‘Future’ was a very vague term. It could be referring to a time period beyond now or the abstract concept of what was upcoming. When this term was used on the whole of humankind, the idea it embodied suddenly became extraordinarily heavy.
What did the future of humankind refer to?
Such a question floated in Roel’s mind as he slowly began to regain consciousness. Everything that had happened before he passed out flashed across his head. When he finally opened his eyes once more, he found himself lying in a clean bedroom. He blinked his eyes blankly before abruptly rising upward.
“… Where am I?”
Roel clutched his aching body as he began scanning his surroundings. There was furniture in the room, but the lack of personal possessions hinted that it was unoccupied prior to his arrival.
Is it a temporary ward?, Roel wondered.
Before he could say anything, a glowing spirit suddenly descended from the sky. It circled above him for a while before heading toward the doorway.
Is it telling me to follow it?
Catching the spirit’s drift, Roel got down from his bed and walked out of the bedroom. He found himself faced with a dark and empty corridor. After turning at a few bends, he finally arrived at the main hall located at the center of the building.
The spirit suddenly flew upward at this point, and Roel’s eyes moved along with it. There, he caught sight of a figure floating in the middle of the hall.
It was a black-haired woman donning a long dress. She was the person whom Roel had asked for help yesterday night, but compared to before, Astrid appeared to be a little fatigued.
Perhaps sensing Roel’s stare, she opened her eyes and gazed upon him in surprise.
“Are you already able to walk? It looks like you have healed up well.”
Astrid descended from the sky as she spoke.
Roel was dazed for a brief instant before anxiously asking about everything that had happened after he lost consciousness. Astrid chuckled softly and filled him in on the aftermath of the battle that occurred yesterday night.
After parting ways from Roel last night, she managed to arrive at the battlefield in time and saved Lilian from Priestley’s attack. She was forced to clash with Priestley in the midst of doing so, and their battle ended up reducing an entire half of Leinster to rubble.
Currently, both Astrid and Priestley were in the midst of recuperating from their exertion.
“Had we fought in the academy, I would have been able to use my Dream Realm Barrier to protect the buildings in the vicinity. That would have limited the damage to Leinster.”
“Dream Realm Barrier?”
“Yes, it allows me to overlay the Dream Realm over reality. Any destruction caused within the range of the barrier would vanish once the barrier is removed,” said Astrid.
Roel widened his eyes as he finally understood why this monumental battle didn’t leave any marks in Saint Freya Academy in the present timeline. He proceeded to ask where Lilian was, and the response he received was that the latter had fallen asleep after undergoing treatment.
His heart finally settled down upon hearing the news. Astrid smiled at the tight bond shared by the duo, but to her surprise, Roel didn’t leave right away but instead asked her a crucial question.
“May I ask what someone as powerful as you is protecting here?” asked Roel, intrigued.
The fact that Astrid was able to fight the Magician King squarely and retreat without sustaining any severe injuries showed that she was an expert of the same caliber as the latter, an Origin Level 1 transcendent. It bewildered him to know that there was something so important here that it actually necessitated the protection by an Origin Level 1.
Astrid fell into contemplative silence upon hearing Roel’s question. In the end, she sighed softly and began speaking.
“I’m protecting a relic that affirms the Tripartite Alliance in the ancient era—Chaos Dream.”
“Tripartite Alliance? Chaos Dream?”
“Yes. The Tripartite Alliance consists of the angels, the dragons, and the high elves. It was formed in order to fend against the Great Ones who have descended into lunacy. The Chaos Dream was created with the efforts of the three races, and it goes by another name as well—Savior Dream.”
The sudden emergence of a familiar name astonished Roel.
Astrid nodded in response before revealing the truth of what she had been guarding over the last few centuries.
The Savior was one of the Great Ones in the ancient era, an existence that surpassed the gods. He once ushered in a prosperous era, but just like how light and shadow were two sides of the same coin, His descent into depravity stirred countless calamities too. It resulted in the decline and eventual extinction of many of the ancient races.
The Savior had fallen into hibernation since then, but even so, His very existence remained a huge problem.
For one, the Savior wasn’t in a deep sleep, and his mere subconsciousness had the power to lure individuals into depravity and expand his faith. Once every few centuries, he would show signs of awakening. The degree and length of awakening differed each time around, but it always resulted in a tragic bloodbath.
“As His deranged murmurs resounded in the recesses of minds, dragons would sink their teeth into their brethren’s flesh, angels would draw their swords against one another, and even the less affected high elves would display signs of lunacy. In order to free themselves from this unending cycle of nightmare, the three strongest races put their strength together to forge the Chaos Dream and entrusted it to the care of the dreamwalkers.”
Dreamwalkers were an unusual race on the Sia Continent. They had a unique constitution where their bodies would be incorporeal in the day and materialize at night, thus resetting any unnatural afflictions every half-day. This constitution made them the only race other than the ancient Kingmaker Clan that could withstand the Savior’s temptation into depravity.
Stronger dreamwalkers were at least sufficiently resilient to withstand the Savior’s insanity for half a day, and their depravity would be reset at daybreak. On top of that, their nature allowed them to freely control the Chaos Dream.
The Tripartite Alliance worked out with the help of the dreamwalkers. The Savior fell into a prolonged deep sleep under the control of the Chaos Dream.
But just like how even tall mountains would eventually be reduced to sand, as eras changed, the ancient races gradually died out and the heritage of the Chaos Dream went missing. By the time it came to the prosperous era of humankind, the Savior had already ended his hibernation. Calamities that had disappeared since the ancient era reemerged in the world, threatening the survival of all races.
It was only when the Twilight Sages Assembly appeared in the Second Epoch that things finally changed.
“At the crucial moment, the Ardes, who were the only ones who still possessed a sliver of the heritage, led the refugees of the other races on an expedition and successfully retrieved the Chaos Dream, but they ended up paying a heavy price for it too. The first leader of the Twilight Sages Assembly, Lucent Arde, lost his life in the midst of the journey, and nearly all of the founding members met their end. Yet, while the Ardes were at their weakest ever, they ended up coming under the pursuit of the Savior’s worshipers due to the Chaos Dream.
“The worshipers of the Savior had quietly expanded in the shadows for over a thousand years by then, and their influence was so great that it permeated every nook and cranny of the Ancient Austine Empire. The Ackermanns were caught between a rock and a hard place and eventually chose to turn a blind eye to the Ardes in order to preserve the empire. In the end, the cornered Ardes had no choice but to split into seven separate houses, thus ending its days of glory.”
Astrid’s voice sounded a little choked up speaking up to this point. Roel was also left at a loss for words. He never thought that such a fate would befall those who had put their lives on the line to preserve human civilization.
“My father, Boris Arde, was one of the founding members of the Twilight Sages Assembly whereas my mother, Ester, was a descendant of the dreamwalkers. Both of them died in the midst of that chaos. Even so, we still held firm and refused to hand over the Chaos Dream, and it was thanks to that that humankind was able to survive to this day,” said Astrid proudly.
It turned out that she also had supporting evidence behind that, much to Roel’s surprise.
To put it simply, the Chaos Dream had the ability to suppress the deviants’ activities.
“To be more exact, the deviants’ level of activity is closely related to the Savior’s degree of awakening. We speculate that the deviants might be a fallen ancient race or a congregation of the Savior’s worshipers. Other than that, the Chaos Dream also has the power to intercept the Savior’s powers and prevent more people from descending into depravity and lunacy. The reason why I’m unable to move is due to the outbreak of war with the deviants.”
“Outbreak of war with the deviants?” asked Roel.
Astrid nodded in response.
“That’s right. The Chaos Dream is not something tangible; it exists only in the Dream Realm. I had to enter the depths of the Dream Realm in order to guide the Savior into a deeper sleep, which ended up restraining my movements as well. What you’re seeing right now is no more than my projection.”
“I-I see. This is really…”
The sudden influx of answers to unresolved mysteries overwhelmed Roel. If what Astrid said was true, she was pretty much a one-man army standing at the frontlines of humankind.
He finally understood what Antonio meant when he said that Astrid was protecting the future of humankind, as well as the sorrowful look on his face when he said those words.
Astrid’s deed was noble.
Despite not receiving honor or glory for her sacrifice, she continued to immerse herself in the Dream Realm to protect humankind through the Chaos Dream. In order to ensure that she wouldn’t be found by the enemies, she buried her identity and restricted herself to Saint Freya Academy for centuries almost as if she was a prisoner.
There was no other choice. The Chaos Dream had to be sustained with the dreams of a lot of transcendents, and the only place in the world that fulfilled such a requirement was Leinster.
Roel could sense that even though Astrid was from the Arde House, she wasn’t a possessor of the Ascart Bloodline, which meant that she was silently guarding the final embers of the Ardes’ glory despite only being an ordinary family member.
His heart felt heavy at that thought, and he looked at Astrid with reddened eyes.
“How… did you manage to hold on for so long?” he asked.
“… I don’t know. I was probably fueled by my indignation. I couldn’t bear to watch our house fall just like that. I couldn’t bear the thought that my ancestors’ blood had been shed in vain. I couldn’t bear the notion that no one will ever know of our story.”
Astrid closed her eyes with a bitter look on her face.
“I do get afraid at times. I’m slowly losing touch with the world. I had to sever all of my connections in order to conceal my identity. I don’t even know how the current generation of the Ascarts is faring… or that there’s such an outstanding descendent of ours like you out there in the world.”
Astrid gently placed her hand on Roel’s head and smiled.
Roel’s eyes reddened. He felt a strong urge to inform Astrid of his origin, but the moment he tried to speak up, he was silenced by the rules of the Witness State.
“Alright, let’s not talk about my affairs anymore. There’s something far more important that you have to do now.”
Oblivious to Roel’s current state, Astrid dabbed her moist eyes with a handkerchief before pointing to the room Lilian was in. Then, she spoke with a gentle voice.
“We don’t have much time left. You should leave offspring behind.”