Shadow Slave
Chapter 141 Golden Serpent

Chapter 141 Golden Serpent

Other the next five days, Sunny mostly stayed in his room while his shadow stealthily prowled around the castle, spying on people and learning their secrets.

Slowly, he began to understand the undercurrents that flowed beneath the seemingly peaceful surface of life in this pristine white fortress.

Of course, in reality, things weren't peaceful at all — and as far from pure as one could imagine. But that was to be expected from a place where hundreds of lost youths lived with no hope of ever finding their way back home, away from all the restraints of civilization.

He wasn't surprised at all. If anything, it was strange to see some semblance of law and order, no matter how detestable and revolting, persevere despite all the obstacles that stood in the way. Somehow, the inhabitants of the castle were able to coexist with each other in a fragile balance.

The system was cleverly built in a way that allowed the abused to dream of a better life and restrained the abusers from going too far. Better life meant winning Gunlaug's favor, while going too far meant losing it and being banished into the cold darkness of the outer settlement.

Both fear and hope were created and firmly grasped by the Bright Lord. Their mere existence kept people in their places. Sunny suspected that the same dynamic, just substituted for a different kind of reality, reigned in the slum outside of the castle walls.

The outer settlement seemed to exist separate from the castle, but in fact, both were simply parts of one large ecosystem.

People on the outside longed to be allowed inside, while people on the inside dreaded being exiled to the outside. Because the possibility of a better life — or a worse one — existed, they were distracted from the fact that, no matter what happened, they would still be spinning in a circle.

Like a serpent biting its own tail, the Bright Castle and the outer settlement created a closed cycle of exploitation and abuse that, paradoxically, kept everyone in the Dark City sane and alive.

It was nothing short of ingenious.

…Of course, Sunny wanted no part of it.

He didn't know how many people were currently surviving in the slum, but there were somewhere around five hundred Sleepers living in the ancient stronghold. However, not all of them shared the same status. There was a complex hierarchy in place, separating people into different castes. Some of these groups had a distinct place in the hierarchy, while others were less clearly defined.

Most of the inhabitants of the castle, unsurprisingly, were directly serving Gunlaug. They were Guards, Hunters, Pathfinders, Artisans, and Handmaidens. Ruling over them were five lieutenants who answered directly to the lord himself, each responsible for their own aspect of the day-to-day life of the fortress.

The Castle Guard was the largest of these groups, consisting of around one hundred and fifty men. They were in charge of guarding the stronghold and enforcing Gunlaug's laws. Just like Caster had said, they were near the bottom of the totem pole in terms of power and status.

Anyone with a remotely useful Aspect Ability could join the Guard, and although their training was rather rigorous, actual opportunities to experience combat were few and far between. That was not to say that their job was not dangerous: every time a stray Nightmare Creature climbed the hill or attacked from above, it was their duty to either kill or chase the monster away.

And out here in the Dark City, no monster was anything less than terrifying and absolutely deadly.

The Castle Guard was led by a morose giant of a man named Tessai, who was one of Gunlaug's most trusted lieutenants and perhaps the oldest Sleeper on the Forgotten Shore — he was just two years short of thirty. Tessai was a ferocious fighter and ruthless commander, holding his subordinates in an iron grip.

Above the Castle Guard, there were Hunters. These were the elites of Gunlaug's forces, each possessing a powerful combat Aspect, rich battle experience, and sharp wit to make use of both. There were around fifty of them, divided into seven hunting parties.

Each morning, as soon as the gates of the castle opened, one of the parties left the safety of the impregnable marble walls and ventured into the harrowing maze of the Dark City to hunt and kill Awakened creatures. It was thanks to their efforts that people in the ancient stronghold had food on their plates. Without them, none of this would have been possible.

Hunters were recruited from the ranks of Guards, and becoming a Hunter was a dream come true. That was because these professionals enjoyed plentiful rewards from the lord, such as living in a room of their own as opposed to cramped barracks, better food and access to various luxury items, best Memories and tools the Bright Castle could provide… as well as many other things.

Of course, the other side of the coin was that their lives were often the shortest. Despite all their experience and preparations, many never returned from the hunts.

And the only reason any did at all was the Pathfinders.

Pathfinders served as guides for the hunting parties. Just as Effie had said, the secret to surviving in the Dark City was to find and kill comparatively weaker creatures without stumbling into something far more deadly. They made sure to do just that — track the Awakened monsters without leading the pack of Hunters into the jaws of Fallen abominations.

There were so few Pathfinders that Sunny even questioned whether they could be categorized as a group. In the whole castle, there were less than a dozen. Each of them was a seasoned veteran who earned his role through surviving long years of bloody battles in the ruins, and thus had a chance to live long enough to learn large areas of the Dark City like his own five fingers.

Needless to say, all of them were incredibly fearsome combatants and enjoyed lavish, sometimes even decadent lifestyles.

Both Hunters and Pathfinders were led by a charismatic man called Gemma. Gemma came to the Forgotten Shore in the same year as Gunlaug, and had helped him take control of the castle.

Together, these three groups — Guards, Hunters, and Pathfinders — formed Gunlaug's army, which was simply known as the Host.


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Shadow Slave Chapter 141 Golden Serpent