The streets around him were ruined and the buildings were mostly piles of collapsed wreckage. Bullet holes were clearly visible on the walls and street surface as well. Some corners of the street were piled up with twisted metal. It was a carnage all over the place. The dark grey sky hinted that it was about to rain, but the dry, cold air reminded Hao Ren that those were not rain clouds, but clouds of dust high above. A soft breeze blew and with it came the smell of gunsmoke, alongside a horrible chemical whiff.
"The f*ck is going on? Did World War Three actually start?" Hao Ren mumbled as he tried to refocus himself. Going deep into his own thoughts, he checked his status and realised that he was not dreaming.
"...This cannot be a dream..." he mumbled yet again. "The details are too perfect... Am I transported to somewhere in the Plane of Dreams again?"
Most people would be hard pressed to tell where they are once they fall asleep as the brain would naturally reconstruct the details of the dream to be as close to reality, but Hao Ren had already undergone reconstruction of his body, and he had also undergone mental training which allows him to stay awake even in his dream, and he could easily tell a dream from reality plus his brain too was reinforced against many illusion spells. But even as he had managed to ascertain his status, something still plagued Hao Ren. He felt that he had entered the Plane of Dreams, but this time around there was unusual dissonance that he just could not put his fingers on.
"MDT, can you hear me?" Hao Ren activated his mental link as he called the MDT. He knew that the MDT was connected to him twenty four seven, even when Hao Ren was asleep. "Things are rather strange here..."
The MDT's voice came after a few seconds delay. "Roger. You're loud and clear, But things are also rather strange on my end here..."
"You're inside as well?" Hao Ren spoke in his mind as he moved carefully towards the nearest building. He was hoping to get on high ground to have a better view. "Is this the Plane of Dreams."
The MDT's voice was distant yet near. "Probably. But this translocation is just too sudden. I was 'pulled in' by your mental powers. Did not have enough time to record the 'diving'. Besides, the area here is just weird that I can't even describe..."
"Ah... so I've entered the Plane of Dreams while asleep again." Hao Ren pursed his lips. He turn towards a high tower building and while it was damaged, the structure was still sound. He decided to go up the tower for a look. "I thought I would never need to get into the Plane of Dreams this way again...It's a been about a year since."
"Technically speaking this should not have happened. Your mental strength is already very strong and controllable. Unchecked dives into the dream should not happen anymore. Besides, I'm connected with you and that is as good a firewall you can have... there should at least been some warning."
"Shit happens I guess. Say, don't you think this place is just weird? Maybe its because we entered the Plane of Dream in spiritual form again?" Hao Ren theorised. "Ever since we had found a stable entryway in Tannagost we had been going into the Plane of Dream physically. I almost forgot how it was like to go in as a spiritual body."
The MDT's voice was delayed by a few seconds. "Insufficient data, unable to confirm."
Hao Ren had gotten up to the third floor by then as he took a peek down the streets below. "Why are you so serious? And... this place sure isn't... welcoming."
As he stood on the balcony facing the city, everything in sight was riddled by bullets and seemingly every street bore marks of destruction. The city had either being hit by a massive bomb, or undergone a long gruelling urban warfare to be rendered to this sorry state.
The MDT's voice was still coming in, albeit delayed. "I need to focus some computing powers to analyse the situation here."
"Right. Do your thing." Hao Ren replied. "But before that, can you confirm the location of this place? How far is this from Holetta? Can we contact CARS or our base at Alamanda?
"Insufficient data, but I can confirm that we are in the Plane of Dreams. Unable to confirm current location. The signal from CARS and Alamanda is working fine but unable to decipher the physical address. Maybe there is some unexpected intereference or data chain error."
"Or we are really just too far away." Hao Ren looked up at the dark and dreary sky, trying to see the stars that was beyond the cloud of dust. "Or maybe this place is in some special galactic zone."
In a universe where a real God went kaboom, a few zone with an anomolous spatial flux is not something out of the realm of possibility and Hao Ren was thankful that he entered the place in a spiritual body and could extricate himself at any time should there be danger.
Yet something had now started bugging him. Why and how on earth did he ended up here?
His first foray into the Plane of Dream was through this sort of 'diving' and this was not new to him. But as he had tested, diving into the Plane of Dream from the Surface World will never fail to place him back on Holetta as it seems that Holetta and the Surface World has some sort of reflective connection, or that one of the tear on the Wall of Reality was projected on Holetta.
But this time around, he came to a totally foreign planet, and it seems like it was light years away from Holetta.
Having no idea how that happened, Hao Ren threw the question to the MDT. "MDT, what do you think?"
The MDT pondered for a bit. "... If pessimistically, this phenomenon would mean that the rift in the Wall of Reality is widening. Initially you were only able to enter Holetta from the Surface World when you dream but now.... seems like many other places are now connected to the Surface World."
A chill ran down Hao Ren's gut. "Then what's on the bright side?"
"Optimisically, it's you going bonkers and thus ejected yourself randomly."
"I'm from a production line, and my mother is a massive circuit board detector. Please mind your orientation. My mother is leagues tougher than you have any right to be."
After seeing the MDT retorting so energetically, Hao Ren heaved a sigh of relief. Seems like that tool had also recovered from the post-teleportation stupor.
"We are not out of the woods yet." The MDT sensed Hao Ren's thoughts and let out a seemingly defeated message. "There was a data conversion error when I entered the Plane of Dream. I am now immobile. Please come and pick me up."
Hao Ren was stunned. "What's wrong with you?"
"How do I know? You're the one that dived in."
"Right, right. Where should I pick you up?"
The MDT transferred the navigation details into Hao Ren's head and the latter used his telepathic senses to head to the direction. As he looked, he saw greens smoke coming from the street with gunfire rining about.
That tool really chose a 'nice' place to land.
Hao Ren sighed while he shook his head and leapt three stories down as he ran towards the street.
As he approached the firefight zone, he saw a few bodies: Their uniform was irregular, with a mix of male and female, all of them were equipped with small calibre weapons, and based on their wounds, they were the recent dead.
By the time he reached the street where the MDT had beaconed, the fighting was over.
The stentch of gunpowder mixed with blood was permeating in the air. The soldiers had all either retreated or lay dead. He only saw a few destroyed equipment and a few corpses behind some cover. Seems like they did not have time to clear the corpses, and this was quite obvious the losing party.
Hao Ren looked left and right and did not see any living being. There was a couple of bodies behind a cement block not too far from him. Hao Ren walked towards the bodies and bend down to check things out.
"Gunpowder weapons but much much more advanced than Earth." Hao Ren looked at the equipment as he mumbled to himself. "Oh, the gun has some electronic support devices attached to it... probably aim asisstance.... Ohhh.... it's linked to the combat gear..."
Hao Ren picked up on of the rifle and a projection immediately appeared. Invalid user. Weapon locked.
"...And it actually has user recognition."
At the very moment, a bright voice from behind had Hao Ren freeze. "Don't move! You, there! Put your hands behind your head. And turn towards me slowly!"