Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 135: Fading Stars
Demons and monsters were the first to discover the changes in the Border Forest, much earlier than humans.
It was a bloody human arm that was thrown away by the garrison of Roadside Town into the damp shrubs. It would have rotted quickly and then turned into a broken piece of corpse that wasn’t an uncommon sight in the Border Forest, but instead of rotting, it remained in its original state in the hot and humid woods, faintly exuding an aura that made demons extremely uncomfortable. Even ordinary insects and beasts without demon blood subconsciously avoid the strange flesh.
It lay there quietly among the rotting leaves and dirt. Its growing powers seduced the surrounding creatures, but aggressive fluctuations pushed them away.
Until an injured earth dragon swallowed it.
The earth dragons had a medium IQ and a big head, but their reactions weren’t very responsive. They didn’t have an overly complex mind. People didn’t have much interest in this kind of intermediate demon. The earth dragons lived in the deep, dark lairs of the Border Forest. Their flesh was rough and poisonous, and their scales, skins, and bones were of little practical use. They only move in groups in small areas of activity, looking for other creatures’ eggs, rotting meat, and juicy water mushrooms, the latter in particular.
They often passed through shrubs in droves, sniffing at rotten roots and marking stumps where the mushrooms may grow. They were extremely cautious, and once a powerful predator approached, the earth dragons would quickly evacuate under the command of the leader.
It all started with an accident.
Humans held testing activities in the forest from time to time, and the life in the forest had long been accustomed to it. Not long ago, a superior demon appeared inexplicably in this event, but fortunately, it took the initiative to dedicate its flesh and blood. The active predators successfully got a piece of the action, and their strength soared, causing the balance in the forest to begin to tilt.
Unfortunately, this didn’t include the cautious earth dragons, and it was because of this that after Pandorater left its collapsed flesh and blood, this caution became the cause of the disaster—with their leader’s judgment, no earth dragon took a piece of Pandorater’s flesh, so none could resist the sudden strengthening of their natural enemies. The number of earth dragons had declined sharply, and the survivors had to run around daily to escape with their lives.
They finally had nowhere to go.
The leader of the earth dragon had lost an eye and a leg. The flesh on its chest was torn apart by fangs, revealing white ribs. Its companions screamed in its ears, pleading for the baby earth dragons that hadn’t even had the chance to hatch.
Its race was about to disappear.
There was a vague and painful groan in the throat of the leader of the earth dragons. Its breathing became more ragged. Remorse tormented it, along with toxins seeping from its wounds. The dying demon lowered its head and arched its nose over the arm on the ground.
As a kind of creature that wasn’t intelligent, its idea was simple and direct. Since it would die anyway, it was better to try to become stronger and win a glimmer of hope for its kind.
Wasn’t there still a piece of flesh of a superior demon here? Even if the rejection and fear derived from instinct numbed its brain and the overly intense fluctuations in power almost took away its standing strength; even if it was scared, extremely scared, this was still an option. The instinct of survival and the responsibility as a leader tore at each other in the small skull of the earth dragon, and it almost fell into chaos.
The earth dragon let out a small whine, struggled in place for a long time, and finally swallowed the dismembered arm into his stomach.
Then it sank into thick darkness.
It didn’t know how long it took before it finally saw light again. The world had never been so clear, and the majestic power was pouring out of its body, but what followed was pain. The body melted and deformed, and its heart almost burst. The earth dragon instinctively sensed something bad. It could smell the breath of death close at hand.
But it didn’t matter. It thought for a moment that it still had time to clean up the enemies of its species. Despite being puzzled by the suddenly smaller trees and mountains, it raised its head and began to sadly call for its group.
The Preceptor Bishop, Felix Waldron, was anxious.
He hadn’t had a good night’s sleep since arriving in Roadside Town. The Knights of Judgment persuasion to the civilians didn’t have any practical effect, and the people who left were far fewer than the adventurers who came to inquire about the news. At the behest of the Preceptor Bishop, the Knights of Judgment of the Laddism Church had laid down the highest level of defense. To ensure that the response was fast enough, half of the troops were on standby in the area adjacent to the demon cocoon, while the other half stepped up inspections and threw every demon worshiper nearby into the dungeon.
This thing was extremely dangerous, was the hunch that the Preceptor Bishop had. The current situation couldn’t tolerate anyone from the Abyssal Church disrupting it. Although the Abyssal Church’s headquarter was gone, greatly affecting their vitality, he couldn’t relax his vigilance because of this.
“Pull the dragon breath stone fort to the southwest corner. The defensive formation there is too weak and could be used as a breakthrough point,” he ordered in a numb voice. “Where are the demon toxins? Is it all ready? We have to prepare for the worst—”
A violent earthquake suddenly struck, and the sound of flesh tearing through the night sky made everyone’s skin tighten. A mass of a deformed creature fell from the cocoon, then the cocoon melted and disappeared like hot wax.
A strong sense of oppression followed, as if a blacksmith’s hammer instantly shattered all the ribs in one’s chest. Even under the layers of protection of the magic arrays, the Preceptor Bishop still vomited a mouthful of blood.
“Team 17, go to Roadside Town!” The middle-aged Preceptor Bishop bent down slightly as he shouted in a trembling tone. “Go to the most crowded place to stabilize the scene and guide them to evacuate! This is a superior demon. A complete superior demon…”
What came out of the cocoon looked like an immature dragon embryo, not healthy or normal. It let out a sharp and unpleasant howl, crawling on the ground as if struggling. A dark, shadow-like liquid flowed from the cracks in the Abyss, quietly entangling the newly born demon, and the pain in the demon’s howl became heavier.
It’s the law. Felix thought that the complete superior demon wouldn’t be able to come after all. The demon who violated the law was about to die, but why was the sense of oppression getting stronger?
“Kenyatta’s gunners should be in place. The dragon breath stone fort is on standby,” he raised a hand.
“I said, standby. This thing can’t get out of control. Absolutely not.”
“We’re always willing to dedicate ourselves to the glory of Zenni, but if the fort blows over, you’ll also…”
“Nonsense! I’m the commander!” The Preceptor Bishop roared. The skin on his neck flushed with anger. “I must grasp all its changes immediately. Standby! Damn it—”
The oppression of the superior demon suddenly weakened sharply.
The sudden changes were the most terrifying part of this extremely abnormal situation. The Preceptor Bishop Felix almost ordered to fire with his shaking hand, until another steady and familiar sense of oppression appeared. Felix raised his head with some difficulty, subconsciously looking at the source of another powerful force.
The dark omen.
He still looked the same, with a black robe condensed into a black shadow, and his face wasn’t visible. He held an equally dark staff in his hand. The ominous figure floated in mid-air, one hand pointing in the direction of the superior demon, motionless.
This was truly the worst time.
Felix made a quick decision. He made a quick gesture, and the defensive array was launched, layer by layer, like a blooming white epiphyllum. ‘This was a great time to confirm the identity and position of this “dark omen”,’ he thought calmly. ‘How lucky.’ He may have the chance to die with the most terrifying demon.
Nemo stepped in the air.
He didn’t have time to be afraid of this height, and he didn’t even dare to be distracted by the defensive array that was launched by the Laddism Church. At that moment, all his attention was fixated on the superior demon who was still struggling. The dazzling star flickered frantically in his mind, and its thoughts and shouts also pierced his brain.
It was the leader of the earth dragons. It was calling for its most cherished thing, its group.
But no one came.
Perhaps it had been sleeping for too long. Nemo could sense there were few life reactions from the earth dragons in the forest. He didn’t dare to convey the news to it. It was still calling non-stop, and its cries became sadder.
Nemo closed his eyes. He emptied his mind, trying to touch the dazzling star. Finally, under the light, he could clearly see the complicated magic circuits like capillaries.
He always thought that magic came from the ability of the creatures themselves, but now it seemed that the opposite was true. What it returned to him was pure energy, and what flowed out of him was “abyssal magic”.
It was like a transaction.
When they first met, he didn’t think there was anything to Jesse Dylan’s metaphor. Yes, it was no wonder why he could only use abyssal magic without any need for spells and prayers… No, now it seemed that those mysterious spells and prayers were just signals for trading.
And the “stars” in his mind—whether they used abyssal magic or not—returned pure energy. Although he didn’t know why they kept flashing like real stars, he had learned enough facts. Nemo carefully dredged the power in the demon’s body to make it less violent.
The power of this demon was so powerful that the subtle fluctuations felt like the tide. The exchange and flow of power gradually became clearer, and the starry sky in his mind began to expand. It was getting wider and clearer.
This was the first time he had close contact with the flow of power after he had his definite guess. Now, Nemo’s mind was as clear as ice, and his cognition had never been so real. It really wasn’t detection magic. It wasn’t even magic. It was just pure… Perception.
The perception of those lives that were connected to him and provided him with strength. It was like perceiving petals falling on the skin. Those who had just been born, those who were about to die. Born as a demon or making a contract with a demon. Countless stars appeared quickly, one by one, lit up in his mind, and began to flicker.
Oliver, who had a contract with him, had the ability to use abyssal magic. Now he could be sure—as long as he had this ability, even if he didn’t use it, Oliver would become his source of strength. Then, naturally, he would be able to find the star that belongs to Oliver.
He finally clung to a glimmer of hope, but he couldn’t take back his abandoned limb—he still couldn’t save the dying earth dragon.
The newborn superior demon didn’t move. It roared sadly, its voice becoming more desperate. Finally, an earth dragon responded to the call. The weak earth dragon dragged its wounded body and looked up suspiciously at the unknown monster in front of it—and the dying superior demon lowered its head, wanting to sniff its own kind and be intimate as usual.
However, it hadn’t yet learned how to control its power.
Under the excessive pressure, the weak earth dragon instantly became a pile of flesh.
The deformed superior demon let out a sharp roar. The light of the defensive array suddenly became a little heavier. Its power was still increasing, but it may have now recognized the sad fact.
At this time, that power was no longer important.
It began to struggle violently and roared with all its strength, but only one person could understand its meaning. Nemo took a deep breath, and the smell of the forest mixed with flesh and blood rushed straight to his nose. He took out the communication crystal in his pocket with slightly trembling hands and glanced at the Knights of Judgment, who had gradually gathered due to the abnormal condition.
“Ann,” he said gently and softly. “You guys go. The farther away, the better. It can get dangerous here.”
“Nemo? ……What are you planning?” The voice of the female warrior came from the other side of the crystals. “We just caught the bastard you said—”
“I need to deal with that superior demon. You should be able to see it now. It’ll be over soon… Now I can find Oliver and I’ll act as soon as it’s over.”
“…Then I’ll go to you with Ollie,” he lied. “You can take advantage of this time to send the prisoner to the Insular Court.”
“Promise me, okay?”
Nemo didn’t wait for Ann to answer. He directly crushed the crystal that was still flashing. ‘I’m really not good at saying goodbye,’ Nemo thought.
The superior demon in front of him was crying bitterly. Its power was so strong that it began to corrode its body; strong enough for it to detect the condition of the entire forest.
It had long since lost its reason to fight.
The former earth dragon wept helplessly, praying in a voice that no one understood from the swollen flesh. Unlike when he was participating in the Black Chapter’s test, Nemo no longer treated those thoughts as mystical murmurs.
This superior demon was just like Pandorater. It found him and began to pray.
[Kill me.] It spoke. [Kill me.]
[I’m so sad.]
[I made a mistake.]
It kept repeating.
“Okay,” Nemo responded dryly. “I’m really…”
He didn’t care about the gathering Knights of Judgment anymore. He didn’t care about how many pairs of eyes were watching. There were originally only two choices for him—either let go of his power and confine the explosion to a small space or wipe out the superior demon before the explosion.
He shouldn’t be so sad. It made a request, the least painful way. Everyone would be safe, but…
“I’m really, really sorry.”
Nemo murmured repeatedly. He cut off those circuits and extinguished the star, as if gently blowing out a burning candle.
The huge superior demon disappeared.
There was no exploding flesh; no splashing of blood. It quietly turned into ashes in an instant—ashes fluttered in the night sky, like falling snow in winter. It slowly fell on the armor of the Knights of Judgment, before accumulating into a thin layer on the ground.
He didn’t have the slightest fatigue after consuming his strength. Only unspeakable heaviness and sadness.
Nemo turned around and felt the vast starry sky in his mind. Virgil’s intel was more valuable than he thought—there was more than one dazzling star in the starry sky, but only one was in Walden.
In other words, the Withered Castle.
Oliver was there.
But before he could taste this rare little joy, the familiar despair struck again. The star was darkening at an abnormal speed. It was extinguishing, and he was about to lose it.
The snow-like ashes had not completely scattered to the ground and for a moment, his body seemed to really have turned into bitter winter.
‘I have to hurry,’ Nemo thought. ‘Go there immediately. I must be quick—’
But as he expected, several surveillance and restraint spells came at the same time. This crisis was over, but the Knights of Judgment naturally wouldn’t leave. A more terrifying threat than a superior demon was at hand.
Compared with before, the atmosphere of the Knights of Judgment was more tense. When power exceeded a certain limit, position and motivation were no longer important. They would no longer use his behavior as a main basis for judging whether he was good or evil. Nemo fully understood this, but right now he didn’t have the time or energy to entangle with the people in front of him.
What was waiting for him would be their attempts to stall him while more troops and support arrived. The Knights of Judgment were still trying to protect Roadside Town and the people.
Protect them from him.
‘There could be a peaceful solution,’ Nemo thought to himself. As long as he was willing to cooperate, make a harmless appearance, and obediently dispel their doubts, but that would take time, maybe lots of time…
Which he didn’t have.
Black shadows rose into the air, their sharp shadow blades pressing against the throats and eyes of the knights.
“Remove the restraint arrays,” Nemo shouted in a cold voice. “Please get out of the way!”
The knights didn’t move. They stayed firmly, guarding the twinkling town behind them. Countless restraint arrays wrapped around Nemo’s body, slowly gnawing at the dark shadow. His disguise was about to break.
They were indeed heroic and upright people, but the star that belonged only to him was about to fade.
“Get out of the way—” Nemo repeated it again, trying to suppress the crying in his voice. He exerted his own binding spells in vain as the magic belonging to the surface would not follow his instructions. The magic array that had been arranged in all hidden directions interfered with his judgment. He couldn’t find the right strength, and he was likely to hurt everyone by mistake. “I don’t want to fight with you!”
He couldn’t handle multitasking at this moment. He knew a faster way—ignore all their defenses and spells, stop trying to talk, and directly use enough power to crush all the lives present.
He couldn’t do it.
He heard someone on the surface arguing about firing. Although Nemo didn’t know what the dragon breath stone fort was, he could probably understand what the other party was trying to say. They didn’t mean to compromise, and they wanted to die together.
“I don’t want to fight with you,” he repeated, trying to repair the disguise woven by the black shadows, but as soon as his attention was distracted, the shadow blade threatening the knights suddenly began to shake, so more binding and restraint arrays came.
Time was too tight. Perhaps there was only one way.
His disguise was about to peel off, and this place was likely soon to be destroyed. All the magic arrays used to deal with the superior demon were being used on him, but he didn’t want to hurt others. He may not be able to master his strength, but serious injuries were better than death.
He might never be able to go back. Nemo finally glanced at the twinkling town not far away, ready to take a risk.
But another force broke out earlier. After a loud explosion, countless plumes of smoke and dust rose from the Border Forest in an instant. A myriad of lightning flashed across the edge of the dense black smoke.
A hand stretched out and took the staff from Nemo’s hand.
“Go find your Oliver,” another voice came from not far away. “I can’t believe you’ve learned how to lie, you bastard.”
The female warrior turned her spear. “Cross and I know better than you how to deal with these guys.”
She smiled at him and raised her hand.
“This smoke will only help interrupt their binding spells for a bit. Now get lost!”
Oh, I cried this chapter. The poor earth dragon. Nemo’s feelings. Ahh…
Did anyone make the connection? The skull helmet Ollie’s wearing is an earth dragon’s skull. I love these small details.
I also love how everything is intertwined and connected. Previous events in this novel have led to the present consequences. Things just aren’t happening out of nowhere. Everything is connected. Ahhh so good!
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6 thoughts on “Stray Ch135”
Oh no!! Poor earth dragon
That was so sad, he just wanted to save his beloveds, just like Nemo, that was all
Am I the only one who thinks he’s an idiot? His boyfriend is dying over there, and over here he is having a fucking existential crisis.
Sounds like you’re the idiot here with zero reading comprehension
Guess who’s crying again? Me~
i’m extremely sad 😭😭😭
and to the commenter over there complaining about Nemo’s existential crisis… have we been reading different novels?? this is the beauty in the characterization of Nemo and Ollie, both have their own virtues and both have done their best to stay true to it despite their identities and despite everything that fate has thrown at them. it’s not a simple existential crisis like what we have today, it’s a complete overturning of what he actually is and the fact that he’s still struggling with his humanity and is “having an existential crisis” shows that he’s different from how unfeeling and cold he was before.
sorry I had to defend our best boy Nemo ✋🏼😔 no offense intended, but mygod in the same vein, you can call Ollie an idiot for being too soft hearted and not killing people and becoming a damsel in distress ! !! 😩