1 Dream

"Is it time already…?" A young man in his late teens mumbled in a low voice, knowing that nobody was around to hear him.

In front of him was the breathtaking view of a divine palace that was shining in bright, holy light. The tranquility surrounding him made the young teen feel extremely calm.

He was familiar with this place, after all.

The white light infiltrated his pores, seeping into every single cell within his body, invigorating him.

"As always...it feels real…" He mumbled yet again as he opened his eyes, revealing bright silver irises.

They were overflowing with vigor, but what others would see by looking into them was nothing but sadness and despair.

'Why am I even opening my eyes... It's just a dream, either way.' He thought dejectedly. A deep sigh escaped his lips that exposed his longing as he took his first step toward the divine palace.

His entire body was invigorated, and brimming with energy, yet, with every single step, he felt as if the burden weighing him down was increasing substantially.

Not even four steps later, he was sweating profusely.

Thick drops of sweat trickled down his back as his shirt was plastered to his skin. Exhaustion swept through his body, slowly but steadily replacing the vigor that had filled him with hope minutes ago as if a parasite would slowly suck away the life of its host.

With his entire body quivering under the tremendous pressure, the young man found it difficult to even take another step.

'As usual…'

It was the same as always, and he had been experiencing this for the last few years. So far, nothing seemed to have changed.

Clenching his fist, the young man tried to fight the losing battle.

Under normal circumstances, he would have given up by now and succumbed to his fate.

However, too many events had happened in the last few days, making him desperate enough to ignore his body's pain and exhaustion.

'It's just a dream... Once you wake up, everything will be fine... Just endure it!' He kept repeating it to himself like a mantra.

All he could, for now, was gritting his teeth, and wait for it to be over. His body as well as his mind knew that everything he said was, in fact, bound to happen.

At the tender age of three, when he had been a toddler, an unforeseen incident had occurred, changing his entire life forever. Since that fateful day, his life had never been the same.

Ever since that incident, he had had a recurring dream on the first day of every month.

At first, the overly realistic dream had confused him, but somehow after all these years, he had learned to live with it.

The same incident that made him dream about the divine palace was also the cause for him to turn blind, losing his eyesight.

In an era that was filled with ferocious beasts, dungeons, hostile otherworldly beings, and humans that were forced to rely on their own strength to survive, being blind was an absolute nightmare.

And fate seemed to be awfully cruel in making this misery afflict a small child who had barely started to walk.

After all, his entire future had been a blank sheet and full of potential…before!

The young child's dreams had been shattered as he was forced to mature well before other kids around his age would.

What was left behind was a broken shell that was treated harshly by the society that worshipped the talented, and discarded the weak like used tissues.

However, the young man had never complained about his situation because he was loved by his family.

He didn't need anything else but his parents and sister, all of whom doted on him.

In fact, he was not even required to fight other beasts if it was not necessary!

His life had been hard and filled with humiliation, but despite that, he had learned to find happiness in the smallest things.

To his misery and rotten luck, even that happiness was snatched away from him when it was discovered that his little sister was terminally ill!

She had been diagnosed with a rare disease, and the medicine to stabilize her condition was simply too expensive for middle-class families.

As such, their happiness turned into desperation, making him and his parents search for a proper cure.

They were forced to procure origin crystals by killing wild beasts that inhabited mystical, isolated places, also called dungeons.

Those places were not only prone to various environmental hazards but were also filled with powerful beasts that would kill without any mercy, tearing apart anyone who would dare step in their territory.

Despite the dangers, his parents would toil and risk their lives day in and day out for the sake of their daughter.

Even then, they were unable to cure his little sister's disease, and could barely delay her death.

Fueled by the desperation to help his family, the young man was fiercely trying to enter the divine palace in hopes of finding something that could help his family in any way.

Having been nothing but a burden to his family, he was determined to change his fate which made him give his utmost efforts to do something that might help, somehow.

One of these things was to enter the divine palace that appeared in his dream, because his instincts told him that it was not just a magnificent structure, at all!

**

Fifteen years ago, on a warm summer afternoon just like any other, a dungeon portal manifested in the middle of a playground.

The dungeon portal disappeared as quickly as it had appeared, leaving nothing behind.

This made it seem as if the portal had never existed, in the first place!

However, there was just one problem…

One of the many children that had been happily playing on the ground had disappeared inside the dungeon portal!

It was only a week later that the child had magically reappeared, at the exact same spot he had disappeared from...with dead, bleeding eyes.

Somehow, the child lived despite the harrowing incident. However, since then, the child had never been able to perceive the mythic energy, mana, ever again!

This child was Nial, the young man who was currently straining himself as he roared out, taking his fifth step towards the divine palace.

Sweat was now flowing in rivulets down his forehead, plastering his hair to his temples.

But, now was not the time to give up. As such, he kept pushing himself while he grit his teeth as his silver eyes shone brightly.

After breaking through his limit, the subsequent steps didn't feel as burdensome as the previous one, even though the gravitational force continued to increase exponentially.

Using his sheer willpower, and the thought of his bedridden sister and dead-tired parents who were risking their lives every single day, he groaned out again before continuing to advance.

Nial knew that he couldn't take life as lightly as he had been doing before, giving him the necessary strength to advance the marble staircase.

Clouds enveloped the staircase, making him feel as if he was walking in the air.

Thus to prevent feeling dizzy, he forced himself to focus on the palace.

Oblivious to the time he had taken to ascend the stairs, Nial arrived on top of them while gasping for air.

It made him wonder how his body had survived the task as he felt like it would stop working at any moment.

Yet, just as both of his feet reached the final stair, the pressure dispersed.

This gave him the necessary time to calm down and breathe.

He took a moment to collect himself, taking lungfuls of air.

With an unbreakable will, he kept walking ahead, one step at a time.

Nial only stopped when he reached the outer area of the vast palace hall as his feet passed through the gigantic open door.

'I…did it!!' That was all he could think as an exhausted smile appeared on his lips.

'"Finally, you have arrived, Nial! It took you quite a while!"

Out of nowhere, Nial heard the seducing voice of a mature woman.

It resounded through the entire hall, as it bounced off the large walls, startling him.

Raising his head, Nial stared straight ahead at the elevated throne that he could see through his blurry eyes.

Focussing on the scene in front of him, he was able to see a mature woman seated on the magnificent throne.

She had fair and flawless skin and a seemingly perfect physique that complemented her surreal beauty.

The silky white dress that she was wearing tightly clung to her voluptuous body, highlighting her black silky hair and dark brown eyes that stared right into the depths of his soul.

He had no idea how the woman who resembled a goddess knew his name.

But even if Nial wanted to, it was impossible for him to utter a single word.

It was almost as if his mouth had been sewn shut.

Without uttering another word, the god-like existence got up from her throne.

Her simple move caused the entire palace to tremble owing to the tremendous energy her body released naturally.

"So, that's how our little anomaly looks like. I had high hopes for nothing… It's quite...disappointing."

The words spoken by the Goddess didn't hurt Nial a tiny bit.

After all, he was already accustomed to being treated worse and called weird names.

As such, his eyes didn't show even the faintest trace of anger. Instead, they were gleaming in determination.

The Goddess noticed this, which caused her first impression of Nial to change a little bit.

'Maybe…? No, probably not… I'm expecting too much.'

Without giving it another thought, she flicked her wrist in an imperceptible move, pulling him closer without touching a strand of his hair.

Nial's breath got caught in his throat as the Goddess' holy light enveloped him gently.

"You are...unfamiliar with those eyes of yours, but you've seen before…" She muttered without lifting her gaze from Nial as she mused,

"Maybe you are more interesting than I thought!"

Still unable to say anything, Nial could only stare at her.

He made no attempts to avoid her soul-piercing eyes as he tried his utmost to speak.

'If I could wield mana, or even better...see once again, then… I could help my family!' He thought deperately while trying to speak with all his might.

"So you want to help your family?" She suddenly asked, reading his thoughts like an open book.

She could even hear and see the images of his bedridden sister and exhausted parents that flashed through his mind.

Thus, on a whim, she decided to do something that she, the Divine Goddess, had never done before.

"Anomaly Nial, are you willing to owe me a favor in exchange for regaining your eyesight?"

Hearing her words, made him feel as if his dream had just come true. Nial didn't even need a single second to react.

Nodding his head vigorously, even the natural suppression of the Goddess' holy aura was unable to hold him back from moving as he smiled brightly.

'Will he be useful enough though?' She asked herself, only to remember the reason for allowing the mortal anomaly to enter the divine palace in the first place.

As such, she set her doubts aside and lifted her hand to touch his forehead, right in the center of his eyebrows with her forefinger.

A moment later, the Goddess inserted a small trace of her divine energy into Nialas it seeped into his skin where her finger touched his forehead.

He suddenly grew hopeful and nervous about the future, but only a few seconds passed before he noticed a deep frown on the Goddess' face that caused his smile to vanish in an instant.

"I...cannot reverse your eyesight? Is the amount of divine energy I used too little? That cannot be... Using more would kill even the strongest of mortals..." She mumbled to herself, but Nial heard her clearly. Her words confused him but he didn't dare make a move.

He knew that the divine energy that entered his body was doing something, but weirdly enough, it was unable to reach his eyes.

It was almost as if something was blocking it, preventing it from healing his vision

At that moment, something that had been sealed in the depths of his conscience trembled wildly, erupting with tremendous power that spread through Nial's body, nearly tearing him apart.

His skin burst open and fountains of blood spurted out of him but oddly enough, he felt no pain, at all.

Rather, what Nial felt was something completely different, tracing back to the days before the incident, belonging to the first few years of his life before it had changed to the worst possible!

A tremendous amount of divine energy swept through his body, reaching every cell within the young man. The sudden influx of energy made him feel stunned as he heard a shrill outcry.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING!! WHO ARE YOU?!? IS THAT YOU R-..." The Goddess shouted, flabbergasted.

Fear shone in her eyes, replacing her earlier confusion. The entire divine palace began to tremble violently owing to the energy she released, all of which was used to push Nial away with her entire might.

Catapulted through the air, Nial was hurled like a piece of paper. The sheer strength that had been used to push Nial was enough to kill him on the spot.

As such, he didn't even notice that his body smashed into the divine palace's wall, before disintegrating into countless particles of light... and darkness.

**

Waking up from his dream with a start, Nial took deep breaths as he felt that his back was drenched in cold sweat. Sniffing a little, he sensed a putrid smell permeating the air around him.

A moment later, Nial opened his white eyes that were without any vigor, and void of the faintest trace of life!

Once again, he was unable to see anything, exactly like before…

However, at that moment, Nial noticed that one thing had changed.

'I...can sense mana?'

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