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Shadow Slave
Chapter 123 Helping Hand

Chapter 123 Helping Hand

Soon after Nephis had finally come back to her senses, they prepared to leave the shelter of the giant stone hand. The morning had just begun, so there was plenty of time to cross the remaining distance and climb out of the deep and vast crater. If all was going to go well, they would meet the next sunset on top of the tall wall of the mysterious city.

Of course, numerous things could go wrong between now and then. But, for some reason, Sunny felt optimistic.

This was a rare moment for his cynical, paranoid heart.

Just like before, Sunny and Neph took turns climbing down a few dozen meters and lowering Cassie to one another with the help of the golden rope. However, they had grown considerably stronger since the last time they had to do it.

Sunny remembered how tiresome it was to descend from the giant knight's statue in that way and chuckled. Now, he felt as though he could do it three times in a row, and considerably faster, too. Even though he had spent the last few days in an endless nightmare and brought his body to the point where it was about to shut down, now, there was nothing but resilient strength filling his muscles.

These two months that they had spent in the perilous hell of the crimson labyrinth, constantly fighting for their lives and slaying monsters that no Sleeper should ever face one after another, had made all three of them much more powerful.

Sunny doubted that a lot of Awakened had ever gone through this ruthless of an initiation and lived to tell the tale. Once he returned to the real world, he would most likely be considered one of the elite representatives of the current generation.

'Huh, that might actually be a problem.'

Well, he could always blame everything on Nephis. She was already close to being a mythical existence — the last daughter of the legendary Immortal Flame clan, one of the few Awakened in history who had managed to receive a True Name in the First Nightmare, the top student in her batch of Sleepers in the Academy, and so on.

People would easily believe that a prodigy like her had been able — and willing — to carry two pathetic weaklings on her back all the way to the Gateway.

Sunny just had to choose his words carefully when describing the events leading up to their triumphant return. Luckily, in that regard, he was a master.

Entertaining himself with such thoughts, he didn't even notice the flow of time. Soon, they were already approaching the ground.

Just before jumping into the soft black mud, Nephis looked at Sunny and said:

"Stay vigilant."

She didn't have to remind him. Sunny knew that the last stretch was often the most dangerous — mostly because it was natural for people to allow themselves to relax in these moments, falsely believing that the worst was already behind them. Numerous Awakened perished tragically with their goal already in sight.

He wasn't planning on becoming one of them.

Sunny carefully lowered Cassie down, watched as Neph helped her step out of the rope loop, and jumped down. He landed on the ground in a nimble roll, immediately jumped to his feet and outstretched one hand, ready to summon the Midnight Shard at a moment's notice.

However, nothing was trying to kill them.

Sunny and Nephis exchanged tense looks, and then slowly walked forward.

With each minute, the distant grey wall was growing closer.

At some point, Sunny gestured for Changing Star to stop and turned around, curious to take a look at the statue whose hand had saved them from drowning in the dark depths of the cursed sea.

Out there on the slope of the colossal crater, slightly tilted to the side, a giant statue of a slender woman dressed in a light flowing robe towered over the black mud. She was lovely and graceful, with a slim waist and delicate arms outstretched to the skies, as though trying to embrace them.

At least that was how she had looked once, a long time ago. Now, one of the arms was broken off, with only its shoulder remaining in place. Luckily, the other one was still there, and had served as a safe haven for the three Sleepers in their moment of desperate need.

Just as Sunny expected, there were seven shining stars carved into the stone surface of her robe.

What piqued his curiosity the most, though, was the fact that just like the giant knight, the graceful woman seemed to be missing her head. Once again, Sunny wondered if these stone titans were created without faces to begin with, or if something had beheaded them much later in a fit of destructive rage.

' severed heads guarding seven seals,' he thought, remembering Cassie's frightening vision.

The mystery of that vision was nothing short of tantalizing. However, it seemed as though it was destined to remain unsolved — Sunny doubted that he would ever come back to this cursed place after returning to the real world.

There were many regions in the Dream Realm, and almost every one of them was far better than the hellish Forgotten Shore.

'To hell with all this crap!'

Sending silent gratitude to the statue that had saved their lives, Sunny turned around and headed west.

…As they approached the section of the slope that was almost vertical, something dangerous finally happened. Just as Sunny was about to step on a wide stone buried in the mud, the stone suddenly shifted and rolled to the side.

A terrible roar resounded across the vast emptiness of the colossal crater, making him shiver in fright.

Fearing that something was crawling from under the soil, Sunny jumped back and summoned his sword. To his side, Nephis was doing the same, while Cassie swiftly stepped back to not be in the way.

…However, there was nothing moving in the mud. No giant beast rose from it to feast on their flesh, no horrifying abomination had extended its limbs to pull them underground into its maw.

Then… what made that terrible roar?

Just as Sunny was trying to understand what was happening, a sharp pain suddenly pierced his right leg. Looking down, he saw… he saw…

The damn stone was chomping on his shin!

The stone, which turned out to be a bizarre Nightmare Creature, revealed a mouth full of long, sharp teeth on its surface. It awkwardly rolled a couple of times to reach Sunny and then tried to dig its fangs into his soft flesh.

It might have bitten Sunny's leg clean off, but, luckily, the leather boot of the Puppeteer's Shroud turned out to be too tough for the stone's jaws. So it was just munching on the leather in powerless resentment.

The situation was painful, but not at all dangerous.

Sunny stared at the stone, then raised his head and glanced at Nephis in bewilderment. Her expression was as indifferent as always, but after all the time they had spent together, he was able to recognize the similar kind of amusement written clearly on her face.


Sunny strained his muscles, raised the trapped leg into the air and shook it a couple of times, trying to send the stupid stone flying.

However, the weird monster was really stubborn. With another thunderous roar, it doubled its attempts to gnaw on Sunny's shin, its stone teeth on the verge of shattering from all the pressure exerted on them.

'What a pathetic thing. The only hope of killing me it has is if I die from annoyance,' Sunny thought with a confused frown.

How could a Nightmare Creature like this even exist?!

'I guess there are losers even among their kind, eh?'

Shaking his head, Sunny allowed the shadow to wrap itself around the Midnight Shard and brought the tip of the blade down on the hungry stone with all the strength he had.

The tachi was met with some resistance, but managed to pierce and shatter the monster's stone body in the end.

The bizarre creature died while still trying to take a bite out of Sunny, defiant till the very end.

As the shattered remains of the stone fell into the mud, the voice of the Spell whispered:

[You have slain an awakened monster, Rolling Stone.]

[Your shadow grows stronger.]

[You have…]

Seeing a strange expression on Sunny's face, Nephis asked:

"What's wrong?"

He looked at her and blinked a couple of times.

"Uh… I just received a Memory."

Changing Star raised her eyebrow and said in an uplifted tone:

"That is great. What type of Memory?"

Sunny scratched his head, hesitated, and then answered:

"Uh. It's a… rock? An ordinary rock..."


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Shadow Slave Chapter 123 Helping Hand