Chapter 86: The Mysterious Presence

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She appeared in a green field together with Kokujin. The breeze was calmly waving the grass, and the ruins of von Drachen estate could be seen on the meadows.

"Oh," Tamie sighed, looking around, and particularly at the ruins, "So sad... So it is marked in his subconscious..."

"Yeah... I've been here before, but due to the muse rules, I cannot disclose what happened between me and Byakuya in here... I can state that I met Debbie too, though," Kokujin smiled. 

Tamie first widened eyes - he had been here? But then she grinned:

"Well then, guide me around!"

"Sure thing. However..."

"What is it?"

"Where is Byakuya?" the muse asked with slight concern. "Or at least Debbie?"

"Now that you say it..."

Suddenly, they heard charming tunes of a bamboo flute come from ahead - a high, foggy mountain with stairs leading up to a cavern.

"Huh? What's that?" Tamie stupefiedly eyed the high mountain.

"Beats me," Kokujin scratched the back of his head, "Haven't seen it when I was here before..."

"But the tunes come from there," Tamie noted, clearly hearing the melody of the flute. "Let's go".

"Wait, Goddess!" Kokujin frowned and clutched her arm, "What if it's a trap? Here, I don't have my Blue Fire powers unless Debbie, the ruler of this dream world, gives me the permission to use them, so if anything dangerous happens, I won't be able to help!"

"Relax, Jin. I am a Demigoddess rank now, remember? And I am a Bearer of the Soul. This is just a Ghost Clone. I've got my own powers. I do not need to entirely depend on you as I did before. So no need to worry, I can protect myself!" Tamie stepped forward towards the mountain again.

"But_" Kokujin wanted to object. However, when he saw the girl wasn't listening to him anymore, he sighed and reluctantly followed her, cautiously looking around for any possible danger. That guy is quite unpredictable, especially after that weird trick he pulled off during the fight with Gustav Jaeger... I must be careful... he thought, watching Tamie, willing to protect her at any cost if ever a situation arose.

They marched for a long time through forests and fields, always towards the mysterious foggy mountain where the charming tunes were coming from. They stepped up the stairs, through various bamboo forests and saddened willows with their branches knelt at koi fish ponds.

"The more we walk on, the creepier it gets..." Kokujin whispered.

"Ugh, don't act like you're scared, Jin! You were never fearful in my books. What's wrong with you now?"

"This is not your book and we do not know what lies at the end!"

"Ugh, come on! We don't know what lies at the end of my books either until we finish them".

Kokujin sighed with annoyance and followed her.

There's no winning an argument with such a stubborn lady...

Soon they reached the top of the mountain where there was the cavern they had seen from below, and where the flute tunes were coming from. The melody got clearer, and Tamie recognized the music Byakuya had played during their first encounter, back on the Cherry Blossom Festival.

"The tune called Dragon's Lament?!"

"Huh? Dragon's Lament?" Kokujin too recalled how Byakuya, when they first met him at the festivity, had named this exact melody Dragon's Lament when he had played it. "Don't tell me..."

"Let's go, Kokujin, the dragon might be near!" Tamie grabbed his hand, rushing towards the cave.

"Wait! If it truly is that beast then we might as well go back, not forward!" What was she thinking?! It was dangerous to meet a dragon, which everyone considered bloodthirsty, in this foreign dream world!

"Come on! That's what we came here for. Byakuya might be there!"

"Wait!" Kokujin worriedly hurried after her, and when they both came to the cave entrance, they froze in a stupor - there was Byakuya calmly sleeping in a bed, and Debbie was slumbering too, beside him.

There, in the cavern, was a giant man sitting, over two metres tall, with long red bushy hair tied in a ponytail, and the skin covered with various paintings and black clothes, and was calmly playing the melody of Dragon's Lament on a bamboo flute. In that man, both Tamie and Kokujin recognized the silhouette of the gruesome dragon in a human form that had appeared behind Byakuya back in the fight against Gustav. Kokujin shuddered to see such a horrendous creature before him and grabbed Tamie's wrist, wanting to hurry back, when suddenly the ominous man ceased playing the flute. Both Kokujin and Tamie gulped and trembled with dread as they saw the man's fiery eyes open and gaze right into their souls!

 Both Kokujin and Tamie gulped and trembled with dread as they saw the man's fiery eyes open and gaze right into their souls!

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