*Bang!* Rocks and soil were sent flying everywhere, and the place where Leylin had just stood immediately turned into a giant pit in the ground.
‘Extremely fast, with great strength. As expected of a defensive creature that was contaminated by dreamforce…’ Leylin assessed the centipede indifferently from the very edge of the pit.
“Human, you have provoked me! I, Zelos the Third, will make you pay the price!” The giant centipede shouted. Face after face separated from its body, each transforming into a strange, humanoid figure.
“I’ll be honest. You’re much easier to deal with than a Nightmare that can use dreamforce skillfully or a walking piano that can’t be dealt with via normal magic.” Finishing this earnest declaration, Leylin pointed the Red Dragon Staff at the centipede.
*Roar!* A powerful draconic aura erupted from the staff. The red dragon’s soul seemed to endure some torturous force on the staff’s tip. It shrunk as its spirit withered considerably.
A surging red energy glowed at the end of the staff, transforming into the upper body of a mature red dragon.
*Roar!* This monster which had appeared so abruptly had reached legendary strength, and a swipe from its enormous dragon claws sent the centipede flying. Afterwards, this legendary dragon spat out its dragon breath!
*Bang! Bang! Bang!* The ground trembled continuously, and even the dark red mist in the air was dispersed considerably. The enormous red dragon phantom dissipated, only leaving behind a giant imprint of a centipede monster on the ground.
The monster looked very miserable and the summoned mask creatures had been completely exterminated. Even the armour it wore seemed to be rather damaged.
“Ow… How could the power of the normal world harm Zelos the Third?” The centipede monster had been torn in half, its breastplate shattered to pieces. Its fiery red energy core was even exposed, but the mask on its skull did not show the slightest hint of suffering. It continued to absorb traces of dark red mist that repaired the damaged shell.
“Of course the power of the ordinary world cannot harm dreamscape creatures, but what if dreamforce was used as well?” Although he saw that the creature was being rapidly restored, a smile of success still flashed across Leylin’s eyes.
“Arcane dreamforce spell— Void Blade!” Some unknown force caused the dark red fog to condense, transforming it into an arc of light.
“If one wants to break through the first layer of the Nightmare Forest, you need to make a sacrifice to Sibyl!” After two years of slow and fumbling analysis, Leylin had developed an exceptional understanding of the Nightmare Forest’s surface layer.
“Giant centipede, become my sacrifice!” The dark red blade of light flew from his hands and streaked cleanly through the centipede creature’s exposed red core.
Enormous cracks appeared on the surface of the core. A crisp sound rang out as it exploded loudly, shattering like glass.
The whimpers and howls of many aggrieved spirits lingered in Leylin’s ear as confused souls poured out from the centipede monster’s wounds. These souls took the form of the natives of the forest, and there were a few familiar-looking pirates mixed in with them.
“Open the path with souls, Sibyl’s sacrifice!” Leylin’s hands sketched out numerous runes at lightning speed as he chanted ancient words out loud.
*Bzzt!* A layer of suffocating energy swept across the forest. Many souls were gathered together and became a gorgeously lit passageway.
“The blood of a witch, a dark raven’s wing, and the dark matter from Manter’s sacrificial rites… The conditions have all been fulfilled!”
A sound of muffled thunder came from above as Leylin’s actions seemed to have given rise to some chain reaction. Violet lightning blanketed the sky!
*Ka-cha! Bang!* The passageway of souls rushed forward in a flash, and an enormous tunnel seemed to appear in the ground. The floor began to rumble as if an 8-point earthquake had been triggered.
“Was it a success?” Leylin’s figure emerged from the smoke and dust. He waved a hand, and a dark red hurricane immediately swept away the dust to expose a devastated landscape.
The giant centipede monster and the spell array from before had vanished without a trace. The very earth seemed to have cracked apart, revealing a crevice that was unfathomably deep.
“The power of the lock has been broken, revealing the entrance to the lower layers,” Leylin jumped into the crevice without the slightest hesitation. The turbulent darkness below gobbled him up as if he had leapt into the mouth of some giant monster.
The air whistled past his ears loudly, and spots of fluorescence constantly flashed in the darkness like fireflies.
“My research indicates that the Nightmare Wizard’s inheritance has three locks total. The higher locks are closer to the World of Gods…’
The creatures in Nightmare Forest were bigger than those of the normal world. The deeper inside the forest one went, the greater the contamination of dreamforce. Even laws began to distort at a point.
Leylin had deduced that the third level of the lock would not have such constructs as time and space, instead being a mere assembly of thoughts and concepts. After all, it wasn’t difficult for dreamforce to contort spacetime at its strongest.
“No matter what, I have to at least see the remnants of this ancient Nightmare Wizard…”
*Thud! Thud!* Leylin suddenly felt a strange sensation from the solid ground. He stood rooted in place.
“Not granite… but mahogany planks?” Leylin raised his head, and sunlight shone gently into the room he was in. Motes of dust could be seen floating in the air, making the place look hazy.
“Little Ardin! The great wizard Poffert is here to recruit an apprentice; you must succeed this time!” A lady with a kind and gentle expression stood before Leylin, and her husband sipped on coffee as he read the newspaper. She gave a red haired boy a poached egg as she instructed him.
‘What’s happening?’ Leylin’s brows furrowed and he felt a chill down his spine. He tried to react, but found that he had completely lost all energy. He was now only a spectral observer, forced to just stare at the scene.
‘Dreamscape! I’m in dreamscape! This is the second floor of the lock, countless fantasy dream worlds!’ Leylin was suddenly enlightened.
‘This must be the Nightmare Wizard’s memories of his youth…’ Leylin now looked at the little boy tucking in on a high seated chair and hastily wolfing down a meal. His legs were dangling off the ground as they shook, giving off a comical vibe.
“I know, mother!” The red haired boy promised and began to quickly finish eating his food.
“When I send you to the wizard later, you must remember to be polite at all times! Honey, why don’t you say a few things to him too?” The wife glared at her husband.
It was only then that the dead husband raised his head from the newspaper, revealing a perplexed expression, “Yea, you can do this!”
“Ah, the grace of gods! Someone save me, I can’t stand this any longer. Don’t you know how important today is for little Ardin?” The wife seemed to turn estranged.
“I know, I know! It’s just Poffert isn’t it? I once…” The middle aged man reminisced the past.
“Stop boasting of those adventures you claim to have had. No matter what, you’re just an inspector on the roads of the city…” It was apparent that the wife did not believe a word that her husband said.
“I’m done eating!” Ardin pushed his plate away as he stood up.
“Oh! Wait… Milk! Your milk!” The woman called out behind him.
Ardin ran very quickly, soon leaving his mother in the distance as he left the simple house.
*Boom!* A fiery explosion suddenly occurred, and blazing flames filled the scene. Shrapnel grazed past Ardin’s face, leaving behind a cross shaped wound on it.
Leylin felt like he was watching a movie, unable to help in a time of tragedy.
‘No! If I go all out, I might be able to…’ The flames engulfed Leylin whole, but could not affect his body in any way. A phantom Targaryen appeared as terrifying devouring power took form in Leylin’s right palm. He grabbed a broken glass.
*Boom!* He felt an immense force immediately, as if he was clutching onto the claw of a dragon. The whole world began to shake as if rejecting his existence.
‘Even if it's dreamscape, I cannot tamper with this… The memory is just too vivid…’ Leylin began to deliberate over the situation.
Soon after, the trembling of the world stopped and the void swirled.
“Hey kiddo! Are you awake now?” The scene changed as little Ardin opened his eyes and rubbed his face. The sharp pain from the touch caused him to inhale a deep breath.
“Don’t look anymore, you’re disfigured now… Hehe… Not bad, you’re to my liking…” An ancient voice spoke with a tinge of mockery, as if it contained all the evil in the world. It would cause one to cower in fear.
Little Ardin raised his head, and only saw darkness in front of him, just having taken on human form.
“Huehuehue… I’ll give you a chance because of your father. As long as you manage to survive, you will become the disciple of the Nightmare Wizard…” The darkness disappeared after the black figure spoke, revealing a pack of hungry grey wolves which eyed the little boy ravenously.
Leylin had learnt his lesson this time, and only watched on coldly at the struggle between little Ardin and the wolves. His gaze was indifferent, only with the occasional flickering of light from the A.I. Chip.
“This should be a small world close to Dreamscape. Also, the way this Magus chooses his students is rather savage…” Leylin knew that back when he was still a human, he had no chance of dealing with these creatures.
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