very bizarrely.
“R-right…” he said somewhat hesitantly, then sighed. “I don’t know what future you expected from me if you keep speaking of me dying, but I don’t intend to sacrifice myself to tell this story to the end, you do realise? I want to see the end of it with my own eyes.”
Dreamer could only offer him a troubled gaze as he said this, knowing that his actions very well could and would lead him to do exactly that many times over, if things were left as they had been back in the story world line that she knew.
Instead of something accepting or advisory, however, what came out of her mouth was: “Press X to doubt.”
After saying this, she clapped a hand over her mouth in horror.
Kim Dokja, however, laughed loudly at her.
Once the laughter had subsided somewhat and he could see her pout, he wiped at his eyes and said, “Well, if you have so little faith in my ability to remain alive, then you should keep visiting me in your dreams to help me prepare for the future scenarios. It is definitely easier not being the only one aware of the upcoming scenarios - Well, there is Joonghyuk, but he doesn’t like to work ‘together’ in the normal sense, so it’s a bit different with him.”
Dreamer let out a sigh. “I get what you mean. He is a great support once he decides to help you, but until that point, it seems like he just intends to everything on his own, without making decisions with anyone else even if he thinks they may have some good input. I mean, you know him better than I do, it’s just… He seems very single-minded.”
“You could say that…”
Dreamer cautiously observed his expression when saying this. “You know, ‘this’ Yoo Joonghyuk is different to the ones you read about, right? Just like how ●●● ●●● ●●●●●●●●● ●● ●●● ‘●●●’ ● ●●●● ●●●●●.”
He gave her a weird look and she realised that her last sentence of ‘you are different to the ‘you’ I read about’ had been filtered out.
“Ah, motherf*cker! Urghhh. Whatever. My point is: some of the things you know about Yoo Joonghyuk will be learned from versions of him that ‘this’ him is not, or he does not remembered being, yet. He will respond differently to what you expect, by virtue of having different experiences to the many, many others you read about. So, don’t be too hard on him in the future if he tries to strangle you for pulling stupid sh*t out of your ass or if he acts upon things he really should know better than to act upon by now, since he probably isn’t the version of him you are or are not expecting those things from. Okay? And, I will try to do the same, with him and with everyone else I have learned things about from my own sources. Does that sound fair?” she offered.
Kim Dokja looked contemplative before nodding. “Alright. Just… keep in contact with me from time to time if you can, please?”
Dreamer nodded. “I will do my best. You had better do your best not to f*cking die, though. Or this dreamer will snatch up your soul like some kind of magpie or something, alright?” she threatened again.
“Deal. No dying,” he promised, then grinned slyly. “Say, since this is also one of your dreams – haven’t you been here for a very long time? Are you a sleeping monarch now?”
“I will have you know I am currently unconscious because of f*cking plot reasons I had no say in prompting! I do not control how long I am knocked out for! And it was another sort-of-prophet who did the plot-prompting this time, not me! I just went along with what she showed me would happen. Mind you, she hadn’t shown anything about me being bloody conked the f*ck out, but hey ho, it’s not my first time, so eh. While I’m still out of it, I might as well get some things sorted on this end though, right? Hence, me making your acquaintance here, my good sir,” she explained, dipping into a mock curtsy before him like she was visiting a true king.
“What will you do if you start to wake up?” he asked.
“I was planning on wedging this body in a hidey-hole until I next fall asleep, where it will hopefully remain safe in the meantime. I don’t know where the original host has gone, but as long as it’s free, I can hopefully come back to use it and get some good ol’ corporeal life stuff done to help on this end of the world when I can, you know? Since I’m going to be dreaming here anyways. Don’t really know why I ended up in this body in the first place, but it’s pretty useful. And it’s nice to have a healthy body to run around in – you have absolutely no idea how nice it is to not be in constant pain just breathing!” she emphasised with some very fulfilling deep breaths.
“I can understand it to some extent, at least. I’m glad you can be here at least some of the time while you’re sleeping. Even if you cannot always tell me what you have planned.” He indicated towards the tunnel Dreamer was about to head down.
She nodded. “Yeah, I am very glad I am able to come here too. I would be very panicked if I was just stuck in the London Dome without any knowledge of if you guys existed over here, or if I was in some other world line I didn’t know anything about. There is enough unknown as it is back in my own Dome, that knowing you have things covered on this side, has helped reduce the stress of feeling like the fate of the world lies solely on me and my spotty foreknowledge of events alone.”
“Yes! That’s a great way to put it. Not that my knowledge it ‘spotty’ regarding the future events I know of, but it being different this time around naturally leads to change, and not being the only one aside from Joonghyuk working to keep it safe helps. Not that I trust you entirely, but…”
Dreamer lightly hit his arm. “Oi! I don’t trust you sometimes either. Sort of. Or, I could not trust you…. Okay nah, I’m naïve as f*ck, I already like your plans for things, so I probably can’t be that untrusting. I’m a chronic over-sharer. Anyways, look after yourself and your friends, Kim Dokja. I’ll be off now. Stay safe, bro.” she signed off with a light two-fingered salute.
“Wait! Thank you for sending me back to Joonghyuk;s body before – did you know I would be able to gain a skill from him afterwards? You said that was how it sometimes worked but didn’t always, yet it was how I was able to work with Joonghyuk to stop the disaster,” he said.
Dreamer looked back at him with a tilt of her head. “Hmm? I tried to put you back in your own body, not his. Though, that is what was originally meant to happen, so I guess someone just made it so again, or I just didn’t do a good enough job shoving you back all the way so you got stuck with him for a bit too. He’s a bit taller than me in this body, so it must have been weird for you to adjust to.”
“It was. It was also strange to be your height as well when I was here, since you are a bit taller than me too. Either way, I appreciate your assistance.”
Dreamer grinned. “No problem, Dokja! Wait until I teach you how to dream properly yourself - you can probably apply the same ideas to your [ORV] skill!”
After saying another goodbye, Dreamer left with her satchel of 1st Apostle brains and left to head for a certain district near Seoul Station, where a certain Butcher of Madness was meant to appear only during certain regression turns, but Dreamer knew must have someone else present in the others they didn’t appear in.
She had some sibling searching to do.
*****

Chapter 44: Chapter Thirty-nine – My Fair Lady (4) (Flashback to KDJ not dying bit, Dreamer wakes up)

Chapter Text

After leaving Dreamer in Chungmuro, Kim Dokja’s consciousness found itself in the wrong body again.
This time, it was Yoo Joonghyuk’s.
Kim Dokja watched as his own body was held in his embrace. Yoo Joonghyuk had wrapped himself around Kim Dokja to shield him from the flames.
He had the vague recollection of sticking his flag into Anguk Station’s flagpole and then getting bodily tackled by something before knocking his head and blacking out just as the flames erupted around them.
However, as he had told Dreamer before, he had not received a death message from the system. Instead, it looked like Yoo Joonghyuk had been the one to tackle him, then must have dragged him over to the same foothold he had just left for two people.
As Yoo Joonghyuk unwrapped his arms around Kim Dokja’s body, now that the Absolute Shield had activated to protect them, Kim Dokja felt shock that was not only his own as he saw himself in tattered scraps of burnt clothing. The [External Reinforced Suit] had not survived the ordeal despite Yoo Joonghyuk’s protection, and his flesh looked quite sore as well, but it wasn’t nearly as terrible as it could have been.
As for Yoo Joonghyuk himself, his clothing was not in much better shape. Out of everything, his coat seemed to survive mostly intact, while the rest… had not. There seemed to be a translucent wrapping around parts of his clothes and body, however.
The shock Kim Dokja felt – that Yoo Joonghyuk felt – rapidly cooled into weary acceptance. He clicked his tongue in irritation and dropped Kim Dokja’s unconscious, mostly nude form unceremoniously on the ground before pulling a new pair of trousers and shirt from his coat’s pockets and yanking them on. He looked more or less the same as before.
Kim Dokja looked down at himself and wished he had something to cover up with, too, since appearing beside the protagonist’s body in all its glory was not good for his confidence or self-esteem.
However, there was something more serious going on, so he didn’t linger on these thoughts for long.
Yoo Joonghyuk lightly kicked the body on the floor he had just saved and dumped. “Hurry and wake up, fool. There is a disaster to hunt. You’re useless to me like this.”
When Kim Dokja did not regain consciousness, he clicked his tongue again. “Tch. Pathetic.”
He then hefted Kim Dokja over his shoulder, pulled his sword out, ran over to Jung Heewon and Lee Hyunsung and threw his sorry form at them, and set to work fighting the dragon using what he knew of it from past encounters and information.
Kim Dokja was privy to all of his thoughts and emotions and tactics throughout this and was secretly awed by the power of the protagonist’s body itself as every movement of his moved so fluidly and efficiently. Each swing of his sword was precise and powerful, beautifully executed with years of experience felt through every motion.
He probably wouldn’t admit it out loud, but the relief Kim Dokja felt upon seeing this intimidating man appear in this place of disaster was not small. He felt as if this catastrophe might be able to be overcome now that he was here.
And… he had protected him even at the expense of his own wellbeing, despite having [Fire Resistance] and presumably being safe enough on his own. Why?
He recalled something Dreamer had said to him before.
「That means sending that guy after you must have helped! I’m glad. 」
…Perhaps, was it her doing? What could she have said to him to have Yoo Joonghyuk move to save someone as suspicious as Kim Dokja?
Not long after he started ruminating on these things, he felt Yoo Joonghyuk’s movements stutter and he took a tail to the chest that knocked him back. However, he did not fall.
Kim Dokja felt his consciousness shift once more and found himself – finally! – waking up in his own body.
He… may have forgotten his clothes were barely hanging onto him by scraps in his haste to scoop up the ice pills with the others, use his compensation from first person’s protagonist viewpoint to gain the [Cold Resistance] skill to help Yoo Joonghyuk fight the fire dragon off.
Once the fight was over with, however, he became acutely aware of this fact when he saw Jung Heewon and Lee Hyunsung’s unusual reactions. Jung Heewon quickly covered him with her [Samyeondang’s Straw Mat] robes when she saw him cringing away from their eyes. He also extorted Lee Sungkook’s trousers from him and made him walk behind in his underwear. Kim Dokja felt no guilt for this since he was a terrible person anyways.
Apparently, Lee Jihye had remained outside of the range of the disaster, applying some strange symbol to the ward around it from the other side. This opened up a small gap wide enough to pull people through if they fled from the disaster in the right direction. This was apparently something she and Yoo Joonghyuk had prepared to do in advance of their arrival, with Yoo Joonghyuk covering his face and blending into the crowd of prophets.
Once the primary things were dealt with and the surviving prophets who remained – none of them Apostles, as they had burnt up after chasing after him when he ran to the flagpole – were brought under Kim Dokja’s command if they were able to and formed contracts to ensure their compliance if they could not be transferred to his group from others such as the Tyrant King’s, Kim Dokja was left alone with Yoo Joonghyuk to discuss some other things.
Yoo Joonghyuk’s eyes were dark as he stated the point he felt most important out of this whole ordeal. “Kim Dokja, the dreamer knew how to break the scenario warding.” With just these words, he did not need to elaborate for his concerns to be expressed.
Kim Dokja nodded with furrowed brows. He knew it was something that should be inconceivable for a human to achieve, especially so soon after the scenarios began. “I know. It’s probably part of why the ‘probability request’ was made.”
“How well do you know her?” he asked.
He shook his head. “I don’t. She’s only visited me in my dreams, like how Anna Croft can, or in spaces with what she calls dream magic around such as with the Spectres Stones before in the tunnel. Her having a corporeal body to dream into now isn’t something I knew she could do, let alone the rest with the warding and her future information. She readily admits that I know more than her about the scenarios and the

, yet often anticipates things I cannot.”
“Can her information be trusted?” Yoo Joonghyuk asked next.
“I don’t know for sure, but…” he considered how to describe his thoughts on this clearly. He tried another angle. “Did you know that she speaks filtered information freely, even in dreams?” Kim Dokja turned to meet Yoo Joonghyuk’s eyes. “She knows things that cannot be shared right now, yet she always tries to share it openly and, I presume, fully. Even when it doesn’t get across, she tries to find ways of describing around it, or offering suggestions of things to do even without being able to say why we might need to do those things.” He observed Yoo Joonghyuk’s expression as he asked, “You’ve met her yourself now as well – you must have noticed something similar?”
Yoo Joonghyuk frowned, looking thoughtful. He then turned from Kim Dokja’s gaze and glanced at the prophets in the distance listening to Lee Jihye and Jung Heewon’s directions. “She over-speaks in any form she can. It’s a wonder the dokkaebis haven’t silenced her yet.”
Kim Dokja recalled what he had just read on Lee Sungkook’s smartphone from TWSA.
「"It's okay. This guy is someone who has received permission from my superiors. Leave him alone."
"Is it okay? The aftermath…"
"He has a sponsor that we can't afford to go against."」
He hummed and opened his mouth. “Perhaps… She might have a backer they can’t do anything about. There are some constellations even they won’t antagonise. They have made a few exceptions in the past where there is a sponsor or nebula they won’t go against.”
However, Yoo Joonghyuk shot this down. “No. She has no sponsor.”
Kim Dokja’s eyes lit up as he whipped his head back to him. “You can read see her Attribute Window?”
Yoo Joonghyuk’s eyes flicked back to his. “It is incomplete. Like her words, information is missed out or filtered. Of particular note is her name,” he revealed with sombre words.
“Her name?” Kim Dokja repeated with curiosity.
Yoo Joonghyuk nodded. “Yes. Even that is hidden. The information also did not appear clearly to me on the screen. It was as if the system was –“
“Glitching?” Kim Dokja supplied in his stead. He had tried to read her information himself, and while he had received a similar message about her not being a character, it had not appeared in a normal manner. Similar attempts to see her information had revealed the same, and she had described what her own information looked like to him before since she’d wanted to know if he experienced similar.
Yoo Joonghyuk nodded again.
“Hmm.”
Yoo Joonghyuk turned to face the crowd of incarnations that survived an encounter with a disaster of the fifth scenario that appeared early. He watched them for a moment of brief silence with Kim Dokja. “She seems naïve. It is a liability.”
“You think the ‘king’ who set this trap up to kill them had the right idea? To remove the variables before they could affect too many changes?” he asked the regressor calmly. “That she should not have suggested a way to save some of them from their own hubris?”
Yoo Joonghyuk remained silent. Then, he offered another opinion. “She won’t be able to survive the upcoming scenarios with that kind of mentality. The weight and extent of the losses she will experience will crush her.” In his voice, Kim Dokja could feel the decades of pain and suffering he himself had experienced over the course of his many lives. He then turned back to face Kim Dokja. “The same is true of you. You may be a prophet, but you have not lived through the scenarios yet.”
Kim Dokja grinned and spoke with a teasing tone. “Aww, Joonghyuk, you don’t have to worry about me but thank you. I’ll be fine.” He faked being touched.
Yoo Joonghyuk turned his head away at this, scowling. “I am going back with you. I don’t trust that soft person to clean up the other Apostles properly. Come.”
With this, he walked off, leaving Kim Dokja and their party members to follow behind.
-
After leaving Chungmuro to Kim Dokja’s capable hands, Dreamer made quite some progress on her self-assigned mission to find the Butcher who wasn’t meant to end up as a Butcher this time around.
When she felt like her own consciousness was going to slip back to her original body, Dreamer tucked herself carefully into a partially-demolished building a monster must have recently passed, wedging herself between some pieces of debris and sturdy furniture so that others wouldn’t easily be able to locate or see her, bid her body-less travelling companion a brief goodnight, and left the strangely empty-feeling living body behind as her own body called her back to it and she regained waking consciousness once more.
“Took you long enough,” A newly familiar, sombre voice greeted her from the other side of the dim room they were currently locked in.
“Morning, Raven!” Dreamer cheerily replied with a grin.
It was time for Dreamer to spend some downtime as a compliant prisoner for a while.
*****

Chapter 45: Chapter Forty – Falling Down (MS#4 continued, capture and release, training, dream trips to A+A and Jung Eunho)

Chapter Text

The next day was split evenly between learning how to properly apply the skills Squidi and Raven informed Dreamer about and developing these skills while she was dreaming to save time – since time dreaming did not always match the time she spent actually asleep. It was just a little bit mind-f*cky to contemplate in depth, so she lightly pushed the questions about how her mind could exist separately to her body for longer than she spent asleep in her body aside for the time being and instead focused on using what Squidi had informed her about and Raven had suggested using her own experiences of learnt spells and skills to use while moving around the usual dreams she spread her sleeping time within simultaneously.
It… was really, really weird to be so busy while you were meant to be asleep, resting, but then, this had always been her life, even before the scenarios. Thus, just like then, she still found herself waking up feeling relatively well-rested, albeit sometimes feeling a bit harried from the flood of information and memories gained over a longer period of time than she had slept for, and kind of just rolled with it like she always had done.
Her little outer being friend was the one to help the most with her skills, since he could read more of her attribute window than she could, apparently. She supposed that made sense since outer beings were considered ‘errors’ when within the

as well, right? Thus, it made sense for him to be able to see more of her glitchy screens. She had already seen that Squidi could read the particles only she seemed able to thus far as well, so perhaps that meant he was able to read more than the average being?
Well, whatever. She was just grateful for his support. This helpful cute squid was rapidly becoming her favourite colleague, but she definitely wouldn’t voice that to the others because they would absolutely give her weird looks (and in Akari’s case, probably a mock hurt one).
Once she had gotten relatively used to using the skills with Raven and Squidi as her judges and answered a bunch of questions Raven had for her, Dreamer had them help her fall asleep much sooner than she ordinarily would have and left them to watch over her body while her consciousness wandered.
-
In the sealing sphere she visited in her dreams first, Dreamer was sat cross-legged in front of the barrier that kept her nearby friend –
[Not friend,] a deep voice responded to her thoughts, but she ignored it for now.
– trapped in this very uneventful, isolated space in a void, surrounded by dark, hot sand. She had been coming here regularly so far but the seals weren’t much closer to undone, despite the progress she had made in understanding and dismantling sections of it.
[It remains absurd that you can make progress at all,] that same voice rumbled. [No being I know of would be able to understand where to even start, even had they made understanding such seals their life’s work. And I am a very ancient dragon. It is not something that can be understood.]
Dreamer paused in her study to turn and raised an eyebrow at Aikhtiar. “Someone had to have made the seal in the first place,” she pointed out. “Thus, of course it can be understood.”
The very ancient dragon released a puff of annoyed air as it read the summoned text narrating her actions above her head, one of the ‘skills’ she was testing out while she worked. [My point was that it would have to have been such a complicated and ancient composition that only the original designer could know where to start – someone far older and unknowable than a fledgling incarnation who dreams.]
Dreamer returned to face the barrier as she continued. “The seals aren’t hard for a fledgling survivor who dreams, if she has encountered similarly complex designs from ‘unknowable’ creators many times before.”
Behind her, she heard Aikhtiar shift into a seated position behind her, on its haunches. She could practically feel its piercing stare trying to drill a hole into her head for presumed study. [When, exactly, have you encountered such seals before?] it calmly asked.
Dreamer’s tinkering hands froze momentarily, her brain stuttering. She co*cked her head and tried to pry up the memories of which times she had seen them. A quiet voice at the back of her mind seemed to suggest that it was better not to contemplate it right now in the presence of a dangerous being and to think on it later when it would be safe to be more vulnerable while looking back and remembering. Without questioning it, she shook the effort of remembering from her head for reflection at a later time and instead commented, “In many different dreams across many different worlds and situations. I can’t recall all the details right now, but obviously I picked up plenty while there.”
There was a pause where she assumed Aikhtiar was giving her one of its characteristic heavy, assessing gazes filled with more meaning than she could insinuate. [Evidently. You cannot recall where you ‘picked up’ the incredibly specific knowledge, but you are very deft in making use of it, as if you don’t need to search your memory at all.]
She sighed and picked back up where she left off, fiddling with a tangle of sigils stuck together like they were a knotted pair of headphones or earrings to untangle. “I don’t always know how I know what I know, but I know enough to have a vague recollection of where I acquired these things and would recognise it if reminders were shown before me. By my very nature as a regular human, I know that a lot of the things I retain from dreams cannot all fit inside my head at once, so I mostly just have to base my actions on what little I do remember and can keep inside my human brain, even if the only thing I am able to retain is that I do know something, but the details for ‘where’ remain only accessible at certain times while I am dreaming. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to function properly because there is simply too much going on in my head, or my collective memories of dreams. Thus,” she gestured towards the untangled former mass of sigils in her hands, “I focus on what I can recall and know that the rest will reappear when I need to know it, even if it takes a bit of work to get straight in the enormous knot of everything that I should remember that I have experienced.”
Dreamer pushed herself up to standing and dusted her knees of sand as she faced the dragon she considered to be on relatively friendly terms for now. “I have spent more time in dreams than I have in my waking world. Encompassing everything that might entail and mean for me is something I can’t really get my head around most of the time, so I try not to force it.”
Aikhtiar quietly studied her and hummed in contemplation. [I see. You are only human, indeed. That must make it very difficult to understand what dreams are.]
This made her smile brightly. “Oh, I understand plenty about them, despite my species limiting my brain capacity. Dreams are my specialty!”
Aikhtiar gave her a look that seemed to find her extremely confusing.
“Are you ready to try the next thing I mentioned?” she asked, changing topics from things that were difficult to think about.
Aikhtiar nodded, and in the next moment, Dreamer had closed her eyes to focus, mentally picturing linking her sleeping consciousness up with another resting mind and silently nudging it to seek permission for something they had discussed prior to her arrival here.
The resting mind she nudged sent horrible, too-familiar shivers up her spine, but she had prepared for that to be the case whenever she approached this particular entity and pushed through the feeling to do what she needed to do to activate this ability.
Not long after, she heard Aikhtiar inhale as if surprised, letting out a sound of apparent appreciation (of her skills, she liked to think!). [Oh.]
Dreamer opened her eyes as she heard something directly to the left of her shuffling around the sand. She saw the very (personally) terrifying sight of the Abaddon looming over not only her, but over Aikhtiar’s huge form as well.
Aikhtiar let out a low breath of amusem*nt and it seemed to drop its current form to grow to around the same size as the dark swirling mass of buzzing, clicking, hissing insects that formed the Abaddon’s outer being. [Since we are showing our true forms around the Dreamer, I won’t alter mine,] he commented.
“…That wasn’t your true form??” she asked, stunned. She took in its new form which was significantly less friendly-looking, despite the previous form being plenty intimidating as it had been.
Aikhtiar glanced down at her before returning its gaze to the Abaddon. [Of course not. You seemed too intimidated as it was, and I didn’t want to scare you off without seeing what you came here to do.] It then focused entirely on the enemy (?) being before it and spoke in a very different tone that was neither respectful nor offensive, as if speaking to some equal. [Ruler of the Deepest Pit.]
[Apocalypssse Dragon,] the Abaddon replied in apparent greeting.
Dreamer then felt her entire being become suddenly covered in clinging, crawling legs and wings, so much so that she worried about opening her mouth to speak. Knowing how to respond to this by now, she froze and made sure not to make any sudden movements. It seemed the Abaddon was displeased by something.
[The Dreamer…. Isss mine,] it stated with power that made her wish she was not still standing.
Aikhtiar barked out a hollow laugh that did not make her feel any better.
Hadn’t she told these two not to host a status war in her presence?? She could not cope well with two insanely overpowered evil beings sounding each other out right beside her.
[She is too small a morsel for me to bother consuming,] Aikhtiar replied. [You can have her, as long as you let her finish her work before you devour her.]
Dreamer did not like the topic of this conversation but resigned herself to hearing a lot more along this vein in future, since both the Abaddon and Aikhtiar did not consider her as amicably as she did them and were unlikely ever to.
[Sshe claims… I have already… conssumed her before. Ssshe isss…. already…. mine,] the Abaddon stated.
Aikhtiar’s expression seemed assessing. Without taking its gaze from the Abaddon, it spoke down to her. [Is this true, little Dreamer? Your Stories do not seem to have been harvested at all.]
Gently pressing the insects crawling over her mouth further away so she could speak, she opened her mouth to answer. “Uhh, well I have faced some aspects of the Abaddon before, and they have eaten me alive before. However, it was never in a universe where stories were a thing, so I can’t say whether or not I ‘lost’ any, since I don’t think I had any at those times.”
Two ancient evil entities turned their gazes from each other and onto her at this.
Aikhtiar spoke the question they both apparently wanted to ask. […You had no Stories? That can’t be possible. Every universe has stories, even if those living within it are unaware of this.]
Dreamer cautiously shrugged at them. “Well, I can only go by what I remember from those times, but I don’t think I lost anything or had anything consumed other than the flesh I was dreaming in, since I always woke back up in my own flesh after ‘dying’ within those dreams. The Abaddon of those times also expressed frustration at me even while savouring my screams.”
Aikhtiar wore a strange expression as it turned back to face the Abaddon who remained staring at Dreamer with its eerie yellow stare. [If that is the case, then her stories are likely still her own. Regardless, I will not contest you for dominion over her. I would rather not remain involved with her after this,] it said somewhat coldly.
Dreamer pouted under the bugs on her face.
One of the bugs by her right ear whispered in a tiny, creepy voice, [I sense your screams would be delicious.]
While she was busy internally freaking out, Aikhtiar rolled its eyes as if this was cliché behaviour to engage in, despite also having creeped her the f*ck out previously in a similar manner. [Now that we have settled your claim over the Dreamer, we should return to other matters. Dreamer, your experiment was successful. You managed to bring the Abaddon’s resting consciousness into your dream here so we can communicate. Well done.]
Dreamer felt like she should just not have gotten the bizarre idea to unseal these terrifying beings who clearly saw her as an insignificant existence to make use of and then eat or discard. What had she been thinking? What aspects of these two had she deemed worth saving when the cost was to be treated like this when she was only trying to help?
At least Aikhtiar seemed a little bit more considerate. Maybe it wasn’t completely hopeless to believe there was a chance for these two to be redeemed and remain free once released from their cycles of Story suffering.
…She was glad that she had dissolved the text narration above her head of her thoughts before the Abaddon had appeared. Otherwise, it might very well try to eat her again.
After regaining some of her dissipated composure, she very bravely suggested the two of them settle down to listen to the latest story she had prepared to tell them about, after having discussed such a thing with the Abaddon prior and being surprised at his request to accompany her while telling it to the Apocalypse Dragon.
Very unfortunately, neither entity shrunk down into less-intimidating presences, and the Abaddon seemed to take pleasure in pestering her with the bugs at irregular intervals during her stories, so it was not exactly the most comfortable storytime she had ever led while fiddling with knots of seal runes and threads. However, the (relatively) quiet listeners made her feel hopeful for a future where both of them might not think about eating her or wreaking vengeance on descendants of the worlds that had wronged them originally.
As a last test of her skills, Dreamer said she would try to reinforce the Abaddon’s presence there so it might remain even after her departure and instructed them to report the results back to her on whether it lasted and for how long it remained in place, the next time she came to visit them.
Since the Abaddon was here as a dreamt spectre more than a solid presence, she should not have to worry about them fighting, even though they were likely to use their statuses and other abilities to test each other.
-
Her next dream trip found Dreamer back in the body she had had assumed previously in Seoul, of the tall black woman with golden whorls painting her skin.
With stiff joints, she uncoiled from where she had stuffed her body while she wasn’t occupying it and shifted the building’s debris from where she had dragged it over to cover her while she was away. She then opened the satchel she had brought with her that was heavy but dry despite its contents.
The bloodless head with blocked eyes, ears, and mouth was presumably not very happy with this arrangement.
Dreamer unwrapped its ears and eyes and placed it atop some smashed furniture around eye-level with her. “Hello, 1st Apostle. It’s only me here – no Kim Dokja or Yoo Joonghyuk. I’m known as Dreamer. I know you’re busy with the King’s Road stuff but I wanted to let you know that I intend to carry this head of yours around with me until I meet your original self so you do not have to suffer the mental damage from this Avatar’s death and so you can keep the memories you gave up to form it. Unlike you, I find even the smallest memories to be important and worth keeping, and while they are yours to misuse as you like, if it doesn’t need to happen, then I will try and avoid it. You might currently be a massive dick trying to survive amongst a lot of sh*t people you still make use of, but I know there’s more to you than this Avatar and your horrible acquaintances like the 7th Apostle would suggest.
“Kim Dokja might have to watch his back around you, but this isn’t my dome, so I don’t really need to play the same mental gymnastics with you.
“Anyways, I’m just letting you know why I took you with me. I don’t exactly trust you not to cause issues yet, hence the gag so you don’t draw the attention of monsters or people, but that’s what this is.”
After speaking this far, Dreamer then changed expressions from sombre to bright and bubbly. “I hope that we will become good friends from here on out!”
She then returned the head to the sack but left it open enough for Han Sooyoung’s Avatar to see out of. This was in case she could relay the information from what Dreamer had planned to Kim Dokja once they met in the hidden dungeon scenario later, since it would benefit Dreamer if the information was shared with him or the other kings.
Then, she headed over to Jung Heewon’s family home to pick up her struggling brother and work out what to do with her dickhe*d of a father if he was still alive and around.
After convincing them – a bit forcefully, since they foolishly thought she was weak on her own while she was actually revelling in the power of a strong, muscular, able body for once – Dreamer and her new retinue of misguided punks and their inconsiderate Representative headed over to the main stations that Dreamer suspected would be other Kings’ bases, knowing that the majority of them would have rushed towards the museum to find the Four Yin Demonic Beheading Sword to win the Absolute Throne with.
Then, she steadily mopped up station after station with them using the King of the kids she had spared to put to work, who stopped being a prick fairly quickly, surprisingly, and enjoyed being able to rank up his flag by following her directions. Dreamer was also really good at using the other kids to distract the bases’ defenders just long enough for her to sneak the King in with his flag to the flagpole, easily and swiftly taking over their forces without needing to inflict too many casualties or let her pack of punks suffer in the process. She found she had a new [Sleep] skill that allowed her to put others to sleep too, not only herself, and this was incredibly useful in stealthily taking over bases.
It was probably inconsiderate of her to try, but she had asked for the locations of the Kings she knew about from the story who would soon die, in an effort to remove them from the pool ahead of time so they didn’t need to be taken out anymore by the others – including Kim Dokja – as it had been something that bothered her while reading and now that she was here with these people living, breathing, and scheming against each other in a mad bid for some semblance on control over their new lives, Dreamer felt very keenly that she must try her best to avoid letting them die before they needed to.
At least, that was what she believed for most of them, since she did not know for sure whether they would be decent human beings towards others or not and mostly had her own gut feelings and Kim Dokja’s perspective that Han Sooyoung had written from to base her hopes on.
…Yeah, when considered like this, it really seemed like a dangerous stretch and risk of derailing a lot of things. However, she was not one to submit to things like ‘butterfly effects’ or the potential for bad things to happen, but rather believed that people would prove useful later on if they had the chance to grow past the points they had reached in the story that she knew.
If she was wrong and they became a problem later, then she just needed to make sure she kept on top of things and forewarned Kim Dokja and his group once she became aware of it.
It was pointless to assume the worst of others who hadn’t yet exhibited it.
That said… The Tyrant King was one who could definitely get f*cked. She did not care about what happened to him, which was possibly bad of her, but then she only had so much she could affect and that particular person was not one she knew how to address or help and would much rather stay well away from.
Kim Dokja knew his stories better than her, anyways. She could only do what she could for the others he hadn’t expressed hatred towards, out of her own desire to keep likeable or useful people like Min Jiwon would likely become in this world line too, alive.
Dreamer wiped some sweat away from her brow as she leant against the latest flagpole they had snatched from the Earth Dragon Gu Daesung. They had already mopped up the flagpoles of Yoon Kiyoung and Kim Baekho, the ‘Prudent King’ and ‘Fighting King’ respectively, as well as several smaller factions that Kim Dokja might have swept through with the undead flower army shortly.
She made the now very acquiescent crazy king of the punks she had led swear an Oath to her regarding the next stages of the scenario and sent them off carrying a tied-up Jung Moonho.
She left their group with very strict instructions and a warning: Should they fail to deliver their flag to one of the five Kings she knew would survive the skirmish and head to the Absolute Throne to face each other off, their King would die.
She may have helped him become stronger very rapidly, but he remained much weaker than she herself was, which meant that he would stand no chance against Yoo Joonghyuk, Kim Dokja, or even the Tyrant King who wouldn’t make it to the end fight.
The only safe option for him to live through was to offer his flag up for one of the stronger kings to claim – otherwise they would slaughter him to reduce the number of participant kings.
Before they departed from her to head to the gathering point with plenty of warnings on what to expect and what to avoid, one of the kids approached her. He wasn’t, strictly speaking, quite a kid, but to her, he was very young.
Jung Eunho, wearing a mask, asked her, “Why did you go so far to save us from that situation?”
Dreamer lightly shrugged the shoulder her satchel was hung on. “Like I explained before, it’s a favour to your sister. I got the idea of doing this from her, too. So, you should really be thanking her for giving me the idea. And maybe thank Yoo Joonghyuk too, since I knew that scooping up the other bases in such a short period of time was possible thanks to him. He’s a bit cold, but he’s secretly lovely too. A bit like everyone can be nowadays, I suppose.”
Jung Eunho nodded. “Right. Like how you seemed at first when you took down my dad and the others, but after that you don’t seem so terrifying.”
Dreamer wore an odd expression upon hearing this. “Yeah… similar to that. Anyways, tell your sister she’s the absolute coolest for me, even if you and she still have your own differences to work out, alright? And remember what I said about everything else, alright?”
The kid nodded his head again with a bit more gravity. “I will pass on your words to her. I hope we get to meet you again soon.”
Dreamer lightly nodded back at him. “I’ll try to check back in when I get a chance, but since this isn’t my normal body, it’s a bit tricky to organise. Just – look after yourself okay, alright? There’s a lot of dangerous stuff coming up that even I can’t predict much about. Don’t do anything foolish like before, alright?”
After agreeing to behave when it came to other people using him for their own ends, Dreamer bid them farewell and watched the punks carry off the blindfolded, ear-plugged, trussed-up and gagged Jung Moonho.
Then, she turned away from their disappearing backs and snuck away from the current base full of confused but compliant survivors and left to hole herself away somewhere her body hopefully wouldn’t get crushed or discovered by passing monsters or looters.
She took the head from the pack she had left open for Han Sooyoung to witness what she wanted as she had worked through the bases and commented, “See? The world might be sh*tty and unfair, but we don’t have to just trample on everyone else to survive. If you have the ability to change things so not as many not-so-sh*tty people need to die, you can open up the path for them to grow into completely unsh*tty, strong people who are happy to work alongside you.
“I know your methods differ greatly from mine, but butterflies don’t always need to be squashed to protect your own efforts. You can make use of them too and maybe discover they aren’t quite as sh*t as you had thought they would be.
“Ah, I don’t really know what I’m trying to say here because I am not that saintly with any of this, I’m also just doing what I want to do when the world has been shaken up like this, but I don’t always need a point to make to chat with you a bit, right? We can just entertain ourselves with our own convoluted habits while trying to sort out all the world’s f*cked-up sh*t and survive. I hope you don’t feel a need to slaughter as many in your way now that they aren’t as much a threat to the Throne you’re aiming for, 1st Apostle.”
Then, her eyes narrowed into a fierce glare. “Also, if you harm those punks when there is no reason to, I will find you and beat you up again. Or ask Yoo Joonghyuk to. He’s very amenable to murdering you, as I understand it. So, watch your step too, Fake King.
“Now, it’s time for another nap time for this body. I’ll see you in my dreams again, 1st Apostle.”
Dreamer settled down in her carefully constructed hiding place and let herself wake back up where she belonged.
*****

Chapter 46: Chapter Forty-one – Falling Down (2) (Little Dream visit, KDJ visit)

Chapter Text

Instead, she found herself in another dream.
Dreamer sighed. She had thought she’d made progress with her dream control, but clearly she still could not perfectly control as and when she properly woke up and when she only ‘woke up’ inside another dream.
She was plenty thrilled with this, however, as she was greeted with a familiar form sitting in a puddle of oversized clothing on the floor.
Grinning at the slightly older teen form of the little Dream, Dreamer dropped down to settle beside him.
There were probably a lot of other topics she should probably pick through to talk with him about, but what she found herself asking him was instead, “Should we try summoning up a new wardrobe for you?”
He smiled and agreed, then when she pushed herself back onto her feet to tinker, added, “But I’d like to keep wearing this coat, even if it’s oversized at the moment.”
Dreamer tilted her head to the side, a number of questions that didn’t quite get answered in the story she’d read passing through her head again. Not only did the coat not resize to fit his form, but it was also odd that he was wearing it in the first place since his age and timeline weren’t exactly straightforward, from what they had worked out thus far. Though, perhaps he dreamt of himself wearing this for comfort long before he acquired it as a scenario reward in the ORV story?
“That’s fine,” she replied. “If you find wearing it helps you feel grounded… we could also keep your other outfits from the stories I know of you to hand. They might help you feel more in tune with that version of you that you don’t always remember or know well. Plus, they just look cool anyways. Some clothes that fit the younger forms would be good too, since then you don’t have to trip over your own clothes whenever we walk around or practice things.”
She paused then as a thought passed through her head. Because it bothered her, she voiced it. “Hey, little Dream… Do you think one day we might be able to summon up a whole place for you to live that was more interesting than this one? It would still be a place where you were stuck, but you might be less bored. Obviously, I don’t think either of us have that level of skill or desire to do such a thing but… It would be better than having nothing to do except watch others…”
A disquiet little voice at the back of her mind prompted her to wonder, ‘Isn’t that what the waking world already felt like before the scenarios came? Maybe that is why Kim Dokja always felt like his reality was always fiction in the first place, and it was not only because of his mother’s story…’
However, the thoughts felt too heavy to think about right now before they had actually begun to discuss important things, and so she shook her head before the little Dream could respond and said, “No, never mind all of that. It was just a thing to wonder about, not really consider doing. But I do want to make sure you don’t have to feel as lonely here so distractions are probably good to have around. Even if you have some visitors from time to time, and you have your Fourth Wall.“
After some more fussing over him and stacking up piles of things in the corner of their designated study carriage, they settled into a less-casual atmosphere and began discussing topics Dreamer had been meaning to bring up since the last time she had visited.
Some of it was about the entities themselves that he might run into, that they had gone over before. “Nightmare entities are really just the same as other beings, except they are able to perceive and interact with things on the astral or aethereal planes – the dream realms. When you have a host or a corporeal body in a dream, they are unable to detect you because the material form masks the dreaming self, but if you demonstrate abilities outside of that world view or host, or you interact with the things on the astral plane in any way, they will take notice and start pressuring you. Sometimes they send illusory things out that only appear on that plane to test whether there is a dreamer hiding within a specific person, too. If you reveal information about yourself outside of the role you are meant to play or the ‘character’ you are in those dreamt worlds, they will also notice and heckle you, or try to hunt you down and murder you to send you away.”
Some of it was about something she had recently been put off by (especially when interacting with the Abaddon in particular) and thought would be difficult or frustrating for him to handle in dreams, too. “We are also going to explore the idea of the ‘vibes’ certain beings give off, how to accurately interpret their strength based on how their presence makes you feel – not unlike with constellation statuses, in fact – and how to do a ’vibe check’ for whether they are trustworthy or disguised and dangerous and just influencing you with positive, trusting emotions so you feel inclined to rely on them even though they’re leading you in some weird world plot sh*t. Some entities really love to pretend to be your loved ones and then try awful sh*t like kissing you or killing you while playing out their ‘character’ as if they were the real version of them and not some weird copy.”
And some of their lesson was about how some dreams happen in ‘fragments’ and about how the little Dream might be able to work out the connections between dream fragments if he gets shifted from one world line to another mid-dream. Dreamer also explained to him about how his own version of dreaming might differ to hers in many ways since his situation was different to hers, but that it couldn’t hurt to find out more about it regardless in case someone else could suddenly force a dream shift part-way through a set dream. She drew some helpful diagrams that made her think of jigsaw puzzles, but she felt it was an apt comparison and drawing it out helped her understand dream stuff better too – a bit like revision helped you remember facts.
Next, they practiced summoning things using the dream stuff in their surroundings, then moved into the main carriage the little Dream was usually trapped in to practice there and see the difference and the kind of difficulties he might experience within dreams where world line restrictions were heavier than others.
The little Dream commented about summoning things from ‘hammerspace’ and Dreamer pointed out that it wasn’t technically summoning things from hammerspace snice it wasn’t coming from nothing, but from a manipulation and formation of the dream stuff in their environment that already composed the world line.
She then whipped up a document she had once read about someone else’s interpretation of dreamland shenanigans and mechanisms, since it had helped her understand things better herself and he might find it useful too, even though it was obviously only one interpretation of things from one universe and would not include everything or be entirely accurate for either of the two of them. Every dreamer was a little bit different to the next, after all, so the same rules wouldn’t always apply to them the same, even if a rule was properly understood.
After summoning up the study materials as if she were her own printer, Dreamer noticed his study room was looking a little cramped and showed the little Dream how to dissipate existing dream-formed materials when he no longer wanted them. Surprisingly, he already knew how to do this and demonstrated it while Dreamer felt a little silly for assuming again. She apologised, saying that the entire reason she had come here was because she thought he had no knowledge of dream stuff, but that that obviously wouldn’t still remains the case after he had been dreaming for aeons and she ought to know better.
The little Dream brushed the apology off because he understood and appreciated her sharing her own findings, since having two dreamers thinking on all things dream-related was useful for both of them since they could wok out far more than they could on their own with only one perspective of things to learn from.
After getting to the topic of dream combat again – one they both loved to practice and experiment with new techniques with – the Fourth Wall’s annoyed text floated up between the two of them like a barrier, stating that it was time for her to leave. This was common of it and so she bid the little Dream farewell, tried to give him a hug through the Wall and failed from being blocked still, and curtsied instead like he was a royal little prince she was the erstwhile tutor of, and left before the Fourth Wall decided to bodily boot her out of the space and the dream.
-
Yet again, she woke up somewhere else than her body. At this rate, she would age significantly more in her consciousness than in her own body – but then, that was how it had always been; she was just complaining because it was a longer sleep than she had anticipated. She didn’t really mind, though.
Regardless, this had ended up being more useful than if she had simply woken back up in her own body since she was met with the white snowfield space of Kim Dokja’s dreamscape.
“What’s up, Kingcakes?” Dreamer greeted him bizarrely.
As expected, his face twisted into a grimace. “Never use that term again,” he requested/ordered.
She grinned.
Skipping over to his side, she slung an arm around his shoulders. “So, Kim Dokja, what are you doing sleeping at a time like this? I thought you’d be kept pretty busy until the Absolute Throne stuff came up?” At least, according to events in the text she’d read of an adjacent story. If there were changes, it would be good for her to know so she could help him brainstorm how to adapt to them (not that he wasn’t more than capable of handling changes himself, as had been more than proven in every world line – things were just less daunting when someone shared their weight).
However, eh shook his head. “I’m not asleep.”
Dreamer’s grin froze, then immediately dropped. She turned him to face her, holding both his shoulders and looking serious. “You got knocked out? You didn’t die again, did you?”
Kim Dokja pushed her hands from him, sighing. “I didn’t get knocked out, no. And what do you mean, ‘die again?’ When have I ever died?” He gave her a look that insinuated she was a bit crazy (very understandably).
Dreamer blinked, processing. “You… are awake right now?” she asked to confirm, pointedly not addressing his question because that was a whole thing that would absolutely not be able to be explained clearly, and would only cause issues, especially if she were treating this Kim Dokja like the other one, since they were obviously not quite the same now when it came to lived experiences. “I didn’t know I could dream into people’s heads when they weren’t asleep too.”
He nodded. “Yep. It’s a bit weird to have two perspectives to focus on – the events outside of my head I am dealing with right now, and the conversation with you happening inside of it. It’s… less strange than I thought. Is this what it was like for you when my skill put me in your head?” he asked.
Dreamer pondered for a moment before speaking. “I… suppose so? But you could see through my eyes during that, right? Whereas for me right now, I can see your dreamscape and I guess your inner self, not see the same things you see.”
“I guess it might be the difference between my skill and yours?” he theorised. “Or, maybe I have to let you see? Let me try something…”
A moment later, a screen appeared in the dreamscape, showing what Kim Dokja must be seeing right now. When she turned to look at it, she seemed to actually start seeing things as if it was from her own eyes, though she did not have control of the body and could no longer see his dreamscape, just his vision.
She heard Kim Dokja’ voice in her – his? – head. ‘If you weren’t guarded against me joining you before, perhaps we just skipped over the part where I might have seen your dreamscape?’ he suggested.
The idea made a lot of sense since she really wasn’t guarded against him, though she wasn’t sure whether blocking him out would have worked anyways since he had the clever and annoyingly capable Fourth Wall that could probably break him into anywhere, or perhaps his skill might just ignore consent, since the other him had used his skill on the 41st round Shin Yoosung before, and she had tried to claw him out of her and had clearly not allowed him to be there.
‘Maybe,’ she allowed, considering. ‘Though I feel more like your skill just ignores that kind of thing, so even if I had, it might not have worked.’
‘Did you have anything in particular you needed to tell me, to show up here?’ he asked. ‘I’m kind of busy right now, as you can see.’
‘Well, yes, actually. But I hadn’t planned on being here, so perhaps you called me here again? Have you been thinking of me?’ she asked in a purposefully playful tone, wishing she could poke him a bit to further antagonise him for fun.
‘No,’ he heartlessly replied without a wink of remorse.
She felt like pouting but didn’t currently have a face under her control to do so with. ‘Hmph. Fine. Well, since I am here anyways, please listen carefully; I’ve been fairly busy since we last met because I have a deadline to work with, and I don’t want you to have to kill as many Kings as you otherwise might if I didn’t mess with some things. Please listen well – I have quite a few names to list who will already have lost their ‘king’ status to someone else who I sent to find you or one of the other kings so not as many candidates need to be slaughtered later.’
She then rattled off the names of the bases she had led the other King from Seoul station take over and provided a description of the group and King she was sending to the gathering so he would hopefully not attack them and instead calmly accept his offered flag, unless one of the other Kings she had given him the names of found him first (including Yoo Joonghyuk and Min Jiwon, the latter of which Kim Dokja was currently standing beside).
When he pointed out that she had no way to know if that King would uphold his end of the arrangement, she explained how she had very carefully made him make an Oath of Existence to ensure he would not deviate, even though she kind of hated the entire Oath thing being a thing, since she acknowledged she did not trust him fully either, even though he had turned out to be surprisingly compliant after the initial confrontation they’d had.
Somewhat cautiously, Kim Dokja confirmed he would take her information into account but wouldn’t expect the King she had sent to make it to the gathering in one piece since he clearly wasn’t as strong as many of the other Kings. It felt a bit like he was preparing her for him to not make it and die before her plans could help him, as if he thought she hadn’t already considered the risk of her plans failing.
She wanted to roll her eyes because yes, she was overly-optimistic most of the time but she wasn’t that naïve or inexperienced, thanks! Instead, she assured him she’d be fine if things didn’t work out as she hoped but that it was better to at least try than to leave things as they otherwise might end up being.
After exchanging a few more comments with him about his own current situation and giving him a warning about not trusting certain helpful constellations in the near future too much, Dreamer left him to the wonderful Yoo Sangah and the others of his party.
And this time, Dreamer found herself waking up in the right body and location after a long time dreaming.
*****

Chapter 47: Chapter Forty-two – Falling Down (3) (MS#4 continued, Raven chat)

Chapter Text

At the London Bridge King’s meeting room in The Shard, members of the two stealth groups had gathered after leading the hostages over from the Tower and treating their injuries, discussing their next actions. It had been about half a day since their rescue mission and was now quite bright outside. Katsu remained at Tower Hill, having successfully handled things there and now settling the negotiations and terms with the other Kings he had encountered during the battle.
Akari looked perplexed as he summarised the information they had just been given by Aprici and Cora. “So, to clarify, only Raven Rex, Dreamer, and Cora would have been safe to leave behind, and because of some scheme they cooked up, Dreamer and Raven chose to be ‘captured’ and wait until something bad happens to Katsu’s group, just so they can intervene and save him?”
He was not the only one who looked like this conversation was baffling them.
Aprici grunted in confirmation while Cora signed her agreement, with Anya translating for her.
Behind where Akari was sat leaning his elbows on his knees in his chair, Steph observed the curious girl they had rescued from the Tower among the others who seemed to know the most about what had been going on.
Before Akari could ask anything else, a loud clicking-tapping noise drew all of their attention to the large windows lining the room.
There was a bird outside, apparently seeking entry.
Akari’s perplexed expression did not improve. “What the f*ck…?” he murmured.
Steph glanced back to the calmest person in the room and saw her signing to Anya.
Anya raised her voice to draw their focus back to her instead of the bird while Cora stood and began heading to the doors. “Oi, you lot! We’re heading up to the rooftop terrace for a bit – the falcon’s here for Cora. It should have an update about Dreamer and Raven.”
Sammy, who had remained behind to organise and run this place while the others were busy at the Tower and execution ground, raised a hand to question something she felt very obvious Anya and Cora must have overlooked. “Uhh, Anya? Pretty certain there are some pretty terrifying monsters up there. Don’t think we should head up there before we are like, way stronger than we currently are.”
Anya shrugged. “The bird girl says it’s fine. You don’t have to come with, but I absolutely am not missing this,” she said easily while following in Cora’s footsteps.
A few minutes later, the majority of them were stood behind the entrance to the open terrace, watching with various degrees of curiosity, interest, and trepidation as an abnormally calm, small woman walked out onto the rooftop terrace that several avian monsters had claimed as their roost as if she were not going to be ripped to shreds by their many sharp talons and beaks.
Several of the smaller ones cawed and shrieked at her appearance, while a massive, terrifying beast of a monster landed heavily on the ground before her, roaring in her face and opening its vast leathery wings wide as if in threat or warning.
However, Cora remained apparently unperturbed. Then, her eyes began to glow with an unusual light as her hands began moving in ways that felt like more of a dance than a language.
Anya commented from her spot at the front of the watching group, “That’s not a language I know.”
They watched, stunned, as the gigantic, vaguely avian monster that looked more like a featherless dinosaur than a realistic one lowered its head from where it had been poised as if to attack.
As the beast bowed its head to Cora, she raised a hand and placed it against the underside of its beak.
At this, several of the smaller monsters hooting and hollering from above all stirred up even more and began swooping down to hop and weave around Cora and the giant monster’s feet, apparently excited.
“You can come forwards now, if you like,” Cora signed in a very human language again, staring with glowing eyes towards Anya and the others. “Just growl at them and make yourself seem big if they peck at you. They’re a bit mischievous.” Her eyes dimmed as she spoke, as if the skill she had used no longer needed enforcing since it had already succeeded.
Needing no further encouragement, Anya left the others behind her as she strode towards Cora to investigate the many little bird monsters and test her resolve next to the very large one that she was very certain could kill her in a fight.
Despite her confidence, next to such a powerful presence, she felt uncharacteristically anxious. This meant she nearly jumped out of her skin when one the smaller monsters she could definitely take on in a fight snapped at her boots.
After being startled by them, Anya immediately retaliated with forceful, loud ire and big movements as Cora had just instructed them to. The little monsters cackling at her feet scattered further away, with some swooping back up to the top of the windows lining the terrace floor.
Akari, seeming emboldened by Anya’s victory against the smaller monsters, cautiously walked to a group of the smaller ones and offered some of his rations of monster jerky to one of them, happily and easily growling and stamping his feet if any of them started trying to cause trouble. They seemed to think him more entertaining than scary, as they had done with Anya, but he didn’t seem to mind, merely excited to be playing with (yet more) monsters.
Meanwhile, the regular bird who had pecked on the windows of their meeting room swooped down and landed on Cora’s forearm while the others were adjusting to the reduced fear and hesitantly stepping onto the terrace.
After apparently hearing some important things from the peregrine sitting calmly on her arm, Cora turned to the others. The bird moved further up her arm so she could use her hands more freely, as if used to her needs. “Dreamer has woken up now and the two of them have been preparing to make their move. We need to –“
Cora froze mid-sentence before bursting out in loud laughter, sending her bird and several of the happy monsters around her flapping back up to the bars above.
Akari looked delighted at this and turned to see what had caused the raucous laughter.
Several of the regular, mundane birds from here had settled atop a very disgruntled, hulking, furry member of their group who was standing with his arms crossed as they pecked and groomed at his hair.
Aprici noticed the stunned people staring at him and scowled. “What? They’re beneficial creatures, unlike those things,” he stated very acerbically, kicking a foot towards the hopping monsters that came a little too close to him.
He then raised one of his hands towards his shoulder, holding a finger out to scritch at one of the birds’ little heads.
The sight was very disconcerting and at odds with Aprici’s usual demeanour and vibe.
It seemed only Cora felt comfortable enough around him to laugh at the image he currently presented. Which made sense since she currently had an even larger monster standing imposingly behind her.
“If she causes you trouble, Ornithomancer Cora, I shall eat her,” Aprici said in a threatening tone.
Having regained some of her composure, Cora grinned as she replied. “You’re the same grade, silly. You can’t know which of you is stronger.”
Aprici carefully shook his head, defiant. “No. I am certain I am stronger. I am not a simple being such as hers. They can’t even speak.”
“Not every being needs to speak with words to communicate, you realise?” she replied. “But thank you for the offer of protection. It won’t be needed with Effrayante – she is trustworthy now. Anatole’s calmness confirmed it,” she gestured towards her falcon, who swooped back down to her arm again now that she had stopped laughing.
Aprici only huffed and turned his head away, crossing his arms again and pretending to be above this conversation.
Cora resumed her words from before, informing the others of the plan moving forwards alongside Dreamer and Raven’s own moves.
Since Damian was still injured, he was to remain behind and assist Sammy in running things here while some of the others were to head out to support Katsu’s group in the negotiations and any breakout fights that may still occur at Tower Hill.
“I can only take one person with me and they will need to be able to look after themselves if we get attacked mid-air. Does anyone have any flight skills?” Cora asked.
Only disbelieving expressions faced her when she asked this of the group.
Akari raised his hand. “I can’t fly, but I can fall pretty safely and I’d like to fly with you and your friends!” he offered enthusiastically.
Anya scoffed. “I am better at falling than you, Akari. The aim is to be able to walk off after you fall, you realise? Otherwise, you’re just prey for the other residents here – human or otherwise. I’m the better choice.”
Aprici cut in then. “I won’t fly with you, but I shall head there on foot, swiftly. I refuse to be left out of the dreamer’s rescue,” he declared.
Sammy interrupted them with a decision, as ever level-headed amidst her rowdier party members. “That’s settled then. One of you can go with Aprici and the other can go with Cora, since none of us are ideal for flight but it is pretty clear you are going to go with her regardless.”
Aprici growled. “I would rather go with the ruffian than the angry one.”
Everyone in the party knew who he was referring to with these terms. Anya had not been quiet about her dislike of him and Katífeia during their initial negotiations with them, and he seemed to remember that. She also continued to refer to him as ‘the alien’.
Akari clicked his tongue. “I am a doctor, not a ruffian!”
“…You’re a bit of both actually, Akari – sorry to say,” Steph offered quietly while the others nodded.
“Well, whatever. So long as I get to ride a monster, I’m content,” he decided.
Aprici rumbled out a threat that sent several birds and avian beasts scattering. “I am not a mount.”
There was a moment of silence before he added, suddenly aware of their apparent thoughts. “The dreamer is an exception.”
Akari was busy pouting, however. “Then I want to go with Cora!”
Anya shook her head. “Not a chance. Bird girl’s taking me with her. I’ll be less spooked, anyways.”
While they argued back and forth for who could go with Cora or Aprici, Sammy stepped between them and again laid out a solution for them. “Just decide with rock, paper scissors or something. You both just intend to join Cora when she meets up with Dreamer and Raven, right?”
They agreed, with one amendment.
“Arm-wrestle or bust. Bring it,” Akari announced, grabbing one of the upturned tables to rest his arm on.
Sammy sighed but left them to it since it would solve the issue.
Aprici asked what they were doing and when explained to him, he declared he must join the competition so he could choose who got to go with him.
The two of them refused but allowed him to test his strength against theirs afterwards.
The results left Akari pouting, standing beside a pleased Aprici who did not have to travel with Anya.
Sammy blew out a breath of relief and gathered the ruffians – plural – together so they could work out the rest of the groups heading out.
Thus, the next morning, Akari left with Aprici – each individually on foot – and Anya left with Cora while Devin led the remaining reinforcements to provide backup for Katsu. Sammy remained behind to defend the London Bridge flagpole and base with Damian.
Cora made sure Akari, Aprici, and Anya knew that they were not going to rescue Dreamer and Raven since they could escape themselves but were going to make the rest of their jobs easier thereafter. This made Akari pout even more, and even Aprici grumbled a bit about the distinction.
Sammy was just grateful she wouldn’t need to order Aprici around or deal with Cora and her Effrayante, since the other survivors were much easier to deal with. She was in charge of this place, but she would definitely put Damian and Steph to work while they remained behind to help.
She trusted Dreamer to know how to cope with the four fearsome monsters heading out to join her.
-
In the dim, dingy darkness of the room they were locked in, Dreamer and Raven turned simultaneously at the familiar call of a bird outside one of the tiny windows of this place.
Raven gently removed the note from the falcon that acted as Cora’s messenger and verified their message to the group had been received and acted upon.
“Cora and Anya will be setting off in about two hours from now. Aprici and Akari will set off before then but should arrive around the same time. It won’t take more than a couple of minutes to fly over the river, but walking might be trickier since there may be new monsters or incarnations travelling past. I guess Cora isn’t very worried about aerial threats since they won’t be airborne for long,” Raven relayed and commented, idly and nonverbally thanking the bird – Anatole, she’d said – in the process. “Devin is leading the group reinforcing Katsu’s and has already left to do so. I take it you know who they are?”
Dreamer nodded. “I guess we don’t have too long to wait, then.” She blew out a breath, then sat forward from the wall she had claimed as her backrest. “Hey, Raven. Do you mind if I ask you something a bit personal? We don’t have any further preparations to make, so I’d like to use this chance to get to know you a bit better before things turn hectic again.”
Raven sent Anatole away with a new whispered message confirming their acceptance of the plans to join them shortly, then turned to face Dreamer. “Ask as you wish – I have asked plenty of you already myself.”
Dreamer felt that was a bit different since she was so much more open and willing to speak at length about herself and anything else, whilst Raven very clearly preferred a more aloof, mysterious persona. She still asked anyways, though, since Raven could decide herself whether to answer or not.
“Why do you always seem to get upset by Cora’s abilities being similar to yours, but readily accept mine?” she asked with clear curiosity.
Surprisingly, Raven’s expression turned serious and then… vulnerable. It seemed she would answer this honestly.
She drew in a large breath and slowly let it out before speaking. “…To be honest, the things I know about and ‘see’ in visions and feelings… They are the only things that have truly felt ‘real’ to me, even before the scenarios began. Back then, it felt like the entire world was forced into some bizarre kind of façade, like only the appearance it put forwards of being entirely mundane with absolutely no room for the things I have always been attuned to and known existed, to exist here as a part of it. The ‘mundane’ teality was the only one we were allowed to acknowledge, it felt like.
“Meanwhile, I was just sort of there, flouncing around the façade and pretending I didn’t know damn well it wasn’t all that it claimed to be. Being led to believe that the façade was all there was, that my abilities couldn’t and were not ‘real’. Yet, for me, they absolutely were. I understood them better than I understood the ‘façade’ I felt I was living in.
“Then the scenarios came and the façade of ‘mundane reality’ with no room for my gifts was shattered, and finally – finally, I could acknowledge my abilities that I had always known and cherished without having that ‘reality’ shoved back in my face by those around me. Now, my gifts marked me as unique and special – something that had always been mine and no-one else’s, that I could now be praised and appreciated for.
“However… Then I got taken by the Tower King with his crazed obsession with seers, mediums, and other types of spiritual or clairvoyant people and suddenly realised that… this thing that had always been mine, that had always been shunned by our reality that could now mark me as something powerful, sought after? Well, that special ability of mine was not as unique as I had thought, and other people less invested in the practice could now use similar gifts to mine.”
Raven spoke quietly but got quieter with her next words. “Most of the others had either been captured incorrectly and didn’t share the gifts or had a much weaker grasp of things so I still felt that all of my careful attention and devotion to the craft before the scenarios had been markedly beneficial. However, Cora – as well as a couple others with more specific traits like hers, were able to match a lot of the things that took me effort to work out myself, and the façade of individuality I had surrounded myself with in an attempt to make it through these hellish times began to crack as well. Suddenly, I wasn’t the only one with foreknowledge and unusual instincts, and this little falconer had showed up to make all the things I pride myself on seem unnecessary, or dramatic.” She sighed heavily again. “But so what if I am dramatic about it? This has been my expertise for a while now and it helps me maintain my confidence.”
Dreamer listened attentively, making note of the words laden with deep emotion, but waited for Raven to finish her story to comment. Her words resonated with a part of Dreamer she hadn’t realised would agree so strongly when she had asked the question. Only, unlike Raven being so certain about her ‘gifts’ that they often felt more real than the rest of their reality, for Dreamer, this applied not to any skills or gifts in particular, but to her dreams. She had been dreaming for as long as she had been alive and while everyone else brushed them off as imaginary, only she truly believed there was more to them than met the eye, as everyone else had claimed.
Of course, even then she had never been completely certain that it wasn’t just a strange belief and had now been proven just as ‘real’ as everything else she had experienced in her life, but… She had always known that her dreams were not simply dreams or ‘all in her head’.
To her, they had always been real.
She empathised with Raven very strongly in that particular sentiment, at the least.
Raven continued her response. “That is why Cora’s presence always gets to me. I know it isn’t exactly fair of me, but I feel like this is just supposed to be something I am good at, and to have others able to keep up is… something I have to adjust to. It isn’t easy. It helps that she isn’t a proper sorceress on top – just, as she always claims, an ornithomancer with seer abilities related to birds and the like only, but… I still need to adjust. She is plenty aware of it as well, yet seems inclined to stick to me regardless, which adds to my ire.
“As for why I do not react similarly with regards to yourself, that is much more straightforward: You are a very different type of person to us, despite sharing some clairvoyance. Additionally, I had already become aware of ‘you’ before the scenarios began – except it was only as a nameless, formless version of you that I had learned about, but you were said to be able to impart important things about the future of our world and pure intentions, so I knew you could be trusted and to be honest, was a bit excited to get to meet someone else who had never given up on their gifts even in our ‘mundane’ part of reality before the scenarios. I didn’t technically know you, but I wanted to. It probably can be compared to how a person might grow fond of a celebrity or someone they read the autobiography of, but to a lesser extent since I didn’t actually learn much about you. I hadn’t even realised it was you when you showed up to the Tower to free us – I only picked up on there being people who would be able to hear the whispers I could send through the shadows without the imposter ‘raven’ noticing, then learned of your identity once faced with you because it felt the same as that formless existence I had learned of before. So, your abilities aren’t as intimidating to me as Cora’s, because I knew you had them before I met you and wanted to learn what I could from you for my own craft that differs to yours in function. You aren’t a sorceress either, right?”
Dreamer shook her head. “I am not a sorcerer here, no. I do understand a lot about them, however. Thank you for answering, Raven.”
Raven’s lips lifted into a small smile. “Thanks for listening,” she returned. “So, has this helped you get to know me better?” she asked with a less difficult smile.
Dreamer grinned back at her. “Yes, it has. But there is still plenty of time before we need to get up and bust ourselves out of here, so I have plenty more to ask, if you’re up for it? You can ask me things again too, if you like.”
Thus, the rest of their time in the locked room biding their time to escape was spent swapping stories of weird occurrences they had experienced while within their ‘façade of reality’ before the scenarios, a bit about each other’s preferences, habits, family, and goals. Dreamer found she learned a lot more about Katsu than she had expected to, since Raven considered him her brother despite the lack of blood shared between them.
*****

Chapter 48: Chapter Forty-three – Falling down (4) (MS#4 continued, capture and release, sidetracked by fire plots)

Chapter Text

When it came time to act, both Dreamer and Raven were calm.
Dreamer lightly tapped at her own collarbone and a dark bald head popped out of her jacket to look at her. “Keys, please. Like a showed you, and they won’t notice,” she requested of him.
As he had practiced previously, Squidi slipped through the gap under the door and floated over to the guard with the keys posted outside, soundlessly sneaking them off of the retractable holder attached to his belt.
A moment later, the little eldritch being Dreamer had already come to adore slipped back through the gap and passed them over before hiding back in his pocket.
Dreamer quickly and calmly undid the actual, literal shackles they had put on the two of them and carefully placed them on the floor so they wouldn’t clatter or clink.
Outside, there were quite a lot of guards patrolling up and down the steps to this place. The Tower King had tasked quite a lot of his men with keeping the ‘seer sisters’ within the Tower while he stepped out to work out a way to handle the highly capable and troublesome Katsu.
This meant that going out through the door they had come in from was a bad idea.
However, there were no other doors or windows that they could get out of.
The original plan had been to sneak out after taking the magic power restricting cuffs off alongside the shackles and count on their stealth skills and Squidi extinguishing every light source along the way to manage, with Dreamer’s combat skills or Raven’s spells taking care of the ones they couldn’t avoid.
However, since Cora was outside and willing to help them, and she had delivered a very useful trinket to them when she first sent Anatole across (courtesy of Ajax and Olrik)… that was no longer the best route.
Instead, they blew a f*cking hole through the very thick walls.
It was not very stealthy or quiet, but it also wasn’t exactly flashy or enormous, so nobody outside the building would likely question it, and the guards posted outside their room would probably only freak out once they went inside and saw the big hole in the wall.
However, they didn’t currently have the keys to open the very sturdy locked door.
And just to be extra annoying, Dreamer had positioned the hole to be next to the very unnecessarily fancy bed and dragged the furniture over once she was through so they wouldn’t notice how they escaped right away. They’d only see that they were missing.
With her cuff now off, Raven had gently fallen down and landed with a soft puff of shadows. Meanwhile, Dreamer had climbed out after her so she could pull things over and was thus climbing her way down in a way she had not done much of in her recent pre-scenario years of disability but was now making more than enough use of her old hobbies.
Raven beneath her looked impatient.
- Just jump down, will you? I’m not going to just let you fall! I can soften your landing too.
She complained in the group chat.
Needing no encouragement and feeling a little silly for not having asked during their chat beforehand, Dreamer kicked off from the wall and let herself fall, very much hoping that Raven was trustworthy because otherwise this would hurt, even if she could still technically roll out of it without taking too much damage.
When she safely landed in the comforting embrace of the darkness, Dreamer scratched her cheek, looking awkward.
- I, umm, presumed you wouldn’t have enough magic left to use them like that straight away. You were pretty weak when we met before…
Dreamer said in explanation.
- That’s because I used it all up before they captured me that time, so it hadn’t replenished. This time, I still had a decent amount left since you had that potion on you, even though I still used a lot during that act.
Raven explained.
While nodding, Dreamer grabbed Raven’s hand and dragged her into a run, keeping to the side of the building instead of running straight out into the open where they knew other patrols would be watching. This side of the building was still somewhat shadowed from the sun slowly rising on the other side of it, which meant – for them, they would be relatively safe from passing gazes.
They had only just rounded the corner of the building, out of sight, when Dreamer fell to the floor, clutching her side.
“Ah, sh*t,” she muttered in visible pain.
“Already?” Raven whispered, looking greatly concerned.
Dreamer nodded.
- Sorry, I saved spoons for this all day, yet sometimes it just… hits me anyways. I guess not even the

knows how to handle my condition. I’m used to it, but I will not be able to move for a little while. Preferably, I wouldn’t move at all, but I don’t have that luxury. I’ll grimace and bear it.
She held the hand she could move out weakly to Raven, who took it and hefted Dreamer onto her back.
It was really f*cking painful. Ordinarily, she could stop moving and keep anything moving far, far away from her so that even the vibrations of movement or sound were far, far away from her and could not exacerbate the pain.
As it was… there was nothing that could be done. She didn’t have her chair and very regrettably did not know how to fly yet.
Thus, instead, she was jostled and shaken and gripped tightly by the rushing Raven and for the first time in a long while, she began crying solely from the pain she was feeling. Which she had long since grown accustomed to and had sort of trained herself out of crying over it since crying would inevitably make the situation more painful, but right now, her body was not comfortable and this was the only way she could express it without shoving herself away from Raven and hugging the floor like it was her only true, solid, stable, blessedly still saviour. Which she was trying very hard not to do despite every cell in her body screaming at her to stop the pain getting worse. She felt her body being moved around at several points as well but kept her eyes firmly shut to aid her focus.
She stopped being able to focus on absolutely anything else going on around her – not even on Raven’s steps or breathing, because she was fervently trying not to focus on when each step might come and instead was focusing very hard on still being able to breathe in as small-sized, shallow breaths as she could get away with because even breathing was f*cking painful at times like this (and always, to a lesser extent). Dreamer’s attention was being directed fully and wholly on the goal of surviving for long enough that I don’t ask someone to just –
Hey, wait – the world had changed, hadn’t it? It was way less weird for Dreamer to request someone to knock her out and not be seen as crazy!
f*ck it. Unconscious beat being conscious with this sh*t, and she could use the opportunity to dream!
- Raven. Knock me out. Please. Please please please please please knock me out, I can use my skill while I’m out and I can’t take this anymore, please just knock me out.
Dreamer pleaded in the group chat after an indeterminate amount of time.
- I can’t. We discussed this previously, remember? We don’t know how long you’d be out and Katsu will need us soon and you requested me not to listen to such pleas ahead of time. You said you had other things to check on from your own visions, too, that you needed to be conscious for.
Raven replied with more calm than she had to be feeling after hearing Dreamer’s fervent pleas.
Dreamer tried multiple times to convince her, but obviously Raven’s decision did not change.
- Can we please at least stop moving? Everything is too much and I just need everything to stop because the pain is already so high I can’t take it!
At this, someone tapped her forehead until she opened her eyes.
It was not Raven.
- What’s up, boss?
A very buff doctor said in the Waterloo crew group chat while grinning at her. Akari was crouched down in front of her, and she found she was laid on the tiled floor, already not moving. Raven was stood off to the side of him, holding the item they had needed to collect before leaving. Something she needed to be conscious to sort out so they could use it to help Katsu soon.
Ah. She… may have missed a lot.
Raven, looking drained, explained what she’d missed and what she now needed to know.
- We’re still on Tower grounds but not in a building they’d think to look for us in. I retrieved what we needed but I don’t know how to prepare it without you. Cora and your crew showed up just now. Are you able to instruct us in what to do with it? You said it would be fine beforehand, but it does not look fine, Dreamer.
Taking in the other figures in the dark room with them – Aprici, Cora, and her falcon Anatole resting on her arms – Dreamer decided that she did not need to pay much attention right now and could just let them handle things.
- Yes, I can do what’s needed later. I am not fine, but I can still do what I need to, when I need to do it. I just… need a break from movement and loud noises first.
However, Akari came bearing bad news to break her heart.
- Sorry to tell you, boss, but we’re about to head into a battlefield with Iskra present. There’s no time for a break. However, I come bearing gifts!
He then stood up to push something beautiful over: her wheelchair!
She felt her body lifted up and could tell that Aprici was trying very hard not to jostle her and to be gentle, but she wanted to tell him that she was in too much pain to benefit from it right now.
She didn’t, because excess thinking felt hard right now too.
He placed her in the chair and Akari explained that he would be pushing it for her so she wouldn’t have to move anywhere while she was still being moved, so there would at least be that.
He also jabbed her arm with something she more than trusted him with because he a) was a very capable doctor and b) had just informed her it was a gift from the brilliantly wonderful Sammy, who had worked out a temporary aid to compensate for things that the ‘spoons’ from the

(saved up by the patients for their chronic conditions) failed to cover.
It came with side effects, of course, so they didn’t always use it, but by now they had worked out when it was okay to use and when they absolutely should not. Akari had clearly determined that it was worth the temporary paralysis given her current condition which they had already seen her in before, even if not quite this severe since usually she could just play dead on the floor until she could move again. It was the most difficult side effect to deal with, but for those of them who wouldn’t be able to move around anyways, it was more than worth using.
Like this, the movement of the wheelchair over the ground’s minuscule bumps did not exacerbate the pain and she began being able to regain her very much lost composure. She felt abnormally drained for someone who always had too much energy to be able to use with her condition, but this was from the mental exhaustion more than anything physical. She was able to gradually steady her mind and her frayed sense of sanity and left the others to handle whatever was happening around them for now since her input was not yet required.
She briefly made note of the scary giant bird that towered over even Aprici that Cora called Effrayante and of some of the things they spoke about in the group chat (in case of eavesdroppers). Other than that, she paid little attention to the world around her.
-
Unfortunately for Dreamer, it did not take very long for them to reach the outskirts of the chaos Katsu was in the midst of, since it was happening right next door to the Tower itself in Trinity Square Gardens, where the Tower Hill execution site had once been (that the Tower King of the current day had recreated).
Before they got there, they had sent Anatole and a few other birds ahead to scout the situation on the site itself, with not only Cora but Raven, surprisingly, able to direct the birds.
This was because while Raven had some degree of ‘ornithomancy’ in her seer skillset, it was Cora’s specialty. However, she did not share the rest of Raven’s seer abilities or spells.
Meanwhile, Dreamer had no f*cking clue what her own ‘specialties’ might be, unless they related to dreaming. Her attribute window remained full of holes and glitches. She was pretty sure during her downtime in seer jail that the skills even changed names visibly, as she had been attempting to glare some semblance of stability into it and clearly made it decide to be even less distinct in the process.
However, she knew enough of her abilities to know that the thing she was feeling right now as they approached the execution grounds? Yeah, that was called familiarity and usually happened to her when she approached somewhere that reminded her of her dreams, or somewhere she had already seen a section of the future from. Except, like everything about her apparently was, the ‘future’ she knew was not always the same as what she saw with her own eyes while awake, despite everything else matching what she had ‘seen’ and knew.
In this particular instance, however, it was the familiarity of a place matching a place she had been only in her dreams and she tried to recollect the original dream she had been there in.
It was not coming back to her very quickly or clearly, of course.
She made for a very poor seer or prophet, is all she was saying!
However, her attention was needed on the things Akari, Aprici, and Cora had joined them to make significantly easier and so Dreamer set aside her questions to do that. The dreams did not feel like they would be especially beneficial to remember for their current situation anyways, so she could think more on it later when she had a real opportunity to rest.
Dreamer found she was now able to move her limbs more again after sitting still while the others ran about burying different materials and setting different traps around the outskirts of the field.
Very carefully, she shifted into a more-upright position, still keeping her knees close to her chest and making as few movements as possible to get there. She was relieved to find that the worst of the pain was past and was much more bearable now than it had been when she had been unable to move but was still being jostled around, preventing it from alleviating with the much-needed stillness.
Raven returned after a while holding the special item they had needed to remain in the Tower for originally. She held it and the other items/ingredients Dreamer had asked for out to her.
Dreamer wordlessly took them from her and began configuring what would be needed to help Katsu later, asking Raven to heat it up with her magic at set intervals.
After this, Dreamer used the controls Iskra had added to her wheelchair at Waterloo to head back to where the others were waiting – just down the road from where they currently were.
Along the way, they passed somewhere that felt familiar in the other sense of the feeling. Dreamer stopped and stared down the dark path between buildings where she had only just caught the movement of dark-clothed strangers who she nevertheless recognised.
Seeing them pass by, Dreamer tilted her head, making quick assessments of where and how this place and sight were familiar.
“Raven?” Dreamer called out.
“Yes?” Raven returned.
“Remember the visions I said I wouldn’t understand until right beforehand because I couldn’t tell the location?” Dreamer pointed to the shadows between the buildings. “Well, that looks like it. I need to go deal with this on my own.” Well, mostly alone, since she had a little squid companion with her of late.
“Alright, I understand. I’ll meet you back at the battlefield when Katsu needs us,” she accepted easily. Dreamer did not miss the pointed reminder either.
“Of course. Stay safe, Raven. May your gift guide you,” she offered, feeling that this was the kind of farewell Raven would have liked even before the scenarios.
“And yours, Dreamer,” she returned before splitting off to the others and leaving Dreamer to her self-appointed side quest.
Dreamer faced the direction of the future she had already seen and followed quickly and quietly.
-
On a grassy platform just beneath the path to London Bridge, the two figures from her visions she had followed here were speaking in hushed tones, heads close together.
Instead of trying to move closer to listen, she hung back behind some bushes to the side of the path and paid attention instead to the particles gathering around them, highlighting some items tucked away near the water in barrels that seemed to be sealed with red tape.
Around the tape were sigils and symbols that she knew ‘incarnations’ did not know about.
She raised an eyebrow upon seeing them and seeing how ‘excited’ the little orange things seemed to be about their presence. Those did not look like something they could have happened upon as loot.
[The constellation, ‘Invisible God of the Night’ is questioning which main scenario this is meant to be.]
[The constellation, ‘Secretive Plotter’ is scowling at the incarnations’ possessions.]
Dreamer jolted upon receipt of these messages. The ‘Invisible God of the Night’ was always hanging around her channel, but this was the first time one of Kim Dokja’s constellation watchers had shown up in them. Why was he here?
She took her eyes from the shady people to stare into the cloudy blue sky as if she could see through it to the being behind the screen that had sent the message.
She turned back to the suspicious people from her vision very quickly however. The two constellation’s reactions were useful and telling about what the contents of the items might be – something likely abnormally strong or inappropriate for the current level of scenario they were facing.
That would explain why the little particles seemed so energetic when dancing around the barrels. She remembered some of the things she had seen in the strange ‘visions’ she’d had before and determined that whatever was inside those barrels was very, very problematic.
And if the things she had seen were any indication, very, very explosive and fiery.
After coming to some decision, the two figures picked up a barrel each and left, heading back up the slope.
After they’d gone, Dreamer approached the remaining barrels.

Chapter 49: Chapter Forty-four – Falling Down (5) (MS#4 continued, Boudicca plot discoveries, regroup before rescue)

Chapter Text

Now that she was closer, she could see the red tape more clearly. Next to the symbols describing the type of seal placed upon them, Dreamer could see some writing in a language she didn’t recognise. Her [Interpreter] skill triggered and she was able to work out that it read: [Planetary system 8612 Dark Castle]
Well, that certainly explained the constellations’ reactions to their presence here. What were incarnations doing hauling around items meant for the ninth main scenario while the fourth was still afoot?
She traced some of the symbols on the red tape. The type of sealing used on these was incredibly simple for her to break compared with the ones she was dismantling in the abyss; she could break it right now, if she wanted.
However, there was no other indication of what the contents were, other than that mention of it belonging to the ‘Dark Castle’ scenario that should come much later.
Dreamer hadn’t known for sure whether the scenarios in London would correspond to the ones she knew of from Seoul Dome in the story she’d read, but it seemed that at least the ninth main scenario would indeed match theirs. She supposed that meant they would face their own ‘Dark Castle’ full of demons and their own Demon King to face, but… that didn’t quite make sense to her. If the Korean incarnations were to face the 73rd Demon King candidate in their ninth scenario, they couldn’t also face that same event here, since there could only be one such person.
That meant whichever ‘Dark Castle’ event they faced here, it would not be the same as the one Kim Dokja and his friends would face. But these items would be a part of it regardless.
Dreamer carefully took in the red tape’s markings to help work out what was contained within.
After only a moment, a small black tentacle poked out of her top and tapped her cheek.
She looked down at Squidi in question.
The little squid signed to her to follow after the two people who had just carried a couple of the barrels off, and Dreamer nodded in confirmation of his request or suggestion and quickly followed after them, leaving the remaining barrels behind until she worked out what to do with them – if anything.
While she caught up and followed stealthily behind them at a distance, many thoughts and possibilities passed through her head. Was this how the dokkaebis and constellations prepared for and set up the other scenarios ahead of time, or was something else going on here? Judging from the two constellations’ reactions before, this was not the right time for such preparations to take place in. Thus, she determined it must mean someone else was making use of things used in later scenarios.
The question was, who exactly had the ability to use scenario items in earlier scenarios like this, and how were they able to get away with it with the dokkaebis around?
Not least – why were they bringing such items into the earlier scenario? Did they just want to wipe out the weaker people here, or was this something beneficial to them in some other way?
The people she was following had brought the barrels back the way they had just come from, which made sense if it took multiple trips to transport the items. She wasn’t sure why they weren’t just sent directly to wherever they needed to go if they could be brought her early on anyways, however. Was this some kind of scenario item smuggling group?
Images of flames and screaming flitted across Dreamer’s mind as if in reminder of what she already knew.
She mentally shook her head at herself: No, these were not for smuggling, these were for using soon. These items meant for the ninth scenario were going to be used in the fourth – that much, she had seen already.
The two shady people reached their target location and placed the barrels down. They were placed right by the edge of the Trinity Square Gardens, by some denser foliage.
One of the two people marked something into the material just beneath the red tape in black ink. It was written so largely that she could identify it from a distance: it was a mark for unsealing the contents at a set time.
The second person took the marker from their partner and reprimanded them audibly. “Not like that, you idiot! She said to write it properly or it would go off too soon. It has to be like this,” he stated while correcting their work. “Now hurry up a little – we need to finish this before the ones at the Monument get released. We only have one more side of the gardens to cover. After that, they won’t be able to escape, she said. The placement needs to be precise or the barrier won’t form to trap them in, remember?”
The one who seemed less knowledgeable nodded in apparent understanding before marking the second barrel properly and standing back.
They then headed back to the river by the bridge, presumably to gather the other barrels.
Once they were further away again, Dreamer approached the barrels again, this time to adjust the markings on them. Like this, they shouldn’t activate after the set time had passed and she could prevent their intended trap.
She had heard enough to understand that whatever they were, they were being used to massacre all the other Kings currently negotiating and fighting in the gardens – where Katsu and her companions were.
As she adjusted the marking in them, she heard the vague flitting of wings coming from inside them and the sound of ominous, inhuman whispering.
The whispering took the form that higher beings foreign to this world took, and did not sound like normal monster communication.
After the mark had changed, the whispers and wing flap noises faded, as if they were only speaking in response to the marking changing.
From her chest, Dreamer heard a strange sound of complaint or ire and looked down to see a scowling little squid. He was glaring at the barrels.
This time it was her who did the cheek-tapping, prodding a finger against his squishy little head to draw his attention.
Squidi turned to her and signed an explanation. He told her that inside of the barrels were ‘beings like him’.
Dreamer blinked and furrowed her brows, glancing back at the barrels next to her. The things inside here were outer beings, then? But, that didn’t make sense – the destruction she had seen had been fiery, not eldritch. Though, she didn’t completely understand what outer beings were meant to be. Which, as far as she understood of the matter, was kind of their whole issue.
He signed some more upon seeing her confusion. Ah, he meant that they were brought in specifically for the scenario, as the chosen beings to fight against.
Okay, that made sense. The monstrous beings were often the most likely to end up as amalgamations of broken stories or outer beings, as they were the Lea set understood and the least remembered from the stories created from these ‘scenarios’. Then, perhaps the beings in the containers weren’t necessarily outer beings yet, but would become them afterwards?
The little squid explained further. They were the ‘forgotten ones from stories’. They were once part of a story but were now used as background fillers, who never got looked at much or known by the audience, apparently.
Honestly, when put like this, Dreamer felt like beings such as this could be understood quite well, actually. Wasn’t that often how everyone felt – dismissed by society unless they could contribute? No, like they weren’t even acknowledged in the grand scheme of things, because they weren’t the ones people paid attention to. Or, no, perhaps that wasn’t it either…
Shaking the thoughts from her head, Dreamer instead laid a hand atop one of the barrels. “Squidi, they are dangerous as they are, so people will either hurt them or be hurt by them. Is there a way we can change that?”
‘Not yet,’ was the answer given, and so they instead worked out a course of action to focus on for the time being.
She ensured that the changed markings were not noticeable from a distance for when the two shady people came back this way to place the others and left the barrels where they were for now. After following the two shady people to their next destination around the other side of the gardens and hearing them chat, she determined where the others placed around here should be and moved to go adjust the markings on them as well. Just to be safe, she shifted the barrels at the last location she passed further away from its spot, in case the barrier they had spoken about still triggered even while the rest of the seals remained in place.
However, there were apparently other locations they had placed these barrels and one of them was Monument. Dreamer knew this to be another underground station and quickly headed over there after the two people finished their work and had moved to head back to their presumed boss. She seemed to be another King, though they hadn’t specified her by name or identifying title yet, unfortunately. The two of them had at least made it clear that she was working on behalf of her sponsor and some other allied constellations, however. There being more than one of them involved in this helped to explain why the dokkaebis were unusually quiet about things. This was especially the case if the constellations involved were particularly renowned or powerful.
When Dreamer reached Monument, however, she realised that it might not actually be because of the constellations themselves that the dokkaebis were quiet about this.
As she stood beneath the actual Monument that the station was named after, Dreamer realised that the dokkaebis were quiet because the constellations were in fact very clever and were actually making use of the story in this operation of theirs.
They were going to use the power of the story to effectively recreate the Great Fire of London, directed in the manner they chose to take out the other Kings.
There had not been only one devastating fire in London’s history, and the images Dreamer had seen of the destruction that would soon arrive made it clear that this was perhaps not the only Story they were making use of in conjunction with the fiery beings in the barrels.
With all this now whirring around in her head, Dreamer then had another issue to face more immediately, since there was still a decent amount of time until the seals would be activated.
[The constellation, ‘Blooming Heart of Gardens and Swamps’ worries if you can reach the items.]
This constellation was one of the most talkative in her channels, but Dreamer still was not sure of their identity. Regardless, they always seemed at least somewhat of a positive presence.
It was very reasonable for them to worry here, since the only path up to the viewing platform the barrels had apparently been placed in, was up the very steep spiralling staircase inside.
And Dreamer was still recovering from her sudden pain attack from before, so she could not just spend spoons on this.
However, she already had a kind of workaround for these things, and this time she had a helper, too.
The little squid popped out from his hiding place and extended one of his little tentacles to her wordlessly.
Grinning at their apparent lack of discussion for things like this, Dreamer took out her favourite item and handed it over to him.
It was the [Timeless Tether] rope she had used when facing Katífeia and Aprici, when her movements had similarly been restricted due to her condition.
Squidi dutifully carried the rope up to the viewing platform. There was a decent amount of length left to it even afterwards.
After getting the signal from him through the rope, Dreamer stepped out of her wheelchair to sit on the ground and activated its [Blink] ability.
She reappeared at the top of the rope beside the little squid and immediately hugged him with praise and thanks.
[The constellation, ‘Secretive Plotter’ is wearing a strange expression.]
Of course that guy would find it strange for her to get along so well with an outer being like Squidi, regardless of how cute he was.
However, he had readily accepted the other outer beings Squidi had originally helped protect and evacuate from the arcade’s sub-scenario, so she couldn’t really get mad at him for judging her.
Instead, she gave Squidi one last head-pat and shuffled over to the barrels. The mark on them matched the time delay placed on the others and so she easily undid it. Then, because this was a Story that might overpower such measures if the owner tried hard enough, she hugged herself around one of them and used her rope to bring it down to the base of the monument, then repeated the actions for the second one with Squidi’s help.
She then dragged the two of them far away from the monument, back to the riverside where the barrels had originally been found.
She was less surprised to see some barrels remaining here than she originally might have been, as she now knew they would be using the Stories of London’s many Great Fires in this destructive disaster. With the little squid floating beside her and discussing which ‘great fire’ tales they might be employing in this endeavour, Dreamer adjusted the markings again and dragged the barrels a bit further away from the very fire-doomed bridge they had been tucked under.
Then, while flopped on the ground beside them, out of her chair, Dreamer watched the little squid lightly knock on one of the barrels. The same uncanny whispers and wing flaps were heard.
The little squid’s eerier little eyes lit up and it looked as if he might respond audibly to it, when he suddenly spun away from the barrel he was investigating to face the flopped-down Dreamer.
[Dreamer! Look out!] came a voice from the squid she had never heard before.
However, she trusted him plenty by now and immediately reacted to the wanting by rolling away from her spot and towards him, pushing herself up onto her feet.
She pulled the dagger from her side and held it out in front of her, prepared for anything.
At least, she was prepared for anything other than gigantic red insect spitting fireballs at her.
She grabbed the little squid and rolled away again with him held close to her chest.
The thing attacking her sounded just like the barrels had, right down to the flapping sound that she realised definitely did come from wings. Were these the things that were sealed within them? But the barrels weren’t as big as this thing, so were they smaller versions of it or was the space within the barrels larger somehow? She knew extradimensional spaces weren’t exactly rare in the

, so it was possible…
She dodged another fireball and took cover behind a bin.
[••• •••••• •• ••••,] the thing that looked kind of like a dragonfly said, presumably to her. The squid in her arms translated for her, as the words were apparently not filtered, just too foreign and incomprehensible to her for her translation skills to work. ‘You cannot be here,’ was what it said, albeit with extra ominous and eerie tone.
A human called out from the direction of the bridge after this. It was one of the two people she had followed before. “Argh, I told him we ought to do a last check because something felt off! No wonder the Queen sent one of the Damselflies to meet us!”
However, it was only the one human this time, as apparently his partner had not returned to help him check on things.
Dreamer supposed that the being attacking her was actually a damselfly and not a dragonfly as she’d assumed, and wondered if that was its species name or just one given by the humans who saw them.
A fireball landing a little too close for comfort drew her thoughts back to the situation at hand only.
Alright, what was best to say in this situation? What information did she need to gain here? What words would be least helpful to ask right now?
After deliberating for a moment, Dreamer opened her mouth. “Whose orders is your Queen following? Why is she using these beings ahead of the scenario they’re for?”
The human clicked his tongue in irritation as he aimed a crossbow bolt at her hiding place. “I ain’t telling you sh*t, dumbass. The talkative one got left behind already.”
Well, alright then. This was probably going to hurt.
Because she hated pain, she tried one more time. “We don’t need to fight! I just want to know what’s going on! I can keep my mouth shut!” She did not point out that she fully intended to stop their plans regardless of what she heard, but t they could get to that kind of betrayal later. For now, she just really didn’t want to keep moving in case she got to the same point as before where she couldn’t.
“Tough sh*t, dumbass. Nobody is meant to know anything is even going on in the first place, so we don’t care if you won’t talk or fight us! You even being here means they’re paying attention now, and that’s already bad enough. If you don’t want to fight, just die. It’ll make my job easier than having to explain this!”
The squid in her arms looked at her worriedly as if he knew her concern was primarily about having to move and not about potential death. She sighed heavily before gripping her dagger tightly and making sure it was attached to the end of the rope it was paired with.
Then, she leapt from cover and lobbed the dagger towards the very upfront guy who had actually given her useful information without presumably meaning to, and once he had blocked it with his own weapon and knocked its aim arrays, blinked over to it and slashed the side of his left forearm before dashing back away from him.
The bow he was holding pointed back at her but before it could fire, began to wobble as if the incarnation holding onto it was struggling to hold its weirder.
Then, he promptly crumpled to the ground after being unable to support his own weight, as he fell unconscious.
Good gosh, did she love her weapon’s sleep skill.
Dreamer had moved towards the fallen enemy so that the attacking damselfly wouldn’t lob any more fireballs her way, but unfortunately it didn’t seem to actually care all that much about its human colleague, so she hastily moved away so he didn’t die from not-so-friendly fire.
Every time she tried to hit the fly with her blade afterwards, it merely evaded it deftly and continued blasting her with fire.
“Any ideas, Squidi?” she asked while ducking behind a sturdy-looking bollard. She began eyeing up one of the trees nearby, wondering if a higher vantage point might work better, but the thing flew fast so she didn’t have high hopes for that.
The squid, however, did have an idea. He decided to speak again, for only the second time ever, and she realised that the voice she had heard before was not a hallucination.
[Stop attacking, friend! This human is an ally to our kind!] he said in a voice she was now very familiar with and would absolutely question him about once they survived being roasted alive. He then said something in strange sounds she couldn’t again interpret.
Surprisingly, the giant fly did listen to him and paused in its attacks. It replied to him but she couldn’t understand it.
After a few exchanges, the little squid who had floated out of her arms to speak with the fly, beckoned Dreamer out of her cover to come greet his new ‘friend’.
Since she’d come to trust the little squid, she cautiously complied and (painfully) got up to stand beside him, wary and guarded.
Squidi explained that this being was working alongside a disgruntled group of constellations who wanted the city to burn for its historical and modern transgressions, and the Queen the humans had spoken of before was the conduit for their efforts.
They had struck a deal with the dokkaebis who used these beings in their scenarios so they could instigate this.
The being did not know the specifics but it did want its kind to grow strong, as the dokkaebis had planned on releasing them early so they would be stronger by the time the ninth scenario came around.
The being sharing this information seemed to have a strong hatred for humans and constellations, but seemed unusually fond whenever the Queen was mentioned.
As it spoke, Dreamer began to understand it a bit more, and flickers of painful images – memories? – filtered across to her from it.
Were these… parts of its own stories? Or fragments of them, perhaps, since outer beings were not exactly seen as ‘whole’ narratives, necessarily.
It seemed to be explaining not just for Squidi and Dreamer’s benefit, but for the ears of those watching through the channel.
The human had said that her presence here meant they were paying attention too, and she understood that to mean the constellations. Unlike what the human had insinuated, it appeared that the damselfly was trying to use their discovery of it to its benefit, trying to garner sympathy or support now instead of forced secrecy.
Or that is what she had thought, right up until the thing cackled madly and set her on fire.
She heard Squidi’s shout of horror as her vision was obscured by vibrant red flames. Her whole body felt intense heat and her mind grew panicked before…
She blinked. It didn’t hurt that much?
[Skill, ‘Fire Resistance’ is activated!]
Well, would you look at that? Another skill she didn’t know she had.
It did hurt a bit, but she clearly wasn’t dying from it. Now having regained some of her scattered composure, Dreamer promptly set about rolling the fires out from her body and avoiding the still-burning area she had been stood in.
After some effort, she was back to her original, not-on-fire status and glared towards where the damselfly had been.
However, what she instead saw was a floating little squid hovering just in front of a downed giant red insect.
It looked very beaten up.
Dreamer’s mouth dropped open as she pointed an accusatory finger in shock at the little squid. Little sparks surrounded his form.
“You went against Probability!” she accused at the same time he pointed an accusatory tentacle at her and said, [You aren’t dead!]
Dreamer promptly started laughing at the pair of them, which hurt so she quickly stopped, and went over to him to help offload some of the burden of the Probability sparks, something she now had plenty of experience with. She sat on the ground.
He let her hold onto him and absorb some of the sparks, remaining quiet as she did so. It seemed he had realised that he was the one most in trouble here and was clearly avoiding bringing it up.
Dreamer activated her distortion ability so they would not be overheard as she casually commented, “So, little Dream. I guess you have been watching this world line for some time now, haven’t you? Care to explain?”
As it turned out, Squidi had originally not intended on following her around like this. He had initially only sent this little squid version of himself down to keep an eye on the world line she had told him about because she seemed suspicious – which, fair – but had gotten involved in protecting those other little outer beings used for the sub-scenario she had met him in, and after seeing her help protect them, had used the opportunity to stick to her so he could learn more about her more easily.
Squidi hadn’t intended on becoming a notable presence in this world line as he wasn’t meant to be present in this form in the first place, but kept involving himself in a lot of things, such as the situation with Aper and the others.
He definitely hadn’t intended on involving himself this much, where he defeated an otherwise problematic enemy just because it had lied to him about not hurting Dreamer and had in fact tried to burn her alive.
“Well, I’m glad you’re here either way, little Dream. It’s a very good thing I have a whole-ass [Fire Resistance] skill I never knew about, isn’t it?” she blew out a somewhat shaky breath after all the things that just happened and added, “J guess I named you pretty aptly since you’re currently named after yourself and I hadn’t even realised before, huh?”
The little squid scowled and crossed two of its little tentacles in a very human manner. [I am not an idiot squid.]
“Now I am aware of that, but you really did act just like yourself back then, protecting others at your own expense. And I stopped calling you by your full name a while ago, Squidiot. Now you are just ‘Squidi’ to me unless you do something ill-advised so I have to bust out the full name like adults often do with kids.” Dreamer made a contemplative expression as she held two of his little tentacles up on either side of him and asked, “What should I call you from now on, then? Using your human name would be unwise since the other you is in Korea right now, but similarly, if I call you by your other nickname or modifiers, certain other beings who watch us will definitely notice and start questioning things, so I can’t really call you little Dream either.”
[‘Squidi’ is fine for now. It has grown on me anyways, since you incessantly call it,] he stated in a very falsely haughty tone.
Dreamer poked his little cheek. “Alright, little squid who is apparently not an actual squid but also is currently an actual squid. I’ll probably just treat you the same as before then, unless you specify otherwise. At least this means I don’t have to update the ‘you’ on the subway train as much, since you’re already aware of the stuff going on here.”
[I have to report back to my main self though, so I won’t already know everything this me knows straight away. It is a bit like the kkoma Yoo Joonghyuks with Secretive Plotter, since they can get sent out without him and have to report back but are still technically a part of him. I also won’t know about all the stuff you dream of since I can’t go with you in them, so you will still need to update me on all that,] he explained.
Dreamer nodded and agreed, then glanced back at the fallen damselfly.
“It’s no wonder you triggered the Probability sh*t since that thing was definitely meant to be difficult to deal with. I guess an outer being or monster at that level really isn’t a match for you, even in this form though. Well, we better tidy things up here before they wake back up – I have to get back to Katsu before that whole faff starts, and we need to question this guy about any other barrel placements, too.”
However, a tentacle tapped against her cheek as she was about to haul herself upright. [Uhh, Dreamer?] the little squid called out, [You should maybe think about getting some replacement clothing before you head back there. Just as a thought.]
Dreamer looked down at herself to see that while she did have some remaining scraps loosely hanging onto her, the majority of her outfit had been incinerated and left not a lot to the imagination.
“…”
Dreamer wondered how long she could make the distortion ability last as she got up to sort clothing, enemies, and quest lines out while an amused little squid hugged her head like he was a hat.
*****

Chapter 50: Chapter Forty-five – Falling Down (6) (MS#4 end starts, Katsu rescue!)

Chapter Text

After stopping at one of the semi-destroyed buildings and picking up a new outfit (Squidi helped), Dreamer reappeared at the outskirts of the chaos of Trinity Square Gardens.
Aprici was the first to spot her approaching and promptly scowled in her direction. “What happened?!” he asked with alarm.
Granted, she probably looked terrible right now, covered in bandages and burns and sitting in her favoured position in her chair… atop the unconscious, tied-up human enemy. Behind her chair, the giant red insect being was getting dragged along as well. She figured the chitin covering it’s supposedly-delicate body was sturdy enough to handle London’s streets for now, and since it was knocked out it wouldn’t notice anyways.
Akari, however, was focusing on another change and decided to laugh instead of demonstrating concern. “Bloody hell, boss! You ain’t even been gone for long yet you picked up a new job? To think I was worried about you.”
Dreamer did not have the energy to respond but nevertheless appreciated his beautiful face and habits.
Instead, she gestured beneath her, skipping straight to business matters since there wasn’t a lot of time to sort the rest out. “Katsu took one of the Messengers with him; do we know where they are? We need to pull them out ASAP to let the others know about some bad sh*t these guys set up. Otherwise, the city will burn. Also, please help me wake this dude up – he doesn’t like to talk, apparently, so we might need to drag Anya back over here. I take it she’s already started?”
Akari nodded. “She has. Anatole went with her in case anything needs to be reported back to us before the rest of us head in. Raven went with her – she seemed a bit eager to get to Katsu and didn’t want to wait, I think, and is helping clear a path to him. Said it’s your turn to carry this anyways.” He handed her a small blue and silver item with glowing fluid inside.
Dreamer raised an eyebrow at this. “So long as she’s got the other one, that’s fine. Is everything else ready? You got in contact with the others already?”
Akari nodded. “Iskra was hardest to reach since she’s going all-out close to Katsu, but Cora asked the local birds for help reaching her and the message got across alright. Apparently pigeons aren’t scared of anything here, even Iskra’s kind of explosions. Anyway, she knows what to do and expect and can let the others around her know. She’s the closest we could get to Katsu – the London Bridge King is in a bit of a struggle with the Tower King and two apparent allies of his, and one of them had a barrier up nobody can get through. Well, except Raven, of course, and I assume you since Raven didn’t seem worried about you reaching Katsu in time for whatever you’re preparing for that you both can’t say aloud.”
Dreamer offered a light smile. “Correct. It came as part of the visions Raven shared with me and we had plenty of time to work out how to get past it while in lockup. Now, come help me shift this guy – I need my chair back. I can fill you in on it while we try to wake him.”
Aprici was already beside her and holding her up for Akari to reach under,. He also offered (growled out) that he could make the captive talk, so there was no need to fetch Anya back.
Dreamer wasn’t sure if the guy would be all that intimidated by Aprici since he had already been working beside an alien being/monster as it was, but Aprici assured her he could handle it.
Akari directed Cora to send for one of the people from Katsu’s group on the battlefield and one of her other birds swooped off to fetch them.
After Aprici had spent only a short time alone with him, they had the most urgent information acquired and Dreamer asked the Messenger Cora’s bird had returned with to inform Ciara and Camryn on what to look out for. She asked Camryn to send a group closer to it out to St Paul’s Cathedral in particular to and told them how to adjust the marking so the seal wouldn’t break on the barrels once the time had passed. She also gave them a deadline to work with and explained that if it was not done, a large part of their city would erupt in fiery destruction.
Camryn obviously agreed to organise a party to deal with it together with Ciara, who was defending Waterloo with the others, and Dreamer breathed a sigh of relief knowing that it would be handled well.
The bug that had attacked Dreamer before had apparently been the only one sent out to check on things, according to their captured enemy, and the only others free from their seals remained with the Queen herself over by Paddington, where another group of Kings were fighting like they were here.
Now that the urgent matters were being dealt with, Dreamer set about preparing herself for what was to come next, which mostly required her to check her magic power was replenished (thanks to Akari’s shared potion) and making sure her chair was able to handle the less-smooth parts of the garden grounds.
However, Cora intercepted her to offer an alternative.
“Our Lady told me you would need me there. Effrayante can take us there much more quickly. She told me you have terrible spirit sight, which you will need.” Cora then held out a bracelet made of small blue flowers to her. “Wear this and I can help with that when we get there. Raven and I can see them just fine.”
Checking that Cora did indeed mean to help with this offer and sending no duplicity in her words or countenance, Dreamer took the offered item and wore it on her wrist. The system message that popped up when she took it informed her it allowed the creator to share one low-level skill or ability with the wearer for ten minutes, so it seemed that she was telling the truth. After the damselfly had gone back on his word about her, Dreamer felt it was probably wise to be a little less blindly trusting once someone appeared to be on their side, and she didn’t yet know much about Cora, who wasn’t tied to either Katsu or her groups.
Cora seemed to sense her caution and offered a light smile. “If you are worried, you can check my stats. I know you have the ability to see them, and I am not a strong incarnation compared to most of your group and Raven.”
Dreamer shook her head. “I am less worried about my own safety than that of the others. I still don’t entirely understand why you stayed to help us so much, but I am grateful for your help.”
“Oh. Like I said before, Our Lady told me you would need me. She doesn’t order me around, but what she suggests I should do, I tend to stick to. She is very wise and knows my heart well. Thus, helping you is beneficial to me as well since I am following Our Lady’s words of wisdom and judgement. She says I am safe with you and Raven, and that we are alike. It is nice not to feel as alone here. Especially since I lost track of my sister when I was captured. Our Lady told me if I stayed to help, I could find my way back to her. I haven’t been able to find her since then, so this is a worthwhile endeavour to find a clue about her whereabouts,” Cora explained. “Also, like you and Raven have your instincts, so too do I. I feel safer in your presence and with your awareness of me than I do without it – even with the stars watching.”
This last part was spoken with unusual emphasis or meaning behind it, but Dreamer couldn’t quite determine exactly how or why it would be there. She supposed it was just one of those weird ‘clairvoyant’ things again and set the feeling aside for now.
“Then, I am very grateful to have you around. Once we have sorted things out with this battlefield, we can help locate your sister, hopefully. Between our two networks, Katsu and I should be able to find out something useful for you to follow on from. I look forward to your and Effrayante’s assistance, then,” Dreamer said with a genuine, unhesitant smile as she signed back in response.
Cronch.
Everyone other than Cora looked towards the sudden, loud sound of crunching, only to see Effrayante with the giant red damselfly sticking out of its mouth.
Dreamer’s expression was a bit weird as she turned back towards Cora, who remained unmoved even as she saw what they had all looked towards.
She shrugged. “Birds get hungry too. Insects are a natural part of their diet,” she explained nonchalantly, stepping over to pat Effrayante’s side while she ate.
Well, at least they still had the human enemy to question further. Hopefully this bird monster would not try to eat him as well.
While the crunching continued behind them, Cora swivelled towards something feathered swooping down to her, her brows scrunched.
After landing on her forearm, Anatole shifted onto her shoulder. Cora began translating his message. “Something’s gone wrong with Raven. She can’t get through the barrier to reach Katsu. So she can’t start the process.” Cora’s expression was no longer as placid as it usually was.
Dreamer’s wasn’t either – none of them had foreseen this. She quickly scrubbed at her face as if to fear herself back into action. “Alright, Cora, Akari – change of plans. Cora and I will head over immediately, while you two go help Anya and Iskra. Devin should have already gotten to work on his end, so there shouldn’t be a lot left to do other than keep the ones closest to the Tower King’s barrier safe. Take this jerk with you for now – we can question him further later. And Aprici –“
He cut her off with a growl. “I remember the terms of our contract, do not worry. I won’t kill anyone unless they refuse to submit.”
Dreamer gave him a crooked smile, pleased that he was keeping her preferences in mind even while that hadn’t been her concern. “I was going to say, stick close to the others so the survivors outside our groups don’t attack you. Your safety is important, too. Keep each other safe out there, please.”
Akari grinned. “Back at you, boss, bird girl. Travel safe,” he waved Dreamer and Cora off as they climbed onto the giant bird that had now finished its impromptu meal.
-
Anya was not having an easy time keeping the other Kings’ subordinates away from Raven while the sorceress tried to break through the dome.
They had already sent the bird girl’s falcon off earlier, and now Raven was frantically trying to reach the London Bridge King in time before whatever they were doing to him inside of it finished.
Anya had recognised it as some weird cult bullsh*t, but given the state of things, weird cult bullsh*t was never that simple. Not that it ever had been.
Anya bared her bloody teeth at the opponents trying to break past her and hollered sounds of threat and aggression. She spat blood to the ground as she sliced, tore, snd whacked her opponents back.
Then, things went curiously still for a moment.
She took some much-needed breaths as she stomped on one of the other Kings’ heads. His subordinates had paused in their attacks as a result, thankfully.
These Kings were utter trash in her eyes since they had betrayed the tentative peace and alliance Katsu had been working hard to form and maintain and were now trying to kill each other and him.
If Dreamer were here, she would no doubt point out that this kind of development was likely prompted by the dokkaebis trying to churn out constant twists and betrayals for the sake of entertainment.
As it was, Anya was left to her own deductions, which she didn’t really care for. Her job was to keep the sorceress safe until she could help Katsu. She only needed to batter these traitors down and scare them into never crossing her or her people again.
The King’s head under her foot in the mud groaned from the force she was exerting to keep him in check.
Devin was somewhere on the other side of the dome handling another group of Kings, with Iskra having already formed a kind of perimeter around this area to keep the majority of attackers from reaching them.
Anya could hear the sorceress’ voice start to crack as she changed from meticulously writing runes on the translucent barrier to banging on it as if she might be able to smash through it to her King.
However, they had already realised that something had gone wrong with their plans, despite their visions and foresight, and she would not be able to break through.
Anyway briefly glanced behind her to the dome and the people inside. She saw the London Bridge King struggling to stay on his feet, looking incredibly sickly – and she was very familiar with feeling sh*tty due to poor health. The Tower King seemed to be reciting some incantation while attacking with his sword, and despite Katsu being plenty capable normally, he seemed unable to do much more than block the blows.
Then, his sword dropped and he fell to his knees. He was breathing harshly and had received a cut to his shoulder at some earlier point.
However, instead of cutting him down or be heading him as the Tower King liked to do, the King beamed as he raised an empty hand that began flaring with magic power coiling around it, looking as if he was going to rest that hand on Katsu’s head.
Just as he reached Katsu’s head, a figure fell from the sky and landed right where the Tower King had just been, shoving him backwards with great force.
Everyone present wore strange expressions after the initial shock of this appearance, as the powerful figure guarding the London Bridge King’s prone form was wearing a Tesco uniform.
A similarly small figure dropped down behind Katsu and her, and Anya confirmed that it was the bird girl before returning to her own task of defence. The London Bridge King would be alright now.
Meanwhile, Dreamer was glaring with fierce hostility towards the Tower King. “Do not touch him,” she said in a low voice.
“You’re too late! It’s already working within him! Ahahaha! The process cannot be stopped! You have already lost your King, foolish incarnation!” the mad Tower King replied with glee.
Dreamer scoffed. “He’s not my King, and he will be fine soon.”
“What? Who even see you to show up here like this? Can’t you see this is a serious battle between two supreme rulers? What is this interference?” he grumbled while gathering power in his hands again.
Ah, Dreamer had forgotten the only time she’d met this bastard face-to-face, she hadn’t actually been wearing her own face, but Raven’s. That made this a little sealed.
However, she had bigger things to think about.
“Cora?” Dreamer called out over her shoulder, not taking her eyes from the King before them.
“On it!” Her bird monster was already using her wings to buffet back the other I people the Tower Ling had brought with him into the dome.
Dreamer then rushed over to the edge of the barrier and moved her hands swiftly to quickly make a gap big enough for Raven to come through. Compared to the seals over Abaddon and Aikhtiar’s spheres, this one was much simpler.
Then with Raven, they rushed back over to Katsu, Cora, and the defending Effrayante.
Just as they were about to reach him, Katsu collapsed completely from where he had been kneeling, crumpling to the floor.
Raven yelled in distress while the Tower King cackled.
Cora remained composed as she raised a hand to send over her skill to Dreamer, whose blue bracelet began to glow.
Dreamer immediately leapt forwards and snatched at the blurry, indistinct form of a ghostly figure of a man rising out from Katsu’s own crumpled body, grabbing hold of the spectre by the wrist just as he was about to float up and out of reach.
She held that wrist tightly, not letting the being escape. “Raven! Get his body ready!” she requested.
Raven immediately complied and poured something down his mouth (Normally an unwise and dangerous action for someone unconscious, but very necessary here). She then opened a little compact of cinnabar and began scrawling on his skin rapidly.
“You can’t get him back! It’s too late! His soul is gone! Ahahaha!” the Tower King cheered while watching Raven’s frantic actions. He wouldn’t be able to see Katsu being held by Dreamer, however.
This was the reason Dreamer needed to be here, as well as why she had needed to drink some of the silvery blue liquid first, while the rest would be getting applied to Katsu in short order.
With effort, Dreamer wrapped her own form around the translucent, wispy form of his that had just been forcibly ejected from his own body. Once she was confident his soul or spirit here wouldn’t slip out from her tenuous grip on something so incorporeal, Dreamer bodily hauled Katsu back to his body which Raven had now laid out in front of her. From outside perspectives, she probably looked very bizarre, holding onto thin air in such a strange position.
Once Raven had finished a section of the process, Dreamer knelt down and pushed the form in her arms back down into Katsu’s body, using both hands over his chest to ensure that it could not float back out of him as it kept trying to do thanks to the Tower King’s ritual.
“He’s in. Lock him up,” Dreamer instructed, using all her focus on the spirit trying to float away until they could keep it safely re-tethered to his body.
None of the others could interact with spirits like this, only Dreamer, but unlike the other seers she had met, she had no way to actually see them, even though she could still sort of sense them without sight. That was why Cora had lent Dreamer her own spirit sight for now through the bracelet or make locating him easier if the Tower King got to him first, as he now had.
Raven complied immediately, magic power coiling around her fingertips and dripping from her tongue as she spoke in a strange language that was not quite a language.
Meanwhile, Dreamer stuck herself to Katsu like some kind of weighted blanket in an effort to hold his unconscious spiritual form correctly to his physical one, and once Raven had him secure enough, she sat back and climbed off of him, knowing that there was something else she needed to do before she could continue helping Katsu.
Cora had been scattering breadcrumbs and spices in a circle around the four of them while Effrayante fended off the other incarnations, but the Tower King remained a problem, even with Cora’s protective circle placed between him and the rest of them.
Raven was capable and strong in magic but needed to focus on saving her brother. Cora was weak yet capable and knowledgeable, but could not face someone on the same level as the Tower King, an unusually strong incarnation even amongst the representatives. Effrayante was more than capable and strong enough to fight several strong incarnations off at once without taking too much damage, but the Tower King was clever and avoided confronting her himself, leaving his subordinates to fight her.
That left Dreamer as the only person available and strong enough to take him on. Thus, despite her being the only one who could take in the next step in fixing Katsu, she needed to confront this crazy bastard first.
“I only fight worthy opponents,” the Tower King sneered at her when she faced him in battle stance. “You are neither a King nor someone remarkable. I will not fight you, but I will put you out of your pathetic misery of a life, since you foolishly think you can stand against me.”
Internally rolling her eyes hard, Dreamer co*cked her head to the side and said in familiarly lilting tone, “What does a King have that a witch doesn’t? This one hasn’t even a proper throne, yet still thinks he can best her alone.”
While speaking, Dreamer pulled a staff from her back that unfolded into a full-length one that felt strong and sturdy in her hands. A dark gleam twinkled in her angry eyes as she prepared not to put this man peacefully asleep with her dagger but beat him black and blue with the weapon that sang alongside her best.
Raven had shared some of the things she had experienced and witnessed the Tower King and his men doing to their captives and lost loved ones. Dreamer was not feeling especially merciful or forgiving as a result.
From a less emotional standpoint, she also needed to be quick with this so that she could save Katsu. Thus, she would not hold back here for the sake of her enemy.
The King’s eyes widened greatly as he realised she was the ‘other sister’ of Raven’s from before.
Dreamer spun her staff in a light flurry in what felt like light stretching before the main exercise. While the King was gawking at her, Dreamer grinned evilly. “I am an angel and I am a witch, but still, I’ll knock your ass into a ditch.”
She charged at him, stepping beyond the line of spices and crumbs and immediately attacking him in rapid succession, both ends of her weapon being put to good use with blow after swift blow.
The King was sturdy and her choice of weapon blunt, so while she did manage to land some hits that he missed blocking, he remained upright for now. After leaping backwards to put some greater distance between them due to her long reach, the Tower King grew angry and shouted at her. “You aren’t even a King! But no matter – no witch can stand against me! And no Angel would dare question my divine right to rule!”
He then activated a skill that Dreamer presumed was meant to exert control or dominion over those deemed actual witches, and used some other skill literally named [Divine Justification]. He wore a smug grin as he expectantly sauntered over to Dreamer.
However, her time and patience were limited right now and like hell was some dude with excessive synchronisation with his sponsor going to exert any control over her when even the System failed to apply correctly to her. Thus, Dreamer completely ignored his nonsense and expectations of her compliance and merely dashed forwards to knock his legs out by sweeping her staff into the back of his knees, jabbing it into his exposed abdomen, and pinning him down at the throat with it.
“I am technically meant to be a King, in fact, but I have lied about everything else a little bit. I am a witch who isn’t a witch, and an angel who isn’t an angel. I’m the most human being there could possibly be, and I am simultaneously many things more. Your and your sponsor’s will shall never overpower my own, and neither will I let either of you harm my allies’ souls again.
“I am a reluctant king who clings to the safety of shadows and rejects the responsibility of ruling, but I remain more able and ‘justified’ as one than you. Now go to hell where you thought you sent all my ancestral witch kin, you utterly abhorrent creep,” Dreamer stated with terrifyingly calm venom, stepping on the Tower King’s chest to hold him down while she spun her staff in hand to crack over his bloody head.
When he was very clearly out for the count, Dreamer breathed a breath of relief before hunching over in pain and shuffling hastily over to Raven and Katsu, setting her ass down by the unconscious London Bridge King’s head and applying her own things to herself and Katsu in preparation for the most crucial step of his rescue.
Now that the Tower King was dealt with and with Effrayante holding off the other attackers who seemed too occupied to notice their King had fallen already, Cora came over to join them and checked what things she might be able to help Raven with before taking the discarded cinnabar pot from her while she chanted and using it to draw different kinds of shapes on Dreamer’s forearms.
“To help you channel it better,” she signed to her in explanation. Her skill set differed from Raven’s in many ways, but it seemed she too had ways to help with this process.
“Thank you,” Dreamer signed back before placing her hands on either side of Katsu’s head.
Feeling confident that her team and allies could handle things without their Kings present for the time being, Dreamer let herself sink into that contemplative, speculatory place in her thoughts that she went to just before sleep to lead herself into dreams. Unnoticed by her closed eyes, a skill activation screen popped up to announce her successful focus.
*****

Chapter 51: Chapter Forty-six – Fishes in the water (Katsu memories and tethering, talk with Lugh)

Chapter Text

When her eyes next opened, Dreamer was on a tube train, rocking as the newer type of train that had no doors between carriages juddered and lurched along the tracks.
There were some familiar faces in front of her, sat on one of the benches lining the sides of the train. It was a much less ruffled Katsu and Raven.
Dreamer took in their clean, orderly clothes and calm demeanours and determined that this was a time before the scenarios began. Otherwise, the haunted look that hovered in everyone’s expressions lately would have been more present.
Katsu and Raven were speaking casually with each other, looking relatively happy and amused by something on Raven’s phone screen. Upon stepping closer to see what it was out of curiosity, Dreamer saw that it was funny cat videos.
A loud voice called out from further down the long line of benches, disturbing the shared atmosphere of quiet ambience the rest of the passengers shared.
“Yo, gay boys! Get a room!” he yelled. “Nobody wants to see that sh*t in public!”
The calm, happy looks disappeared from Katsu and Raven immediately, and those of several other passengers on the train. Some of the strangers looked concerned and empathetic towards them.
Katsu’s expression was dark but he replied calmly. “She’s my sister, not my partner. If you don’t like looking at other people minding their own business, then don’t. Nobody exists specifically to piss you off.”
From his carefully collected tone that did not exhibit the anger Dreamer could sense he felt, she gathered that this wasn’t the first altercation of this type they had experienced.
The stranger scoffed. “He ain’t fooling nobody with that outfit, blud. And you ain’t no brothers, looking like that. You got your head screwed on straight, mate?”
“He’s not your ‘mate’, and I’m not your point of interest on the tube trip home. Leave us alone – you’re making everyone else uncomfortable,” Raven calmly added, glancing pointedly around to the other passengers between them.
A young mum with a baby strapped to her chest sat forward to add in her own thoughts, “She’s right. You must not be from around here if you think this is acceptable behaviour on the tube. Pipe down, man.”
After a couple other strangers voiced their agreement and displeasure, one of whom insinuated he had been unfairly checking out ladies on the train, the prejudiced dude clicked his tongue and turned away from them all, acting as if he were not just cowed by a bunch of rational strangers who had called him out on his bullsh*t.
Dreamer studied the two faces before her and saw that Katsu and Raven looked quite young here, in fact. She wondered how old they were here.
However, the space distorted and shifted into another scene before she could think any more on it.
This time, Dreamer blinked and found herself in someone’s home. There were several children running around with an adult couple quietly knitting and chatting together in the same room. Dreamer recognised Mr. Blobby playing on the tv screen some of the kids were paying attention to. The rest seemed to be hosting a tea party, playing house.
Dreamer crouched down nearby to see if any were recognisable, but none of them seemed too familiar.
Two of the kids were arguing on who got to play the role of father and seemed to be getting quite upset about it, and a third stepped between the two to mediate. “You can both be dads if you want! Sandy doesn’t need to be a mother! Some families have two dads, or we could have Kess and me be from different families, with each of you being a dad from them! There’s lots of options, so there’s no reason to fight this time. Come, we can ask Auntie to explain it better – Kess and I already heard the story, but you guys weren’t here last time.”
Then he led the others away from the plastic table and chairs in the corner, over to the knitting woman he must have called, ‘Auntie’ before. She readily agreed to tell them the story about her happily married friends again and the man next to her dug through a stack of books to pull out a children’s book about ‘all the different kinds of families’ that exist. The kids listened raptly (except for the ones glued to Mr. Blobby reruns) and the little kid who had led them there looked over the others with a happy and pleased look on his face. She felt that this kid became a little more recognisable with this.
Then, someone rang the doorbell and the man stopped reading his story to look at them all over his reading glasses. “Oh, time’s up today, little tykes! Let’s see which one of you will be the first to go home, eh? We’ll see you tomorrow but say your goodbyes.”
The woman had left to answer the door and returned promptly, beckoning one of the kids over by name. “Katsu, Amelia, dears, your dad’s here. Get your boots on then, quick.”
The rest of the ‘little tykes’ hugged, waved, or otherwise ignored or bid farewell to the little boy who had organised the others and one of the little girls who had been glued to the television.
The little girl – ‘Amelia’ – was not smiling. Katsu also seemed troubled, but plastered a grin on his face as he turned the corner to greet their father.
The man seemed gruff and disinterested but shuffled his kids off down the road. The rest of the kids remained at what Dreamer now recognised as the child minder’s house – she had gone to her own neighbourhood ‘child minder’s house as a kid once, too.
Before Dreamer could follow the family or remain in the house with the others, the scene changed again.
Ah. This was a familiar environment for Dreamer, but… She hadn’t realised how this kind of thing looked from an outside perspective.
The house she was in was messy and very, very loud. The parents shouted often, either for ease of getting the right kid’s attention or because of slight errors they made such as spilling a drink or not sharing the sole computer with their siblings.
Amidst the noise and chaos, the kids were tense and annoyed with each other, but still played relatively well together. There seemed to be a kind of camaraderie between them, even while some of them butted heads often.
The scenes flashed past at speed, as if during this period of time, the days had blurred together somewhat. The little kid Dreamer now identified as Katsu often took up the role of mediator here as well. He’d often go with his older sister Amelia to school. She seemed to be tasked with looking after her younger siblings quite often and always seemed quite drained as a result, but was otherwise quiet and withdrawn.
The young Katsu seemed to make it his priority to try and look after her in turn, making her favourite type of tea for her whenever he noticed her tiredness and sticking close to her whenever she was the target of the unfair yelling.
Then, one day, Amelia left. She had been taken in by another family, as this one apparently did not suit her. She had only been a foster, after all. The role she had taken for her younger siblings was now left an empty void.
Katsu did not know how to do everything his older sister had done, but he knew how to offer comfort and support to his siblings, so that is what he focused on instead.
At the child minder’s house, a new kid appeared, from a family new to the neighbourhood. Despite their wildly different appearance and name, Dreamer quickly identified this kid by their love of dramatic flourishes and attempted air of mystery. She loved wearing dresses and jewellery when they played house and helped Katsu lead the others in creative games and ‘missions’.
She’d wanted others to refer to her as a girl despite her supposedly being labelled differently back then, and the name she went by was, ‘Tyrannosaurus Rex’, a play on her first name that matched her surname ‘Wrexham’. Her parents must have had a humour to have originally named her ‘Rex Wrexham’.
At some point, the little Tyrannosaurus Rex – Raven – declared Katsu her ‘soul brother’ and ‘performed a ‘ritual’ to bind their status together as siblings, with all the other kids involved in chanting and cheering for them. Tyrannosaurus proclaimed that the ritual went so well that they were determined to be twins, not just siblings, and she proceeded to ‘hex’ anyone who tried to point out their dissimilarities... by throwing worms at them. Katsu would calmly trot behind her chasing her victims, scooping up the discarded, displaced worms and carrying them back over to the bushes in the garden.
Tyrannosaurus informed Katsu of the binding strength of the promise they had made, and of the importance of how it would never break, ever. Katsu replied back that he would never break a promise made to his family, even if he had wanted to break this one – which he didn’t. Tyrannosaurus patted his head and told him that was one of the reasons they had been bound together so well, and she trusted him.
If she weren’t aware that she needed to pay a lot of attention to the things Katsu’s being was showing her, Dreamer absolutely would have wanted to squeal over their cuteness.
As it was, she knew she needed to take in as much of Katsu’s past as possible. It was her task to help retether him to the core of his ‘self’ so that his soul/spirit would stay in his body again, despite the things the Tower King had done to him to separate them in what he’d intended to be a permanent manner.
Dreamer watched several more scenes that helped make up various aspects of what made Katsu, ‘Katsu’, and laughed alongside his classmates as he fumbled a science experiment he’d boasted about beforehand, only for him to pass it off with wonderful charisma so nobody thought to heckle him about it. She cheered alongside them as he represented his classmates as their nominated representative and tried to stand between him and the bullies he always got involved with whenever he saw anyone else mistreated around him. She watched as he helped counsel his fellow schoolmates as their peer mentor and helped even the bullies he had opposed before adopt kinder mindsets.
He empathised with everyone around him as he understood their struggles, their pain, their feelings of displacement and frustration well.
And one day, a teen Raven (who went by ‘Raven’ now, instead of Tyrannosaurus) dragged her brother by the hand off on the train to somewhere appropriately mysterious, having informed him that she’d already gotten permission from his parents for the trip.
When they – and an invisible Dreamer carted along with them – arrived at a house and Raven eagerly knocked on the door, Katsu finally saw what his sister had been so secretive about.
The person who answered the door was someone familiar to him, despite being much older now.
Katsu’s eyes widened hugely before the figure in front of him opened her arms to him, laughing as he launched immediately into them.
Behind them, Raven beamed as Katsu bawled in his other sister’s arms. Amelia had tears in her eyes too as she hugged him and pat his head, despite the fact that he was now taller than her. They caught up over her favourite type of tea, that had become Katsu’s favourite too – and learned of how their respective lives had gone since they’d last been together. Amelia was now living happily on her own after being supported by a loving family who didn’t overwork her, and she learned that Katsu’s home life had improved recently as well once his parents stopped taking on more kids than they could look after without introducing anger and negative dynamics like shouting into the mix. He’d spent most of his free time at Raven’s anyways, and that had helped.
Amelia had not lived in London anymore, which is why the trip had been an especially long one.
On their way back home, the space shifted once more and this time, their faces were older again – much closer to the ones Dreamer had first met.
They were on the tube again, apparently having just returned from visiting Amelia and her housemates who had become good friends of theirs.
This time, there were no outbursts on the train about Raven’s appearance or their relationship to each other.
As they walked home from the station, however, a familiarly horrifying situation occurred.
A blue system message appeared in everyone’s vision.
The first scenario had arrived.
So had the monsters.
Dreamer watched in distress as the people around her faced the same thing she had done at the start of the scenarios.
She saw how, without a voice telling them to trust them about something they could not explain their knowledge of regarding an alternative method of ‘passing’ the scenario, they came to their own conclusions and used the opportunity to sink further into the opinions they ordinarily might have been more restrained about.
She watched as Raven and Katsu fended off a group of regular people who heard one thug’s declaration of ‘ridding the freaks from the gene pool since it’s become them or us’ and despite previously supporting their existence, turned on them for being seen as ‘different’.
She watched as the same situation repeated in other areas of the station they were at, either due to skin colour, choice of dress, or gender.
She watched as Katsu jumped between each instigator and their would-be victims, preventing killings wherever he could still stand to manage so.
She watched as Raven kept close to him and assisted the ones who’d already taken a beating stand back up while her mind visibly worked hard to find a solution.
She watched as Katsu repeatedly took his own beating in the process, seeming entirely as though he intended to die protecting and preventing everyone from killing each other.
She watched with blessed relief and heartache as Raven finally caught sight of something useful and shouted out to her brother and to everyone else that there were rats everywhere. She watched as a stranger caught quickly on and dragged their own loved ones or acquaintances over to the areas every Londoner knew had plenty of critters sneaking around in.
She watched the familiar face of the person who would later become Katsu’s deputy directing others towards the pigeons that always roosted in the rafters, looking for snacks.
She watched a bloody Katsu lead the others who had stopped fighting amongst themselves for the most part (since he and a couple others had already knocked the most problematic f*ckers the heck out while fending them off) into fighting off the monsters that appeared around them.
And as Katsu stood with bloodied first, staring with complicated eyes at a Lavellan dead at his feet, Dreamer watched the dream shift back to a time in his childhood again, where he was helping the teacher’s assistant for his class look after the class pet rat.
The scene shifted again to him on a wildlife trip to a sanctuary where many water voles and shrews lived peacefully amongst other British mammals and birds.
Then to a secondary school class where the teacher cut up a dead white rat to teach them some anatomy. The rat was a white-furred one, of the same type they bred in labs specifically for research and education.
Through several more scenes related to his thoughts at the time, Dreamer returned to the ‘him’ of the past in that underground station surrounded by death both of his own making and emphatically not, as Dreamer felt more than just his pained heart at the time.
Katsu’s thoughts bled across to the ‘her’ that stood silently beside him, looking around at everyone else present – both kind and horrible, from what he had just witnessed them trying to do – and heard the determination of his heart, as a piece of the core of him.
‘If there must be killing, let it only come when other avenues have failed. If we must be led into terrible acts for the sake of survival, let me show them how to maintain their humanity. If we must dance at the whims of cruel masters, let me guide the dance so that it remains something more beautiful than tragic.
‘The world has never been especially kind to everyone, but that has not stopped kindness from flourishing within it. I must help that happen. If not for my own sake, then for theirs.’ In the not-quite silent space of the bloodied underground station in a world that had just upended upon them all, Katsu looked around at the people he lived beside and decided that even though things were hard, he would never let the world make him fall. His conviction was strong and steadfast, as unbreakable as he had already proven to be many times over.
At his decision to remain standing tall in the face of catastrophe, the scene around them faded into the blurred mass of sensations, memories, and thoughts that his sea of subconsciousness was composed of. Dark forms that felt negative and awful rather than outwardly appearing ‘dark’ began to swarm towards his now-floating form, stood tall with still-bloodied fists in the midst of the uncertainty of his own self.
Faced with the embodiments of the fears and horrors he had experienced and expected to experience in his life, Katsu trembled and soundlessly called out for someone to help him.
His face remained resolute, but his heart cried out to not be alone in his decisions.
However, in this place where he was meant to be truly alone with nobody to rely on but himself, there existed another.
Swimming through the murky memory waters up to his core self, Dreamer remained shielding Katsu from the things approaching him and imposing their horrifying presences upon him.
When any form came too close to them, Dreamer easily swatted or spooked them away like nosy fishes checking for food dropped into their water.
She focused on sharing a warm and steadying aura and reached out to tap the back of Katsu’s right hand. He would not remember her here, but that was okay. She had been here before with others.
Without her mouth needing to open, Dreamer smiled at him and said into his mind, ‘Your sister sent me to help you remember yourself. Things will be a bit scarier for the time being, but I will not let you get lost in yourself any further. You won’t remember the times well, but you have been here before – even if only at the back of your mind, or in your dreams. As a dreamwalker of our world, one of my tasks is helping guide you through the hard parts to remember and resolve yourself of who you are.
‘So, Katsuhito Amano, King of Oaths and Reason, will you accept my help?’ She held a hand just shy of his hand, letting him choose whether to accept it.
And as he took her hand and offered a confused but trusting smile back to her, the figures trying to reach him and cloud his sense of self began swarming and screeching, clawing towards them and exuding hostility and despair.
However, Katsu maintained his hold of Dreamer’s hand and kept his eyes on her as she turned and waded through the now-soupy, mud-like terrain. The sea they had been in now resembled a kind of swamp in a pitch-black night, with the only light around them coming from the dim glow of Katsu himself.
Not even the stars in the sky were here to help guide him.
As they walked, Dreamer narrated the things she knew of him, both from her first impressions when they had been planning their joint attacks, as well as the things she had seen of his past and felt from his heart. She shared her interpretation of the things he embodied and demonstrated, and as they walked, his form and their surroundings became less murky and light, with the ground beneath them becoming increasingly stable alongside his sense of self and memories.
While keeping firm hold of his hand, Dreamer deftly fended off the shades and nightmares that swooped towards them with malice and terror as their weapons. Each time he trembled or his light dimmed, or his resolve wavered as sights from the scenarios replayed in front of them, Dreamer turned to face him, directing his attention back to her and not the things around them, and began singing some of the songs Raven had shared with her before in preparation for this potential event, or the ones from the shows and CDs she had witnessed him listening to in his youth.
She squeezed his shoulder, helped him focus on his breath or on the feel of their hands or his clothes or her voice, and once he was steadier, they continued their journey back through the layers of his mind and body, so he could return to where he ought to be, at the head of it, directing it and not floating away from it.
If he had been forcibly dissociated from his body and world by the Tower King before, this was the process of re-associating Katsu with those things, but more so to his ‘self’.
As they walked through memories both happy and difficult, strands began appearing between him and those around them. She encouraged him to focus on the strands – on the bonds and connections he had made with others, or they had made with him. Sometimes the bonds seemed tenuous or like they might break, but they were still his.
His strongest strands were, of course, those he formed with Raven, Amelia, his friends from childhood such as Kess, and those he was most fond of (such as the young couple who had looked after him as a child and his blood aunt and uncle who were a warm respite from his parents and home life).
As they walked, Dreamer encouraged him to ask things. In the process of asking, he would often come to his own determinations about a person or thing or emotion he had felt at those times and made his own connections and memories snap back into place within himself.
Pretty soon, Dreamer only fended off the dwindling fears and uncertainties that had been sent to separate him from his self, and humming familiar tunes for him, while Katsu did all of the talking and remembering.
During a particularly difficult memory he had only ever told Raven about, Dreamer kept hold of his hand as he curled in on himself on the floor, shielding his head from the memory around him, and quietly recited the words Raven had pre-emptively given her to give him if such an event was shown here. She told him of his sister’s love for him and how she was waiting for him back in the waking world outside of his form here, and then sang to him until he was able to remember the things he didn’t want to pass through again. She shielded him with as much of her own resolve and determination as she could, but some things cannot be blocked by others, even with the best of intentions and experience.
When they reached a place that felt serene and empty and their surroundings were neither indistinct nor busy, Dreamer drew them to a stop and turned to face Katsu again. Now, he looked the same as he had when they met, with the same steadfast determination and Damian-like charm oozing out of his countenance.
‘Welcome back, King,’ Dreamer transmitted to him with a light grin. ‘Ready to navigate your kingdom on your own again? You can always ask for help if it gets unstable again. It shouldn’t be on this kind of level again, however.’ She did not release her hold on him yet, as that decision was his to make.
Katsu looked down at their joint hands and released a long breath before grinning in a way that was kind of blinding her (much like Akari’s) and gently removed his hold on her, stepping back slightly to demonstrate his decision to carry himself steady on his own.
‘Yes, I am ready. Thank you for helping me through this. I feel as though I have shown a lot more parts of myself than I ought to with someone who was very recently a complete stranger. Though, with all the things Raven and I have now shared with you, I do not feel you are a stranger at all,’ Katsu said with warmth in his eyes.
Dreamer smiled back at him. ‘Even strangers can be allies and friends if you share enough of yourself with them. You don’t always need to prove yourself to them first,’ she replied calmly.
‘What you said makes sense,’ he returned. ‘Regardless, thank you for being here – for guiding me.’
The words were not exactly needed here since she had been feeling his appreciation of her throughout their journey and she wouldn’t have sought it out anyways, but she instead accepted it with a nod and a small explanation. ‘You’re welcome. This is what I do. If others can’t find their way out of their dreams and back to themselves, I can help guide them. I am dreamwalker, after all – minds aren’t so different in that sense, at least. Besides, maybe someday, someone else will guide me around my own consciousness to help me get back to myself, too.’
As they spoke, the blank space around them began filling with colour and form as Katsu’s sense of self reasserted itself within his body.
Dreamer glanced around at the things that Katsu associated with his most central, safe space to retreat to and remain within, taking in the things he cherished about the world as he saw it. ‘I think I should be able to safely wake us up now. Are you ready to return to our reality? It will still be difficult, but you at least will not be alone in it. Oh, though there is one more connection I should probably help reconnect, if you are alright with it?’ she hastily added as an afterthought, glancing towards where a sky would ordinarily be located.
Katsu glanced upwards as well with some confusion before returning his gaze to meet hers. ‘Ah. Yes, please do help me reconnect with him – we already agreed to work together, after all. I admit I am a bit surprised he wasn’t the one to help me return to my self, actually. I thought that is one of the things our sponsors could help us with.’
Dreamer shook her head. ‘Alas, the stars can be many things, but not all of them are the same kind of dreamer as me. Even the constellations have dreams, but not all of them know how to walk amongst them,’ she explained. ‘Allow me to locate him a second…’
After Katsu handed her his hand again and she took it, Dreamer closed her eyes to quickly sift through his very recent memories to find the link he had formed between his constellation sponsor and himself, and once she’d found it and witnessed the formation of their contract and form snapping into place between them, she reopened her eyes and smiled at Katsu.
‘Skilled God of the Long Arm, Lugh, I, ●●●●, summon thee on behalf of your incarnation Katsuhito Amano,’ Dreamer called out from within Katsu’s consciousness.
A microsecond later, a tiny dot of starlight appeared above Katsu’s head, and once Dreamer had confirmed that his gaze was on them, she drew her fingers in the air the same way she had been doing the entire trip here with anyone Katsu identified as someone important t him. A bright, sparkling link that was hard to describe and focus on appeared between the tiny dot of starlight and Katsu.
Once it had formed, the tiny dot of starlight grew rapidly bigger, forming into the figure of a strapping, muscular man who looked simultaneously like a warrior, a king, a trickster, and a master craftsman.
This was one of the symbolic bodies of Lugh, in the form that he would take most often when communicating with his incarnation as they were able to see their sponsor more clearly within their own minds than most, without worrying about the Probability of their chosen form due to it not being a physical presence as such.
Their surroundings immediately felt slightly weightier as his gaze passed over the two of them and he turned only briefly to Dreamer before settling his strong attention upon his incarnation, Katsu.
[Incarnation Katsu. I see you have found your way back to your own incarnation body; I am pleased. What you must have experienced is not a trial I would wish upon anyone, yet you do not look the worse for it – a sign that I put my trust in the right incarnation. Well done,] the Celtic god praised him.
‘I had a guide helping me retether myself,’ Katsu replied, gesturing towards the quietly observing Dreamer. ‘She is the one who reconnected me with you as well.’
The constellation then turned his intense gaze back on her briefly before returning to Katsu, and Dreamer felt very distinctly that this was being done not to ignore her, but to lighten the pressure exerted upon her, and the realisation was surprising, but nice. She had been led to believe very differently of most constellations out there – especially ones of Lugh’s presumed status and level.
[Yes, I gathered as much when she summoned me on your behalf. Not many are courageous enough to call out the true names of the constellations, but I see that she had very good reason to do so. I have been keeping an eye on Incarnation Raven’s preparations for you since your soul was knocked out from your body and disconnected from both it and me, and am glad to see that despite all appearances indicating you would be permanently lost from your self, the sorceress and the dreamwalker were able to bind you back to your body. When you return, the field remains chaotic, but there are not many other Kings remaining to defeat before the Final Qualification for the throne begins. It seems another King on another battlefront has been busy while you have been at work in your own, my incarnation.]
Dreamer blinked with some surprise, seeing the link binding them glow a bit brighter with the words as something that felt like warmth could begin to be felt from Lugh. Perhaps she needed to re-evaluate her expectations of some constellations, at least wherever their own incarnations were concerned.
‘I have made some discoveries regarding that King as well and can update Katsu about it once I’ve reawakened him,’ Dreamer supplied calmly. ‘The Kings on this field are safe from her machinations for now – our teams have already seen to that much.’
Without looking back at her, Lugh replied. [That is indeed good to hear. After this, I shall recommend your stream to the

as well as thanks for your help of my incarnation. Please be wary of that King, however – she is much more tenacious and fiercer than the Tower King who did this most heinous act. You will both face her soon if you remain undefeated by the time the Kings have dwindled in number.
[Additionally, while I am grateful for your assistance, Incarnation Dreamer,] Here, Lugh’s words took on a slightly more aloof, firm tone, [I must remind you that even allies and comrades must fight for the seat of the Throne that will soon appear. When that time comes, my incarnation will not hold back, for he must succeed it. Bonds or debts made here cannot alter that.] This time, he turned his gaze onto her directly and did not remove it until she had acknowledged his words with a nod.
The sensation of his attention on her reminded her strongly of the kind of pressure some nightmare entities could exude, and she tucked that comparison aside for now.
‘I understand more than most, sir. In fact, I have a good idea for that confrontation between us as well, as I also know more about the Absolute Throne than the dokkaebis share even with constellations. Before I wake us from here, I was hoping to confer on it with both of you, in fact. If you are both open to this, of course. It is my every intention to remain a genuine ally to Katsu, please be assured,’ Dreamer requested carefully, knowing that direct consultation with constellations was not something readily accepted by most of them, as they tended to view ‘incarnations’ poorly and with arrogance. Additionally, communication in this manner might be considered ‘cheating’, of a sort, since it surpassed the usual requirements for Probability since it was taking place within his own incarnation’s head, where she was not meant to be able to be.
However, her request only made Lugh laugh and compliment her cunning and gall, having realised exactly the same things she had about the opportunity and situation they were in.
With Katsu’s obvious approval added, Dreamer calmly and succinctly laid out her intentions regarding the ‘Last King’s Qualification’ part of the fourth main scenario, and what her plans were for both Katsu and herself.
This took quite a bit of convincing on her side, since Lugh had been conditioned to believe the only path forward included the full and ‘absolute’ use of the Throne they would be fighting over, but once Dreamer was able to get around the filtering enough for Lugh (unfortunately not Katsu, who heard the filtered versions) to understand the necessity, the pair agreed to form another deal with her regarding the terms of their alliance.
As a constellation with the domains of oaths and truth, Lugh ensured the terms were satisfactory, fair, and appropriately binding for both Katsu and Dreamer – especially should either of them renege on their word.
Once this finished, Dreamer and Katsu watched his sponsor face back into a tiny dot of starlight hovering over his head, now linked permanently again with that bright thread between them. Dreamer vaguely heard the Celtic god mutter something like, [Now I see why the big cat came to speak to me. She is indeed an interesting one…] before he disappeared from their presence.
After sharing a brief, temporary farewell with her renewed ally and friend, Dreamer placed her hands on either side of the Katsu present before her and jolted him back into consciousness, returning herself once she felt it take hold properly.
-
When the pair of them opened their eyes and returned to the once-chaotic battlefield of their waking world, they were instead met with many incarnations with their hands on their heads in surrender while several very familiar, beloved forms held various problematic kings at weapon, fang, or claw-point, while the others ordered the remaining enemy troops into organised lines and collected names.
Both Anya and Aprici were intermittently growling as they loomed over their captive kings, while Devin, Kaelsi, Erica, Katsu’s deputy, someone else Dreamer now identified as a grown-up Kess, and a few of Katsu’s other crew members managed the rest of the survivors.
Elsewhere, Akari, Iskra, and some of the people from Guy’s Hospital were tending to the wounded. His brilliant smile while comforting the injured members of their own crew and those he didn’t know instantly calmed Dreamer from the dissonance she felt after feeling tense over what she had expected to see upon waking up versus what was really happening around them.
Meanwhile, Raven and Cora remained inside that same protection circle from earlier, and Cora seemed to be trying to distract Raven from her brother’s potential death by reciting nursery rhymes to her in zesty rhythm and having some birds chirp alongside them. Raven somewhat wearily sang along as though coaxed into it previously, though she looked appropriately worn-out and disillusioned as she did so.
They had just reached the part that went, “Fishes in the water, fishes in the sea, they all jump up with a one, two, THREE!” and upon reaching that count, Cora produced some very emphatic jazz hands in Katsu and Dreamer’s direction, as if to say, ‘Tada, they’re awake!’
When Raven tiredly looked towards them, her eyes widened enormously and she released the spell she had been maintaining on Katsu, flinging herself on top of him in a crushing hug.
Smiling, Dreamer scooted back from them and shuffled over to Cora. “Thanks for looking out for her. She looks like she needed it,” she commented as she plopped straight down on the mud, curled up in her least painful position.
Cora shook her hands in the air as if to reject the thanks. “No need for thanks. Raven is my friend too. Like the Mad King said, we are sisters of a sort, for those of us who can feel what we do. Besides, one of the groups yours made submit just now brought up my sister and I before to Akari and seem to know more about her whereabouts than I do, so I have something to go on, hopefully!”
[The constellation ‘Our Lady of Death’ is looking at you expectantly.]
Dreamer raised her head briefly to acknowledge the message screen in front of her. “Aye. Cora is my ally and friend now – of course I will help if I can. I dare say one more supposed ‘clairvoyant’ will help Cora locate her even more swiftly than she could manage on her own, and I expect Raven will agree to help as well. The three of us will probably find her quite quickly, I imagine. Especially since I am pretty sure Raven was able to locate someone else’s sister through less-mundane means even before the

arrived here. Now that such things are exemplified and emphasised here, it should be even more successful.”
Cora scooted closer to where Dreamer lay and began using some wipes she had on her – given by Akari or Steph, from the looks of it – to wipe the cinnabar markings off Dreamer’s forearms, where she had drawn them.
Dreamer and Cora exchanged a few more words about various things until Raven and Katsu had finished their reunion and regathered themselves, approaching Dreamer and Cora to head out amidst all of the no-longer-chaotic mess of the Trinity Square Gardens and prepare for the final event that would arrive once Dreamer, Katsu, and the few Kings who had not turned on him from his previous negotiations had finally swiped the flags from the defeated Kings and reduced the number of remaining qualifying Kings to fit the last qualification’s demands.
As Dreamer watched a fantastically charismatic Katsu somewhat ceremonially claiming the last flag from the surrendering kings he had just arduously fought against and the number fell below the limit of qualifiers, Dreamer, Katsu, and the other qualifying King they had collectively agreed to have representing the rest of the kings who had acceded to bow out of the competition (under some convincing and duress) all turned into what probably looked and felt a bit like ghosts or clouds and transferred over to the sight of the final confrontation within the barrier before the Absolute Throne they were fighting for.
The ‘Last King’s Qualification’ of London had officially begun.
*****

Chapter 52: Chapter Forty-seven – Fishes in the water (2) (MS#4 end qualification, Boudicca, Richard the Lionheart, Henry VIII defeats)

Chapter Text

Over the course of the ensuing battle between Kings, Dreamer learned that one, the

was even more of a dick than she’d already thought, as they had summoned her there without her wheelchair, and two, that the other qualifying Kings were plenty capable and terrifying even without their skills, stigmas, sponsors, or stats.
Having determined that she was injured due to the very obvious way she was hunching over and leaning on the now-mundane staff in her hands, one of the Kings who was also injured but significantly larger and sturdier than she herself seemed came barrelling towards her. The look in her eyes insinuated that he fully expected to lose here but intended to take whatever glory he could from defeating the weakest of them before he got done over by the others.
Unfortunately for him, Dreamer was anything but an easy target, despite how weak she looked and indeed, felt.
In the first place, she hadn’t been able to consistently rely on the stability of the

system regarding many of her combat-related skills, and thus what she instead used was her conscious, lived experiences and knowledge first and foremost and her skills second – or if they were particularly tantrummy that day, not at all.
And she had just spent a decent chunk of time sat on her ass while her companions took charge of things alongside Katsu’s, so she was actually feeling a bit less pained than she otherwise would have done.
Thus, as the literally bleeding dude wielding an equally bloodied sword charged at her, Dreamer reluctantly straightened into a familiar fighting stance and since his swings were not currently coordinated by a skill while hers were from learned and repeated practice under an expert instructor, it was fair to say that she had him flat on his back, frantically tapping out.
As she straightened up after aggressively ordering the King beneath her to admit defeat and abstain, Dreamer heard and watched as Katsuhito – the clever, cheeky bastard who apparently no longer felt a need to treat her like a stranger or respected ally – pointed towards her while evading the combined attacks of two other Kings, clearly and audibly yelling, “She’s the real King to worry about! Just look at what she did to him already!”
Taking out her annoyance on the not-so-poor King pinned down beneath her by aggressively pushing off from where she had stomped on his back, Dreamer let out a very convincingly aggravated and betrayed growl in his direction. “I WILL KILL YOU, KATSUHITO AMANO!”
Then, she joined the efforts of the other Kings that had marked him as their toughest opponent and were trying to kill – or otherwise defeat – him.
One of them did indeed determine her to have been the one to watch out for after seeing her sudden demeanour charge from helpless, weak girl to very capable, if still small, fighter.
Dreamer easily switched from giving Katsu grief that would definitely help assert his qualification as the sole King of London to all those watching, to fending off the very buff guy who didn’t need weapons to overpower her with very stark difference in strength to her.
However, Dreamer had hardly ever trained with an opponent of equal size and strength in mind since most of her opponents in both real life and during training would have a significant advantage in those regards. Thus, she had been taught to instead use their momentum and strength against them and instead focus on efficiency of movement, distancing, timing, and technique.
After her opponent took another hefty whack to his sides and stumbled further back, Dreamer grinned wolfishly, loving the fact that they were allowed to carry items into this fight, even though their special effects were nullified so they remained very ordinary. And her team hadn’t understood her attachment to an otherwise underwhelming item when they had first found it.
Just then, Katsu leapt past her between her opponent and her, with the very aggressive King he was fighting rushing after him. Personally, Dreamer found her to be the scariest person here, since she was also a very capable fighter and such a fiercely intense aura that it remained even here where no such system things could exert any effect.
As he brushed past, Dreamer reached out and made contact with his forearm, making it look as if she had tried to grab his wrist and missed.
She then watched as Katsu’s eyes widened enormously as he received the ‘secret solution’ to the scenario she had promised him previously.
After this, the two Kings remaining in combat with them realised that the other remained a threat to them and whenever an opportunity presented itself, they would lash out at each other instead of Katsu and Dreamer, who also went through very convincing motions of trying to kill each other to win the throne.
Dreamer and Katsu momentarily froze when they realised the fiercest King present had just mauled the other one, who now lay bleeding on the ground, but still thankfully breathing.
When he abstained and she turned to them with fresh blood dripping from her chin, Dreamer visibly gulped.
However, she only targeted Katsu again, and Dreamer realised this King had not once attacked her.
As a test, Dreamer moved towards her, staff raised in preparation to attack.
Instead, the King pursuing Katsu briefly took her eyes off from him to glance in her direction. “I have no intention of fighting someone like you. Like recognises like.” She then returned her attention back to Katsu, who had used the opportunity to press the advantage.
Dreamer was puzzled by these words. Was this another seer or something? As the pair moved rapidly away from her, Dreamer regathered herself and called out to her, “What does that mean? You will have to fight me regardless of your wishes, in the end – we’re both here to win, aren’t we? How do you intend to defeat me without fighting me first?” Perhaps she intended to talk it out? Dreamer could respect someone who preferred dialogue to fistfights, but with how she was treating the other Kings so ferociously and unrelentingly, leaving no gaps for conversation, she assumed that might not be the case.
“You will concede. I know this,” she replied very ominously – and vaguely.
Feeling that things were taking a weird turn, Katsu must have decided it was time to reveal the ace up his sleeve Dreamer had provided him with. His physique began to noticeably improve as the two of them watched, and the ferocious King saying weird things only moments before now looked stunned.
Dreamer also feigned distress upon seeing this, but quickly ‘adjusted’ to the situation by turning to the second King and saying semi-truthfully, “Let’s team up before we sort out who is defeating who amongst us.” Of course, she had no intention of actually bring Katsu down right now, which was why she had helped him in the first place when she had no way of determining if he had more coins in his possession than her – though his memories had given her a decent idea.
However, against her expectations, the King beside her only scowled and pulled something from her pocket. It was a small cannister of something with the same symbols on it as the barrels of young damselfly beings had been labelled with.
“No. I cannot work with anyone else in this. You will understand afterwards,” the woman claimed, a cold look evidently gleaming in her eyes.
Before either she, Katsu, or the dokkaebi in charge of their joint channels who had been announcing the fight happenings to the watching constellations, could intercept her, the ferocious King pulled a pin from the cannister and threw it to the ground in front of Katsu and Dreamer, swiftly putting a very mundane filtration mask on before the plume of lavender-coloured gas could reach her.
Meanwhile, Dreamer and Katsu were immediately engulfed in it the moment it hit the ground. In the mist, Dreamer heard Katsu groan next to her as if affected by something, but Dreamer only blinked, feeling the mist trying to do something very familiar to her – to put her to sleep.
This gas was meant to make them sleep – or in Katsu’s case, become more sluggish, since he had already raised his stats.
However, she only blinked and looked around the purple mists around her obscuring her vision – and presumably preventing others from viewing her, as well.
This was a sensation she was intimately familiar with. Additionally, the stuff making up the gas was something similar to what she had encountered and used before in the scenarios with the [Spectres] and their stones.
This gas was composed of dream magic.
Within the haze of the stuff meant to make her, a dreamer, ‘fall asleep’, Dreamer began to smile.
Sure, this changed her plans a little bit, but Katsu would understand.
This ‘Last King’s Qualification’ scenario had become a dreamer’s personal playground.
*****

Chapter 53: Chapter Forty-eight – Fishes in the water (3) (MS#4 end, seeping stone’s weeping)

Chapter Text

After mopping up the foolish, once-intimidating King that had released the boon of dream magic directly at Dreamer’s feet and completely ignoring the dokkaebi’s infuriated protestations over a) the scary King using a scenario item from a different scenario in the present one, surpassing the restrictions due to being under different rules and states of being and b) Dreamer somehow being able to make use of the prohibited substance despite skills still being inaccessible within the dome, Dreamer found herself standing above yet another King she had deftly defeated, demanding her acknowledgement of defeat.
She had since learned that this King was in fact the same one working alongside the damselfly beings from before.
Stuff dispersed, leaving Katsu less affected in time for the last altercation with Dreamer herself
He knocks her out as previously planned, allowing her to set up shop in convo with the outer god dude who is not likeable or conceding anything to them, but whom she nevertheless manages to get tricked into making his own throne effectively inert in most ways. So that when Katsu sits on it, the issue from before is not able to apply correctly.
When Dreamer reopened her eyes after Katsu’s ‘betrayal’ had knocked her unconscious, Dreamer found herself exactly where she had been before.
Only, now she was standing over her own body, and her surroundings very clearly felt like they did when she was dreaming.
She noticed the lavender smoke remaining in the air around her and realised why she was able to be here like this.
However, this was not where she had planned to dream herself into. She needed to get inside Katsu’s head again, to negotiate with the outer god that owned the Absolute Throne and its Probability.
However, the only thing she saw in the surrounding space that felt real and conscious… was the stone chair itself. The incarnations, and indeed even the dokkaebi high above them, were all frozen, as if time had slowed or stopped for this dream, while Dreamer could move as normal.
Time was often strange between dreams.
The reason she felt that the stone chair was real and conscious in this twilight realm between one moment and the next, was because she felt things spilling out of it.
Like the tears seeping down across an old man’s wrinkled, weathered skin, or a brook trying to push past a blockage of leaf litter and rocks to reach the parched land beyond it had once watered, something like feelings were seeping out from the stone itself, the intangible, invisible threads of emotion brushing up against Dreamer’s sleeping consciousness as if looking for something that could let it in – let the things spilling from it reach lands beyond the blockage formed of the walls people put up between one another and everything around them.
Like memories asking to be heard, but not quite that, since there were not mere memories. She wondered if this was perhaps what ‘Stories’ were meant to feel like, but then when she considered her experience of them so far within the

in its early days on Earth and with those who had experienced them for far longer than she had (such as Aikhtiar, Abaddon, little Dream, and Professor Han), she realised that there was something different between that concept and this, too.
As with many of her dreams, Dreamer did not have a physical barrier up between herself and these things and could readily sense them and acknowledge their presence. A bit like whispers, and a bit like an urge compelling you – begging you – to ‘listen, please listen’.
The sensations wordlessly requesting to be known, to be acknowledged, to be seen. Those are the things that Dreamer sensed seeping out from this stone throne that had caused so much bloodshed in so many world lines and stories.
And through the silence of the things reaching out to be heard from this stone – this item¬ from the fourth main scenario…
Dreamer heard a name.
It was a fragmented name, as if the name only encompassed part of the whole, but it also felt like this stone held onto it as tightly as it did the things it reached out to ‘say’ to the world around it.
Approaching the Absolute Throne in the soundless void of this moment between moments – this blank space of breath between one page and the next, Dreamer quietly called out and gave sound to the name she had heard that had had its origins covered up with the intimidating title of the Absolute Throne’.
“Lia Fáil,” she said, absorbing the things bleeding from the stone like tears – or blood.
She read sorrow and the too-familiar pain of separation from this thing that had only been meant to have been a ‘prop’ item for a scenario of dominion. Having reached the stone seated above the steps it had been raised on, Dreamer lay a hand against the throne’s base.
Immediately, it was like the leaf litter blockade had been swept away, as the water flowing from this stone finally flowed more freely, at last able to reach something beyond its bounds.
Dreamer’s heart lurched as she felt a familiar shattering and fracturing that she could not immediately identify the source of recognition within her own self, but strongly comprehended the ones that had left this stone leaking this.
She drew in a sharp breath, surprised to feel such recognisable, coherent sensations from a stone she had previously only seen as an unfeeling, non-sentient object.
Of course, those things remained true, whilst she also could now read the history, the stories, the essences left behind on this rock, like the forgotten words that spelled out the ‘character’ of this object within the stories it had been bound to – and the people who had been bound to it in the process.
This stone might only be considered an ‘object’, incapable of thought or motion or sense. However, it was nevertheless a core component of so many tales and tragedies, so many tales of victory and loss.
And it, itself, had its own form of tragedy, carried out by those who could not read its significance to the ‘Story’, whilst simultaneously using that crucial importance to recreate and reform other tales into new, different ones with new or repeated players and plots.
The Story significance this stone held was great enough that it could be divided up into pieces and still provide a large effect on the subsequent Stories formed from its use, and have the essences that had been written into it – that had seeped into it in a similar manner to how its own essence was bleeding across to Dreamer right now – affect the chosen champions in each capital city hosting the scenarios, as well as their sponsoring constellations and the Story gained from winning this prize.
Now, when Dreamer looked at the smooth, imposing form of this scenario item, she no longer saw only the image the

had crafted it into.
Instead, she saw cracks.
Dreamer saw the pieces that were now missing from this stone, that had similarly been honed into Thrones and scattered around the world lines to retell stories it had long since weathered and known. Dreamer saw the older stories that had bled into this chair and formed its foundations, back when it really had been just a regular stone with unusual properties for which it became renowned and sought after for.
Dreamer saw the Lia Fáil before it had been named that. She saw why it had been named that, and all the things that had kept it tied to the narratives that had become associated with it, a part of it, contained within it.
Dreamer saw the legendary stone throne sought after by Kings long before this modern era, and instead of seeing it for its current uses and stories it had accumulated, she instead saw each of the places it had been carved down to – Where it had been smoothed out at, shaped and shorn, patched over with clever craftsmanship and spliced down to size from where it had originally seated giants.
Dreamer saw the stone, instead of only seeing the throne it had become.
Dreamer saw the fragment of the stone it had once been, before it had been whittled down for narrative effect and convenience.
Dreamer dreamt – more consciously than she ordinarily would – of the story of a stone, instead of the story of the Kings it had seated and cried for.
And when feeling the stories contained within it – that had become a part of it, and its essence – When she felt those things existing within it in partial, fragmentary form in a way that diminished its own unspoken understanding of its self and its existence so that it no longer knew everything that it had once been, because it was now not that…
The one dreaming of the dream’s outside, cried.
As the tears of the dreamer splashed onto the seat of the stone, seeping through it despite its impermeability… As water finally began to reach the parched land this stone brook had been planted in and the barren lands once more absorbed the touch of life, of worth, of understanding and acknowledgement…
Time split-apart and the frozen dream space stuck between pages was ripped into by the gaze of something both beyond and within it.
The being trapped behind the barriers of the Great Hall had finally noticed this story.
*****

Chapter 54: Chapter Forty-nine – Fishes in the water (4) (MS#4 end, outer god “talks”)

Chapter Text

As the space surrounding the dream abruptly resumed whilst Dreamer remained within it, several things became apparent in quick succession.
One, despite her body being right there and this being a dream for her, she was a visible spectre within the haze of the lavender mist.
Two, the god trying to burst its way agonizingly slowly from the Great Hall was looking directly at her with the full weight of its gaze and attention.
Three, the constellations and dokkaebi observing this scenario could sense this too and were losing their sh*t over it, since the God of the Second World was not meant to make its presence known this early but safely wait until the terraforming had long since begun.
Four, everyone watching and present knew f*ck-all about dreamwalkers.
And five, beneath her hands, the stone centre-point of the first part of this lengthy story – of all these stories – remained just as permanent and stable as it ever would have done.
Where she knelt, her tears were still falling, plainly visible despite the storm clouds that had rushed over to darken the skies above this scenario – this dream.
She had ignored the calls of the flustered dokkaebi and the perplexed, outraged constellations questioning the validity of her reaching the throne after the ownership had been won by Katsu.
She had even ignored the pointed, weighty pressure of the Absolute Throne’s associated figurehead, watching from the Great Hall.
“…Dreamer?”
But when her ally – her friend she had come to learn too much about – called out to her in wariness, Dreamer returned back to the present, leaving the stories of the past that had seeped into her from this stone where they remained.
Despite bearing the weight of that being all on her own here, this was the form she felt most capable existing in – the most familiar to her.
As if it were not a difficult or indeed, nigh impossible task according to the usual demands of the

, Dreamer stood from her spot kneeling before the stone and turned.
She looked with evident sorrow at the newly-crowned London King Katsu who did not deserve to inherit the same sorrows that remained trapped and recorded within the stone this scenario’s ‘Story’.
She raised her eyes from his shocked, confused, uncomprehending form to stare in the direction of the Great Hall that observed her – observed them all.
Dreamer glared at the form of the being who would doom a country and kingdom just for the sake of its own continued control over those it saw as insignificant gnats.
And towards this insurmountable, irrepressible, inevitability of a being, Dreamer called out with a determination that was not just her own, on behalf of the centrepiece that had had its own ‘voice’ suppressed for far too long now: “This Story – this Throne – does not belong to you! The Speaking Stone speaks for itself!”
At these words, thunder cracked and boomed from the Great Hall and lightning briefly transformed the atmosphere into a bright, lavender-hued haze.
Dreamer did not look away from the being beyond the dark sky above as she reached out a hand to her side, mentally pulling the lavender mist towards it with but a thought, urging it to form into the shape her imagination commanded – a blade much longer and sharper than she ordinarily fought with.
It had the colour of the mist, but much opaquer, with the shape of the swords she used to train with when she was healthier.
It had no name since she had formed it as an extension of herself, and only one current purpose.
Before the dokkaebi or the beings beyond the sky could respond, a certain bundle of cracks at the back of the stone throne that had drawn her gaze previously seemed to be calling out to her – to the blade – asking to be freed – not to be cut into further pieces – further fuel for others’. Blue particles had congregated around the cracks, jammed themselves into them, invasive and claiming.
Without hesitation, Dreamer stepped around to the cable-like thread of something akin to data leading away from the Absolute Throne’s side and sliced down with her sword made from her will and of her dreams, willing the bonds binding the stone to its forced, adopted role to break, to sever. Wishing for the stone to return to its former state, the one it had been torn asunder from.
As the bonds broke and the

shackles that had designated this stone as merely an ‘item’ made for one very specific King, used by others for that one purpose, more thunder and lightning flashed.
However, contrasting the horror of the gloom and the oppressive pressure from somewhere beyond the sky… Golden white light began to spread through the formerly invisible cracks the stone had been composed of, as if it was reforging itself over every single one of the places it had been broken and shattered over the course of its lengthy history.
The dokkaebi was at first frozen from shock and then outraged as the pressure from the Great Hall grew in strength and blatant hostility.
The barrier of the dome the final few Kings had been secluded within had fallen once Katsu had been proclaimed the victor, and several of their team had rushed forwards as if to congratulate or commiserate with their Kings.
Thus, when the dokkaebi overhead announced that a change in the scenario would occur, clearly with the intent of appeasing the being in the Great Hall and the outraged constellations spamming them with messages of confusion or anger, there were in fact several survivors who were assaulted by the ghastly forms of the spectres and phantoms made of not lavender-coloured substance, but a darkened, gooey version of it that coalesced like dripping oil into vaguely humanoid, monstrous forms and ghouls.
Dreamer identified them as being composed of the same stuff as the dream space around them but warped somewhat by mixing with the bluish particles she associated with the System.
She also recognised them as being controlled by the being she had just yelled at who had apparently taken her words as a provocation or challenge.
Having expected some sort of backlash already, Dreamer swept her sword to the side and gripped it more tightly, turning her gaze from the oppressor above to the figures he had sent in his stead, as he could not descend in his true form but could send these clones (thanks to the dokkaebi’s intervention).
The people only just now entering the space of the lavender haze were unprepared for these to suddenly appear from nowhere, but they had also already grown long since used to the cruel twists of the scenarios and defended themselves from harm enough to retreat a safe distance away.
Meanwhile, Katsu stood not far from the base of the throne’s steps, looking a bit at a loss for what to do as he stood his ground against the numerous spectral forms assaulting him. It was clear he would not retreat outside the area they could form in.
This was a good thing, since Dreamer needed him to finish this blasted scenario properly.
However, one skeletal form larger than the others languidly approached her wielding a large, serrated and barbed sword emitting a red hue she would ordinarily find pleasant. It was clear that the being beyond the Great Hall had put the majority of his consciousness that could be here, into this giant skeleton spectre. She vaguely recognised the sword as being one from some legend or other associated with Kings but did not currently care enough to pay attention to which it specifically was.
Instead, she rolled her eyes at the imposing bastard clearly heading to her and deftly spun and ran in the opposite direction, spun and ran in the opposite direction, heading towards Katsu instead.
“London King! Quickly go sit your ass on the throne and share your story with it like you did with me! It will choose whether to share its own with you in return!” she instructed as she ran up to him, slashing at the limbs of the damned god trying to tear him down. “This will continue until you do so! The stone speaks for itself, but it knows best who is worthy of ruling these lands!” She kicked aside a particularly grabby phantom reaching for him and gained a moment to breathe before adding in a clear, resonant tone directed more to the watching constellations than the man beside her, “It is time for the Speaking Stone to again choose the rightful King that sits on it.”
After saying this much, her eyes returned to Katsu as she said, “Go. We will hold them off until your exchange with the Stone is complete.”
After quickly processing what he had just been told, Katsu offered her an assessing look that read as lightly confused as to why she had not just sat on it herself, but after seeming to determine that this, too, was one way that the two of them differed and she must have had her reasons, he let her guard his back as he turned and ran for the stone at the top of the suddenly very imposing steps.
Dreamer noticed several system messages appearing extra-glitchily at the edge of her vision and saw that the messages had formed more clearly where her unconscious body was somewhere more distantly, being trampled underfoot by survivors and spectres before her friends had reached her, and read enough of them to see that her teammates were using the group chat function to ask her what the plan was, since things had clearly changed in bizarre manner.
Dreamer could not get the system to function well enough for her to send a reply to them and grew increasingly frustrated until she just called out loudly to them over the sounds of creepy dream spectres clashing blades with her, “Protect the London King until he reaches the Stone!” she instructed and watched them readily brave the danger of the lavender mists with only this suggestion and their faith in her obscure actions.
Meanwhile, while the spectres around her had proven to be entirely fightable, the figure looming behind her felt like they would be a greater threat. She wanted to groan as she glanced over to see that it had changed targets from her to Katsu, clearly having noticed that she was not the real threat here to its claim over the stone, but the King who would forge a new bond with it if he sat there.
Katsu managed extraordinarily well despite the being’s eerie presence and the imposing status oozing out of it, but he was not used to fighting under these conditions against beings that felt like nightmares did, in such a strong way.
Dreamer leapt back from the smaller spectres she was fighting and ran to intercept the big bastard trying to stop Katsu from reaching the stone. She vaguely saw a less-injured Damian and Anya coming to assist her with it.
She slid between the two, separating the two blades they had just crossed and causing the large skeleton to recoil backwards from the strength of the blow.
“Katsu, go! And remember: the Stone speaks for itself, despite being the core of its Stories!” she urged him, facing off with the monstrous thing that had borne the title of King many times, in many variations of this myth.
Though the form in front of her looked very different from the one she had most associated with this being from the myths she knew, and from this Story itself in the form it took within the

she’d known of, Dreamer still felt that this appearance suited it quite well.
This was a portion of the founder of the Absolute Throne. The being exuding the power of a King who could suppress all other Kings.
However, as Dreamer had frequently stated to anyone who would listen – she was no King.
She was a dreamer, and this was a space turned into a dream for her thanks to the attempted sabotage of another King.
In addition, for her, this ‘story’ had ceased to be solely about the Kings associated with it, but instead about the unacknowledged cogs of the stupid bloody cosmic stream of Story that this Story used and abused while both exploiting and denying their significance to the plot. To everything that made the Story so compelling but was never given its own say in things it was involved in. Yes, these things could be designated at sacred treasures, grails of fortune, or otherwise be ardently sought after by heroes and villains alike, but they were never allowed to be just what they had been before the Story came by and labelled it as all of that.
In this case, this story had ceased to be a story solely about the Kings it produced and demanded blood from, and instead was also about the stone used to declare them Kings in the first place. Not as a ‘throne’, grail, or cauldron, but as a stone that had existed longer than these stories had, had weathered more stories than it had been associated with.
Dreamer was not guarding Katsu’s ascent towards a throne only but defending the Stone’s right to speak for itself as it once had and been renowned for – been used for.
To be honest, a stone that could talk was already pretty f*cking amazing, if you asked her, before anyone had labelled it as anything other than just that – a stone.
Granted, its form of ‘talking’ was pretty different to what other people might assume of it, but what mattered was that this stone had once had a voice that had been broken and beaten out of it by those who either abused its traits or rejected its choices.
Honestly, Dreamer felt that this stone that was ‘just a stone’ was pretty f*cking relatable to their own situations, if she was being honest.
Well, this wouldn’t be the first time she had defended a stone as if it were its own being, though she supposed the ones she had befriended in the past had usually been somewhat sentient and not just… well, stone. However, it was never too late to learn! Even inanimate objects deserved their place in the so-called ‘Story’, and this one, that had been reaching out to have its essence known despite not being considered sentient or intelligent, Dreamer felt was well worth protecting in whichever form it chose to continue existing in.
Even if she had to fight some bitches about it.
The being before her also seemed unable to fully form words and sentences in a manner that could be interpreted easily by their current selves, but Dreamer nevertheless understood enough.
〖You broke you broke you broke〗it called in segmented semblances of words or thought, 〖the Story Story Story.〗The skeleton carrying a piece of the will of the being beyond the Great Hall clashed against her once more. 〖Must pay must pay must pay.〗
Dreamer realised, perhaps not for the first time, that even this small fragment of the being that was able to descend into this minimised form the dokkaebis allowed it to, was merely another example of a ‘cog’ in the machine, albeit one with slightly more recognition than that of the stone chair they were fighting for. As this entire space was filled with the same stuff she dreamt and breathed ever since she was born, Dreamer could easily pick up the faint traces of this fragment’s own history, bleeding through the boundaries of the consciousness through the medium of the dream space she was standing within.
Not every piece she picked up on matched the stories she knew of the one associated with this stone as its supposed ‘founder’. Not every piece was even named.
And not every piece of its story made this being as easy to hate as she had originally expected it to.
Some of the segments of the story leaking out from this being were even familiar to the stone’s, making her sword and stance waver just a little.
〖Throne prison throne prison throne prison〗the pieces without a voice seemed to be saying.
However, the present bearer of those sentiments and thoughts and histories was saying things that framed those words in a very different light.
〖Mine mine mine〗it called, [Throne Kings Throne Kings Throne Kings Mine Mine Mine.]
Quickly adjusting the way she interpreted this bastard’s own ‘Story’ that it was apparently also bound by and to like the stone, Dreamer realised that just because someone was bound by the Story, it did not mean that they would want to be free from it if they could still benefit from the retellings of it. If, like this being before her right now, they could use their own Stories to control or possess others associated with it.
While she felt that there might be a chance for her to find a way to recognise the being before her the way they were in their entirety rather than only the fragments she came across in other stories associated with it or borrowing from it to tell their own… right now, her priority was London, Katsu, and the Stone it had made use of to trap successive Kings through the

across numerous world lines up until now, and not the outer god acting like a possessive dick who might also be bound by the Stories that had created it.
Dreamer’s eyes hardened as she reasserted her stance against this guy. “Tch. If you truly want the Throne Kings to belong to you entirely, then ask them to sit on your own damn lap, you jerk!”
As even the sky seemed to pause in stunned silence at her words, Dreamer abruptly realised absolutely nobody would understand what she meant and her words sounded real f*cking bad.
“Err, that came out wrong – I meant, actually inform the Kings of the pact before you force it upon them through the otherwise unassuming and silent Stone over there. Though, if you genuinely asked them to sit on your lap instead of on the Stone, it would definitely lead to some very different choices, I’d wager, eh, heh heh…” she hastily tried to remedy the situation, only to realise it was a total mess and would almost definitely lead to some awkward scenario images in people’s heads.
Ah well. The important part was that this bastard should make it clear what bond or contract was being formed between it and the Kings if it really cared that much.
She tried to relay that sentiment once more, as clearly as possible, but things were not looking great.
〖My throne my throne my throne〗it angrily called while trying to beat her. [My Story my Story my Story.]
Dreamer glared fiercely back at it, sword raised. “The bonds between Stone and Story were formed long before you were even dreamt up as a concept!” At least, that was what she understood of every Story associated with it that she had yet heard – including from the Stone itself just now.
Not to mention, the earliest places Stories had been recorded – other than within people’s own memories – was on stone. No being resembling the quintessential King of Kings in every story could ever have existed as long as the stones had. The ‘stone’ had been there long before ‘mankind’ (or any analogues of them) had.
“And the stories you keep telling about this stone – Lia Fáil, the Speaking Stone, King’s Stone, Absolute Throne, Holy Grail, whatever else you want to call it and whichever form it takes – are wrong!” Dreamer removed a hand from her sword to point up the steps where Katsu had almost waded through the lesser spectres to reach. “The Stone speaks for itself! It Is a better ‘seer’ than any other on this Earth or in the skies watching! Let it stand for itself for once!”
After speaking, she railed against the being in front of her blade, attempting to push it back. She tried to explain to it – to all of them watching the scene right now – the things that she had learned about the centrepiece of this so-called scenario and Story.
Lia Fáil - the original one, not the remnants of one found in County Meath. The stone had never cried out in joy or anger when previous Kings had sat upon it. The stone had cried for what it saw and felt the Kings had and would soon go through while leading their kingdom.
And someone here had heard the voice it had long since stopped using after never being heard or believed. After it had been destroyed for daring to be silent once and had thus been silent ever after, despite being reused like this.
Someone was here to give it back its voice.
While battling the giant skeleton trying to break past her to the King approaching the throne, Dreamer reached out a hand towards the stone chair and directed the helpful orange particles that sometimes spoke secrets to her to form the things that went unsaid by the pieces of this continuous cosmic façade of an existence – by the stone crafted into nothing more than a throne with a fancy title and founder.
The orange particles formed legible text that all watching this ‘dream’ of hers could read and understand. [No more will I be sundered. I exist in this Story too.]
And as one of the most important ‘characters’ of the current telling of this particular story reached the foot of the throne where these words could be clearly read from and acknowledged the stone’s own separate existence as a part of it, every spectre stopped fighting to howl and wail in apparent outrage or frustration.
“Lia Fáil, she called you. My name is Katsuhito Amano, and as a newly-crowned King in the scenarios, I greet you. I hope you can accept me as I am, as I shall accept you as you are – with or without your associated history or abilities,” the London King rested a hand upon the arm of the throne while saying, ending his words with a light bow of recognition.
Then, before the spectres could reach him, he sat upon the stone.
The stone released a sound that was simultaneously that of cheering, crying, yelling and – unexpectedly – whistling, before a blue system message appeared above Katsu’s head declaring him the Absolute King of the London Dome, the dokkaebi above cursed profusely and tapped at his screen in response, and Dreamer felt everything go dark as something that felt even more like a nightmare emerged from the lavender haze behind her and wrapped around her in a crushing embrace.
The last things she saw were the new King with Lia Fáil atop the dais surrounded by gleaming golden light, and the dream-space spectres of the God of the Second World’s fragmented consciousness scattering back to their original location.
Her dream had ended with the successful announcement of the London King Katsu and the freedom of the Speaking Stone’s autonomy.



If only this achievement had not come with the forced separation of everyone she had come to know and love in London.
Somewhere above her unconscious body and mind, the dokkaebi in charge of the London Dome had an angry, insidious smile on their face. [Since you all love being in the Story together so much, let’s change things up a little! Maybe now you will learn that every incarnation can only survive if they rely on themselves, alone! No ‘secret’ knowledge can help you when you are alone, after all! See how you fare without it!]
Every being present was then forcibly relocated around the city – including the King himself who had only just forged a bond with the Stone.
This time, while the dream for her had ended, Dreamer’s consciousness did not go wandering off into other spaces and worlds but remained within her own unconscious body, while across the continents, another (unaware) dreamer in Seoul destroyed the stone fragment in his own Dome and prevented the Story repeating in his own way, without Dreamer being present to intervene or assist.
Like fishes in the water spooked by a predator, Dreamer and her friends scattered within the sea they had been swimming in.
~~~~~
fin

Chapter 55: Author’s Notes

Chapter Text

Nobody who doesn’t want to remain dead, gone, or restart fresh lives remains unfindable in this story. Not even the background characters, or those ’forgotten’ by the story.
If this universe has taught us anything, it is that nobody’s existence truly ‘ends’ unless they want it to.
Thus, they will always still be found, even if they become lost.
I have faith in that, even if we can never be certain about our own memories completely.
-
Describing a thing that already exists in my own way. Discrepancies possible.

Chapter 56: Extra – Dance Break

Chapter Text

The great hall was bustling with activity as Kim Dokja stepped forth across the threshold, holding the hand of his guide. She had led him here from the subway platform that lay just outside this building, warded by whatever magical bullsh*t kept ordinary people from questioning the magical dream journey train’s presence wherever it ended up. His guide had been the only one to see the train and know it for what it was and to lead him from the lonely station and into the light of the material world he had dearly missed being seen within.
Being seen was something he would take some time to adjust to. Most of the time he wasn’t able to interact with the worlds he watched over. That is, until his lessons had begun, at least.
This guide felt familiar, but he could not immediately place her. It felt as if she had been present in many of his dreams, but in the background – a kind of observer, just like him.
Well, not just like him since she could be seen.
“This is where I leave you, good sir. I have other wards to guide here tonight. Please enjoy the party.” Having said her piece, the guide released his hand and curtsied elegantly, stepping back and turning to head back down the stairs of the entrance, towards another direction, where a floating whale with wings was just landing. One of the guests had a strange symbol marking their hand.
“Wait!” Kim Dokja called out to her. “What is your name?”
The guide beamed and supplied, “You can call me Emmy. You’ll likely see me around plenty. I am a world-walker, of a different sort to you. Your friend asked for your attendance today, as I mentioned on the walk up here – she’s actually spotted you, you know? You should go to her.” The guide – Emmy – gestured towards a woman with her jaw hanging open at the bottom of the stairs. Her face held a stunning beauty, despite the current dumbstruck expression she had on.
It was a very familiar, beloved, beautifully dumbstruck face.
Emmy left quietly upon seeing their interaction, heading for the cetaceous being with several adventurers on her back wielding swords and magical weapons.
Meanwhile, Kim Dokja took a couple of dazed steps towards the staircase leading onto the party floor, his heart thundering in his ears. He had seen so many worlds – so many, and yet… this was a face he had not been able to see much of, and which had never been able to see much of his back.
A member of staff at the top of the stairs announced Kim Dokja’s presence as he stepped forwards. This was apparently their role in this gathering. [Introducing constellation ‘Demon King of Salvation’, the ‘Watcher of Light and Darkness’, Kim Dokja.]
Everyone’s attention turned towards the stairs but many quickly turned away again. All except a group of people wearing similarly dazed expressions.
Kim Dokja stepped forwards and descended the stairs towards them.
At the bottom, he asked, “I heard this was your arrangement? Thank you.”
The woman shook herself free of her daze and launched herself at him, tackling him into a hug. “I can’t believe it worked! I mean, I was the one writing it, but nothing worked before now so I wasn’t sure that this time – I – you –“ She shook her head and then stepped back from him, only far enough to look into his face. She kept her hands on either shoulder as she glared fiercely at him. “You. Are terrible. But this is supposed to be a fun break for you, so I shall hold my tongue. Mostly. You have a lot of people who miss you, so you can’t do any stupid sh*t tonight! Only dancing and having fun, okay?” Her eyes seemed a little moist as she spoke, and her lips trembled, but he did not point this out to her.
Meanwhile, the others had broken free from their own daze and approached at speed.
Kim Dokja, the Most Ancient Dream, found himself tackle-hugged by two teenagers while numerous adults swarmed around him, either reprimanding him for his absence or explaining tearily all that he had missed while he had been gone, stuck on his train to everywhere and nowhere (and elsewhere).
He ended up speaking for some time with them about their lives, and his heart ached at having been unable to see them grow in the time they had been separated.
Then someone else was announced, and down stepped Yoo Joonghyuk.
Except he was introduced as The Punisher. And she looked glorious in her tailored black suit.
Kim Dokja had long since heard about her ‘real’ identity as Yoo Joonghyuk but seeing her in that form while knowing this information was new for him. He had had the thought before, but it seemed like Yoo Joonghyuk was destined to be outstanding in the looks department regardless of which form he took.
Kim Dokja, with his frequently filtered face, was only a little envious of this. But mostly awed.
Before she reached them, Lee Gilyoung had already tugged at Kim Dokja’s sleeve and assertively requested, “Hyung, dance with me!”
Kim Dokja nodded. “Of course, Gilyoung-ah.”
With this, he let the teen tug him onto the dance floor and began to laugh while spinning him back and forth and goofing off with him while creating silly dances.
After a short while, his dance partner was somewhat testily shoved aside by Shin Yoosung, who took his hand in her small one and led him through some more formal dance steps. He was impressed – had she been practising?
Noticing his perplexed expression, Shin Yoosung laughed lightly. “You are the one who encouraged me with this before, ahjussi! When I was worried about meeting the disaster version of me in the fifth scenario. You wanted me to have an outlet for my emotions, and suggested dance. Remember?”
And now that she said it, he did remember. Memories of a wary and concerned Shin Yoosung fidgeting restlessly with herself during a moment of downtime in-between their traveling resurfaced in his mind. He had suggested a motion-based outlet as a result of this, and dance had been something they could more easily do in an apocalypse than things like painting, crafting, or writing, which required tools normally.
He was pleasantly surprised that she had kept up with it all this time. “I take it you still find it a useful skill? Have you been taking lessons?”
Shin Yoosung smiled and nodded. “Yes! My school holds after-hours sessions often and I try to learn different styles whenever new classes show up. Creative arts are popular nowadays, so the classes are always full.”
They danced and spun around a bit longer before Lee Jihye approached and gestured with her thumb for Shin Yoosung to allow her to have a turn dancing. Shin Yoosung begrudgingly allowed it and stepped aside.
Lee Jihye stepped on his toes quite a lot, but it seemed to all be quite accidental.
“Stop putting your feet in the way!” she said with clear frustration. “No offence, but you are terrible at dancing.”
Kim Dokja only sighed and kept dancing.
She was now fully grown, and he was sad to have missed her progression. She seemed to be more mature and steadier than when they had last interacted.
Unlike some of the others, this was one person he had seen many, many versions of during most of his dreams, for she was one of Yoo Joonghyuk’s beloved companions throughout the regressions.
However, that didn’t mean that he didn’t miss this Lee Jihye insanely much. He had seen her but she had never seen him in all of those worlds – though there had been moments when he’d thought maybe she had sensed him.
Next up to dance with the Demon King was Lee Hyunsung, who was surprisingly good at dancing.
This was not something that Kim Dokja had read about or seen of this man across different worlds.
“Sangah-ssi showed me some steps,” he explained. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t know what to do.”
Kim Dokja grinned at him and waltzed across the floor in time with the music. “Do you want to tell me about your army days? I told you I wanted to hear more since that time. I know we already saw some of it when you were trapped in Oz, but I’d prefer to hear the rest of it from you.”
Lee Hyunsung’s eyes began shining. “Dokja-ssi remembered? I will tell you everything!”
And so, he did, only stopping once Jung Heewon showed up with a smirk.
Jung Heewon knew how to dance just fine. But she purposefully kept tripping him up, just to catch him with flourishes as he nearly fell. Watching this, all the others were greatly amused and approving.
Yoo Sangah was next, and she did not trip him up at all, though she did tease him a little about Jung Heewon’s performance. Kim Dokja lamented; if he had known this would be the treatment he received from his friends upon receipt of a ‘dancing extra’, he would have…
Well. He would still definitely have come here and joined in. He had missed them all too much. Even their teasing.
Yoo Sangah grinned at him as if she could see the thoughts swirling in his eyes. “Dokja-ssi, you’re having fun, right? I didn’t know you could dance like this!” she said cheerily while being twirled in place.
Kim Dokja shrugged as he took her hand again. “I picked up some new skills recently, from having too much time on my hands. Dancing is much better with company than when alone, however. I much prefer it like this, so thank you. All of you, really, for coming here to spend the time with me. I’ve missed you all a lot – more than I can easily describe.”
Yoo Sangah teared up and stopped dancing to throw her arms around him, holding tightly. “We missed you so much too, Dokja-ssi. Even if one version of you is with us… we miss every one of you.”
Jang Hayoung came to replace the teary Yoo Sangah. She held out an intricate, handsome wire mesh mask. “Put this on. I can’t dance with you like this; you look too much like Kim Dokja. I want to dance with the Demon King of Salvation instead.”
‘This punk,’ Kim Dokja thought to himself, but sighed and put the fancy mask on, taking her hand and dancing around with her while Jang Hayoung asked him familiar questions about his exploits and newer questions about what he had seen and done more recently. Kim Dokja found it was easier to describe some of the things he’d been exposed to recently to her than he had initially come to expect, and shared more of himself than he ordinarily might have.
Huh. Maybe he was getting better at being open about himself after all. Or perhaps Jang Hayoung was easy to speak with because of her enthusiasm for his celebrity persona.
Yoo Sangah had to prod Han Sooyoung into dancing with him next. She practically hissed back at her before moving to take Jang Hayoung’s place.
“Alright, twinkle toes,” she said the pun with a smirk, “let’s see if you can keep up!”
This time, Kim Dokja smirked back. “Alright. Then, please don’t complain if you feel dizzy.”
The music seemed to know to pick up the pace into a boppy swing-jazz number as Kim Dokja and Han Sooyoung danced across the floor with the other constellations and guests. There were many twirls and lifts, even with Han Sooyoung grumbling along the way about his hold or posture.
He was curious. “How do you know so much about dancing? I would have expected you to hate it.”
Han Sooyoung shrugged after she lifted him higher before spinning him out and in again. “One of my parents said it was a necessary part of my education. It was one of the few times they deigned to pay any sort of attention to my learning or life. I ended up enjoying it more than I thought, too, but didn’t really have a use for it outside of classes. That’s where my friend came from, that tried to set me up on that date I know someone told you about; the dance classes.”
Kim Dokja ‘ahh’ed and slowed down their pace to fit the new tune. “Well, I am grateful that you are comfortable sharing your lessons with me, then. By the way, thank you for writing this for me, ‘Professor’. I didn’t know it could be this fun just to dance with all of you, and to see you all again. It has been… a very long time for me.”
Han Sooyoung nodded. “It has been too long for us, as well.” Her voice sounded slightly hoarse as she spoke, but she cleared it away and continued. “Ah, it would be really nice if you could stay with us, but I know you don’t have a choice in that matter yet, do you?”
He shook his head sadly. “Unfortunately, not yet. I have hope for the future, however. This has given me plenty to work with if I am being honest. And I am better at doing that now, you might have noticed.”
Han Sooyoung nodded as they swayed. “I did notice. That’s good. Maybe then you’ll know not to do stupid sh*t without telling us, aye?”
Kim Dokja offered a bittersweet smile. “I make no promises.”
Han Sooyoung lightly punched him on the arm.
Next up was Yoo Joonghyuk. She stomped over to him and gently shoved Han Sooyoung away to take her spot.
“Ack – alright! No need to be pushy, Yoo Joonghyuk! Why must you be a jerk in every form, hmm? Bah. Enjoy your dance, fools. I’m going to go get a drink,” she said while raising her hands in the air in exasperation and heading away.
Kim Dokja’s face was very red as he took Yoo Joonghyuk’s hand.
Yoo Joonghyuk frowned. “What is it? Why do you look like that?”
Kim Dokja shook his head and tried not to comment on Yoo Joonghyuk’s current form, because he knew that she could take any that she wanted, so if she wanted this one, then it was fine.
Well, mostly. It just meant he would be a bit at a loss for how to, uhh, use his words. Because even if he had been told that this was a thing, he still couldn’t easily wrap his head around it.
1865 turns he had read about, and many of them he had even seen by this point. Yet he had never actually caught Yoo Joonghyuk in this form knowingly before. It was something he was not used to, and since it felt so new to him, his brain couldn’t quite catch up with the fact that this wasn’t an out-of-character decision, but rather just another facet of Yoo Joonghyuk herself.
He couldn’t help but blurt out, “Why are you in this form?”
Yoo Joonghyuk blinked momentarily before her eyebrows knit together in displeasure. She seemed to have mellowed out a bit in the time since they’d last seen each other since Kim Dokja could not feel any killing intent from her. “…It is my preferred form to dance in,” she explained.
“Oh,” Kim Dokja said very smartly. “I guess that makes sense. Uhh, cool?”
Yoo Joonghyuk glared at him. Ah, he had missed that glare!
Surprisingly, Yoo Joonghyuk offered further information about herself. “…It is also the form I learned in. My master taught me a lot of it as part of her ‘training’.” Her eyes flicked over to where Namgung Minyoung and Kyrgios were dancing and watching over them nearby.
“Ah, I see,” Kim Dokja said cleverly, but with interest. “That explains a lot, actually,” and it did.
The song changed to a kind of tango, and Yoo Joonghyuk pulled Kim Dokja closer for the dance.
They heard what sounded rather similar to a kettle squealing nearby and looked across to find Uriel covering her mouth and nose with her hands. Abyssal Black Flame Dragon was rolling his eyes beside her (Sun Wukong was too busy dancing with Jang Hayoung to notice their antics, however). Gabriel rolled her eyes too and grabbed Uriel by the arm to drag her off onto the dance floor, though where Uriel could still easily see the dancing duo she loved from.
The next person to get to dance with Kim Dokja was Persephone, who took the form of Yoo Sangah again to tease him, though it did not affect him the same way anymore. He had long since gotten used to his group’s uncanny beauty and was much wiser and too mature to be caught up by –
Persephone changed to look like The Punisher who had just left.
She grinned as she watched Kim Dokja’s face shift. Then she changed into Han Sooyoung and laughed some more, and then to male Yoo Joonghyuk. All of them were wearing the same, cursed outfit.
Kim Dokja looked very bullied. Kim Dokja felt very bullied. Kim Dokja decided to use words to convince her to stop. “Mother, please stop playing. Everyone is watching, you know.”
Persephone laughed again but changed into what seemed to be her most comfortable form that Kim Dokja associated with her only. [I am aware. Your face is too easy to tease, though. It is too much fun.]
After dancing for a little while very elegantly with his adoptive parent (his blood mother had stayed behind with the less-conscious Kim Dokja), Kim Dokja came face to face with a little girl who bore his resemblance quite a lot.
She beamed up at him. The horn on her forehead would have made her easily recognisable to him, even had she not felt so strongly connected to him.
As it was, Biyoo reached out for her father and made him dance with her too.
“You have grown very well, Biyoo. I am glad,” he said with soft eyes.
“I have. Captain has been very involved in my life since we met up again in the Dark Stratum,” she explained.
Kim Dokja had heard about this story too. He ruffled her hair and pulled her into a hug mid-dance, kneeling down to wrap his arms around her properly. “I am glad, Biyoo. You have done very well.”
This time it was his turn to get teary-eyed.
The night went on for much longer than it probably was meant to, but none of them questioned it, merely enjoying being in each other’s company and catching up with Kim Dokja.
None of them wanted to say goodbye.
Of course, there was no need to say goodbye specifically.
When it was time to go and Emmy came back to guide him, she offered an insight into the future: “You will see him again soon. All of him.”
The others all wanted to ask questions but stopped when they saw Kim Dokja’s surprised expression. Apparently, there was no-one here who wanted that to be true more than he did, and his emotions were on full display upon hearing it.
His awe and hope turned into softness and slyness as his lips twitched back into his trademark unlucky smile. “Well then, I will see you all later, won’t I?”
“Mmh,” Han Sooyoung agreed. “We will see you later, Kim Dokja.”
The others all echoed their hearty and sometimes teary agreement of this sentiment.
Kim Dokja left the party feeling more hopeful than he had been for a long, long time.
~~~~~
fin

Not a Story But A Life: Building Bridges - erytherion - 전지적 독자 시점 - 싱숑 | Omniscient Reader (2024)
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