Shadow Slave-Chapter 808: A Long-Awaited Conversation
What Nephis had said made sense… as much as the word "sense" could be applied to her.
Changing Star wanted to destroy the Nightmare Spell, and the Sovereigns were in her way. Just like Gunlaug, the ruthless tyrant of the Bright Castle, they had seemingly given up on pursuing liberation from the Spell, and instead settled for the great power that it had already bestowed upon them.
What was worse, they were holding others back from rising high enough to threaten their position… at least that was how it looked from below. Perhaps the Sovereigns had other reasons for their despotism and inaction, but Sunny had no way of knowing if they did.
Not that it mattered to Nephis. To her, they were simply an obstacle that had to be destroyed. Her personal desire to avenge the Immortal Flame clan and bring retribution to those who had betrayed her father only made the task sweeter.
However, her enemies were much too strong. She would only be able to challenge them if she became Supreme herself, but the path to Supremacy was guarded by the very people she needed to destroy. Faced with this dead end, she had decided to use the Sovereigns' own power to vanquish them.
She also wanted to infiltrate the ranks of her enemy and put herself in the position to attack one of the great clans from within, when the time came.
Sunny let out a heavy sigh.
"So, let me get this straight. You are going to join Clan Valor, fight for them until Clan Song is destroyed to earn Anvil's trust, then turn your blade against him?"
Nephis lingered for a few moments, then shrugged.
"More or less. Why?"
He rubbed his face.
"This is a terrible plan! There are more holes in this plan than in Swiss cheese… whoever Swi is. Who says that Valor will win this war? Who says that Anvil will ever treat you as anything but a latent threat? Do you think that he is a fool? Surely, he knows how much you have to hate his guts!"
Changing Star looked at him calmly.
"I do. I say who wins. I say whether he trusts me or not. It all depends on me, does it not? If I want the great Song clan to fall, I have to make sure that it falls. If I want to win Anvil's favor, I have to make sure that he favors me. I am not a passive observer in this, Sunny. I have agency to shape the future into what I want it to be… or at least try to. Sure, the chances of success are poor. But when were the odds ever on our side?"
Sunny scoffed, then shook his head.
"I'll give you that. Our luck was always terrible. However, there is a difference between being thrown into overwhelming danger against your will and deciding to put yourself at risk of your own volition. Unlike before, we don't have to be underdogs. You are choosing this!"
Nephis shook her head, as well.
"That is where you are wrong, Sunny. Do you really think that I have any choice? Do you think that I can turn back now? That the Sovereigns will ever let me be? No… it is too late for that. It is as you said, Valor are determined to have their pound of flesh. All I can choose is where they sink their teeth."
He glared at her for a few moments, then spat:
"Aren't you forgetting something?"
Looking at him, Changing Star frowned.
Sunny took a step forward.
"Me! You are forgetting me! I have a say in this too, goddammit!"
She remained silent for a while. Eventually, Nephis said:
"I am not forcing you to do anything. You don't have to follow me to Valor if you don't wish to."
A crooked smile appeared on his face.
"Oh, great! But is this really true? There is a certain bond between us, after all. I am only free to do as I wish until you decide otherwise. Who knows if you mood will change one day?"
Neph stared at him for a few long seconds. Then, she sighed and crossed her arms.
"Ah, so this is what it's all about."
Sunny gritted his teeth, then said slowly:
"Since we are talking about it, let's talk. This conversation was a long time coming. So, Nephis, tell me… what are you going to do with your power over me?"
Her face remained impassive. Neph looked at him coldly for a moment, and then said:
"...Nothing. I will never order you to do something for me, ever again."
Sunny was already opening his mouth to retort before she finished speaking, but then froze. He stood still for a few moments, then let out a long breath.
"Well… good. Because if you ever tried, one of us would have died. That is not a threat, just a fact."
Suddenly, white sparks ignited in Changing Star's eyes. She leaned forward slightly and said, her voice full of barely suppressed emotion:
"And do you know why?"
Suddenly feeling a sense of unease, Sunny frowned.
"No, I can't say that I do. Why?"
She took a step forward and stopped in front of him, almost as close as they had been during their dance. Her face was still, but her eyes were full of searing flame.
"...Because I don't need anyone to follow me against their will. I don't need a magical collar to make people serve me. I don't need slaves. That is not enough for me, Sunny. Why should I settle for submission when I can have loyalty? People who will follow me, serve me, and obey me will do so because that is their most ardent desire. They will do so with a smile. If I ever want to make you mine, Sunny, you will become mine — not because you were forced to, but because you would want to. That... is also a fact."
He stared at her for a few moments, startled by the sudden intensity of her words. Then, a stubborn expression appeared on his face:
"Aren't you too full of yourself? Who do you think you are, to decide what I want?"
Nephis looked at him, then turned away and sighed.
"I am... I am the person who knows you best in the world, Sunny. Two worlds, even."
She lingered for a few moments, and then added quietly:
"As I said, I will never force you to do anything. But whether you like it or not, our fates are intertwined. And that bond has nothing to do with your Innate Ability. In truth, they were entangled the moment we met, in front of the Academy gates. We just did not know it yet. You can't escape it."
'Can't… escape… fate?'
Sunny looked at Nephis for a long time, and then smiled darkly.
With that, he dismissed the bone flute, turned around, and left the kitchen.
Entering the corridor, Sunny walked away. His nostrils were flaring, and his face were contorted by an expression of anger.
As he walked, he took out his communicator and dialed a familiar number.
After some time, a female voice resounded from the speaker:
"Sunny? What a nice surprise. It's good to hear from you."
He hesitated for a few moments, and then took a deep breath.
Then, Sunny smiled and answered in a friendly tone:
"Master Jet? Hey… I have a question for you."
He paused for a second, and then asked:
"...How cold is it in Antarctica?"