After Biyu had received a call from Nora, she quickly made her way back to the Holy Square of Schiele City, where the maze was built underneath. Their meeting location was ‘Mr.Ron’s Kitchen’, a bar that was not too far away from the Square but still could hide their movements from the enemies due to its secluded location.
People would expect the bar to be empty by now because all the people had gone to the hideout. However, as Biyu peeked her head inside, she saw not only one but a few more people waiting for her.
“Come here.” Han Sooyoung waved her hand that was holding a lollipop at Biyu to signal that it was her while the other hand was putting on the side of her hip.
Biyu also recognised her and the other people as she slightly raised her brows when her eyes met Kim Sanghoon standing in his shiny Paladin armour next to the Vampire.
Isn’t the armour a bit too eye-catching when they want to go in secret? Biyu thought as she saw the man also noticed her presence.
“Hello, Biyu-ssi.” Kim Sanghoon slightly bowed his head, greeting Biyu.
As they were teammates now, Biyu also tried to respond to him although she didn’t like this man at all. [Hello.] Biyu said as quickly as she could, then she ignored him and turned around to Han Sooyoung to hear more about the plan that Nora didn’t get a chance to clearly explain to her.
So basically, they would filtrate into the maze, find out what the Animus was going under there and stop it. Short and sharp but not simple as it sounded like because there would be a high chance of them being caught, hence they would try to do things as stealthily as possible. And the first thing was, as Biyu and Hasn Sooyoung looked at each other as if they knew what the other one thought.
“I think you and your paladins need to change into some less catchy, Sanghoon-ssi?” Han Sooyoung smiled although there wasn’t a single strand of laughter inside her eyes which meant she wasn’t joking around.
And Kim Sanghoon saw exactly the same thing as he looked over Biyu to catch a glimpse of her reaction.
[We can change it later on if we need to fight, Sanghoon-ssi.] Biyu said.
If two of the most powerful people of the squadron had said so, Kim Sanghoon didn’t have any other choice than changing his and his other paladin armours into some lighter armour with dark color and didn’t make too much noise when they were moving as he sighed.
I should not have signed up for this squadron . Kim Sanghoon complained inside his head because the armours were shiny for the purpose of increasing damage on dark entities, not for glamorous and attention as the ladies thought. But at this moment, it was crucial that they were not caught, hence Kim Sanghoon and his paladin still had to comply with the request.
They also put on [Invisible Cloak], [Noise Canceling], [Ghost Step], [Enhanced Senses] and other spells or equipment that would help them during the filtration.
Then, the door of ‘Mr.Ron’s kitchen’ slowly opened and emitted a small ‘crack’ when the wind passed by as if it was pushed open by the wind, not because someone opened from inside because there was no one being seen stepping outside. As they had moved out from the bar unnoticed, Biyu was at the front leading them to the entrance of the maze where Visus once showed her.
In front of them was a rock door with the Nightmare symbol, an eye inside a triangle, on it and Biyu in Visus’s appearance, because if the door was forced open, it would immediately signal the people inside, which was the dark entity that they tried to hide from. Hence Biyu decided to disguise as Visus using the skill [Shapeshifter] that was unique to the Doppelganger race allowing her to replicate all the characteristics of someone.
Biyu swallowed down her dry saliva as the eye in the triangle started moving around as if it was a real eye, evaluating the person standing in its sight and waiting for her to say the code.
[When the ‘Nightmare’ comes, all ‘Dreams’ have to disappear.] Biyu tried her best to make her voice and pitch to be exactly the same as Visus.
The eye rolled around a few times, scanning from her head to toes and stopped its gaze at her shadow a bit before the door slowly opened, revealing a long and dark tunnel which was the one she used to go through the previous time. Biyu as Visus slightly nodded her head at the eye as a ‘thank you’ as she refrained herself from going inside too rushly that might give some cues to the eye.
After Biyu had successfully got inside the tunnel and the door had closed, she felt her nerves just squeal a relief sound as they loosened up. Her palm also sweated a little when the eye started looking at her shadow, she was afraid that it had caught something from it, but luckily it didn’t.
Biyu pretended like nothing was wrong and started walking for a few minutes distancing herself from the gate before she said, [Come out guys.]
Instantly, from her shadow, a person emerged. It was Han Sooyoung.
The eye decided to let her pass because it thought Han Sooyoung was another ‘Caesitas’ that Visus always brought with her. However, the main thing that caused Biyu to be that stressed out was the people who were slowly released out of Biyu’s slimy body. It was Kim Sanghoon and the other paladins. Because Biyu was certain that the eye would notice if there was more than one person hiding in the shadow, hence she took the risk putting Han Sooyoung in the shadow as bait to draw the attention of the eye to it while trying to swallow them and hide the other in her own body.
[Bleh.] Biyu, who now had turned back to her original form, stuck out her tongue as she recalled the taste of Kim Sanghoon and the others. She only wanted to taste good food, not badly smelled humans.
Kim Sanghoon, as a gentleman he was, worriedly asked, “Are you alright, Biyu-ssi? You tried hard.”
“Here.” Han Sooyoung gave her a bottle of water to swallow down the taste remaining in her mouth.
After Biyu received the drink from Han Sooyoung and took a gulp down, she raised her eyes and whispered at them with a hushed tone, [Alright, follow me closely.]
The others followed exactly what Biyu said because she was the only one here who knew what to expect in this enormous maze.
Because Biyu had followed Visus down this path once, she remembered where and when to avoid the traps laying out for intruders like them.
No one said anything during the whole walk, they just looked around, stared at each other and tried to replicate exactly what Biyu did, so that they wouldn’t accidentally fall into any traps that might alert the enemies.
About fifteen minutes in and they still couldn’t see anything else except for the very high wall surrounding and sometimes, some monsters wandering around the maze to eat up the intruders, hence some people started to feel uneasy as an ominous feeling kept rising inside their stomach.
“Biyu-ssi, are we there yet?” Kim Sanghoon lowered his voice as low as possible so that only people surrounding them could hear it.
Han Sooyoung, the one who walked just before him, turned back and nagged at the man, “Can you stop asking?” She seemed to be annoyed.
Apparently, this wasn’t the first time Kim Sanghoon asked this question.
“I’m sorry…” Kim Sanghoon’s apologise was cut short because he walked into Han Sooyoung who was also stuck behind Biyu.
As they turned around the corner, Biyu suddenly stopped without saying anything causing them to cramp into each other in a very awkward situation.
“Biyu…” When Han Sooyoung was about to say something, her mouth was covered by Biyu’s hand as Biyu turned over and put a finger horizontally to her lips telling them to keep silent before signaling them to look over the wall secretly.
Han Sooyoung and Kim Sanghoon slowly popped their heads to the same location as Biyu to see what she was pointing at. It was the three Cardinals leading the ‘Nightmare’ followers to go inside a big and old building that they guessed to be the temple.
As the Cardinals, the only ones who might be good enough to detect them, had stepped inside, they decided to follow the crowd behind after they had casted another two layers of [Complete Invisible] and [Noise Cancelling] because none of them had ever gone to this place beforehand.
They kept a safe distance between them just in case something happened when they followed the crowd while trying to walk very carefully and kept their voice muted as they discussed the images drawing on the walls that they came across.
Biyu assumed the one who built this temple must be the same person who wrote up the ‘True Edition’ because it not only told the teaching that the Cardinals would always have sing to the followers, but it also showed the some small but interesting and critical points about the origin of the world that the ‘True Edition’ briefly mentioned.
Such as the wall on their left hand side at the moment. On the blank white canvas of the temple, at the top was something that seemed to be a very big cloud or mist. It had been doing something for millions of years based on the number written on it. Then till a point, from that cloud-like entity, two triangles, one white and one black, with an eye inside each of it dropped down from the cloud. On their way, the canvas slowly was filled in with more symbols that represented the elements that formed the world, sun, moon, wind, tree, water, air and fire. And then living things also were represented as a crowd with many races all kneeling down below the two triangles and the cloud on top of them as if they were meeting their God(s).
“What do you think?” Han Sooyoung, one of the fews people who had read the ‘True Edition’ was also attracted to this drawing as she whispered into Biyu’s ear as if she didn’t want to let the other one hear it.
Biyu thought for a moment as she squinted her eyes looking at the front for traces of the followers because they were left behind a bit when they were distracted by the drawing while she answered Han Sooyoung in a murmur. [I don’t know. It is weird.]
Han Sooyoung slightly nodded her head because it was indeedly weird. Who were the crowd bowing to, was it the two triangles or the cloud itself? If they assumed that if God was the cloud, then the picture would make more sense because in the ‘True Edition’, the Goddess of Dream was never known about, let alone being loved or worshipped. They didn’t match up to what they read in the ‘True Edition’.
Kim Sanghoon somehow was able to listen to their conversation as he spoke up his opinion, “I think they bowed down to all of them.”
As soon as Biyu heard his voice, she talked while almost forgetting to decrease her volume down, [Are you eavesdropping on us?]
Whereas, Han Sooyoung was intrigued by his thought as she asked, “Why do you think so?”
Kim Sanghoon’s response was out of both of their expectations.
“It never said that this was our world.”
He got his point there, the ‘True Edition’ had also never mentioned which world that the events had, was and would occur and so did the image on the wall. They could belong to two different worldlines or even dimensions which they had experienced going through many before in order to bring back the ugly squid - Kim Dokja.
As they were busy thinking about Kim Sanghoon’s opinion, they missed out a very light flicker of laughter appeared and then disappeared in his eyes as if he was entertained by their reactions.
“You have a good brain, heh.” Han Sooyoung wasn't hesitant to give him a compliment as she patted his back.
When Biyu was about to give him praise, they instantly felt a chill run along their spines as they looked at each other in confusion.
“What’s happened?” Cold sweats started to form on his forehead as his face got paler and paler. He had a very bad feeling about it, the thing that was coming from behind their back although they couldn’t see clearly what it was yet.
Han Sooyoung was also startled under the pressure as she couldn’t feel her legs anymore, it had gone numb without her being aware of it. “I don’t know.” She hardly turned her head around to ask Biyu, the one who might have the answer for it. “Do you know what it is, Biyu?”
And surely, Biyu knew her stuff well because she and Nora had caught a glimpse of this distinging aura once. It was undoubtedly the ‘Judgement of Faith’.
[Run. Everyone runs.] Biyu screamed out loud to signal their small squadron as she turned around, caught Han Sooyoung’s hand and started to run forward.
At this moment, Biyu didn’t care whether they would be found out by the Cardinals and their followers or not because they would certainly die before being caught due to the entity named ‘Judgement of Faith’.
Yet, when the other one just understood what was going on, a black, stinky and gloopy mess appeared right behind them and quickly devoured one of the paladins inside.
“Run, run, run.”
The formation immediately broke apart as the dark entity revealed itself. The paladins tried their best to run forward but it was too late, all of them were slowly taken inside that black mess.
[Holy Strike]. A paladin tried to defend himself against the dark entity in front of him but instead of inflicting damage on it, his sacred sword was eroded just by coming in contact with the black and musky aura of it.
Biyu, Han Sooyoung and Kim Sanghoon stopped a bit and also tried to attack it in hope that it would slow down the monster and allow some more time for their companions to run away.
Han Sooyoung’s eyes turned red as her shadow expanded and turned into lots and lots of bats. It was [Familiar Control] that allowed her to use her shadow as a gate to summon familiars that directly related to Vampire races such as bats.
“Attack it.” Han Sooyoung threw her hand toward the ‘Judgement of Faith’
Following her command, the army of bats immediately flew toward the dark entity and welcomed their death there without any hesitation.
Biyu also used [Shapeshifter] to change herself into ‘Secretive Plotter’ and used his [Incernating Deadly Splash].
The black slash splitted the ‘Judgement of Faith’ into halves, but it also joined back together almost immediately.
Their attacks managed to take away a few seconds of attention from the dark entity which was still not enough to allow the rest of the paladins to escape from its tentacles.
Right now, they had never felt so lucky. Yes, they felt lucky. Such a laughable joke right, but they genuinely felt lucky because they didn’t bring a lot of people. There were only 6 people in the squadron including Biyu, Han Sooyoung and Kim Sanghoon, hence if they all died here, it wouldn’t be too big of a number.
“Huff, huff.” Kim Sanghoon caught his breath while angrily looking behind where his companions disappeared one by one as he gritted his teeth and started a spell.
[Holy Devotion] This was the skill with the strongest holy attribute that he had which would normally be able to kill a whole army of Death Knights.
Yet, it didn’t even leave a scratch on that entity. And also attract its attention to their location.
“Shit. Stop it, Sanghoon.” Han Sooyoung swore as she ran as if her life depended on it, which was true in this scenario.
But how could a person run faster than an entity that knew how to teleport?
Of course, no one. At least, in their party, none of them could.
As ‘Judgement of Faith’ showed of its crappy looking teeth while having a close-up look at their face, they felt like vomiting not only because of the disgusting smell from its saliva but also the fear that its aura unconsciously provoked in their head that they couldn’t stop it from spreading out no matter what they did.
“Are we gonna die here?” It was a bit embarrassing to say it but Kim Sanghoon felt like a warm liquid was running down and wet his pants as he crouched down on the ground when the ‘Judgement of Faith’ approached him.
Han Sooyoung with tightening muscles and trembling hands put on a reluctant smile on her face as she said when the face of the dark entity was so close to her that she could see its eyes were nothing but just a hole of despair, “Maybe, but we are not gonna die in real life so good for us.” She was trying to be positive till the end although they didn’t know what was going to happen to them if they were swallowed by it.
Biyu also waited for her turn to be checked up by the dark entity. She closed her eyes tight as she could hear her heartbeats so loudly in her chest as well as the very silent sounds of the empty lungs that didn’t dare to breathe in.
Yet, it never happened. For some reasons, ‘Judgement of Faith’ chose to bypass Biyu.
[What???] Her eyes abruptly widened as she heard the chomp chomp noise that was made when someone was eating. She confusedly looked at both Han Sooyoung and Kim Sanghoon who was gradually eaten by the large and bottomless mouth of the dark entity.
This time, a true smile bloomed on Han Sooyoung’s face as she whispered into Biyu’s ear, trying her best not to reveal Biyu to the thing that would also eat her in a few seconds, “Run, do our parts as well, Biyu.” She didn’t know how it couldn’t sense Biyu but she believed that was the compensation for their deaths.
Biyu shook her head vigorously as her eyes reddened and the sorrowful frown between her brows deepened, [No, I can’t.]
As Han Sooyoung felt her feet getting colder as it was now not on the ground anymore but in the dark entity’s mouth, she pushed Biyu away from her into a corner of the wall and said, “You can do it.”
Her whole body strongly trembled when Biyu covered her mouth with both of her hands so that the sound of her crying and screaming would not emit out.
Han Sooyoung’s lower half, her chest and then only her head was left. The closer it went to her head, the more determination sparkled in Biyu’s eyes.
Before Han Sooyoung was completely devoured by ‘Judgement of Faith’, she raised her eyes looking at the brave Biyu one last time as she said, “I will see you later, Biyu.”
Then Han Sooyoung’s icon was shown dead on Biyu’s friend list.
After that, the dark entity slowly moved his head around 360 degrees like it didn’t have a neck. As if there was nothing left for it to eat, ‘Judgement of Faith’ disappeared.
As soon as it was gone, Biyu stood up from the ground and quickly moved along the way following the trail of the crowd that she noticed earlier with her fists tightly clenched.
Biyu, who tried to stop the tear coming out from her eyes while biting her lips so hard that they started to bleed, finally reached the center of the temple which was surprisingly empty. It was a big room with nothing inside except for the dark entity that they just encountered not long ago.
As soon as the Cardinals saw the dark entity, they bowed down in respect and greeted it.
“You are here, dear esteemed entity.” Motus lowered his head as he said.
‘Judgement of Faith’ groaned out some little noise as a response to their welcome and continuously bent its head over them to look at the crowd behind them while a stream of thick black liquid seemed to be saliva dropped from its mouth.
As if they had used this kind of reaction from it, Sui lightly patted its body while signaling for the crowd to organise themselves. “Please don’t rush. They will become yours soon.”
“Yes, very early, please control yourself.” Autem also spoke up to support Sui as ‘Judgement of Faith’ didn’t seem happy at all.
However, because it just had a light meal a few minutes ago, for the first time, ‘Judgement of Faith’ agreed to sit and wait for the ceremony to end under the observation of the Animus.
Right after, the dark entity just groaned some more noise that sounded more a bit cheerful and less uneasy than before, Sui, Motus and Autem quickly commended the ceremony.
The start of the ceremony was similar to their normal praying section as all of them would pray the introduction, then each of the Cardinals would sing their perspective part and would end with another prayer.
In the middle, the ceremony was interrupted because the dark entity burped up and vomited out something that looked like a bunch of people. Biyu immediately recognised that within these people there was her group that it ate earlier on.
Motus burst out laughing as he pointed at the mess that their esteemed entity just made, “Oh my, when did you have those people?”
As Sui came over and had a look, he turned around and told the other two Cardinals, “They were still alive, so probably not long ago.”
Autem half closed her eyes as if she saw something from the mess but decided to put it over a side while trying to focus on the most obvious problem which was where those people came from because as she checked, the number of their followers were still the same.
“I think they are intruders.”
Motus furrowed his brows at the remark as he questioned, “Intruders. How???” He was confident about the security level of this place because no matter how hard the people tried to find it, there would be no way they would find it on any kind of inspection spell or radar.
But soon enough, Motus relaxed his face again because none of the people here nor the intruder would escape from the mouth of ‘Judgement of Faith’ which was extremely sensitive to life force, “Whatever, they would become one of us soon.” A joyful grin tucked his lips up as he continued, “The esteemed entity was the source of Nightmare afterall.”
This statement was like a thunder slam on Biyu’s head as she almost fell down on the ground again and had to lean on the wall nearby for support. Biyu tried to calm her fast breathing rate down as she whispered to herself that everything would be alright because she was certain, the first phase of Nightmare wouldn’t harm them much and they would still be able to control themselves. When blood started to fall down on the ground from her clenched hands, Biyu had collected her composure and silently observed the ceremony that continued.
The ceremony wasn’t lengthy and boring as if they were rushing it because it quickly jumped into the most important part, offering ritual.
Motus, Sui and Autem all stepped up to the same level as they raised their hands toward the ceiling looking down at the followers.
Sui, the one in the middle, started the offering rituals as he commanded the followers to activate their complete form of Nightmare, “Offer your lives to the esteemed ‘Sun God’.”
However, as soon as the daggers on their hands were going to strike, something enormous with wings dashed through, throwing them on the ground and destroying the daggers. Biyu opened her eyes widely to see clearly what had happened.
In front of the crowd was a dragon with golden scales.
The dragon flared up, its cold gaze swept through the mass of people caused the little hair behind their neck to stand all up.
They all looked stunned except for Motus and Sui, the only two of the Animus that could be seen around.