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    Chapter 98: Uninvited Guests

    Sunny looked grimly at the corpse of the Blood Fiend, then in the direction of the approaching footsteps.

    Who was crazy enough to remain in this cursed city during the night? Only a complete lunatic would do something that stupid. All the sane people were long gone from the streets, not to mention that very few were willing to enter the ruins to begin with.

    A dark shadow flowed from the tip of the Midnight Shard's blade. Coalescing on the ground, it stared at him with sarcasm.

    Sunny stared back.


    The shadow shook its head and didn't answer, forcing him to turn away with a confused shrug.

    "Whatever. Ah, it seems we have guests. What to do, what to do? The place is a mess!"

    Looking around, Sunny sighed, glanced at the corpse of the monster once again, and summoned the kunai. The smart thing to do was to run away. Who knew what exactly was producing those footsteps? Maybe it was a group of people, maybe it was a Nightmare Creature with a lot of feet. It was better not to find out.

    Be he wasn't done with the hunt yet. He still had to get his trophies…

    "Go take a look."

    Sending the shadow away, Sunny kneeled and began to cut the tough flesh of the dead creature. Without the enhancing effect of the shadow, slicing the Blood Fiend apart was not as easy. However, he still managed to find the first soul shard rather quickly. One more to go…

    Meanwhile, the shadow had discovered the uninvited visitors. Six humans were cautiously walking along the narrow path in the stone ruins, lighting their way with a ghostly blue lantern.

    They were all rugged men, wearing mismatched suits of armor and armed to the teeth. Their eyes were cold and hard.

    Sunny raised his eyebrows.

    "My, oh my. They really are people. What is a bunch of Gunlaug's thugs doing outside the castle walls in the middle of the night?"

    Gunlaug was the owner of the castle and the self-proclaimed king of this odious place. Every Sleeper on the Forgotten Shore was forced to either serve him or pay him tribute. Even still, the latter usually didn't live long.

    Dismissing the Midnight Shard and the Parrot Rock, Sunny concentrated on searching for the second soul shard. He wanted to be gone from the street before these gentlemen arrived.

    But the circle of blue light was approaching too fast…

    Finally catching a glimpse of the glowing crystal, Sunny grabbed it and hurriedly hid it in his armor. Then he dropped the kunai on the ground and took several steps back.

    But it was too late. They had already seen him.

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    "Be careful! There's a monster!"

    As Sunny was backing away, several weapons were aimed in his direction. Feeling that things were about to get out of control, he cleared his throat and said in a trembling voice:

    "Oh, oh! Please don't hurt me! I'm a human!"

    Saying this, he mentally looked himself over.

    With his ghostly pale skin and dirty hair, his ragged armor covered in layers of dried and fresh blood, Sunny was indeed easy to mistake for a Nightmare Creature. He wasn't really paying much attention to personal hygiene and appearances these days.

    Hopefully, speaking in a human language would prove his identity. Raising his hands to show that he wasn't armed, Sunny took another step back.

    The six Sleepers were really surprised to see another human this far away from the walls of the castle, especially at night. Using their momentary confusion, he cautiously moved even further away.

    "Don't move!"

    Finally able to comprehend the situation, one of the castle inhabitants hissed a threatening command. Sunny obediently froze, careful not to make any sudden movements.

    The unexpected guests proceeded to come closer, glancing at the corpse of the Blood Fiend as they walked past it. One of them was taller and better equipped than the rest. Piercing Sunny with a menacing gaze, he approached him and stopped one or two steps away.

    The man was older than Sunny by a few years. He was tall and muscular, with a patchy beard covering the lower part of his face and a mean look in his watery blue eyes. From his demeanor and Memories, it was easy to tell that the leader of the group had spent no less than three years on the Forgotten Shore. He had experience and time to grow stronger than most Sleepers here.

    However, it was also apparent that he wasn't really high up in the ranks of Gunlaug's army. Otherwise, his equipment would have been much more impressive.

    Still, the heavy battle-axe that was resting on the man's shoulder looked really sharp. It would take him only a second to bring that thing down on Sunny's head…

    "Who are you?! What the hell are you doing here?!"

    Sunny blinked a couple of times, then gulped and answered carefully:

    "Uh… I'm Sunless. I live here."

    The leader of the hunting party — if that what it was — narrowed his eyes.

    "What… live here? Do you take me a fool, boy?! No one can survive in the city!"

    The other Sleepers were of the same opinion — except for one, who looked at Sunny with doubt. Frowning, he took a step forward and said in an uncertain tone:

    "Wait, chief. He might be telling truth. I heard that there's a crazy kid who lives in the ruins alone."

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    The taller man scowled.

    "How is that possible?"

    His subordinate glanced at Sunny and shrugged.

    "From what I heard, his Aspect allows the boy to hide in the shadows really well. I guess he crawls around like a rat and picks up the leftovers after the monsters are done eating. I don't really know, but someone was talking about him back in the castle. I thought they were just telling tales."

    Sunny frowned. Crazy, boy, rat… why did everyone feel compelled to call him names?

    Meanwhile, the helpful Sleeper thought for a bit and added:

    "I think he came into town with that bitch, Changing Star."

    Sunny's frown turned into a scowl. Looking down, he whispered to his shadow:

    "These guys are really very rude, don't you think?"

    Of course, his whisper was easily heard by everyone around. The Sleepers stared at him in confusion.

    Sunny tilted his head a little and opened his eyes wide, as if shocked by something.

    "What? You think I should kill them all? I mean… isn't it a little bit over the top? I should give them a chance to apologize, at least."

    The leader of the hunting party took a step forward and said in a low, growling voice:

    "What are you mumbling about, rat?"

    Sunny looked at him with scorn and dissatisfaction.

    "Hey, I was talking to my buddy. Can you please not interrupt?"

    A wide, dangerous smile appeared on the tall man's face. With a sigh, Sunny turned to him and said:

    "Alright, if you insist. You guys have offended my dearest friend, Nephis of the Immortal Flame clan. She and I are very, very close. So I'll give you one chance to apologize for calling her a… well, you know. If you don't, say goodbye to your lives."

    The older man stared at him for several seconds, then suddenly raised his head and laughed.

    "Oh, that's a good one! Have you heard, guys? This tiny weasel will give us a chance. How generous! Should we be generous too, huh? What do you say? The boy is sick in the head, after all."

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    The other five Sleepers were not sharing his enthusiasm. One of them smiled darkly and said:

    "No, chief. I think we should just kill him. Put the poor fool out of his misery, you know."

    The Sleeper that had collaborated Sunny's story before, meanwhile, was frowning again.

    "Wait, guys… he's one of Changing Star's people, remember? The original group, I mean. They had survived two entire months in the Labyrinth on their own. We shouldn't underestimate th…"

    However, the leader interrupted him with a contemptuous scoff.

    "I heard that Saint Nephis carried two useless sacks of shit on her back all the way to the castle. The bitch is fond of taking care of weaklings, right? That delicious little friend of hers is blind, for god's sake! I'm sure that this one is no better."

    Then, he turned to Sunny and grinned.

    "I tell you what, rat. Give us all your Memories, and we'll be generous enough to let you live. "

    If an Awakened died, their Memories disappeared with them. The only way to get the Memories was to make the owner transfer them of their own free will. However, whether or not that will was affected by coercion or torture didn't really matter. At least not to people like these.

    Sunny blinked.

    "So you're not going to apologize?"

    The tall man grinned.

    "I think not."

    Sunny sighed.

    "Oh well. So you want my Memories, eh? I have a few. Let me think… uh… how about this one?"

    Lowering one hand, he summoned the Parrot Rock. It immediately appeared on his palm, looking as boring and ordinary as always.

    The leader of the hunting party frowned, not taking his eyes away from Sunny's face. Despite his crude exterior, he was paranoid and careful. Years of experience had taught him to never lower his guard.

    A moment later, the rock spoke:

    "Behind you!"

    That was the most basic of tricks…

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    The tall man grinned, still looking Sunny in the eyes.

    "Do you really think that I would fall for…"

    However, before he was done talking, the blade of the kunai hit him from behind, penetrating the back of the man's skull and killing him on the spot.

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