"Kelly! Wake up, Kelly! Come on!"
Upon hearing the sudden shout, Garen opened his eyes. The bright light in front of him forced his eyes into a tight squint. Dale Quicksilver was anxiously tapping his face.
"What’s going on? Why’re you here, Dale?" Garen sat up, realizing that the event that had just occurred was only a dream.
"Why are you asleep down here in the basement?" Dale looked at Garen curiously. "Were you here looking for something by yourself and ended up falling asleep? Didn’t I tell you to wait for me to move together?"
At this moment, Garen found himself lying against the wall in the basement. Dark and narrow walls made from cold stone bricks surrounded him. The room was completely empty.
The basement was partially underground. Sunlight spilled in from a window near the ceiling, making this place resemble a dungeon more than a basement.
"What’s going on? I clearly remember going to sleep in the bedroom…" He lowered his head as a wave of excruciating pain rose.
Suddenly, his heart skipped a beat -- the sound of silence greeted him.
In the blink of an eye, Dale Quicksilver had vanished right in front of him.
The room was empty again.
Garen crawled up from the floor and yelled again. There was no answer.
A sharp pain arose from within his head once more, and then he remembered: Dale had woken him up from the basement. That had happened three days ago.
"Three days ago?" He covered his head, his vision blurry. "What happened? If that was three days ago, what was I doing in these past three days? How come I don’t remember anything? He was right here in front of me!"
He felt the pain assault his temples again. His mind was in chaos.
"No, I can’t stay in this castle any longer!"
He pushed open the door and rushed out of the basement, running toward the castle’s gate through a straight and empty path.
His footsteps echoed inside the castle.
The castle door was slammed open. He then stumbled through the door and fell down the stairs, tumbling onto the grass.
He lied on the grass, breathless, gasping for air. Suddenly, he felt a sense of drowsiness encroaching upon him. Unable to resist the drowsiness, he passed out.
Not knowing how long it has been, he slowly opened his eyes. he was still lying on his bed inside the castle.
"Kelly, are you up yet?" Dale Quicksilver’s voice came from outside.
"I’m back here again? Was that all a dream?" Garen sat up from the bed. "This place… this place is too strange!" Goosebumps formed all over his body. Even though sunlight was shining on him through the bedroom window, he didn’t feel any warmth. Thinking back, the images in this room seemed more real than those in his dreams.
"Was it all a dream?" He took a deep breath.
After getting up, he quickly dressed up and opened the door. Dale Quicksilver was standing there with a surprised look.
"What’s wrong? You look like you stayed up all night."
"It’s nothing, just a nightmare." Garen forced out a smile.
"Nightmare?" Dale Quicksilver laughed. "A nightmare could scare you like this? What happened in it? Come, tell us and grab some breakfast."
"Fine." Garen rubbed his eyebrows. He knew it was ridiculous. "Although that nightmare was unbelievably real."
"You go down first, in the main hall downstairs. I’ll lock the doors." Dale Quicksilver tapped Garen’s shoulder. "Seems like I shouldn’t have shown you that document."
"It’s okay, I’m not so easily frightened." Garen laughed and left for breakfast. He didn’t notice Dale Quicksilver’s gloomy expression behind him.
Garen followed the stairs down to find Si Lan sitting in the corner of the hall. She was drinking a cup of tea, wearing a dark brown hunting uniform. Her blonde ponytail hung from her back, contrasting against
her clear skin.
"Mr. Kelly is up too? You don’t look too well. Did you not have a good rest?"
"I had a nightmare… it was … too real." Garen rubbed between his eyes and sat down at the table.
"Have some tea. I got it from the Garfield Province." Si Lan made an inviting gesture.
Garen lifted a cup of hot black tea and put it up to his nose, smelling the fresh minty scent mixed with a hint of milk cream.
He sipped from the cup and found that the tea tasted like mint water.
"What kind of tea is this? Tastes a little weird."
"I’ve added some other spices so it will help you wake up. One of my uncles is a doctor at Sirius University and he taught me how to make this," Si Lan said.
Garen nodded. "Not bad, I’m already feeling better."
Dale Quicksilver came to the table and sat down as well. He took a cup of tea and chugged the tea down his throat.
"So here’s the plan: We’ll go hunting first, get the food for lunch and dinner, then get some water and clean our equipment. Then we’ll spend the rest of the afternoon investigating the castle and its surroundings."
"You’re the expert, you make the plans." Garen shrugged.
"Oh and Mr. Kelly--"
"Just call me Kelly."
"All right, Kelly. You said you had a vivid nightmare. Just what kind of nightmare could it be to have exhausted and dispirited you so?"
Garen drank some hot tea, allowing the hot water, combined with the cool mint flavor, to bathe his throat. The tea flowed into his stomach, filling his body with warmth, and sobered his mind.
"I dreamed" -- he paused for a second -- "of someone opening my door at night, over and over again every time when I’m about to fall asleep." His eyebrows furrowed. "This is very strange. I’ve never been here before, so I didn’t expect to have this kind of dream on my first night."
"I remember the documents I showed you contained information about the deaths of the three owners of this castle. It was mentioned that the previous three owners all had nightmares before their deaths. Maybe you were worried after reading that document, causing you to have a nightmare," Dale Quicksilver analyzed.
"Do we have information on what their nightmares were about?"
"We don’t know anything about that. I had a dream last night as well. It wasn’t a nightmare though." Dale Quicksilver looked up through the window, his expression told Garen he was reminiscing about something.
"You are thinking about it again?" Si Lan seemed worried. "It’s been that long, yet you still can’t let it go?"
"If only it was that easy," Dale Quicksilver laughed, somewhat bitterly.
Garen was completely silent, carefully watching their expressions.
After the morning tea, they had some breakfast. The three of them went to prepare their weapons and gear.
Dale Quicksilver held a rifle and suited up in a military hunting uniform with a top hat. Garen had a half-meter long saber and wore the same clothes he had on the day before, which were completely unsuitable for the occasion. In the end, he also grabbed a sack, ready to help with logistics.
They cleaned up the dishes and headed out of the castle.
After locking the door, Dale Quicksilver led them toward the right side of the castle. "There’s a hole in the fence. We can get to the forest through there." He loaded the rifle as he spoke.
"There aren’t many animals around here. It’s a good thing we don’t have many mouths to feed. Even small prey would be enough for a few meals."
Garen nodded in reply. He didn’t speak, but instead raised the sack in his hand, indicating that he was going to be taking care of the prey. The rest was on Quicksilver.
Dale Quicksilver laughed and tapped his rifle without saying a word.
The three arrived at the right wing of the castle. Located on the black steel fence was a giant hole as wide as two people. The poles on the fence had been destroyed by some force, bent inwards haphazardly.
Dale Quicksilver carefully sneaked past the gap and waved from the other side.
Si Lan and Garen followed him through the hole, and Garen almost caught his clothes on the fence.
Outside the fence was a dark and green forest. Trees around four to five meters tall filled the area, while thick and wild bushes scattered around the ground. A cold aura could be felt emitting from deep inside even before they entered.
The morning sunlight could not pierce through the dense leaves. Even the warmth could not penetrate through. The sounds of birds chirping continuously came from within the forest, with the occasional noises coming from the bushes as something moved inside.
"That’s the noise of mountain mice, sounds like big ones." Dale Quicksilver lowered his voice and crouched down, trying not to make any noise. "I didn’t expect to have something good this quick."
Si Lan smiled while moving behind Dale.
Even if Garen had never hunted before, he knew not to make a sound at this moment. He tipped his toes and followed behind.
Garen looked forward and saw Dale Quicksilver lower his rifle, smoke snaking from the barrels with the smell of gunpowder permeating through the air.
"Your aim is pretty good, Dale! How did you hit it so accurately through all that grass? The mouse was moving so fast!" Garen gave him a thumbs up and said, "Looks like we’ll have enough food for today."
"That’s not enough at all. We’ll have to gut it and skin it. After that, there would hardly be any meat left. We’ll need some more," Dale Quicksilver said, shaking his head.
Garen had never hunted wild animals before. Although he didn’t know what was going on, he was fascinated by everything. His bad mood from last night’s nightmare improved.
The three continued to wander inside the forest. Garen followed behind with the giant mountain mouse in his sack. It was quite heavy, around twenty pounds.
While walking behind Si Lan, Garen checked his attribute pane. The attributes had not changed much, although his strength did grow a tiny bit from the original 2.08 to 2.09. This was mostly as a result of his White Cloud Secret Arts.
"Many people know about the effects of the level three White Cloud Secret Arts, but no one has reached level four before. I don’t think anyone knows what kind of effect it will have. My martial arts are heading on the right path now, but my Potential Meter stopped growing again. If only I could find the reason behind the increase of potential from the Antiques of Tragedy, I will have a direction to look in, instead of blindly blundering everywhere like I’m currently doing."
Garen reflected on his current situation while closely following behind Dale and Si Lan. These few days, due to his combat training with his senior brother and sister, he had grown to resemble a real martial artist. This was a change from within, a natural change, caused by his increase in strength and experience.
After a while, with no new prey in sight, Dale Quicksilver turned around and shouted, "There’s a castle dungeon in the front. Do you want to go check it out? Since we are already close, we can go there to take a break. I think the gunshot had scared the other animals. There’s nothing to hunt around anymore."