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    Chapter 458: Shackles of Hope

    Sunny froze, then took a careful step back and stared at the walls of the great hall.

    Mordret's timing, this time around, was impeccable.

    It was not like Sunny had planned to get too close to the mass of darkness, but he might have underestimated the danger it presented. To be honest, he felt that he wasn't thinking entirely straight... it was not like he had lost control, but the strange pull he felt outside the tower was much stronger here, exerting a subtle effect on his mind.

    Sunny tensed and glanced at the pulsating dark rift, then realized that the pull emanated from the shackles that were the source of it.

    "...Why? What is that thing?"

    The lost prince remained silent for a few moments, then sighed.

    "I really can't make sense of you."

    Sunny blinked.

    That was not the answer he had expected!

    "What? What is that supposed to mean?"

    Mordret answered with a bit of doubt in his voice.

    "Nothing, really. It's just that… some things about you suggest a certain background, but then there are as many contradictions. Don't you know what a Seed of Nightmare looks like?"

    Sunny jumped back, then cautiously looked at the mass of shimmering darkness again.

    So… that was a Seed of Nightmare. A vile manifestation of the Spell that grew in the Dream Realm and eventually blossomed, opening a Gate to the real world for the Nightmare Creatures to enter. The thing that Awakened were supposed to seek out and destroy by challenging the Nightmare contained within.

    No wonder it exerted a pull on him.

    He scowled, then said with annoyance:

    "How am I supposed to know what a Seed of Nightmare looks like? I only became an Awakened a few months ago!"

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    Mordret spoke in his usual polite tone:

    "Have your clan elders not taught you anything?"

    Sunny opened his eyes wide, a shocked expression appearing on his face.

    "Clan? What clan?! Do I look like a Legacy to you?!"

    The lost prince did not answer, letting Sunny boil with outrage in silence. Eventually, he slowly exhaled and asked dejectedly:

    "Anyway… are you sure that that's what it is?"

    Mordret lingered for a long time, then said quietly:

    "I am. I searched for it for a long time, after all."

    Hearing these words, Sunny frowned.


    "Wait… is that why you were trying to reach the Ivory Tower? To challenge a Nightmare?"

    He rubbed his face in frustration, trying to find a way to make sense of that statement, then shook his head:

    "Why the hell would you do that? There's no shortage of Seeds of Nightmare everywhere in the Dream Realm, ones that are not hidden behind endless voids and oceans of divine flame!"

    These things were not so numerous that one stumbled on one every day, but also not so rare to go to this lengths to reach one. What had Mordret been thinking?

    The lost prince answered after a short pause, his voice slightly amused:

    "...You are not a Legacy, indeed."

    Sunny let out a heavy sigh.

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    "Either you are extra obscure today, or I can't understand you for some reason. What do Legacies have to do with any of this?"

    Mordred thought for a bit, then said:

    "This Seed of Nightmare… is a very, very special one."

    'What is he going on about?'

    The only thing that differentiated Seeds, in Sunny's mind, was their Category. A Category Two Seed would blossom into a Category Two Gate, and contained a Second Nightmare. If an Awakened challenged it and passed the trial, they would become a Master. If a Master challenged a Category Three Seed and survived the Third Nightmare, they would become a Saint.

    The same thing went for Sovereigns, although there only had been three Fourth Nightmares conquered in all of human history, as far as Sunny knew… and he knew more than most people.

    How could a Seed be special?

    As if guessing what he was thinking about, Mordret spoke:

    "There are a lot of Master, but not all Masters are equal. There are a few dozen Saints, but not all Saints are equal. And similarly, there are numerous Nightmares… but not all Nightmares are equal."

    Sunny scowled.

    "How so? Is it easier? More difficult?"

    The lost prince sighed.

    "Neither. As far as the difficulty of the trial is concerned, the Spell is always fair… in its own perverse way. However, that doesn't mean that the outcome is always the same. What enemies you vanquish determine what Memories and Echoes you receive. What battles you fight determines what experience you will bring back."

    Sunny thought back on his own arsenal of Memories, and had to admit that the more unique Nightmare Creatures he had thought, the greater the reward was. In that sense, challenging a… "unique" Nightmare would certainly pose more risk, but also promise a greater boon.

    Add the existence of the Lineage Memories into the equation…

    A deep frown appeared on his face.

    Mordret, however, was not done talking.

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    "...But more than that, the nature of the Nightmare you challenge determines what knowledge you will receive, and what secret you will be able to glean. As a researcher, you should know that the lessons humans can learn from the decrepit ruins in the Dream Realm are not that profound. Where do you think most of our knowledge comes from? It comes from the stories people bring back from their Nightmares, of course."

    That… made sense. There were actual natives of the Dream Realm out and about in the Nightmares, after all. Like Auro of the Nine.

    Even if he was really just an illusion, an illusion created by the Spell was no simple thing.

    Most of the knowledge Sunny possessed was built on the foundation of what he had learned from the noble swordsman and Scholar. How much more would he know if he had gone into the Nightmare with the intention to not only survive, but also learn?

    Sunny glanced at the dark Seed.

    It had grown in the tower that had once belonged to one of the seven daemons. What mysteries would such a Nightmare reveal?

    Mordret gave him time to think, then said in an even tone:

    "For that reason, Legacy clans — not all of them, but the truly powerful ones — select the Nightmares for their members to challenge very carefully."

    Sunny lingered for a bit, then raised an eyebrow:

    "...What crazy clan chose that cursed Seed for you to try and find, then?"

    The lost prince laughed.

    "Oh, no! No one had wished for me to seek it. It was my decision alone. In fact, I suspect that only two people in both the waking world and this one know about its existence. Me… and now you."

    He chuckled again, and then added:

    "But that is what makes it so special, as well. None of them could have learned of its existence, reached it, and taken its rewards as their own."

    After that, Mordret suddenly grew silent. He remained that way for a while, and then added quietly:

    "Well… it's not like I managed to do it, too."

    He sighed, lingered for a few moments, and then added in a wistful tone:

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    "Can you imagine what secrets that Seed hides? What one would learn from that Nightmare? A Nightmare... a Nightmare that was created from the chains with which Hope herself had been bound…"

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