The board was set.

The field was the pool of malice contesting against the creeping emergence of frost from Orwell’s feet.

From the realm beyond worlds, created by the embodiment of excess evil and unmitigated cancer of the multiverse, was an army of countless child-size RB, a cross between cosmic horror and cupid. Leading this army, was a knightly beast in mirror-sheen armor. Behind the abomination swarming out like bees, one pink hair Elf hung, suspended hypnotically in the air.

Opposite them was the temporary alliance of Dream and Orwell. They knew they had several deadweights holding them back, and frankly the two didn’t care. It would take more than an army of Reverse Beasts to shake their confidence.

Yuri knew this would be the most advanced mystic throw down he ever witnessed, so he turned to the expert about what to expect.

“Hey, Shyme,” Yuri whispered. “I know what Orwell could do, but what about Dream?”

To Yuri surprised, Shyme responded with doubt, “I don’t know either.” She further clarified. “He didn’t appear much during Venistalis, but I believe he has a skill to let him see the past.”

Yuri’s shoulder sank, “Seeing the past? That’s underwhelming.”

“You two aren’t seeing anything, yet,” Orwell joined their conversation, and pointed at Dream. “Trust me, it took me a while to work this guy’s actual power,” Orwell leered at Rem with a grudge. “Seriously, dude, you’re blatantly cheating. How did your friends ever get a win against you?”

“Orwell,” Dream gave the subtle conversation stopper. “They’re coming.”

“Aye, aye,” said Orwell. “Fine, remember you owe me after this.”

The fairies opened the first salvo with the same Mana-disrupting scream that proved so effective against Shyme.

Dream responded by spreading his palm and activating his Skill.

[Tenshou]

The scream dispersed harmlessly against psionic dispersion. The surrounding wall and ceiling cracked from the intensity of the screech, but the hero was uncontested in terms of energy defense. A half-baked army of Reverse Beast wouldn’t be able to puncture his nullification.

Dream flicked his hand, turning the defense into an attack. In the feat of multitasking, he gasped those horrendous abominations by the throat. The terrifying creatures with black fangs no longer mocked anyone with its jeering chatter, instead they were crawling at the invisible grip of iron choking their necks. For once, the ball of dread was in their court, and they dropped it.

Even the leading abomination in seamless armor wasn't spared. It struggled as Dream’s telekinesis locked onto it. Unlike its minion, this armored creature would have broken free in time. However, the combo was just starting.

Orwell followed Dream’s lead. [Ice Body] activated, turning Orwell’s skin bluish as the RB’s DNA partially activated. Chilly mist rose from Orwell’s body, and his palm touched the ground.

[Cryo Supreme]

A blast of endothermic phenomenon sucked the energy out of whatever stood before him. The earth shattered from sudden temperature change. The Skill — the Primal Arcane — was fully unleashed. Frost rapidly pervaded the floor, walls, and ceiling. In an act defying thermodynamics, the pool of corrupted Mana froze in ice. The opposing monster didn’t stand a chance. Icy cocoons imprisoned them in skin-deep layers of freezing cold and turned them into sculptures hanging on Dream’s telekinetic string. The armor beast was also hit by Orwell’s cold waves, and seal in popsicle.

Dream made a crashing motion with his hand, smashing the icy sculpture and the brittle target inside into pieces of raining ice-cube. The once terrifying army was reduced shortly into a pile of snow on the floor.

“Wow,” Yuri watched the two masters go to work. “So these guys are genuine S-Rankers.”

Shyme felt something was wrong, “Wait? Where is—"

“Shhh,” Dream hushed, whipping out his magical magnum — Central. “He’s coming,” he pointed Central to the left without aiming, “right here.”

Right on cue, the intimidating monster in seamless armor appeared from the middle of nowhere. Its speed and transcendent power to blink in and out of the battlefield had overwhelmed and defeated Serenade’s Anti-Siege firepower with ease. Sonovia herself was less than a baby before it. This monster’s entrance was the mark in which the entire White Tower expedition turned into hell. It was akin to the symbol of an indecipherable nightmare.

But what was an incomprehensible nightmare to the eye of a hero?

The monster appeared to launch an attack on Dream, using a trick which had easily defeated the 33 Stars. Instead of success, it found itself pointblank in front of a gun-barrel.

Bang!

Normally, Reverse Beast, the World Enemy, possessed the ability to resist Phantasian’s Abilities and Skills on top of its significant durability. Taking a leader-class RB out was considered a feat even for S-Rank, much less in one-shot.

But Dream accomplished such a Herculean task like he was taking out trash. One shot was all it took. The armor which easily shrugged Spirit Arrows blew away into a fragment of steel.

Dream even saw fit to stomp on the monster’s power, shedding light into its short, miserable existence.

“Cheap trick,” Dream talked down to the remains, “shunting yourself out of dimension as a stealth technique.” He mentally pondered its weakness. “Titania’s Centurion-Rank fairies — a Bugbear unit. Not a major threat on its own, but…”

The armor Reverse Beast — a Bugbear —possessed the ability to shunt into alternate space and traveled through it toward a set of coordinate, bypassing every obstacle in-between. It was a perfect ability for evasion and ambush, and should be theoretically impossible to predict or counter. However, it had a major weakness; the destination was fixed, and it lacked the ability to observe the opponent through the alternate dimension. If its flight-path was read, the Bugbear could be opened to a surprise preemptive strike. While its armor could deflect an average attack, stopping concentrated psychokinetic disassemblers was too tall of an order. Dream expected a Primal Arcane Skill to make a short-work of it as well.

It was a relatively minor threat to him, who regularly dealt with a more absurd opponent, but Dream was more worried about a thousand of them mounting an attack. Its ability would annihilate the average Phantasian platoon and army. His fellow knights and Orwell could roast them all evening, but they were an exception.

Dream imagined these monsters being released into the civilian population. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

But while Dream contemplated countermeasures against doomsday fairies invasion, Yuri Ushakov fully caught sight of ‘that’ weapon for the first time.

“A gun?” Yuri knew the weapon was from. It was a confirmation which shook his very belief about Earth’s place in the multiverse. “Isn’t that supposed to be obsolete?”

Supported by her immense vitality, Sonovia woke in time to hear Yuri blurting the fact out. She followed his gaze as Dream quietly holstered the weapon. At the same time, Charon finally gained consciousness.

“What the hell happened?” Charon asked before turning to see Orwell. “Why isn't he killing us?” Then she turned to see Dream. “Oh, that’s why.” Charon tried to act formal toward her hero. “My name—”

“Charon Sol,” Dream spoke her name with a tint of guilt and nostalgia. “I know who you are,” he said. “Heart to heart here, I’m honestly the last person who deserves a thank you from you.”

Dream’s confession confused Charon, but Yuri still had to ask a question.

“That’s a gun, right?” Yuri said. “Why are you using a weapon from Earth?” Yuri was more angry than confused. “And how does something so antique kill anything!?”

Dream took a proper look at the boy. “You’re from Earth,” he said. “I see. Yuri Ushakov—a Russian lost in a merging of Earth, huh.”

“Ah, your neighbor,” Orwell said, confirming Yuri’s suspicion and revealing the truth to the 33 Stars. “First, you and Chronicler? Then this kid? What’s it with your planet and its ability to produce such like-minded individual.”

“He’s Russian. I’m American,” Dream corrected Orwell and confirmed the truth. “We aren’t neighbors. Hell, I don’t even count California as my neighbor, so you can forget about other countries.”

“So you are from Earth?” Shyme blinked. “And so is Chronicler.”

“Funny how the world works,” Dream replied.

“Wait, how is this impossible,” Sonovia was downright blown away by the revelation that the invincible warrior who saved them was from the ‘new-meat’ planet. “That backwater place without Mana shouldn’t be able to produce anything! The entire planet is a joke the SCA entertains.” She looked at Dream in disbelief. “What exactly are you?”

“Would you believe me if I tell you I’m a normal human,” Dream glanced at the group’s wide-eyed reaction. “I guess not.”

Contrary to expectation, it was Yuri, not Sonovia, who didn’t buy Dream’s story.

“There’s no way you can be a human from Earth,” Yuri stated. “It didn’t make any sense.”

“Impossible this. I can’t be that. Nonsense there,” Dream made his opinion about the boy clear. “What are you? The IRS? Kid, your entire angle has a name — cynicism. I heard it is popular among kids today. But given that kids these days are obsessed with social media and the clickbait of TikTok, I hardly call them a leading example.” Dream asked a question. “The reason you believe we aren’t anything but screwed is because mommy and daddy got hit by a car, and you want the world to keep company with your misery.”

Dream didn’t use [Tenshou] but Yuri felt he was stripped naked at that moment.

Yuri started, “How did—”

“How did I know about how you get orphaned?” Dream said. “You can ask Orwell about that because we aren’t out of the woods just yet.”

The room trembled, and the carcass of the Bugbear faded into mist. The ice paved over the pool of corruption broke. A tsunami of darkness engulfed the body of Serenade Asmodella. The room cracked, the ground rose like waves on a stormy sea, and dark lightning crackled across the black chamber.

It was the last grasp of the nightmare.

“Dream,” Orwell said, preparing to summon an Amalgam. “I think you pissed it off.”

“You think?” Rem wasn’t amused. “Protect those guys, Orwell, because I think the White Tower is about to become a crater.”

That was when the very ground beneath erupted like a volcano.

The woman in the magenta lab-coat was enjoying a drink. It was a new carbonated juice; Sun-fruit, fermented with peppermint-base reagent. Centuria might have fallen, but the new settlement that rose from its carcass — a place called Acropolis — made such good beverages it almost justified a country’s annihilation. It was so good the scientist theorized Penelope the First quit for this (she wasn’t wrong).

The lab-coat woman took a big gulp of the drink when the rubble of White Tower exploded, unleashing a rapidly widening beam of darkness that devoured the countryside.

“What the fu—”

Before the curse was uttered, a wave of corrupted energy reverberated, spreading like waves which uprooted trees and crumbled a nearby mountain into an overturned rock ball.

Orwell, riding on giant ice eagles like modern day Gandalf, escaped the blast. It wasn’t exactly easy but, in meme-speak, he had time to ‘git gud’. He even transported the four burdens away from the blast radius for extra-score and easily deflected the detonation which annihilated the countryside.

But, as excellent a pilot Orwell was, he couldn’t help but complain about the pillar of ominous squirming darkness erected from a pit that used to be the White Tower.

“Yeah, two bloody goddesses lit a fuse to a global extinction event, and everyone is still hunky,” Orwell ranted at the unfairness of it all. “Meanwhile, you kill a million people to retaliate for a goddamn genocide and everyone lost their mind!” Orwell flew over the upturned forest, the cries of animals, and the majestic mountains that were now a barren hill in the middle of a flat clearing. “This,” he trembled, “is why the Divine-races shouldn’t be running a lemonade-stall, much less the world. Is accountability too much to ask?”

Yuri must admit Orwell had a point.

“You’re blaming us for this!” Shyme — a Divine-race — shouted at Orwell.“That’s a Reverse Beast!”

“Shut up, Shyme,” Orwell yelled. “Ask Dream. He knows what I’m talking about.”

“Speak of Dream,” Charon said. “Where’s he?”

Then they felt the explosion of forces from the pillar-shaped swirls of inky, sickening energy.

Out of the darkness came Serenade, changed by her experience. Her naked body was now clad with an exoskeleton covering all her vital organs in black, calcified armor. Fabric of transparent Mana, reflecting light like a sheet of Polaroid, danced around her hip and chest like a dress of energy. The once green eyes were now sightless black. Her expression was blank. She flicked her hand, and limbs of bow, with textures and shade of bone, grew from her wrist as a monstrous protrusion.

Serenade nocked an arrow of darkness and aimed into the distance.

Shyme instantly knew what she was going to do, “That direction is the capital of Frisnia. Oh, shit.” She knew it was clear Serenade had lost her mind. “She is possessed by something. We have to stop her!”

“Wait,” Sonovia got out her Spiral-Eye and took a reading at the Elf. “Serenade is an S-rank now and,” her face paled, “this is a reading of a Reverse Beast.”

“But how did a normal Elf turn into an RB?” Charon screamed in panic

Orwell could answer that, “Looking at the biotech around her body, and it is safe to assume the fairies are trying to modify her into a new weapon.” Orwell bit his lips. “So they’re trying to turn the White Tower into a manufacturing plant and wedge for their eventual invasion.”

“Fairies,” said both Charon and Yuri, glancing at Orwell in confusion and disbelief.

“It’s a long story,” Orwell watched Serenade charge her arrow. “And she is about to—”

A psychokinetic bullet hit Serenade from behind, causing her shot to miss. The arrow of malicious wind sped toward a mountain and drilled a gigantic hole into half of the land-forms, allowing the group to see right through the humongous rock.

“Okay,” Shyme said, freaking at the output capable of a turning mountain into donut. “We can’t beat her.”

“You can’t. I can,” Orwell corrected. “And I will bet my entire torso,” he pointed at the figure who emerged from the pit, “that he could too.“

Dream emerged from the destruction. His black trench-coat fluttered. His inner-wear was frazzled from being caught pointblank in the recent carnage. He spun his magnum — Central—and assessed the situation.

“Big Daddy Malice take over, huh,” said Dream. “Sure, little Outer-god couldn’t win the fight, so ran to daddy it is.” He raised his eyebrows. “For a cosmic force, this is pathetic.” Dream pointed Central at the converted Serenade. “Okay, fashionista, it’s a curfew; sleep tight because you will need it.”

With that, the last battle of the White Tower began.