Bianca stopped having nightmares as soon as Prince Raimond made a deal with the Dream Archon. Despite possessing the “Blue Rose” requested by Marcyziel, the Prince refused to hand it over as payment. Instead, he made a decision that made Alina wonder how resourceful he was.
“Talk to me later when we’re alone. I have something else of equal value.”
Alina hoped he didn’t give the sympathetic spirit one of the Empire’s three sacred regalia; the sword, the shield, and the spear. Those objects were far more valuable than a flower that could grant their owner either eternal life or eternal happiness. The founder of the Empire received them from a Divine Spirit. Their current holder shouldn’t hand them to anyone less than divine.
People were afraid of the things they didn't know; Alina wasn’t an exception. Marcyziel would visit Alina to teach her something new from time to time. To say that she looked overjoyed was an understatement.
“Why are you so happy?”
“What do you mean? I’m always happy,” that was what the Dream Archon said when confronted for answers.
Marcyziel was one of those Archons whose duty is to observe humanity. However, the Dream Archon wasn’t doing anything these days. Humanity can observe themselves.
The Divine Councils divided Archons into three groups of seven, each with their duties and responsibilities. They tasked them with guiding, observing, or testing humanity depending on their nature and placement. For example, they chose Iruel, the Spirit Queen of Jump Scares and Unsettling Imageries as the Archon of Dread and Terror to test humanity with those things.
Greater Spirits could lose their Archon title when they did something stupid like being absent from a council meeting three times or worse, falling in love with a human. Marcyziel hasn’t lost her title yet because everyone keeps forgetting about her.
Unlike mortals, spirits don’t need to sleep; they don’t dream. Alina wished she could shed her mortal status and ascend to a spirit. That way, she could read every book in existence without getting tired. The night has fallen, yet Alina hasn’t found what could make Marcyziel so happy.
Did the Dream Archon receive a way to remind other spirits of her existence? Spirits can’t die; to them, being forgotten was worse than death. Spirits forgotten by the world would cease existing, disappearing into the void.
“Aren’t you tired? Let’s call it a day and go to sleep,” the restricted section’s librarian appeared in her usual manner, emerging from the shadows.
The librarian tilted her head at the mention of her name. In most case, a tilted head was a sign of interest or curiosity, which was not good for a cat. Curiosity killed them. Alina liked Mila; she doesn’t want her to die because of being killed. Nine lives or not, dying wasn’t a pleasant experience.
“You live here, but I have never seen you sleeping before, what’s your secret?”
Alina felt the need to know if Mila was secretly a spirit, a kin of the Spirit Queen of Shadows, based on her ability to manipulate shadows.
“It’s a long story. I rejected my humanity.”
“Just kidding! I never slept when the library is open. That’s all.”
There was a glaring contradiction in the librarian’s statement; the library is open to visitors 24/7. Alina detested liars. One more lie and her friendship with Mila would be over.
“No, that’s wrong! The library is always open!”
“I know, but the restricted section is only open when I felt like it.”
“Are you sure you’re not a two-tailed demon cat in human form?”
Lyudmila gave Alina a blank look, and then she laughed.
“I’m not a cat. I haven’t been eating cats lately. You are what you eat, right? You must be tired. Why not get some sleep?”
“I can’t work when I’m sleeping.”
Alina still needs to figure out what made the Dream Archon seemed so happy and satisfied. Was her happiness caused by whatever Prince Raimond gave to her? It doesn’t matter. Whatever it was, the feeling of impending doom continued. Would the entire empire remain standing by the end of this year?
“Years ago, I used to be as hardworking as you. I thought everything was going to be the same for the rest of my life until my brain turned to mush. Don’t overwork yourself.”
“What if the world ended while I was sleeping?”
“Then it’s not your fault.”
Could Lyudmila be right? If the world ended, it would be Prince Raimond’s fault, not Alina. But wasn’t Alina the reason the Prince wouldn’t part with the “Blue Rose”? He wanted her to be happy, for now, and forever, but what did it cost?
She tried asking both parties involved in the transaction and received no favourable response. They have no intention of revealing what was traded in exchange for curing Bianca. Alina couldn’t help but worry; she wasn’t used to people keeping a secret from her, especially if the said secret can destroy the world.
“Let me guess. Prince Raimond did something stupid again? What was it this time?”
“He gave something to the Dream Archon that made her very happy, and they won’t tell me what it was.”
“Really? I never knew you were the jealous type.”
Why would Alina be jealous? She didn't need to be given a world-ending artefact to be happy. The problem was that she has no idea how to prepare for the upcoming apocalypse caused by the imbalance between the human world and the spirit world.
Some artefacts were meant to stay exclusively on one world, bringing them to another world would cause the fabrics of reality to collapse, resulting in glorious explosions whose aftereffects could be seen from another continent. It was hard not to notice the mushroom-shaped cloud of debris, smoke, and condensed water favour formed by the explosions.
“What if he caused the world to end earlier than it should be?”
“You don’t want this world to end?” asked Lyudmila in... disbelief? It was proof that some people still saw living in this world as a punishment for the crimes committed by the first human; the original sin.
Alina almost forgot the spirit world was eternal. The Allfather made it to be indestructible. She has to thank Lyudmila for reminding her that the destruction of its counterpart wouldn’t affect it. The spirit world existed from the dawn of creation and would continue to exist for eternity.
“Answer my question. I’m curious. Do you have a reason for not wanting this world to end? You don’t have to specify what it is if it’s too personal.”
“Don't worry. The world won't end as long as people like you are still around.”