Shadow Slave - Chapter 288

Published at 11th of July 2022 08:54:20 AM

Chapter 288: Progress Report

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Chapter 288 Progress Report

Some time later, they entered the stone lodge and found themselves in the middle of another, smaller crowd. Around thirty or forty people gathered in the main hall of Changing Star's dwelling, making it look even smaller than it had before.

However, these were not just any Sleepers from the slum. Most of them were experienced fighters from the outer settlement few hunting parties, as well as people who Nephis had recruited into her faction during her time in the Dark City.

Back when Sunny had been a part of the group, they were weak and hopeless young men and women who were barely surviving in the cruel reality of the Forgotten Shore. Now, things changed. Neph's little helpers were armed with makeshift weapons and wearing armors fashioned from a wide variety of scavenged materials, while some were even in possession of Memories. They also held themselves very differently from before.

Honestly, the difference between them and the hunters was not that big now. If Sunny didn't know which were which, he might have mistaken one for the other.

Changing Star walked through the crowd and approached the window that opened on the bleak view of the cursed ruins. She looked at it for a short moment, and then turned around, a dark expression on her face.

"...Tell me."

The leaders of the hunting parties glanced at each other. One of them, a stocky young man with long messy hair and three ugly scars running all the way from his forehead to his chin, spoke with a bit of uncertainty:

"Welcome back, Lady Nephis. It is good that you are alive and well."

She gave him a nod. The hunter paused, then continued, his voice somber:

"We, uh… have followed your orders and advice for these past months. The militia you created has been reinforced and organized to protect the settlement from the attacking monsters. With the Memories you and your cohort hunted for us in the ruins, the casualties were low both among the watchmen and among the civilians. Compared to before, I mean."

Changing Star remained silent and just stared at him. The young man sighed.

"About the other thing… it went almost exactly how you told us it would. Members of the Host came into the settlement shortly after your departure, demanding that Effie surrendered herself to be judged for the disappearance of those Guards. When we told them that she was gone, they got violent. Several people were injured, but no one died."

Effie scoffed. The hunted gave her a complicated look and scratched his cheek.

"After that, they would come again every week or so, hurt a few people and break things, always with the same demand. But we kept our cool and just… well. Took it. Like you told us to do. That seemed to only make them angrier, but they had no real reason to escalate things. In the end, they just settled for making our lives difficult and pushing people around."

The tall huntress shook her head.

"What's with the people foaming at their mouths to greet me? What's that really about?"

The young man looked down in embarrassment and cleared his throat.

"Uh, that… well, you see, the more the Castle proclaimed that you have to answer for the murder of those Guards, the more people in the settlement became, how do I say this… appreciative of you?"

Effie looked at him with a perplexed expression.

"Because I am beingly unjustly accused?"

He smiled sheepishly.

"Ah, no. Actually, the opposite. They really appreciate the fact that you had… allegedly… killed half a dozen Guards. In fact, their only regret is that you didn't kill more. There are tales about how exactly you dealt with them, too, one more colorful than the other. The most popular one is that, uh… the Guards wanted to rob you of your, eh, honor, so that's why you had to teach the Castle folks a lesson."

The tall huntress blinked.

"My… honor? Since when do I have honor?"

The young man grinned.

"Hey, don't look at me. I did not come up with this one, alright? Blame Park, it was his idea."

Effie looked darkly at another hunter, who just shrugged.

"Lady Nephis told us to do our best to make people in the settlement root for you. It worked, did it not?"

The unruly huntress rubbed her face with an exasperated expression.

"But... I didn't kill them, though?"

The hunter looked at her with no humor in his eyes.

"Who cares?"

Effie opened her mouth to say something, but Nephis interrupted her:

"Time is short. Don't waste it on useless chatter."

Then, she turned to the hunter with scars on his face and asked:

"What about my last instruction?"

He frowned, then took out a small wooden box from a leather pouch tied to his belt. The young man held the little box like it was the most terrible Nightmare Creature. Handling it with extreme caution, he approached Nephis and handed it to her.

There were drops of sweat on his forehead.

"This... is what the person from the castle brought. I don't know what they used to make Hide create that thing, but the result was exactly as you wished, at least according to the note they left."

He hesitated.

"The box and the note simply appeared on my pillow one day. I almost died of a heart attack when I read what that thing is supposed to be."

Sunny stared at the box with interest. Hide was one of Gunlaug's lieutenants, a young woman in charge of the Artisans. Her Aspect Ability allowed her to manipulate certain qualities of plants, which was of tremendous use here on the Forgotten Shore, where the food was scarce and monotonous.

But what could Nephis want from her that was so important? And why was the hunter so scared of the little box?

Carefully taking it, Changing Star looked at the box for a few moments, and then handed it to Caster.

"You know what to do."

With a short nod, Caster walked toward the door and disappeared.

Nephis, meanwhile, turned to the hunters and said in a steady tone:

"You did well. Thank you, all."

As wide smiles appeared on their faces, she took Effie's bottomless bag and opened it once again. Turning the bag upside down, Changing Star said:

"This is… not a reward, nor is it a gift. This is just something that all of you deserve, and going to need very soon."

A moment later, a river of glimmering crystals flowed from the bag, scattering on the table's surface. There were hundreds and hundreds of them, each shining with subtle, alluring light. Soon, the crystal spilled over the edges of the table and fell to the floor.

A few moments later, more than a thousand soul shards appeared before the stunned people who were gathered in the room. The bottomless bag finally ran empty.

Sunny stared at the tall pile of shining crystals and sighed. Back before all of this had started, he had a pile like that of his own... only much, much smaller. His pride and joy.

It was all gone now, sadly.

'What a sight. And I thought I was rich…'

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