Shadow Slave - Chapter 286

Published at 8th of July 2022 06:13:54 AM

Chapter 286: Blessings of the Fire

If audio player doesn't work, press Stop then Play button again

Chapter 286 Blessings of the Fire

Some time later, the six of the left the secluded ruin and made their way toward the Bright Castle. The Dark City was silent and bleak, its streets devoid of life and movement. Even the Nightmare Creatures seemed to remain hidden in the lairs today, as though the feeling the tension that hung in the air like a harbinger of a disastrous change.

A lonely star was about to ignite in the sky above the cursed city.

Nephis was the first one to walk under the marble arch and step on the road that led to the outer settlement. Her face was calm and motionless, any hint of emotion hidden behind her usual mask of indifference. It was as though she was returning home in triumph, not marching to her own execution.

There was a slightly distant look in her eyes.

Sunny abandoned his usual position at the back of the group and was now walking side by side with her. Maybe it was just a whim, but he felt unwilling to follow in her footsteps as he had always done before, from the first day they met.

As they ascended the tall hill, Changing Star suddenly asked:

"Sunny, do you remember your First Nightmare well?"

Her voice sounded relaxed and idle.

He cast a sideways glance at her and hesitated for a few moments. Then, he answered in an even tone:

"Like it was yesterday."

She smiled slightly.

"Was it hard?"

Slowly, a grin appeared on his face.

"Hard? No, not hard. Impossible. It was a ghastly, despicable, and torturous ordeal. Truly the stuff of nightmares. Calling it hard would be an injustice."

With a dismissive shrug, Sunny drove the memories of the black mountain away and asked:

"...What about yours?"

Nephis looked away, remembering. After a while, she said:

"Mine wasn't that bad, actually."

He stared at her in disbelief.

"What, you only had to kill a measly thousand Unholy Titans with your bare hands, or something like that? Knowing you, "not that bad" means that it was nothing short of a true horror show."

She slowly shook her head.

"...No. I mean it. I didn't have to fight anyone, really. Up until the very end."

Sunny blinked.

"Wait, seriously?"

A strangely sad smile appeared on her lips.

"In my First Nightmare, I was the daughter of a lighthouse keeper. My family lived in a beautiful tower on the shore of a beautiful sea. Every morning, the warm sun rose from beyond the horizon, bathing the endless expanse of azure waves in beautiful light. The winds were gentle and the world was kind. It was me, my parents, and my younger siblings. We lived together in harmony, humbly but needing for nothing."

He frowned.

"And then what? A sea serpent destroyed the lighthouse? Some rotten horror rose from the depths?"

Changing Star's eyes became distant. A few moments passed before she spoke again:

"No. Nothing happened. That was the point of it, I think. My Nightmare... it was actually a paradise. It was everything I dreamed about when I was a little kid. Only much more wondrous and human than I could have ever imagined."

Sunny looked at her in utter shock. As he watched, the hint of sorrow disappeared from Neph's face, replaced by a subtly harsh expression.

"But that was what made it so hard to overcome. Impossible, even. Just like you said. Because all I had to do to conquer the Nightmare... all I had to do was to walk away and leave it all behind. Knowing that I could just stay there, in that paradise. Forever."

He hesitated for a while, then asked cautiously:

"So what did you do?"

A heavy sigh escaped from Neph's lips. Her eyes grew dim.

"...I searched for a way out of the Nightmare for a long time. But no matter how hard I looked, there wasn't any. Day after day, night after night… as time went by, it became harder and harder to force myself to continue searching. I grew accustomed to that bliss, that warm and beautiful life. And eventually, a day came when I thought that, maybe, I should stop. Maybe I can just stay."

She tilted her head slightly and said, her tantalizing voice reaching the deepest, darkest parts of his heart:

"...That was the day I went to the top of the lighthouse. You see, Sunny. You have to light yourself on fire... to rip the blessings of the fire. That was what my grandmother used to say. So that was what I did. I doused myself in oil, and set myself aflame."

The white flames suddenly licked her hands, and she stared at them, her face slowly turning pale, her eyes reflecting the terrible agony she felt. As her ivory skin continuously boiled, darkened, and then healed to become pristine again, she said simply:

"...And I burned."

Suddenly, the flames disappeared, and she made a fist. Her voice grew a little strained.

"And after a long, long time, when all of it was over... I found myself in a dark cave, nestled in a slimy cocoon of black silk. All around me, thousand upon thousands of people were sleeping in similar cocoons with their eyes open, with happy smiles on their empty faces. And above us… was a creature so revolting and abhorrent that I can't bring myself to describe it to this day. It was feeding on our dreams."

She grew quiet for a bit, and then added:

"That creature was convulsing in pain, as though it shared in the agony I felt, too. Somehow, I managed to break free of the cocoon. And kill it before it fully regained its senses."

She glanced at him and smiled. However, there was no warmth in that smile.

"...That was how I conquered my First Nightmare."

Sunny looked her in the eyes for a long time, silent. Then, he slowly turned away.

"...Just as I said, the stuff of nightmares. I guess we call them that for a reason."

Changing Star laughed.

"I guess. But really, fighting that Terror wasn't the hardest part. Waking up trapped in a repulsive cocoon wasn't the hardest part. Even... even burning alive wasn't the hardest part."

She grew silent for a few moments and then said, looking at the white road beneath their feet.

"The hardest part was walking up the steps to the top of the lighthouse. Not because of what waited for me in the future, but because of what I was leaving in the past."

...Soon, the familiar shapes of the outer settlement appeared in their sight.

They had finally returned to the Bright Castle.

Please report us if you find any errors so we can fix it asap!