CHAPTER TWO — DREAMYVERSE
Taffy: This can't be happening... The teleprisms just vanished from this nexus, too!
Does that mean someone stole them, like Yenna said?
I bet they're here right now!!
I'm gonna keep an eye out...
If I catch that thief, it's over for them! They've ruined everything!
Taffy: Nada, do you see anyone suspicious?
Whoa whoa, Nada, what happened to you?!
Nada: Huh... What?
Talk about keeping an eye out...
You mean you don't feel that THING on your face?
What? What thing?!
Don't tell me there's a bug or something—
...Do you really not know what I'm talking about, or are you playing dumb?
That's a little too convenient...
I-I don't know what you're talking about.
What's on my face...?
My head started hurting when the sky flashed like that, but...
Taffy: Why don't I summon you a mirror? You'll see it.
Nada: I don't like the sound of that... but, um, okay...
Taffy snaps her fingers and a mirror appears.
She hands it to me, and, looking into the glass, I definitely see it...
There's another eye on my face, floating oddly on the right side of my head...
It almost looks like it's just a superimposed image, but it's as solid as anything else in this dream.
Taffy: Sooooo then... what's up with that new eye on your face?
I mean, I figured I look different cuz we're in a dream here, but I have no idea what this is!!
Taffy: That's curious...
Nada: I-is this gonna be there when I wake up?!
No, definitely not.
You're in the Dream World, after all.
Taffy: But I'm curious as to why you got THAT on you, of all things...
What do you mean...?
Is something bad gonna happen?!
You said this is your first time in the Dream World, right?
Taffy: Yes or no?
Yes, I've never been here before!
I said that earlier...
Why are you on my case?
I'm worried enough as is...
Sorry, I'm just curious... it doesn't make sense that you've never been to the Dream World before.
But, I guess at least Nuigerita knows if you're telling the truth.
It's just odd, that's all!
Whether you've been to the Dream World or not doesn't really matter as long as I do my job.
That's why I was tasked with escorting you home.
I guess I should follow through on that, huh?
Like I said before, this is my first time in the Dream World, really...
Nada: Do I look like I'd lie to you?
Taffy: Wellllllll... past your innocent facade, maybe—
Nada: Forget it. Don't answer that.
Taffy: Hey, Nada, what do you think?
What do I think about what?
Taffy: You still want to go home to the Waking World?
Nada: Incredibly so...
Taffy: Well, I'll stop prodding.
Are you suspicious of me now cuz of this eye thing on my face?
I can't help it, though. It just reminds me of something...
There's an ancient tale that all of us Dreamborns are familiar with, from a time almost as old as both the Waking and Dream Worlds...
That's what your eye reminds me of.
Taffy: It's said that there was once a being from the Waking World whose strength was so great it rivaled even Nuigerita's, and they entered a great battle with her.
In the end, Queen Nuigerita was victorious.
There's not a creature in any universe who could beat her, so it's ridiculous to think someone would even humor the idea of fighting her!
Taffy: But the destruction wrought by them was catastrophic, and completely unforgivable.
So that's why Nuigerita put her mark on them, as a warning to anyone who would see them.
Even if they changed forms or identities, they would be cursed to bear an extra eye for every sin of theirs.
Taffy: Soon after the war ended, they began sprouting eyes all over until it was all they were made of, and anyone could see how notorious they were from oceans away.
Taffy: That's what your eye reminded me of...
Nada: Oh, um... I'm not familiar with that tale.
Taffy: You are now.
Nada: Just so you don't get the wrong picture, I'm definitely not some kind of ancient Dream World foe.
Well, I figure not.
I can't imagine a wimp like you thinking for even a split second that you could whoop someone's ass, Nuigerita's ESPECIALLY.
Nada: H-hey now...
Um, but anyway... I really don't have any clue how I got this extra eye.
I thought that was something that would just happen when you're dreaming or... something.
I chalk it up to the magic going haywire everywhere since the teleprisms are just straight up disappearing.
I dunno why everything is so crazy on my first time visiting here.
It's not always like this, right?
Nope, not at all.
I guess it's just your lucky day!!
Nada: Oh. Ouch.
Taffy: Speaking of, I have no idea how I'm gonna get you home...
Nada: Oh, yeah, that...
Maybe one of these secretaries at Nexus 2 can figure something out.
I dunno. What do you think?
Nada: Probably... I think your guess is as good as mine.
More sightseeing to do... let's go to the tourism center!
Taffy makes a beeline for the bulbous green building in the plaza, slamming the door open hard enough that it looks like it's gonna fall off its hinges.
I feel like I'm getting deja vu...
Taffy: MAY I SPEAK WITH A SECRETARY?!
Heron: Ah, dear... You look like you've been through a lot.
Taffy: I HAVE BEEN THROUGH SO VERY, VERY FUCKING MUCH.
That sounds awful.
Here, why don't you take a seat at the end of the line?
That beady-eyed secretary behind the counter hasn't even looked up from his desk once during this conversation.
He's just repeatedly stamping envelopes as loud as he can muster.
You're not even helping anyone here!
That's your job and you're not even doing it!
Did I hear something?
...No, couldn't be. Just the wind. *stamp*
Taffy: You think I'm gonna wait on some letters that can get stamped at ANY time?!
Nada: Whoa, chill... Let's just take it easy, we can wait.
Oh, look at that. I think I got some ink on my hand.
Maybe I should clean it off, verrrry meticulously...
DON'T IGNORE ME!
I CAN REPORT YOU TO YOUR SUPERIORS YOU KNOW—
Nada: Heyyyy, the end of the line sure is cozy over here... don't you think?
Taffy: When I get to the front of the line... I swear...
Zephyr: Don't get any shady ideas about cutting, 'cuz we were here first, pal.
What do you mean "we"?
Your dream guide is totally dozing off, so I'd say you're fair game for cutting.
That's why I'm here!!
This bozo keeps falling asleep on me!
That is a complete and utter non-problem.
I should definitely cut ahead of you.
YAAAAHH! DON'T YOU DARE!
I'LL KARATE CHOP YOU INTO NEXT TUESDAY!!
Exit: Zzz... zz...
See?! He's totally useless.
I need a replacement Dream Guide, this one's dysfunctional.
I'm done with these letters.
Who's next in line, and what's your issue.
There's no way you didn't just hear me...
I said, THIS GUY KEEPS FALLIN' ASLEEP ON ME. CAN I GET A REPLACEMENT, I GOT A DUD.
Heron: A... dud.
It means he's not working right.
He's not doing his job right.
Heron: I'm sorry. I can't help you.
Zephyr: Seriously?! I've been waiting this whole time, and—
You definitely have an issue.
You're the issue.
He's the PERFECT Dream Guide.
A wretched little GREMLIN like YOU could never appreciate perfection.
There is no helping you in this life or the next.
May the chains that weigh you down to hell grow ever heavier.
HUH?! YOU'RE TOTALLY SELF-ABSORBED!
This dude isn't doing his job and neither are you!!
Taffy: So now that he's done, my turn, right? Ahem, so—
I'm not DONE! THIS GUY'S DONE!
THIS... HERON GUY, ACCORDING TO HIS NAME PLATE!
Heron: Yes. You called?
Zephyr: You're done.
Heron: I'm done?
Zephyr: You're DOOOOONE... DONE FOR!
Alright, so we're done here.
Next in line, please.
Zephyr: THAT'S NOT WHAT I MEANT, YOU PIECE OF—
Exit: Oh, huh?
NOW you wake up? You're done too.
Yeah, done like yesterday's newspaper.
Done and read and about to be recycled... 'cuz good boys recycle.
Exit: Oh, hello Heron.
Good morning, Exit.
Did you have a good nap?
Exit: I didn't mean to nap, I just fell asleep on accident.
Have you been eating well? And going to bed on time?
You aren't forgetting to brush your teeth, are you?
Yes, yes, and yes... I'm fine, don't worry.
I see how it is... you're allies in this war.
Then... two can play at that game.
...What're you ogling me for, tiny?
You and me both hate Heron.
Let's destroy this guy.
Zephyr: And this guy here... who's side is he on?
Nada: I'm not a guy.
Zephyr: My bad. This nerd here, who's side are they on?
Nada: And I'm not taking sides...
You wanna spill all his pushpins and break his stapler?
Let's show this guy.
Exit: Zephyr, what are you going on about?
Heron's my archnemesis and so are you.
Prepare to taste defeat.
Exit: I'm ready to go swimming now if you still want to.
But... you fell asleep on me, dude!
How am I gonna swim if no one's gonna time my laps around the ocean!
Maybe we could grab a bite to eat, first?
I'll try to stay awake, promise.
You should ditch this brat and hang out with me, Exit.
Exit: ...You're a bad influence.
This guy's insane! He's SO EVIL!
HOW CAN YOU TALK TO HIM!!
Taffy: I'm gonna shred his paperwork until he cries.
Zephyr, I'm done talking to Heron.
We can leave and go swimming any time.
Huff... you're just trying to placate me...
But I really wanna swim so I'll accept your peace treaty for now, foe.
Heron: Byyyyye Exit... have fun and see you later!
Exit: You too.
Exit waves good-bye and leaves the tourism center with Zephyr in haul.
Heron: Back to letters, I guess! *stamp*
HEY, I'M NEXT IN LINE!!
Your job is to help me, not stamp letters and make goo-goo eyes!!
Heron: I'm not making— fuck, I stamped my hand.
What's your problem, anyway?
Taffy: I've got a lot of problems.
Heron: That much is apparent.
Nada: Um, Mr. Heron, if it's not too much to ask, Taffy and I came here because of the teleprisms disappearing from the Nexus, so we're kind of stuck...
Heron: ..."Mr. Heron"?
Alright. I'll help you.
But I'm not talking to your guide.
Taffy: Because you're a PRICK who doesn't do his JOB.
Heron: Nada, right? Let me look up your file...
So you started at the first Nexus and you want to head home, but the teleprisms keep disappearing...
Ahhh, the labyrinth grows ever longer...
Yeah, that's right.
Do you know how I can get back home?
Weeeeell, let's see here.
You need to be in a Nexus and use the power from the teleprisms to teleport back home safely.
So according to my calculations...
Taffy: Hold on, I'm going to get a badly timed glass of water.
Heron: You're gonna have to walk to Nexus 3.
So... we have to just keep walking from Nexus to Nexus?
What if the teleprisms disappear from Nexus 3, too?
Heron: I hear your plight... but to me, you're just another soul of the dead beckoning for help as I row through the river of Hades.
Nada: Seriously? That's not much help...
Taffy: Just what is your problem anyway?!
Who's next in line?
Ah, I guess that's everyone. Well, bye!
THAT'S NOT— DON'T YOU "BYE" ME!!
I'M NOT DONE SPEAKING HERE!
Heron: Ughhhhh. What is it now?
You're not even helping!
It's not like there's anyone else here, so don't you start stamping shit and ignoring me again!
Taffy: Don't... Don't you dare.
Taffy: DON'T YOU FUCKING MOVE...
YOU STUCK-UP PIECE OF OOZING GRIME.
YOU ROTTING EXCUSE OF A SECRETARY—
I can feel your gaze melting my flesh as if the Grim Reaper himself were here! Calm down!!
What more do you want?!
There's enough commotion going on in Nexus 2 as it is, I don't need you pointing your scythe at my neck!
Taffy: Just TELL ME there's another way to get Nada home... PLEASE...
Heron: What, do you want me to lie?
Taffy: Isn't that what you're already doing?
Heron: Bold statement...
Like, there's GOTTA be another way.
You know Queen Nuigerita is the one who asked me to escort Nada home, right?
That's fucking important!!
So, I think, for a royal quest such as that... There's gotta be something...
Um, wait, actually...
What is that book you have on your desk? I just noticed it...
Oh, that's classified.
I should put that away.
Thanks for letting me know...
"The Cave of Nullification"?
I've heard of that, doesn't that place have to do with teleportation magic?
Taffy: Wait a goddamn second, JUST WHAT DO YOU KNOW, HERON?!
Don't get so excited, this doesn't have anything to do with your little problems...
This is just my personal reading.
Huh? What's this about?
There's another place we can teleport from...?
No, no, no, NO.
And don't go getting any IDEAS. That girl has enough of those for the both of you.
Taffy: That's exactly what the Cave of Nullification is, though!
Some time ago, there was a myth that came out about how a couple of tourists went to the cave unattended, and found out you could teleport instantly between the Waking and Dream Worlds...
Not just people, but other stuff, too!
Nada: Ohhh. That would be super useful!
So, is that true, Heron?!
Or else why would you be so invested in a cover-up?!?
Heron: ...Like I said, you're full of way too many extravagant ideas.
No, that's not true.
And could you not yell about this where everyone can hear your nonsense?
Taffy: SO YOU ARE TRYING TO HIDE THE TRUTH!
Nada: Was he lying earlier...?
THAT IS NOT WHAT I SAID!!
You— good grief, just SIT DOWN.
Fine, I'll tell you what you want to hear.
Just BE QUIET.
I knew you had something you were hiding from us...
Tell me about the Cave of Nullification right now!!
Nada: I honestly have no idea what is going on. Cool.
Dream Guide Taffy...
That vitriolic tongue of yours is going to earn you nothing but the flames of Hell licking at your heels.
You want to know about the Cave of Nullification?
Fine. It's nowhere near as useful as you make it sound, though...
Taffy: Well, then tell me what you know about it.
There's teleportation magic there SIMILAR to the teleprisms, but it's much more unpredictable than that.
Since the Cave of Nullification is out of Nuigerita's control, it's forbidden to visit, and so its magic has yet to be understood...
Those tourists claimed they could warp between the Dream and Waking Worlds and even transport objects, but that's just word of mouth.
I haven't looked into it myself, since it's so dangerous...
But imagine... teleporting something other than tourists to the Waking World?
Who knows if even a Dreamborn could visit through means like that?
No, that'd be a terrible idea.
BUT IT KEEPS ME UP AT NIGHT.
The Cave of Nullification is full of the same chaotic magic that Nuigerita's ancient enemy used, way back when...
We really just don't understand what it does in any sense.
According to historical texts, the magic housed there is volatile to Dreamborns such as us, since we rely on Nuigerita's magic.
We're so used to it in our daily lives, it could prove dangerous if we ran into obstacles without access to it.
Nuigerita's magic and the chaotic magic of the Cave of Nullification...
The two at odds, like yin and yang, or hellfire and heaven's light...
Who's to say which would win?
I investigated those two tourists myself, asking if they could collect more data for me, but they refused.
Not that I blame them.
Even for a tourist, we just don't understand the effects of that ancient magic.
But without sufficient information, there's so many questions left unanswered!
Heron: Oh, and, I.
Heron: I'm rambling about this in front of you both, aren't I...?
Whooooaaaa. All of that's true?!
So, that magic is from all the way back to Nuigerita's ancient war?
Heron: What am I doing. I'm going to get in so much trouble.
Nada: So, what does that mean for us?
Taffy: It means we can get you home!
Heron: That is not... EXACTLY what it means...
Oh, for Hell's sake...
You're planning on going there now, aren't you.
It sounds exciting!
And if someone is running a teleprism heist right now, it sounds like Nada has a better shot at getting home if we use an alternative way to teleport them.
Nada: That kinda makes sense to me.
Taffy: Anyway, Heron, how do we get there?
Let's make something clear right now— you didn't hear any of this from me.
Taffy: Of course.
I can't in good faith tell you where the cave is located, so I recommend you visit the two tourists who explored it.
You can get more information from them.
Hopefully they can talk you out of it...
Or at the very least, they can tell you what to expect. You may as well be digging your own grave...
Those two tourists are named Somnessa and Drowlizzy.
They live not too far from this Nexus, at the Clock Tower.
Oh? I've heard of them!
They're the people that found the cave?!
That's all the information I have.
Look at you, making me use my historical knowledge for sinister purposes.
Are you satisfied?
I've got some priority packages for Persephone that need stamped and sent out ASAP.
Yup, that's all I needed to know.
Nada, let's get going.
Nada: Um, right!
Taffy and I left Heron behind as we returned to the plaza of the Nexus.
Things feel confusing right now...
Taffy seems dead-set on going to that mysterious Cave of Nullification, but I'm not so sure about it.
I feel like messing around with whatever's there is a bad idea, but I don't think I could talk her out of it at this point—
That interrupted my internal monologue.
And also scared the shit out of me.
HEYYYYYYY!!! Taffy, hey!! It's Pafei!
I've got mail for youuuuuuu!
Taffy: Who's it from?
Just OPEN IT AND LOOK ALREADY, IT'S SUPER IMPORTANT!!
PLEEEEASE, I WANNA SEE ALREADY!!!
Taffy: Jeez, okay, lay off...
how goes your job? i bet you're starting to figure out it's not gonna be a walk in the park... or a walk to the next nexus, for that matter.
anyway, just remember what preview told you— your main task is to be nada's dream guide.
good luck, nuigerita
Taffy: Is this a letter from... NUIGERITA?!?
I TOLD YOUUUU! I TOLD YOU IT WAS IMPORTANT!
Lemme look at it up close pleeeeease...
Wa— Watch it, don't grab at it or you're gonna rip it apart!
It's addressed to me, not you!!!
What does the letter even mean?
Nui's so cool and mysterious...
Taffy: Heehee... Well, maybe you'd understand if you had a task given to you special by Nuigerita.
Huh? She gave you a SPECIAL TASK?!
NO WAYYYYYY, NO FAIR!!! When am I gonna get a special task and personal letter from Nui!!
Pafei: Can you at least cut out the last line for me so I can have her signature?
Taffy: Psh... you think I'd do that?!
Pafei: W...would you? Plea—
You're out of your mind.
Plus, you have something WAY better than a signature...
Taffy: ...You're on good terms with the girl Nuigerita gave a SPECIAL task to.
Maybe you're even "friends."
Don't blow it or you won't have that, either.
Pafei: Awwww... fine...
By the way, who's your tourist?
I'm Pafei! I deliver mail around here!
My name's Nada.
Um... it's nice to meet you, Pafei!
Awesome! We're totally friends now!
So can I tag along with you guys?
Pfft. You're not serious.
Oh, for the love of Nuigerita, NO you can't come with us Pafei.
You'll get in my way!
Pafei: Awwwwwwwww... but what if Nada wants me to come along?
Nada: It'd be fine with me...
Well, yeah, but the thing is Nuigerita told me specifically for this quest thing that uhhh, it's only allowed to be me and Nada.
Sorry, but no can do, Pafei.
Pretty pleeeeease? I won't be annoying, I promise...
I won't even be a part of your quest, I'll just be there to sightsee and stuff.
Taffy: Nuigerita said specifically that only Nada and I can go.
Nada: (They did...?)
But how would she know I was there?
If I was a couple yards behind you guys, no one would even know, I just wanna tag along so I can see stuff!
Taffy: Don't you have mail to deliver?
Pafei: I'm still in training, so I don't have much left to do!
Taffy: Nada, help me out here.
Anyway, Pafei, I'm sorry but this is a Nada and Taffy exclusive quest.
We can hang out later, okay? But I've got a quest to do and time is of the essence.
So see ya.
See you guys later...
Pafei: By the way, Nada, your extra eye is super cool, how did you get it?
Huh? Oh, it just appeared suddenly.
You think it looks cool, though?
Yeah, super cool!
I want one like it.
BYE PAFEI! SEE YOU! BYE! NO TIME LEFT!
Let's get going quickly.
Taffy tugged me along out of Nexus 2, and we started on the path to the Clock Tower.
The trail carves through purple hills overlooking a busy beach, where everyone seems to be vacationing.
There's signs pointing towards the crowded shore, and colourful bubbles floating through the sky.
It's got a very friendly vibe.
I guess I can see why this place is a popular tourist attraction.
She's not following us, is she?
Ugh, she is soooo annoying.
Aww, she seemed sweet to me.
She's just a bit uhh... well, I'm guessing she's a kid.
Yeah, but she's ALWAYS annoying.
I don't think she'll ever grow out of it.
And she bothers me, like, exclusively!
She's supposed to be in training but she just wants to follow me around.
That's just how kids are...
My sister is kinda like that.
Nada: I have to make games up to keep her entertained, or else she'll bother me when I'm trying to do homework or something.
She really likes hide-and-seek, for example.
That's the best, cuz you can just take a really long time seeking, and they'll just stay hiding. Heh.
Ugh, that sounds like such a hassle.
All Pafei wants to do is whatever I'm doing, so she follows me around like a gnat.
Heheh... that's kinda cute.
You don't like kids?
Kids are fine, whatever.
But Pafei's too old to be bothering me! She's 12!
Nada: Oh, that's how old my sister is.
Taffy: Well, you're probably close in age so it doesn't bother you, but I'm 16 so it's REALLY annoying.
Nada: I'm 17...
Ugh, you just don't get it.
My sister used to annoy the hell out of me, but at least they're way less immature at 12.
Now I get along with her way better.
Doesn't mean I enjoy being an unpaid babysitter for her, though...
Oh wow... I couldn't imagine.
Maybe I'm grateful to be a Dreamborn right now.
Nada: Haha, well, the good thing is she's the same age as my friend's...
Nada: Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute... something's wrong.
Nada: I... I just remembered something from before I fell asleep.
Taffy: Oh? Is it something important?
The memory of something vague and unsettling hits me like a tidal wave.
I can almost make out the surroundings.
A dull and lifeless grey environment where I was before I fell asleep and woke up in the Dream World...
I don't even remember falling asleep, or anything similar, for that matter.
But I do remember being in that place with my friend, Null.
Nada: I have a friend who should be here.
What does that mean?
Did you come here from a sleepover?
Nada: I don't even remember falling asleep, but I remembered just now that my friend Null was with me before I came here...
You had a friend?
Maybe they are here in the Dream World...
Do you know if they fell asleep, too?
Or maybe they're still awake right now...
Nada: I-I don't know... There's a chance they're still awake...
But, I still don't remember why I fell asleep.
It's not like I was in my bedroom. I don't really get it...
Taffy: Do you remember where you were before you fell asleep at all?
Nada: Just barely... But it's not a familiar place.
Well... there may be a logical conclusion to that.
It happens more than you'd think with Dream Tourists, actually...
Taffy: Your edibles kicked in and you passed out...
D-don't just go making assumptions about me!!
That's DEFINITELY not it!
Well, I'm just saying.
I don't think whatever you're theorizing happened makes much more sense.
I'm being SERIOUS...
Maybe I could figure this out if I knew anything about the Dream World, but I can't put it together.
Nada: Especially with the Nexi not working, it just makes me worried something... bad has to do with it.
Taffy: I'll stick with my theory, it makes much more sense.
I... I wish I knew where Null was.
Maybe he'd remember more. I hope he's alright...
I guess we can keep an eye out for him.
What's he look like?
Um, forget it...
He's my friend, if I see him, I'll recognize him.
Well, there's a lot of people down by the beach, maybe he's with them?
Not that you need an extra pair of eyes, but I could spot him!
Nada: Ugh. Whatever.
Taffy: Uhh, does your friend Null have grey-blue hair?
Nada: Eh? Where are you getting that from?
Taffy: Look down by the beach, on the cliff overlooking it...
Far off on the horizon, I can just make out a figure standing on the seaside cliff Taffy's pointing at.
I can't make out any of their features...
There's someone standing out there by themselves...
They look really out of place.
Oh, that's not Null.
But... you're right, they look really out of place...
Are you sure that's even a tourist?
I didn't say they were a tourist.
They kinda look like a ghost, now that I look at it.
No, shut up! You're lying! Don't even say that!
The thought of a ghost separated from the crowd on a busy day overlooking the shore from a clifftop and only being seen by me is so terrifying I'll never be able to sleep or have edible-induced unconsciousness or whatever ever again!
Just SHUT UP!!
Taffy: I didn't say all of that...
Nada: THAT'S NOT A GHOST.
Taffy: Okay, okay, jeez...
Actually... you could be right, now that I look at it...
I don't think that's a ghost, that looks like a tourist having a nightmare!
Nada: You can tell when someone's having a nightmare?
Yeah, look at how that guy's colouration is all messed up!
And the area around them is coloured weird, too.
That's what someone having a nightmare looks like.
Nada: Y-y-you can have nightmares in the Dream World...?
Oh, I mean, rarely.
I'm guessing they're having a nightmare cuz they don't have a Dream Guide.
Must suck for them.
Nada: Well, you're a Dream Guide, can't you do something about it?
Taffy: Like, yeah...
And, liiiike, I'm busy.
Let's just pretend we didn't see anything.
I can only imagine how terrifying it is to have a nightmare! You have to do something!
Taffy: It's fine, someone at the beach will probably notice and help them out.
Nada: That's how people DIE!
Whoa, no need to get so dramatic! It's not that serious!
You can't die in the Dream World, Nada. Promise.
Well, nightmares is how people WAKE UP CRYING!
You gotta do something!!
Taffy: Nahhhh, I'd rather just keep walking.
Then I'm going by myself!
I'm not just gonna leave that person to fend for themselves!!
Taffy: What— Nada, don't fucking run OFF!
Taffy: Augh, COME BACK HERE!!
Nada: Hey, are you alright?
Don't come any closer!
Nada: It's, it's fine! I'm just another dream tourist, see?
That's a lie!
I can see you for what you are! Go away!!
Taffy: Wow, must suck to be this guy right now, huh?
B-b-both of you things STAY BACK!
I'm not afraid to fight!
Eh? I'm not gonna fight you, I'm just trying to help!
What a hassle...
I guess I oughta call Preview and see if this guy can get assigned to another Dream Guide.
—Ack! You hit my head!
Why are you attacking me?!
Del: You monsters have been following me around, I'm not letting you get the first hit this time!
Del: So go away!! I meant what I said!!
Wah?! I'm innocent!
I'm just a dream tourist! I'm only trying to help, dude!!
It's Taffy. I have a problem, like, for realsies.
Well, hello there, Taffy. I was just wondering how you and Nada were doing.
What'd you fuck up this time?
It's not me, it's this other dream tourist I ran into.
They're out here by themself and having a nightmare, so I need you to assign them a Dream Guide.
Isn't that a secretary's job?
That was probably one of your coworkers who fucked up, smartass...
Well, that's odd...
You're at Doubler's Path, so who's this odd tourist that slipped through the system? I'll look into it.
...Hmm, this doesn't make much sense.
It says his name's Del, and Zoca was assigned to him.
I'll page her immediately.
It's not like Zoca to lose track of her tourists...
Taffy: You think something went south?
—ACK! C-could you stop swinging that thing at me!
I'll back off, okay!!
You better keep your distance!
I'm not trusting you monsters again!
I sure hope not.
What's all that noise on your end, anyway?
Don't mind that.
Just the sound of the waves...
I paged Zoca so she should meet there with Del soon.
Keep an eye on him until then... and stay out of trouble.
Right, right, yadda, yadda...
Was that Preview?
Please tell me someone's coming to fix this...
Ow, my head hurts.
Yeah, this guy's Dream Guide's supposed to show up.
I told you we should have just left this alone.
What a pain in the butt.
I-I mean, we did the right thing.
That dude packs a whollop though. Ow.
Someone else could have done the right thing for him later.
Oh, someone's coming this way.
Is that Zoca?
That Dreamborn at the other end of the beach you mean?
I think that's just a beachgoer, they're leisurely walking along the shore, after all.
Taffy: Well, she's the only person coming this way...
Nada: ...She's on her phone, though...
Taffy: ...That IS her.
Sorry I'm late, I totes got stuck in traffic.
Taffy: I just watched you take your sweet time walking here while you were on your phone...
I'm here like you asked.
What, are ya gonna tell on me?
Taffy: I-I guess... not...?
Nada: What a powerfully irresponsible aura...
Is that Del?
What's this doofus doing all the way out here anyway?
Taffy: I thought you'd know, that's kinda your job.
Zoca: Well, guess I oughta do somethin'.
Zoca abruptly pockets her phone and puts on a stoic face.
She seems to be focusing her energy on some kind of Dreamborn magic, with her hands tensely cupped together.
A small, cloudy, pink bubble springs forth from between her hands.
She winds her arms up like a baseball pitcher, and throws it at Del's head...
It bursts unceremoniously with a loud pop.
It looks like it snapped Del out of his nightmare.
Del, are you alright?
Oh, Zoca! You're back!
Where on Earth were you?!
You're asking ME?
Bro, you were the one who left all a sudden...
I only got lost because I was trying to follow you after I saw you run off into the woods!
Zoca: >implying i run
Nada: Please don't greentext in real life, it makes me nauseous...
I'm glad you're okay and shit, Del.
Well, like I said, I followed you when I saw you run off...
But you disappeared after that, and I had no idea where I was...
Things got dark after that.
Ugh. I'm just glad you're back, that was a terrifying nightmare.
I'm gonna be tired as balls when I wake up...
Zoca: Wow. I totes feel for you.
Del: Anyway... let's just put this behind us and head back to Nexus 2.
You lead the way.
Del and Zoca sauntered off towards the Nexus at a snail's pace...
Nada: ...That was almost painfully anticlimactic.
Taffy: Now we can continue on our way to the Clock Tower, right?
Nada: Um, I guess... Let's get going.
The path Taffy and I are on leads to a dead end, our destination.
The woods are nestled around this part of the trail, along with the colossal Clock Tower that hides here.
It's a tall building cluttered with clockwork mechanisms, next to a tidy garden filled with sunflowers.
This is definitely the Clock Tower... I guess I should just go up and knock, huh?
Ah, or... I guess this is a doorbell?
Taffy gingerly presses the doorbell...
It's hooked up to a great deal of mechanisms, and it sets off the chimes of all the clocks attached to the tower.
There's silence for a bit...
And then, the door budges open just a crack, with a face peering out.
???: Who sent you. What do you want.
Taffy: Wha— ehh, we just came to ask a question, it's not that serious...
???: If you don't have a reason for being here then go.
Ah, no no, I just mean it's nothing you should be worried about!
We just need directions...
We're looking for the Cave of Nullification, um...
Heron from Nexus 2 told us Somnessa and Drowlizzy lived here, and that they know where it's at...
Drowlizzy isn't home right now.
You should get your directions from the tourism center next time.
WA— WAIT!! Don't shut us out, please!
You're Somnessa, then? Don't you know how to get to the Cave of Nullification?!
I'm seriously desperate here...
You shouldn't invite misfortune into your home.
And neither will I.
I'll start a timer for 120 seconds.
I expect you gone by then.
S-seriously? We came all the way out here, could you please just give us directions?
Then me and Taffy can get going...
You've gotta help us!!
???: SOMMMMMMMMM, WHO'S AT THE DOOR?
That voice inside the Clock Tower seems to be running towards the front door...
Oh, there's guests!
Somnessa, don't be such a drag!
You two are welcome to come in~
Seriously, Som, you clearly need a break...
Why don't I make some coffee?
And you two, feel free to make yourselves at home.
Taffy: You're a lifesaver!!
Drowlizzy opens the door for us and welcomes us in the Clock Tower.
There's a pile of broken and half-built clocks near a workstation, which is probably where Somnessa's been working all day.
Thank goodness you'll listen to us!
Are you Drowlizzy?!
Yes, that's me.
What did you two come all the way out here for, anyway?
Nada: We're looking for directions to a place called the Cave of Nullification.
And I'd love to stay for coffee, but we gotta get Nada to the cave so they can go home!
Drowlizzy: What exactly do you need to go to the Cave of Nullification for...?
...After all, me and Drow discovered that odd place long ago.
I don't see how it's relevant now.
Heron said there's teleportation magic there, and the teleprisms at NX1 and NX2 kiiiinda went missing, so we need it to get Nada home to the Waking World.
E-EH?! SLOW DOWN!
You, you mean you can't teleport to the Waking World right now?!
Nada: Yeah, it's really a problem...
NO, THIS IS AWFUL!
I'M GOING TO OVERSLEEP AND I'LL BE LATE FOR MY NEXT DEADLINE...
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!
Ehh, I dunno how it happened to be honest.
I think the secretaries are looking into it—
AGH! FORGET IT!
I'll show you to the cave myself if that's the only option left!!
...Don't get ahead of yourself, Som.
Oversleeping is the least of your concerns, you could use the extra rest.
You're staying home.
Somnessa: Drow, if we can't teleport back, then we could be asleep forever?!
That would be fine by me...
I could garden here till the end of time...
Anyway, your ass is staying PUT.
You overwork yourself all the time so there's nothing wrong with taking a little vacation.
Let this blow over and solve itself and you just worry about what's for dinner.
...I hate when you call me that...
You have glasses too...
Somnessa: I do have designs I could iron out while I'm spending time in the Dream World, but...
Somnessa: ...Whatever, fine, I love you...
I love you more!
So, to our little guests...
If it's directions you want, I can help you out!
Suddenly, there's knocking at the front door...
Someone else came to visit while we're here?
Ah, they let themselves in...
???: So sorry, so sorry, I'm running late!
You're the neighbor gal, right?
Yes... My name is Godhate Lillipede.
I heard the bell toll, but fate would have it that I arrived late.
You weren't invited or anything...
Not by you, I wasn't.
Fate brought me here.
Godhate: But, Taffy and Nada are still present, so maybe I'm not too late after all~
Taffy: I've never seen you before in my life, lady!
Such is the life of a psychic...
I know plenty about you and Nada from my readings, however.
Godhate: You two are embarking on a journey to the Cave of Nullification shortly, yes?
I insist that you meet me at my cottage and allow me to read your fortune before you leave.
I foresee something bad happening soon, so it would be best that you're prepared for it.
Nada: Something bad is gonna happen?!
Godhate: I cannot change fate, but telling your fortune will help you understand what's to come...
Godhate: And perhaps I can learn a little about the mysterious Waking World from it, too... hehe.
So, if you'll follow the flowers in the forest due east of here...
That is where my cottage resides.
I'll see you there when you're ready.
Just like that, she's gone.
Well, if you wanna visit her, it's up to you.
I dunno that we need to lollygag any longer, but I guess it's your call, Nada.
Of course I wanna visit her?!
If something bad's gonna happen, I don't want it sneaking up on me...
Here's your directions you wanted.
Nada: L-like that...
The Cave of Nullification is deeper in the forest behind our house.
There's a bit of a beaten path in the woods that should lead you in the right direction.
In a dreary clearing where the flowers stop growing, and the sky turns to a sweltering grey...
That's where we found it.
That should be enough info.
Nada: Thank you so much...
It was a pleasure having you~
I'm sure Somnessa appreciates the visit, too, even if she's too cranky to admit it.
Thanks for stoppin' by.
And so, I feel inspired for my next clockwork project...
Taffy and I headed out to visit Godhate.
Following the flowers like she explained to us, we found a stout little cottage with candle motifs.
It's definitely Godhate's home.
It even looks like her.
Taffy: Knock, knock...
???: WHO'S THERE?!
WHAT WAS THAT VOICE BEHIND US—
BOO! IT'S LOTUS PARIS!!
Lotus: WAIT WHOA, TAFFY OMIGOSH IT'S YOU!!
Omigosh omigoshhhhhh Lotus Paris hiiiiii!!
Who the hell is this...?
I came here cuz I sensed a timeline rift and of all people it's TAFFY!!!
This is so awesome, yaaaaaaaaay~
What're you guys doing, huh?!
Visiting Ms. Lillipede out here?!
It's cuz I'm working, bitch!
When I'm done with this job, you and me seriously need to hang.
I've summoned Taffy and Nada here to read their fortune, as I sensed a great calamity soon in their futures...
I'm sure you sensed something similar, Ms. Paris.
Ohoho... Definitely sensed something.
I feel like I've got eyes on me right now, in fact...
It's like someone's reading every word I say, like it's a transcript or something.
Taffy: That's seriously freakyyyyy.
I wanna hear Taffy and Nada's fortune, too!
Go ahead and lay it bare, Lily-peed!
(Heh... I know they'll read that...)
Godhate: Let us begin.
Godhate procures a lit purple candle, and pours its melted wax into a water basin.
She taps the surface of the water, and stares into the basin...
Maybe she's able to see things in there.
I see a suspicious figure, hovering around Nada...
Perhaps from the same realm as them, or even someone they know.
Godhate: There's a thread stretched taut between the two of them.
But it seems this thread is nothing more than a marionette's strings... there's something darker here.
I can't quite see it... it's odd.
That entity, dancing atop the strings... some kind of magic is clouding my vision of them.
Surely, it must be connected to the calamity I sense.
In my vision, I see it.
A stormy, grey sky; a grey and lifeless expanse.
There's been a conflict, and soon there will be a battle...
The only figure I can clearly make out is Nada's in this battlefield...
The rest is obscured by that same magic...
Godhate: That's all I can see...
So... what does all that mean?
I'm going to be involved in a battle...?
Taffy: Uh, whoa, that's kind of a lot of information all at once.
This is soooo...
Are you guys gonna be in a fight or something?!
You should get equipped for it!
I really hope not!
Like, there's someone coming after us or something?!
Why would they even want to do that?
This is bad.
For what it's worth, if it was hand-to-hand combat, I definitely don't see you winning, Nada.
I've gone over that exact prediction about 10 times prior to meeting you, and each time the outcome is the same.
Nada: Oh, jeez... Thanks a ton...
So, who's picking on Nada?!
Why would someone wanna fight them?!
Unless... those strings you were talking about...?
Nada: All this talk of strings is making me think I have spiderwebs on me or something...
No, the strings mean you're connected to someone.
"A suspicious figure..." Do you know someone like that from the Waking World?
Nada: U-uh, I have no idea who it could be talking about...
And you dunno how you got here, or where you were before, or why Nuigerita tasked me with watching you, either...
Nada: Whoa, there you go getting suspicious of me again...
Lotus: Say, Detective Taffy, do you mean to say, there's some kinda CONSPIRACY goin' on here?
Taffy: It kinda smells like a conspiracy to me...
There's no "conspiracy," I just can't remember some details.
I can't just snap my fingers and make myself remember it!
Well, no one said YOU were totally aware of it.
But it would make sense if you were connected to, y'know... the teleprisms disappearing.
Maybe I haven't been keeping a good enough eye on you...?
Maybe that's what Nuigerita meant?!
What would you even want with the teleprisms?!
And— this whole time, I've been leading you to places like the Cave of Nullification, what was I thinking!
I don't even have a use for the teleprisms!
You really think I have anything to do with this?!
Hey hey, break it up! Let me be the middleman!
Let's take this to COURT.
Already, there's a conflict...
Just as I foresaw...
Lotus: Nada, if you would, make your case.
Ugh, I really shouldn't have to, but...
All I know is that I was with my friend, Null, in the Waking World.
I fell asleep, but I don't know where, it was unfamiliar to me...
By the time I woke up... uhh, woke up here, that is... I was in NX1.
Taffy greeted me, and she told me the teleprisms that are usually there had just vanished.
So... I didn't even know what those were 'til she told me!
And this is my first time being in the Dream World, too.
Nada: Surely Preview or someone could confirm that, right?
Taffy, your turn.
Well, it's not like I have concrete evidence...
But everything seems to line up with Nada having something to do with the teleprisms vanishing.
Taffy: It's like Godhate said: some other entity is connected to Nada, and they're using magic to obscure the dark truth about them!
Taffy: And then, Nada is gonna be in a battlefield in Godhate's vision... maybe cuz someone caught them red-handed, and they're confronting them!
But the biggest evidence that Nada's guilty...
It's that goddamn eye that sprouted up when the teleprisms vanished from NX2!!
She's making a pretty convincing case right now...
Taffy: That's the same mark Nuigerita used to identify her ancient enemy, someone who caused calamity in the Dream World centuries ago.
The fact that Nuigerita tasked me with being Nada's Dream Guide probably has to do with that...
'Cuz she clearly saw some hidden potential in me! Only I can do it!
So... it's my job to solve this mystery and put a stop to the mayhem!
Nada, you're definitely involved in stealing the teleprisms!!
Wooooah! What enthralling evidence!
I love a good conspiracy!
I'm totally not biased, though!!
E-eh? Taffy, are you serious right now?!
I've been traveling with you this whole time, wouldn't you have seen me steal the teleprisms?
For all I know, you could be using magic to do your bidding...
Yeah, that way, no one would have seen YOU do it.
It makes sense, Taffy...
Or like, maybe Nada has some cronies behind the scenes doing the work for them?
Something like that, I bet!
You have just as much evidence as I do, what you're saying is totally garbage!
I mean— urgh.
I might not remember where I was in the Waking World, but I know that I'm telling the truth!
I'm not guilty of stealing the teleprisms!
Oh, Godhate, I totally forgot you were there.
I got so wrapped up in this case!
I'm only spectating... It wouldn't be fair for me to interfere.
I don't have evidence for anyone, either.
Well, what do you think about it?
You saw for yourself that Nada is suspicious, right?
...After all, I can't really say.
Karma will dole out its retribution on whoever is worthy of punishment.
It's not my judgment to pass.
Nada: Y-you guys really are all against me...
I didn't say I'm against you, Nada.
Perhaps, I'm too used to taking the role of a spectator...
I'll wait to see how it turns out.
Well, it can't be helped.
No matter how you slice it, Nada's suspicious!
What should I do now?
Am I supposed to turn you in?
Nada: Y-you're not turning me in for something I didn't do!!
Taffy: Lotus, what do you think?
Everyone loves a good villain, and Nada's really givin' us a stellar performance!
Lotus: Which is to say...
Any final words before Bounty Hunters Lotus and Taffy turn you in?!
Nada: You're— serious?
Nada, I hate to do it to ya, but you leave me no choice.
I can't believe you were playing innocent this whole time, when you've been stealing the Dream World's resources...
Nada: You're really not listening to me?!
It's over, Nada!
Say good night!
Taffy grabs at me suddenly.
Like she's gonna turn me in or something— I don't even know what she means, or why I care so much, but...
Without thinking, I start running.
Just a dead, stupid sprint... creating as much distance between us as I can.
She's probably gonna be even more pissed now that I've reacted to it like that, but...
...I stop for a bit, and glance behind me.
I can see her in the distance, quite a ways off, standing there with Lotus.
I... I don't think she's following me.
But it's too late now. I'm not going back to her...
I guess my legs made the decision for me, to run away.
I guess it's better than making no decision at all, just waiting for someone else to choose for me.
So I'll stick with it. I'll keep running.
Running, just running. It's not really running the way it's happening.
I can kinda feel my legs hit the ground, but it's just a dream.
It feels more like the world is slowly materializing in front of me, struggling to keep up...
I stop for a moment, taking in my surroundings.
There's a meadow of sorts here.
A big open space like this makes me want to stop and think and figure out what the hell I'm doing...
I kinda feel like an idiot, but...
...Uhhh, is that someone in the distance?
Heeey, you over there!
Nada: Who in the...?
They're coming my way.
I guess I'm a bit relieved to see someone else...
Wow, good thing I found you out here!
Who are you...?
Uh, and what are you doing out here anyway?
Couldn't I ask you the same thing, bro?
Anyway, it's really good timing that I found someone.
But, ehhhh... Lemme just...
Nicht: You didn't bring that cat-eared Dreamborn girl with you, did you?
Nada: You mean T— wait, how do you know about her?
Water under the bridge.
Hey, help me out with something! You and I could be real good friends!
Nada: What do you need my help with...?
Nicht: Lemme guess, you're wandering around here 'cuz you can't find a way to get back home, right?
Nada: ...How do you know all this?
And lemme guess, people are blaming YOU for shit going wrong, right?
This guy feels like bad news.
Nada: I have no idea what you're talking about...
It's stupid to just let people take out their anger on you!
Don't you wanna get back at them?!
Lemme make a proposal ya can't turn down!
You work with me, and you'll be able to teleport wherever ya want, do whatever ya want, and get revenge on whoever ya want!!
Nada: What the—? What are you even offering?
This shit that everyone's fightin' over!
You can have some!
Nicht snaps his fingers and materializes a huge sack of something, like it's Christmas Eve and he's handing out gifts.
Inside it is... yep, this guy is real bad news.
Those are teleprisms.
Nada: YOU'RE the guy who's been stealing those?!
It wasn't easy, but I was able to pull it off!
These teleprisms have insane magic in 'em...
I'm thinkin' about collecting 'em all, just to see what I can do with all that power!
See, paired with skills like mine... I think we could pull off just about anything!
You wanna work with me now, huh?
What— fuck no!!
What are you even thinking?!
You've just been stalking around, stealing the magic of the Dream World...
And because of you, tons of people are in trouble!
You're absolutely crazy if you think I'm on YOUR side!!
Oof. That is not how I expected this to go at all.
You absolutely have to return those!
Two Nexi are out of order because of you!
Nahhh, I think I'll keep 'em.
Last chance, you're sure you don't wanna work with me?
Nicht: 'Cuz if not, that kiiiinda makes us enemies, bro.
Nada: Absolutely not!!
I offered you so much, I was even gonna share these teleprisms with you!
You really are full of yourself!
Those don't even belong to you, they're all stolen!
Some "power" that is!!
You think I could just steal them without having some kinda power myself?!
Unlike you, I'm not some total noob to the way this place works!
I know what I'm doing!
Nicht: I'll make sure everyone knows my name around here—
Nicht: Nicht, the new ruler of the Dream World!!
Nicht does a quick hand motion, and summons a spinning array of masked faces.
He points decisively, and one of them fires off like an explosive bullet, just barely missing where I'm standing.
Right as I'm realizing what an easy target I am in this open field, I remember what Godhate predicted about a battle in a grey landscape.
Is this the place she was describing?