When all hope was lost, that man stood tall.

The Knight was unbending. The shadow he cast couldn’t be matched. His mere entrance crushed the very concept of despair beneath that steel-studded combat-boot. His trouser and cloth, lined with cutting-edge reinforcement and alchemical coating, were pure black aside the symbol of hope, sown proudly on the jacket woven from an evil dragon’s muscle-fiber. White, disorderly hair flowed in the wind. Matted masked with a glowing red visor obscured his face, but not the undying hope he inspired. 

Yuri didn’t see his entrance, neither did Shyme nor the dazed Sonovia, but they saw the effect of his arrival.

Orwell’s ball of deadly cold dissipated upon his outstretched hand. Poppies, winds and the very concept of wishes stirred into the storm to herald his coming. In ‌a field covered with snow and defeat, where flames fail to ignite, the very image of this man — this superhero — lit the fire of dreams like someone jammed the entire output of the Hoover Dam into a single light bulb.

The reaction to his sudden appearance varied.

“Who?” Sonovia gaped at the white hair Knight.

“How are you here?” Shyme couldn’t believe the sight of the familiar man.

“What?” Yuri barely comprehended his savior.

But the crowning reaction was Orwell.

“This is fantastic,” Orwell laughed out loud like his birthday came early. “You guys and your godly timing. I half-hoped for Chronicler, but I got you instead.” Orwell smiled ear-to-ear. “The head honcho made an appearance himself.” Orwell spoke the name of the unknown legend. “How’re you doing, Dream?”

The masked man, Dream, turned to look at Shyme and spoke the immortal words.

“Long-time-no-see, Uncle-con.”

It was then the tension demolished.

“Uncle-con?” Sonovia didn’t know where on the planet Venus did this start and end.

“Wait,” Yuri realized what was being talked about. “Are you sayin—”

“STOP!” Shyme interrupted the dangerous conversation. “Don’t you dare talk about that!”

“I don’t know,” the modulated voice behind the mask was cheerful. “It is quite a nice story to share.” Then the man — Dream — turned serious. “Shyme, can you move?”

“Yeah,” Shyme glanced around, waiting with expectation.

As if reading her mind, Dream bashed her hope.

“Chronicler isn’t here,” Dream said to Shyme. “Try not to exert yourself after [Divine Raiment].” Dream then called out to Orwell. “Hey, Mehest, I want to have a little discussion about the vampire.”

“The feeling is mutual,” Orwell replied warily. “You suggested quite a research project, but why bring it up now?”

Dream cocked his head to the side, “Because I want to. Should we talk somewhere with no eavesdropper?”

Orwell snorted, “Dream, for someone of your intellect, this strategy is lame. You want to draw me away from these guys. Move. I'm finishing the job.” Orwell nodded toward Charon. “Particularly, that bitch.”

Yuri groaned. What was it with today and Charon? Why did people want her dead? Was there a ‘we hate a beautiful maid day’ Yuri knew nothing about.

“Can’t do that,” Dream cracked his fist. “Heroism and all. We have a truce, Mehest. Do you want to break it?”

Orwell wasn’t entertained, “Truce is a two-way street. It implies we both want to keep the egg, and both sides have the power to prevent its breaking.”

“Very well,” Dream lowered his tone. “You ask for this.”

Orwell knew the attack was coming. He understood why it was coming and what purpose it served. But like everything Dream did, knowing cues provided no solace‌.

It was the mother of all telekinetic slammed.

Orwell’s armor tanked the blow, but the invisible strike did one thing no single man had accomplished since Chronicler himself, it forced Orwell to move. It wasn’t just your usual shift a few steps back, either. Orwell got thrown into the artificial sky, cracked against the blue ceiling with such a force it shook the entire room, resulting in the sky projection flickering like faulty light bulbs.

Orwell landed on the ground with a thump. Great, he just pissed Dream off, and that dude hadn’t skipped a leg day.

“Shyme,” Dream tossed the downed girl a tube of recovery tablet. “You know what this is, so use it and get the hell out of here, while I deal with the Ice-cream man.”

Shyme quickly took the tablet, swallowed a handful and turned toward Yuri, “Hurry, we need to get out of here!”

They quickly grabbed their down comrades and ran, leaving Dream to face Orwell.

Yuri must admit Dream’s miracle tablet was something. It quickly brought Shyme and Sonovia back to functioning order. Meanwhile, to his relief, colors were rapidly returning to Charon’s ailing expression.

The group ran from the epicenter of the Dream vs Orwell battle. After stumbling around the meadow, they found the exit in a familiar gate in a boulder somewhere.

It was how they found themselves inside the familiar dim cavern with the dusty smell and rough floor. Yuri believed he scraped his knee during the struggle. Shyme sat on the worn ground of obsidian, breathing like she just ran from a man-eating giant. Sonovia watched the entrance they stumbled from with fear in her eyes. Charon, still unconscious, laid on the ground, unperturbed by the rough breathing tainting the silent room.

They were exhausted and beaten, but thanks to an act of heroism, they were still alive. Yuri himself couldn’t believe someone who would risk themselves to save a worthless ant like him. Just why did he do it? Just why did this man save them?

“Lair,” Sonovia accused Shyme for the crime of misinformation. “Defeating Orwell Mehest? There has to be a limit to audacity. That guy took all of us to the dry-cleaner.” She eyed the shrinking Shyme. “What the hell really happened in Venistalis?”

“Exactly what happened today,” Shyme confessed. “I went to fight Orwell and got annihilated. I would have died, if he didn’t appear.” the wolf-girl made a dry, conflicted smile. “Their timing is absurd.”

Yuri tried to assemble the story, “You failed to defeat Orwell, and this Chronicler stepped to the occasion. But how did he do it? Why did you have to lie?” Yuri then knitted the story with the biggest question of them all. “And who is the guy who just saves us? Orwell called him Dream.”

Shyme looked at the ceiling in contemplation, before finally explaining everything.

“Before I begin, I need to tell you this is SCA’s confidential information,” Shyme said. “If this leak out of the room, the Enma Clan and the Grand Empire will be the least of your worry.”

“I’m a representative of the SCA,” Sonovia said. “How did I know nothing about this?”

“Because those old-farts don’t want to embarrass themselves,” Shyme said. “The rumors are right. Orwell was too much for anyone in Venistalis to handle until the four people we know nothing about appeared and saved the day. The Grand Empire couldn’t live down the dishonor of being saved by charitable nobodies.” Shyme pointed at herself. “They would rather have the heiress of their enemy took the credit than face the fact a band of nobodies led the citizen militia to win an impossible war.”

“Wait,” Sonovia said. “Those crazy rumors about the mysterious men in black appearing in crisis after crisis are real? Isn’t it an urban legend?”

“Real, and they are absurd,” Shyme replied. “Those people operated as an unnamed shadow organization. The only things we know of are the code-names of their known members: Ace, Empress, Chronicler,” she blushed at the mention of her crush, “and the head honcho himself.”

Shyme looked in the entrance they just escaped.

“Dream — the man who brings miracles.”

[Cryo Supreme]

Orwell unleashed his freezing Skills. An eldritch cold emerged. Ice crystal fluttered into the air, forming a gigantic sculpture of Peregrine from mist, chilling air, and ice. The bird swooped down, screeching in bone-chilling roared and freezing the scorched meadow beneath a layer of ice.

Not finished with his attack, Orwell conjured sixty pole-arms of ice and threw them at the Knight in black from every angle possible.

Dream stood besieged by those attacks, with the bird coming from the front and impalement cutting off his escape. His crimson visor flashed.

Orwell groaned. Yeah, like hitting that guy would be so easy. He took one look at what Dream did to the Skill that had easily overpowered Shyme, and it was a confirmation this man was an equal to the Chronicler.

“Congratulations on mastering [Cryo Genesis] and [Cryo Law],” Dream said, inspecting Orwell’s ice-theme barrages, suspended powerlessly in the air. “You must have reached the Imaginary Realm.”

Countless ice weapons, blessed with sharpened blades and freezing touch, halted in the air. A foot from Dream, Orwell’s ice Peregrine met the same fate, imprisoned in the sky, unable to move or progress despite the enemy being within reach. It was like time had stopped, pinning the countless machination of Orwell into total stillness.

But it wasn’t a time-control or kinetic energy manipulation that did the trick, instead it was the might of focus, commitment, and sheer will. Like many times before, this one man stood against the army of cruelties and forces of despair, unflinching in the face of Armageddon to give hope to all. He was the statue whose continued perseverance was a comeback of an old fashion ideal.

Orwell knew the avatar of dream wouldn’t fall to mere god-killing magic.

Dream clenched his grip, shattering the chilling mystic which failed to move him a single step.

“What next, Orwell?” Dream said.

Orwell responded to Dream challenged, casting the green circle to bring forth the same old minion.

[Summoning (Amalgam)]

The green flaming gate in the sky opened, and the creature with horseshoe wings of ice entered the battle. Its theater mask of frowning tragedy reflected the blue, icy light from its wing. Orwell’s Ice Circuit — a creature operated under artificial soul, designed for war—spread its Mana and—

Bang!

The crying theater mask shattered into pieces. The second Ice Circuit summoned by Orwell fell around them in headless pieces, accomplishing nothing aside from being a convenient battlefield ornament.

“What next, Orwell?” Dream said, holding a gun in his hand.

Yes, a gun, Dream wielded a long-barrel magnum, fashioned out of silver steel and magic technology. It was an alchemically treated frame, glowing with blue lines and circular light in the body. In the world of sword and sorcery, the Knight pulled out a sci-fi space gun and blasted the eldritch being before it ever reacted.

Orwell didn’t see that attack coming. He admitted he might be shaking in his boot. To shield himself against the mortal man in black scary trench coat, the biggest threat to the SCA summoned the full might of his Adamakles. A ten-meter tall spectral armor with four arms enclosed Orwell, holding a giant sword the size of a house in each hand. Orwell wanted to believe this massive protection would make him safer, but he doubted it.

Dream fired his gun.

Bang!

The invisible bullet hit the armor like an explosive super slug, but a thin layer of Orwell’s Mana above his armor conducted that energy away. Orwell gritted his teeth. He calculated the nature of Dream’s attack, and the knowledge brought him no solace.

“So you discover Aura,” Dream congratulated Orwell. “Nice job.”

“Said the guy who invented the technique,” Orwell snorted. “And that is [Tenshou], isn’t it? A psionic bullet?” Orwell groaned—a troublesome guy had picked a truly troublesome power.

If [Cryo Supreme] was the Skill representing the absolute concept of cold and ice, [Tenshou] represented the totality of will. Both of them were the Primal Arcane, technique operating as an absolute forefather where all associated Skills originated from.

Even among its peers, [Tenshou] was ‌ ridiculous because of its wide range of applications. As the ultimate Skill to exercise one will to the fabric of reality, its user wielded Telekinesis, Telepathy, Psionic Energy manifestation and all the variants of psionic power. Without a knowledge of Aura, fighting [Tenshou] wielder was an exercise in futility.

Orwell needed to assess Dream’s full mastery of [Tenshou], so he swung in with a giant sword. 

The power behind Orwell’s attack cracked the earth Dream stood on, but he easily halted the gigantic blade with one hand, while holding his magnum in another. Layers of psychokinetic force wrapped around Dream like armor, providing him the leverage and grip to stop the giant blade several times his size.

Orwell unleashed the same vibration force that annihilated Sonovia, shattering the ground.

But Dream remained unscathed, a thin protective Mana absorbed the vibration energy and dissipated it around him.

Orwell groaned. What the heck did he think? These guys invented Aura; a perfect defence to shrug off energy-based immobilization and attacks.

Orwell triggered [Cryo Supreme], and Dream met him with [Tenshou]

Power of will and entropy clashed. But like how Orwell defeated Shyme in a contest of Skill, Dream successfully pushed Orwell back with a burst of telekinetic energy.

Both men wielded Primal Arcane — the highest tier of supernatural Skill. However, Dream was simply better at [Tenshou] than Orwell was with [Cryo Supreme].

Not wasting time, Dream commanded his weapon.

“Central,” the hero requested, “activate Dawn Blade Mode.”

Yes, boss,” the circular pattern in the gun blinked.

The firearm in Dream’s hand turned into a concentric band of metal, reforming into a sword’s hilt fitted with gears orbiting each other in a planetary mechanism. The mechanism spun, and the hilt ignited, unleashing a huge blue energy blade — a psionic buster lightsaber.

Uh oh, Orwell thought.

With the speed backed by telekinetic enhancement, Dream delivered a slash that sent Orwell, and his massive armor, into the sky. Orwell ignored the crack in his armor and combined his four gigantic swords into one empowered spectral blade and met the hero flying at him in the air.

Their swords locked. Poppies and psionic energy collided against the vibrating spectral sword backed by cryogenic temperature. Mana erupted as the two titans contended for supremacy. Forces shattered the projected sky and ripped the meadow. The entire room shook, and the ground quaked.

Yuri stumbled as the earthquake hit the room they rested in. Rocks and small debris fell from the tension generated by the force of the battle.

“No way,” Sonovia couldn’t believe the gravity of the collision. “Are you telling me those two are causing a geological shift as a collateral in their battle?”

Shyme gulped, “They are even stronger than in Venistalis.” A thought dawned on her. “Holy shit, what the hell are they planning to fight against?”

The meadow was annihilated in the clash, reduced into loosely connected crack pieces of earth. The climate of the room permanently altered with frost. The artificial sky hanging above the room flickered on and off after the Mana storm, a few pieces of it fell to the ground with thumps.

Orwell stood on the ground, slightly winded from the collision. He knew he could drag the fight out and turn it into a slug-fest. However, he never had much chance of winning that fight, and there was a tiny fact that if Dream’s comrades were nearby, he would be torn apart like a medium-rare steak. No alternative existed in that match-up, taking on two of those monsters at once wasn’t possible.

Thus, Orwell launched one last test, a measure of how well he would do against Chronicler.

Orwell summoned Chilling Thorn.

“Single Flow—[Cryo Supreme] Edition”

The sword was unsheathed, and Orwell unleashed the attack that destroyed Shyme Enma. The world slowed. Glimmers of the icy blade reflected the light. The magnificent arc of artistic sword-art flashed.

Dream took note, and in a blink, flicked the Dawn Blade, redirecting the attack onto a counter. The flicking wind penetrated Orwell’s protection of spectral armor and Aura, cutting him in the cheek.

“Sweet,” Dream dissected the maneuver he just conquered. “You slow down the thermodynamic activity with [Cryo Supreme], sending mitochondria and synapse into a lapse to maximize the effect of the vibration you unleashed with the drawing sword. You even shape the Amalgam blade to compress the vibration into a sub-sonic slash and study Iaijutsu to round the edge.” Dream shared a theory. “Let me guess, you invented cheap-shot for Chronicler’s Trinity.” He shrugged. “Bad luck, mate, but it won’t work on me.”

Orwell sighed as his face healed. Well, he half expected that.

“Hey,” said the mass murderer who finally decided that violence wasn’t on the menu. “Is the truce still on the table?”

“I am glad you ask,” answered a very wrathful hero. “But before having world peace, let’s talk about what the fuck are you doing here, psycho?”