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    Chapter 96: Exile

    "Wake up, Sunless! Your nightmare is…"

    "Shut the hell up!"

    Trying to remain in the blissful embrace of sleep, Sunny hissed through his teeth and stubbornly closed his eyes tighter. He was warm and comfortable under the blanket, on his own bed, where all the problems of the world seemed less serious and dire.

    For a moment, there was silence.

    'That's better…'

    "Wake up, Sunless! Your…"


    Thrusting one arm from under the blanket, Sunny summoned one of his Memories. Immediately, a triangular leaf-shaped throwing dagger appeared in his hand, only to be thrown blindly at the source of the irritating voice. Missing its mark, the kunai clinked against the stone wall and fell to the floor.

    However, the voice did fall silent.

    Sunny sighed. It was already too late. He was awake.

    Far in the distance, the waves were starting to crash against the city wall. The night was coming, so it was time to get up.

    Opening his eyes, Sunny sat up and looked around.

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    His room was beautiful and spacious. The stone walls were engraved with intricate patterns, creating an atmosphere of sanctity and elegance. The furniture was made out of pale polished wood, with several mismatched pieces that Sunny had scavenged from different places himself.

    The room had no windows, however, there were light wells cunningly hidden here and there. Sadly, the ingenious system of mirrors that was supposed to bathe the hidden chamber in sunlight was long destroyed, leaving only darkness inside.

    Sunny didn't mind. In fact, this was one of the features of his secret lair that he enjoyed the most.

    Darkness was his best friend.

    Yawning, he stood up and rubbed his face to chase away the last remnants of sleep. His long, dirty hair was getting in the way, so he moved it back.

    'Let's make some breakfast.'

    But first things first…

    Sunny moved his hand, pulling on the invisible string that connected his wrist to the ring-shaped pommel of the kunai. The throwing dagger jumped into the air and landed on his palm. This was a trick that had taken Sunny quite some time to master: in the beginning, he almost lost a couple of fingers while trying to learn how to control the flying blade.

    Walking over to a wall empty of engravings, he used the kunai to scratch a small line into the stone. All around it, there were dozens and dozens of similar lines, grouped neatly into sets of five.

    It had already been four months since Sunny came to this loathsome, godforsaken city.

    Many things had happened during that time.


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    Cassie's vision turned out to be true. Far in the west, they indeed found a vast, ruined city surrounded by tall walls, with monsters wandering its narrow streets. And in the center of the city, there was a hill with a magnificent castle standing on its top.

    Miraculously, the castle was full of people. However, they weren't Awakened, as the three of them had hoped. Instead, they were, each and every one of them, mere Sleepers.

    Because they were no Gateway in the castle.

    Hundreds of humans — those who had managed to survive the lethal hellscape of the Forgotten Shore due to their strength or luck — were stuck there with no hope of ever returning to the real world. It was nothing but a graveyard of hope.

    Remembering his first days in the castle, Sunny couldn't help but laugh out loud. Oh, what a fool he had been. So full of hope and newfound faith in humanity… where's that faith now, huh?

    Laughing hysterically, he bent over and slapped his knees.

    "Oh, that's funny! Good one, Sunny. What do you think about that, eh buddy?"

    The shadow didn't respond, staring at him with reproach. Its silence only made Sunny laugh louder. He just couldn't stop.

    To be honest, he had gone a little bit insane some time ago. Probably around his third week of living alone in the city. He was more or less alright after leaving the castle due to that unfortunate falling out with… well, it didn't matter.

    The point was that on his third week, that damn bastard of a knight had almost disemboweled him, leaving Sunny no choice but to crawl away while using his own two hands to stop his intestines from falling out. After finding his way to a secluded ditch and lying there for a few days, too weak to move and simply waiting to die, with not a soul around to help him, Sunny wasn't quite the same.

    'Good times…'

    Anyway, he survived.

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    Dismissing the kunai, Sunny walked over to a table that he had scavenged from the ruins of a library and glanced at the grey rock that was lying in its center.

    No matter how you looked at it, it was just an ordinary rock. However, as soon as Sunny's gaze fell on it, the rock spoke:

    "Wake up, Sunless! Your nightmare is over!"

    That rock was, in fact, one of his most valuable Memories. In all ways except for one, it was indeed just a rock… which was already useful enough. There were a lot of things that someone as devious as Sunny could accomplish with the help of a rock. However, this particular rock was also capable of parroting different sounds, which made it simply priceless.

    Right now, it was parroting Sunny's own voice.

    "Wake up…"

    'You vile thing!'

    Struggling with the irrational desire to turn the Parrot Rock into dust, Sunny dismissed it and removed a piece of cloth from the table. Beneath it, a few strips of monster meat lay on a silver platter.

    He had hunted this monster himself, which was not an easy task in these parts. In fact, as far as Sunny knew, he was one of the very few people capable of hunting in the city alone. The reason for this was that most of the Nightmare Creatures populating it were of the Fallen rank, with only a handful of weaker ones hiding here and there.

    No one was crazy enough to hunt the Fallen monsters. Instead, large hunting parties used experienced guides to avoid these powerful creatures while searching for easier prey.

    But to Sunny, singling out stray Awakened monsters were comparatively easy. He hunted at night, using deep shadows to make himself nothing short of invisible. If he didn't want to fight a Fallen abomination, he didn't have to.

    Most of the time…

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    In any case, he never went hungry.

    Sunny grinned and said in a deeply satisfied tone:

    "Ah, life is good…"

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