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419 The Dream Domain - First Layer

    Along with being a place where weak individuals could live their lives in a way they could only dream, the Dream Domain was also a place where mental warriors could temper the fortitude of their minds.

    While the Dream Domain had been created by the Mindhive just like Daniel's planet, unlike him, he did not have full control over it. Daniel's planet had merged with him when he had ascended, while the Door to Dream State was an artifact with a specific set of abilities.

    One of these abilities, was to slowly refine the weakest forms of consciousness and mind power that had access to it, and absorb them in order to increase its own power. This power would then be used to pressure the mind power of mental warriors, but only by those who were powerful enough to withstand the refinement

    .

    This, was the great trade off that the Proponents of Deep Sleep offered. A human would give up their physical body in order to live a few short years in a state of deep sleep, where they were allowed, and could do anything they wanted. At the same time, their bodies would live on as puppets that would work to carry on the lives which their minds had abandoned, forever.

    Contrary to what Daniel and the others believed, many of the husks that carried on working had been living ever since the Proponents of Deep Sleep had decided to settle down in this planet, hundreds of years back.

    Back then, only a few common humans had decided to live their lives in the dreamstate granted by the Dream Domain, but as time went on, and the number of husks increased, the inhabitants either left, or gave up, and joined their relatives and friends in the world that waited behind the door.

    Naturally, the more people were sacrificed in order to nurture the Door to Dream State, the stronger the artifact would become, allowing the Proponents of Deep Sleep to rely on them to strengthen their training ground.

    Due to the nature of the Door to Dream State, the inhabitants of the universal government had changed their view towards this particular mental faction, from being a weak and peaceful one, to being an evil one.

    Unfortunately, to eradicate evil was not an objective of the universal government, as in order to create a government to begin with, the first and main agreement was to never question, or interfere with a joining faction's methods. Hence why the parasitic faction, the corrupt faction, various former hell factions, and many more had been allowed to exist for so long.

    -----

    Aside from a massive number of invisible consciousnesses which lived in the space behind the door, the Dream Domain did not appear different from any other dimension.

    Completely made out of the mental power of the cultivators, was a massive city. Inside this city, were tens of thousands of houses and manors which, sealed by the powers of those who created them, hid just as many mental warriors who quietly spent their time tempering their minds.

    An unbreakable rule of the Door to Dream State, was that physical bodies were not allowed. After all, this object was created in order to support the Mindhive, who had used it in the past in order to increase his power, and had now given it up because its effectiveness had started to decrease.

    This limitation had made it impossible for both Cora and Edmund to enter, as only Daniel's and Aeron's body were made of mental power, or exuded a feeling similar to that.

    After a few questions from the doorkeeper, the two were allowed into this dimension, and quickly found themselves in what was known as the first dream layer. According to him, the dream domain was divided into layers, and each layer had an increase in pressure. However, mental power was not what was needed to go into the deeper levels. What was truly needed, was a cultivator's complexity of mind.

    Talent in mental cultivation was judged by complexity more than by power, as it compared to a cultivator's ability to absorb mana, or to anything that could symbolize potential.

    The first dream layer was the ground where every mental warrior would cultivate, and the more talented they were, the deeper they would reach once able to withstand the mental pressure of the higher levels. Its appearance was that of a ghastly city made completely out of green, and transparent mental power. However, nothing of the insides of these buildings could be seen, showing that their transparent walls not only stopped mental power from probing, but also the senses.

    Aside from the manors created by the many families which belonged to the Proponents of Deep Sleep, there was an arena, the testing ground, and the faction's offices.

    Inside the arena, the mental cultivators wrestled through the use of their minds, adding a form of pressure to the already constant one produced by the artifact. The faction's offices were the way used by the faction to communicate with its members, and finally, the training ground, contained the threshold between the first, and second layer.

    The most populated area, was always the testing ground, which was composed of a seemingly boundless door, through which the cultivators had to walk through.

    Ever since the two of them had entered the Dream Domain, Daniel had felt some form of power weigh on him, giving him a feeling of exhaustion which did not match with his physical state. On the other hand, Aeron was completely unaffected, and the pressure of the first layer was unnoticeable to him.

    The two were now standing in a two kilometers long line, formed by the cultivators who had studied, and mastered enough forms of powers to match the artifact's standard of complexity.

    Unfortunately, for as many people that tried, almost as many walked back with expressions filled with disappointment, anger, and dejection.

    "THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE!! This is the thirtieth time I try, and it won't budge! There must be something wrong with it!" Said a middle-aged man with unwillingness, after pounding his fists against the solid blue surface of the threshold.

    "Another failure."

    ".. not surprised at all."

    Of the more than two thousand people who tried their luck in the trial, less than one percent were able to walk through this seemingly impenetrable portal, and after about an hour, came the turn of Daniel and Aeron.

    The only reason why a line was formed, was because in the beginning, the dejected cultivators would end up crowding the portal and complain to the heavens, making it impossible for those qualified to actually go through.

    This problem was solved when the Proponents of Deep Sleep had dictated that those who were rejected, needed to leave as soon as possible.

    That did not mean that entering in group was prohibited, but as soon as Daniel and Aeron advanced at the same time, it became clear for the observing mental warriors, that this was their first attempt.

    "The first time one gets rejected is always the most amusing." Said a mental warrior, unaware of the complexity of Aeron's mind.

    The difference between layers was both a qualitative, and a quantitative one. So, as long as a cultivator was able to gain access to higher levels, they would go right away. The ones that were left behind to keep on trying, were the weakest, and most hopeful cultivators.

    That meant that those who could see the depth of Aeron's mind were either in the deeper levels, or were too old to attempt the trial, and had decided to cultivate at the speed that the first layer allowed them to.

    Many more voices came from behind the two. Each showing a sense of schadenfreude which reflected the frustration caused by their numerous failures.

    These voices kept going for a few moments, only to stop when Aeron came to a step from the portal.

    Originally, the portal was a block of physical power that, when facing a foreign object, would either harden to deny access, or become liquid, and grant passage. However, when Aeron approached it, instead of turning into a jelly like substance and allow him through, its solid surface split into two, creating a path for him to walk through undisturbed.

    This reaction shocked the spectators greatly, causing their jaws to fall, and mouths opened wide in shock.

    Ever since the Mindhive had given this artifact to the Proponents of Deep Space, the mental warriors that entered in order to cultivate had been advised that, if someone that was able to cause the portal to split into two appeared, they were to immediately report to the faction's office.

    What they did not know, was the reason why this rule had been created, and that the meaning of that event, could only be the return of the Mindhive himself.

    Daniel was fully aware that this reaction had been caused by Aeron, and as someone with no experience in training or developing one's mental power, he knew he would only be able to struggle through the portal, if able to do so to begin with.. So as Aeron stepped into the path, he quietly followed behind.

    After witnessing to Daniel's actions, the usual calmness of the observers was broken into pieces, and the dejected participants split into two groups. The first group was composed of the ones who had remembered their orders, and immediately went back to report what had happened. The second group, on the other hand, was formed by people who had suddenly found a way to break through that seemingly impenetrable barrier, and decided to follow Daniel into the path created by Aeron.

    Unfortunately, the artifact was smarter than them, and before anyone could push through, it closed a few meters behind Aeron.

    -----

    A few hours later, faction's office.

    "What is so urgent that it can't wait until tomorrow?" Asked a man in green clothes to a younger cultivator, who was sitting quietly on a chair right in front of his desk. He was the point of contact between the mental warriors that had been allowed in to cultivate into the first layer, and the faction.

    As soon as the man in green robes finished speaking, the young mental warrior stood up with politeness, and said in a hurry, "First warrior, the portal. It split into two parts to allow a stranger through."

    Seemingly uncaring about this, the green robed man sat on his chair, and asked casually, "And why do I care about it?"

    Slightly confused, the younger mental warrior said, "Sir, is it not within the rules of the Dream Domain that we have to report any such event?"

    "Is there?" Asked the first warrior with a more serious tone. It was clear that he had forgotten about this rule, or that he hadn't paid attention to them when he assumed this role. He then opened one of the drawers of his desk, and grabbed a small book from it.

    After scrolling through the small book, he stopped at a specific one, and the more he read through it, the wider his mouth and eyes opened.

    "Mindhive.." he muttered before standing back up on his feet. He then turned to look at the young man, and said with an authoritative tone, "DESCRIBE HIS APPEARANCE! IMMEDIATELY!!!"

    Scared about the man's tone, the young mental warrior immediately began to describe Aeron's appearance, not forgetting to add the emotionless mask which covered his face.

    This description seemed to take a weight off the man's heart, who fell back over his chair, and said, "It's not him.. Not him.." However, this calmed state did not last long, as he turned to look to his left, and asked, "Who are you?"

    Next to him, a ghastly figure had appeared. A figure which had moved through the mental walls of the building as if they were nonexistent, and had approached them without giving them a chance to perceive him.

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    "I am interested in what you were talking about. Tell me about it, before I look at it myself." said the Mindhive while showing a wide smile.
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