Of course, Drakos had already known the answer, but Erin frowned and asked, "Him? What could you want with him? Isn't he just some sect disciple who had his eyes burned out? How do you even know him?"
Daneel took a moment to answer, as he felt that he should really have his guard up around this woman. She had managed to deduce so much from a simple thing, so he did not put it past her to read things between the lines of whatever he said. After all, he had no intention whatsoever of letting it slip that he had something else that he was hiding, so he carefully thought for a bit and said, "If my suspicions are correct, the Church might have already succeeded in infiltrating one of the Big Four. And as you can guess, they would definitely use that opportunity to try and break that sect from the inside. I want to use a Consciousness Link spell to find out what he knows. With Drakos's help, I sneaked into the Sect of Hedon before and made a bond with him, and I also cast a spell to keep a check so that he wouldn't betray me at the time. Now, the only reason he did this to himself is to notify me as the spell couldn't send information from inside the sect. There are other possibilities, too, so I just want to find the answer by asking him directly."
Daneel had tried to compress everything as much as possible, and he expected the woman to ask questions.
However, after deeply pondering for a bit, she just waved her hand.
"Go on. I need to… er, speak with Drakos, anyway. I don't like unfounded conclusions, so be sure before saying something so grave."
Daneel didn't know what word she had been about to use in the place of 'speak', and he didn't want to guess.
Although there were still a few questions regarding the Empire Spirit that he had, his curiosity had been sated, so he moved to his original objective behind coming here.
He also told himself that this time, he had gotten off lucky. He had been thinking that with all the spells behind the third seal, he was pretty much invincible, but that was clearly not the case. If this was anyone else from the Big Four, and if they had managed to know all of these things, he would definitely have been doomed. He had to be more careful from now on, and he vowed that he would definitely take much more caution, at least before he was powerful enough.
With a nod, he started walking towards the ice ball, after which he used a simple spell to heat his finger before allowing it to bore through the ice that had been enchanted.
The moment his finger came in contact with the skin of Percy's hand, Daneel asked the system to activate the spell, and the next moment, darkness overtook his vision as he pa.s.sed out.
When Daneel opened his eyes, there was only a blank s.p.a.ce all around him, and although he could feel his body, he couldn't see it.
This was a pretty terrifying thing, but he remained calm and observed his surroundings.
After looking around for a bit and finding nothing, he was just about to ask the system where he was, before a small light bloomed into existence right in front of him.
Along with it, multiple lights also started to come into being, but Daneel was focusing on this first one.
He expressed his intention to view it more clearly, as he could see tiny figures moving inside that light. Whatever this world was, it seemed to obey his will, as he moved closer to the light and was able to peek in.
This startled him a bit, but he took it in stride.
It was like he was watching a movie, and it displayed the scene of a wooden house in which a woman lay in a bed, looking deathly pale.
He was seeing things from a first person view, so he could see a hand holding that woman's arm on which the skin clung to the bones. Tears dripped onto the mattress that was draped on her, and as Daneel p.r.i.c.ked his ears, he heard a young voice that sounded familiar.
"No, mom, you can't leave me alone. You can't leave me with him. Please, mom. Take me with you. Don't leave me. Please stay."
Again and again, he kept saying things like these, but the woman's eyes were closed. She did not seem to be responding to his words, and Daneel felt pity for this kid who, judging from the size of his hand, was only around 7 to 8 years old.
Suddenly, with a loud sound, the door opened to allow in the Mad Doctor, who looked at the scene of the kid holding his mother and tightened his lips.
He walked forward and felt the pulse on her other hand, all while Percy watched on with trepidation, as if he was afraid of what he would say.
After taking the pulse and casting a few spells that looked like they were supposed to check her condition further, the Mad Doctor shrugged and said, "She's too far gone. Giving birth to you had already taken a toll on her, and she had always been weak all her life. She had only her beauty going for her, and even that has withered away. She's useless. Well, better to just end her suffering."
It looked like his worst fears had come true, as Percy immediately sprang to his feet and found the courage out of nowhere to say, "No! You can save her! I heard the others saying that you have the skills and the materials to prolong any normal human's life! Please use them! I'll do anything you want!"
At first, anger appeared on the Mad Doctor's face, but he controlled it as it looked like he had just gotten an idea.
"You're too soft. Yes, I can do it, but I see no value in it. Instead, this might help in making you grow. Watch."
The next second, in a blur, the Mad Doctor's hand moved like a knife toward the woman's neck, and as a loud scream that almost shattered Daneel's ears appeared, that light broke into a million pieces.
"System, what was that?", he asked, wincing, and the system replied, [This is the consciousness of the target which is in a dreaming state. Currently, it is reliving the worst moments of its life, and this usually happens when one is in an artificially induced coma. All of the small lights that host sees, which is an artificial representation created by host's consciousness with the help of the link, are extremely traumatic situations that the target has been through.]
Although Daneel heard the answer, he just couldn't believe it, but after a moment, a memory surfaced in his mind.
Percy, on the ground, with his head between his legs, swinging forward and back while chanting a list of names to himself.
There had been 44 names on that list, and there were 44 lights here.
Clearly, these were all the people who had made it onto that list.
With horror appearing in his mind, Daneel took perfunctory glances at each of them, and realized that each was similar to the one he had originally seen. They were all about people who had been connected to Percy in some way, who were killed by the Mad Doctor due to various reasons. Sometimes, there weren't even reasons – he just did it for the kick of it.
Daneel had known that Percy had been through a lot, but seeing it for himself made it affect him in ways that it hadn't done before.
How did someone who had been through so, so much… Become the Percy that any new? That obnoxious, irritating kid who had begged him to take him on as a disciple?
Only one thing could explain it- a burning desire for revenge, that had somehow not consumed Percy and turned him into a single-minded individual who would keep pus.h.i.+ng forward while not allowing it to burn them up.
And this meant that Percy had a certain kind of strength that was only found in a few – the strength to be able to persevere, and not bow down to life. Instead, he spit on its face every day, and tried his best to get what he wished, while not losing his ident.i.ty in the process.
Daneel had a newfound admiration for his disciple now, but for the moment, he placed that to the side and asked the system, "How do I talk to him?"
[Host must choose a memory and enter it at will. Host will be at the mercy of the target, so it is advised that host should think of something that will prove host's ident.i.ty, as the records of the Empire state that those whose dreams are intruded on in this way automatically a.s.sociate it as a hostile attempt, and react aggressively.]
Thinking for a bit and getting an idea, Daneel looked around and chose the memory in which Percy looked like he was the oldest.
The moment he did so, he blinked, and found himself in that same wooden house as the first memory he had seen.
He had appeared physically, so instead of seeing it from Percy's view, he now had a third-person viewpoint of the scene.
A man and woman were standing beside each other, and the man was pointing at an old, rusted steel bed while saying, "That was where…"
Interrupted rudely, Percy turned around as he felt something different about this memory, and this dream, or nightmare, as he called it, for the umpteenth time.
His dreams had always revolved around reliving his worst moments, and often, even though he felt that he had the power to control himself and change things, he knew that it was all for naught. What was done was done, so he allowed himself to be swept into each one while they reinforced his desire to kill his father, all while both giving him happiness due to seeing what he had had, and sadness because the memories would always end with that happiness being utterly destroyed.
The girl beside him vanished into a puff of smoke as he turned around, and by instinct, he prepared to attack. Something just felt…wrong about this, so his first thought was that this might be Church using some method to kill him while he was suspended.
Yet, the dignified face of the man in front of him made him stop.
Of course, it was the one for whom he had done all this, in the first place.
"Of course it's me. Put away that attack, and tell me everything that happened."
Daneel knew how much his 'master' avatar meant for Percy, so he had gambled on its power to stop the man from attacking. Still, the fireball he had conjured in response felt so powerful, as if it was a supernova and not a simple spell, which was probably because of the fact that this world was controlled by him.
Percy prepared to do so, but he paused and said, "If you are an enemy, you could have checked my memories and taken this form. How can I trust you?"
Well, at least, the kid was smart.
Daneel had expected this, so he said, "Caution is good. There is no way to answer, though, because if I am an enemy and if I did go through your memories to find this form, I will also know all the interactions you had, which means there is nothing I can say to prove my ident.i.ty. Let's leave all that. Just tell me everything that happened, and I'll be on my way. Obviously, if I was the enemy, I would already know everything, so you lose nothing by telling me."
Percy listened to the man speaking, and after thinking for a bit, he realized that it made sense. If it was the Church, they would already know the answer, anyway, so there was now a high probability that this was his master.
However, Percy decided to play it safe, as the Church were just too mysterious and powerful an enemy.
He recited everything that happened, including the exact dialogues spoken by the man from the Church, but he didn't say anything regarding his thoughts, or why he had blinded himself.
It looked as if it wasn't necessary, though, as his master's face took on a grave expression as he heard the answer.
After Percy was done, he said, "All right. I've found everything I wanted to. You'll be healed now, and after that, I'll come meet you. You did good, boy. There will be a huge surprise waiting for you when you open your eyes, so persevere, and make sure you recover. Got it?"
Tears shone in Percy's eyes as he heard this. He so, so wished that this was his master.
That had been the only man to give a sh*t about his b.a.s.t.a.r.d self in a long time.
As he saw him disappear, he went back to the memory, but he did remember the part about the surprise.
Well, he was definitely going to ask his master for it after he woke up. And if that had been the enemy…well, then there would be no waking up, so it was useless to think of that option.
Meanwhile, Daneel had just opened his eyes in the large cave, only to turn around and find that a large…room, had popped into existence at some point behind him.
It had opaque gla.s.s walls, and using his elementary vision, Daneel saw that it was made of Hero-level formations.
The two Empire Spirits were nowhere to be seen, and just as Daneel was about to contact Drakos in his mind, a loud sound stopped him.
It was from inside that room.
Huh? Were they fighting or something? Were there unresolved issues, or…?
Before he could continue his line of thought, the barriers faded away to reveal the two Spirits in the same position as before, sitting on the sofa, but their faces were flushed.
Seeing Daneel staring at them with a surprised expression on his face, Erin got a playful look in her eyes and said something which made him almost cough out blood.
"Oh, you're back. You see, when two adults meet after a long time, they engage in some very enlightening…'conversations'. You'll understand when you grow up. Right, then, what did your friend say?"