Chapter 247: Ouroboros (3) – Epilogue
In the same year, Sirwen announced a new theory about the Tree of Imagery.
“So, you saying that maybe the Nightmare of the Beginning is located at the Roots?”
“Yeah, in summary.”
“Ugh, that’s nonsense!”
Nightmares still studied the Tree of Imagery even after it disappeared. The Tree of Imagery held every secret behind birth. It was a motive for every tower and allowed ‘Cultivation’ to give Nightmares a purpose. They still were clinging onto that tree.
“There’s no way. If the Nightmare of the Beginning was located at the roots, we would have found it a long time ago.”
“No. We do not know what the Nightmare of the Beginning looks like. We might’ve even visited the place and didn’t even realize it.”
But even those Nightmares didn’t seem to be convinced by the new theory. It wasn’t because Sirwen’s theory was complicated. The theory itself was simple. It just said the Tree of Imagery didn’t grow in one direction.
“We all know that the branches or the roots didn’t grow in one direction.”
“My theory has a point. What if the roots and branches circled the universe to meet each other? What if the Tree of Imagery was in the shape of a circle? That might explain why we couldn’t find the Nightmare of the Beginning when the Tree of Imagery was destroyed. That’s why there’s no ‘top floor’ to the tree!”
“That is nonsense!”
“Finding the Roots in this land is proof! We might not know what the Tree of Imagery looked like!”
Sirwen spoke desperately. She had a reason to as she needed the help of these old Nightmares this time.
“You cannot prove your point. Besides, we can’t go to the [Remote Region] anymore. Even if there is the Nightmare of the Beginning there… there is no Tree of Imagery and…”
“That’s why I’m telling you! If we change our views, we might be able to reconstruct the way! We might even be allowed to travel through dimensions freely again!”
“No way. Let’s cut this nonsense now.”
Sirwen bit her lips. She hoped that the old Nightmares who still longed for the Tree of Imagery would understand her, but it was no use.
Sirwen knew that the time of Nightmares was over.
No more Nightmares were born after the Tree of Imagery disappeared. The tower just became a hollow form of art after Cultivation was gone as if the horrific Cultivation was the true identity of art.
Sirwen shouted angrily.
“FINE! Be fools! Die in your past glory!”
The fall of her race? She didn’t care anymore.
Sirwen returned to the only person who understood her.
“…Didn’t go well?”
Sirwen smiled at Runald’s concerned expression.
“Don’t worry. I can do it alone. I will do it someday. I can meet him again. You just have to stay alive until then.”
Runald smiled without energy.
“He’s still alive, isn’t he?”
“Yeah. I’m sure of it.”
Runald blinked slowly.
“I have a strange dream these days. I hear voices calling me somewhere. It’s like when I was in his unique world…”
“Don’t make it sound like you will die soon, kid.”
“…Stop calling me kid, will you? You should respect your elder.”
Sirwen quietly tapped Runald’s forehead.
They smiled at each other and began talking about the old days like every other day. They talked about the days when Jaehwan first appeared in <Depth>. Then they talked about what followed after. They talked about the stubborn Jaehwan, and days of impossible plans. And…
“When do you die?”
“I don’t know. Maybe after 1,000 years?”
“1,000… I didn’t know I would feel that time to be so long.”
Runald looked up at Sirwen with a lonely expression.
“You have to keep talking to someone even when I’m gone. Okay?”
“…Shut up, kid.”
“You should at least talk to yourself. Don’t break. Even if everyone forgets everything except you. Don’t consider everything as an illusion or a dream. Okay?”
“Of course, I won’t.”
“Right. You’re a Nightmare. I’m sure you have better memory than me.”
“You know, those days have become hazy these days. It sometimes even feels like it didn’t exist… as if I was in a long dream, that Jaehwan never existed and everything was just a dream…”
And Runald fell asleep. Sirwen felt his breathing slowing down. His heartbeat was dying out. She knew this was the last, but she couldn’t wake him up.
She couldn’t even dare to close her eyes as it would bring tears. She just placed her hand over Runald’s forehead.
“Silly. There’s no way it was a dream.”
Everyone who had the same dreams disappeared and the old Nightmares died one by one.
Sirwen was left alone. She alone remembered everything.
No more Roots were found. She thought maybe the Root she found was the last Root that the Tree of Imagery had left. She kept it well and studied it whenever she had time. The Root was the only way to reach the end of her questions. It was the only piece of evidence to answer why she was born in this world, why she met Jaehwan, and what the Nightmare of the Beginning was.
This was the only possible tunnel that might connect her to Jaehwan.
She studied and studied.
She collected documents from dead Nightmares and asked for help from other races. But the research didn’t go so well.
10 years passed. 20 years passed. 100 years passed. And then 200 years.
All of a sudden, she realized everyone except tor her had forgotten about a being named Jaehwan. History did not record Jaehwan anymore and no one stabbed. And there was a sign of the return of the System. It wasn’t obvious like before. There were no levels or statuses, but Sirwen was able to feel it.
The System was coming back.
Sirwen still did not know anything. She didn’t know what the Nightmare of the Beginning was, and why the Tree of Imagery gave birth to her. Sirwen did not know.
And Sirwen placed down the Root she was researching.
She wasn’t sure if it was an act of giving up or the beginning of a new challenge. But she remembered when she was creating the tower for the last time, the tower she created for Jaehwan.
Maybe it was a sudden urge, but Sirwen acted on it. She peeled off the Root and began shaping it using her tools.
She began working on her last tower.
With faint longing and severe loneliness, she created the tower. It wasn’t a tower for Cultivation. It was a tower that allowed no Cultivation. It had no use, but that’s why it was unique.
As she created the tower, she dreamed often.
‘This is not a dream. I cannot consider every memory to be a dream.’
But she still dreamed. It was a dream of her quarreling with Chunghuh. There was Karlton and there was Runald. It was also a dream of her arguing with Surha, and it was the dream of his return.
At the end of the long nightmare, she was fixing up the exterior of the tower. There was a lonely tree at the end of her hand.
‘Just a bit more. I just need to work on a bit more…’
And she fell asleep again without finishing her work. It was a deep sleep this time. She thought she might not wake up in time before she had fallen asleep.
The sound of quiet breaths filled her small room.
The quietness was steady and calm. It felt like it would continue endlessly, as if it were telling Sirwen that she had done well. That she could rest now.
But it was then that a small sound came from her tower. It was so small that Sirwen could barely hear it. Within the tower, a small crack opened up and the dark room was soon filled with the faint light.
It was a familiar crack.
It was like the day the sky was ripped open by the stab.
The crack began to spread across the tower as if one world was calling upon another world. As if one world was overlapping into another.
Even in her dream, Sirwen saw the crack. She smiled as she knew what it was. In the faint sight, she tried to open her mouth.
She wanted to say that she had waited for too long.
But her drowsiness was too heavy and she couldn’t bring herself up. The tower shined brightly and embraced her. It was as if it was saying that she can sleep more, that it was okay to sleep.
Sirwen felt relieved and closed her eyes.
It was a rest that she could take because she knew this wasn’t over.
And in the bright light, she dreamed for a long time.
In that dream, she thought that she should rest well and regain her energy.
Because when she woke up, a new world would be waiting for her.