Shadow Slave

Chapter 930 Old Tunnel

The convoy stopped soon after entering the tunnel. For a few' moments, nothing apart from the muffled blows that continued to rain on the wall of shadows could be heard. Scared and exhausted, the people were all lost and slightly disoriented.

Sunny's voice brought them back to reality.

Glancing into the depths of the tunnel to make sure that nothing was attacking them from that direction - at least not yet - he backed up a little and studied the cold stones above him.

Surely, detonating a part of the tunnel's roof was not the smartest of ideas, considering how old it was. However, the alternative was even worse. They had to stop the Brood beasts from following the convoy inside, and his wall of shadows was not going to last long, considering how little essence Sunny had left.

He had truly burned through a lot of it during that last desperate dash to save the rear vehicles. Actually, Sunny had not even known that he was capable of doing something like that. The scope and scale of that complex use of Shadow Manifestation was unlike anything he had been able to achieve before. The urgency of the situation and the raging adrenaline had helped him achieve a new level of mastery over his Aspect... And now, he was exhausted. So, the entrance of the tunnel had to go.

'I'll feel really awkward if there's a collapsed section of it further ahead.'

Still, the convoy could find a way to dig through stone debris. They would not be able to resurrect from dead if the Devouring Cloud swallowed them whole, though.

...With the help of explosives that Sergeant Gere provided, Kim's ability to see weak points of both living and inanimate objects, and Professor Obel's knowledge of mundane science, they were able to detonate a few small charges and collapse the entrance of the tunnel, cutting themselves off from the outside world.

Now, there was no way back. Only forward, deeper into the darkness.

Nevertheless, the people were finally safe... relatively speaking, of course. They still did not know what awaited them ahead, in the eerie expanse of the old tunnel, so Sunny, posted plenty of sentries in front of the Rhino. Only then did he have time to assess the state of things.

The convoy looked... battered. Every vehicle received at least a little damage, and many were splattered with blood of the Nightmare Creatures that the Irregulars and the mundane soldiers had killed. However, almost all of them could still move.

The only exception was the rear military vehicle that Sunny had saved. That one was a complete goner. In fact, it looked more like a heap of scrap metal than a working machine now - the fact that it had somehow managed to drive into the tunnel was nothing short of miraculous.

Its crew had suffered, too.

One of the soldiers was dead, and the rest were seriously wounded. A few of them would have died from those wounds, too, if not for Quentin. Currently, he was trying to stem the bleeding of a turret operator, whose arm was terribly mangled.

Even with the healer's abilities, the man's limb was too damaged to preserve. After taking one glance at the terrible mess of torn flesh and splintered bones, Sunny knew that it would have to be amputated.

He had already been in a somber mood because of the exhaustion, but now, it turned even darker. Perhaps he should be thanking the dead gods that only one of his men had been killed during the desperate escape from the Devouring Cloud... but Sunny did not feel thankful.

Instead, he remembered the brazen claim he had made to Professor Obel not too long ago... a promise to try and save everyone who had entrusted their lives to him.

Sunny had already failed that promise twice. The death of the old refugee woman had been outside his control, but the fallen soldier... that one was a direct result of his decisions.

Sunny had killed many people in the past, but he had never been responsible for someone's death... or rather, had never experienced the death of someone whom he was responsible for.

It was a bitter, scathing feeling. Why did he have to bear the burden of some stranger's death? Who asked that soldier to be so weak?

Sunny clenched his fists.

'So... annoying.'

He remained motionless for a while, then winced.

In any case, the loss of a military vehicle was painful, but not impactful. Losing another civilian transport would have been much more damaging, not to mention lethal.

The wounded soldiers would be out of commission for a few days or longer, depending on the severity of their injuries, but in the end, they're going to survive.

All in all, they had all gotten off easy. Sunny had fully expected to watch the whole fleet be destroyed after finding out about the approaching horde of flying abominations. Losing just a single soldier, no matter how resentful he felt about it, was incredible luck.

...Of course, they were not out of the woods yet.

He did not know anything about the old tunnel, but suspected that traveling though it would not be very safe. In fact, his decision to seek shelter inside could potentially result in a fate similar, or even far worse, than being quickly gobbled up by the Devouring Cloud.

'Brimming with optimism, am I?'

Any kind of Nightmare Creatures could have built a nest here after the Chain of Nightmares came.

...More disturbingly, the tunnel could be home to something that had entered the waking world much earlier.

Humans did a good job of either closing or containing those Gates that opened within the borders or in the vicinity of population centers, out of necessity, but no one bothered or had resources to do the same in the wilderness. Provided, most Gates manifested near places where a lot of people lived... but not all.

Somewhere inside the tunnel, they could potentially meet an abomination that had been dwelling here for decades, or maybe even half a century.

Surely, there was also a possibility that there were no Nightmare Creatures inside, and they're completely safe. Honestly speaking, the chances of that were equally high.

...Unconvinces, sunny walked to the front or the convoy, passed the massive form of the Rhino, and stopped near the sentries.

Up ahead, a long stretch of the tunnel was illuminated by the headlights of the APC. He stared into the darkness beyond. After a while, Sunny looked down and let out a heavy sigh.

'That... does not bode well.'

He could not see anything.

Not in the sense that there was nothing ahead, but rather that he could not see through the gloom that enveloped the tunnel. Which could mean only one thing...

That this place was not shrouded in shadows, but instead drowned by true, pure, elemental darkness.

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