Shadow Slave -
Chapter 131 Traversing The Dark City
Chapter 131 Traversing The Dark City
The mournful ruins of the once-great city sprawled around them like a desolate stone maze. With grey skies above and nothing but dead silence surrounding the cohort of four tense Sleepers, it seemed as though they were walking through a vast, cyclopean graveyard.
Sunny had to constantly remind himself that there were countless horrors hiding in the ominous shadows of the Dark City. One wrong turn could land them in dire peril. In this ancient ruin, they had no choice but to entrust their lives to the hands of their guide.
Luckily, the guide in question was not a morose dead poet, but a tall, extremely attractive young woman clad in a pleasantly revealing archaic armor. In their current circumstances, Sunny much preferred the company of a warrior to that of a useless scribbler.
In fact, circumstances had nothing to do with it. He was having trouble imagining any situation where a writer would be helpful to have around. From what he knew, all writers were lazy, talentless hacks whose only real skill was finagling money out of honest people while getting off on torturing them with sadistic cliffhangers.
Not to mention that none of them had a backside like Effie… uh… wait, what?
Getting his mind out of the gutter, Sunny frowned and reminded himself to keep his emotions in check.
In a sense, this harsh necessity was a blessing. The perilous reality of the ruined city prevented them from concentrating on the bitter despair that had taken a stranglehold on their hearts after the grim revelation of the previous day.
They just had to put one foot in front of the other and not think too much about anything.
One step at a time. That was how he was going to survive.
With a heavy sigh, Sunny glanced around and continued walking.
Just like Effie had said, traversing the ruins turned out to be a slow ordeal. The huntress lead them through the complex maze of wide and narrow streets following a strange, convoluted path that only she knew. Often, they would have to stop and hide, waiting for some unseen danger to pass.
Sometimes they walked under the empty sky, sometimes they dove into the weathered buildings and spent some time crawling through the piles of rubble inside. Other times, Effie was able to lead them straight through half-collapsed houses to emerge into secluded alleyways on the other side.
Once or twice, they had even climbed to the rooftops and proceeded forward by walking on precariously rickety tiles or bared support beams, jumping across vast chasms and balancing on half-rotten planks of wood that had been placed there by someone to bridge especially wide gaps. During these moments, either Neph or Sunny would carry Cassie in their arms.
Sunny was surprised to discover that the interiors of some buildings were incredibly well-preserved. It was as though the inhabitants had just left a few days ago, as opposed to the thousands of years that had passed in reality. Because of that, he was able to catch glimpses of how the citizens of this ancient city had lived all that time ago.
It was a strange and eerie sight.
He was also able to clearly understand that Effie indeed knew the ruins very well. Everywhere they went, there were signs of her previous visits and preparations. From the planks placed across the gaps between roofs to the heavy slabs of stone used to hide improvised passages, it was apparent that she had spent years of meticulous effort turning large parts of this lethal maze into her own private hunting grounds.
He had gained a new respect for the seemingly carefree young woman. She almost made traveling through the cursed ruins look safe and easy.
However, he knew that this couldn't be farther from the truth. In fact, he suspected that death was constantly breathing down their necks, only barely held at bay by Effie's knowledge and timely judgment. Several freshly eviscerated carcasses that they had stumbled on served as a clear sign that Dark City was teeming with harrowing life.
Even terrifying Nightmare Creatures were not safe here.
More than once, they heard the distant sounds of claws scraping against stone, sensed the ground trembling under heavy footsteps, or noticed swift shadows falling through the clouds. In those moments, Effie would change their course on the fly or find a perfectly concealed hiding spot without fail.
Meeting her had indeed been a rare stroke of luck.
But with each hour that passed, Sunny grew increasingly somber. No matter what kind of future awaited them in this cursed place, he had no doubt that they would have to hunt for food as well. That meant that he was going to have to learn all the same things that Effie had learned, and maybe even more. The task seemed incredibly daunting. He wasn't even sure that he would be able to accomplish it.
At least he wasn't going to do it by himself. There was Changing Star to partner with, and Cassie. Their presence calmed him down.
Living in this terrible hell alone… he didn't even want to think about it. Such a wretched existence would surely kill him, and if not, at least drive him insane. At that point, he wouldn't wish to be alive anyway. Who would want to endure that kind of misery?
'Why think about something that is never going to happen?'
Glancing at Nephis and Cassie, Sunny hid a smile and hurried to catch up to Effie.
Come to think about it, he had it way better than the recalcitrant huntress. There were reliable allies with whom he had forged bonds of trust and companionship at his side. The three of them made each other stronger.
More than that, his own Aspect was able to provide him with a similar comprehensive physical enhancement Ability, albeit a lesser version of it. It was much more versatile, though, allowing him to transfer the enhancement effect onto Memories and inanimate objects, not to mention his invaluable ability to move and scout around without being seen.
Sunny would offer the services of his shadow to Effie, but he wasn't sure about how safe that would be. If there were creatures in these ruins capable of sensing thoughts and emotions, what were the chances that some of them would be able to sense the gaze of the shadow as well? He would have to learn more and experiment before allowing it to wander around on its own.
These thoughts had cheered him up a little.
…Soon, as the sun began to fall toward the horizon, they had finally reached the base of the hill on which stood the magnificent castle.
Sunny looked up, sensing his heart beating wildly. A heavy and anxious feeling took hold of his mind.
Depending on what happened next, their fates were going to change forever… either for the better, or for the worse.
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