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Both Sunny and Effie stared at him in surprise. After a while, the former huntress asked:

"Challenge the Nightmare with us? Don't you have a great position in Bastion, safe behind its walls? Have Sunny infected you with his madness?"

Kai frowned, then looked away. After a while, he said:

"Yes, I do. But… do you guys remember Aiko? She had a gambling den in the Bright Castle. Well, anyway, Aiko has a real talent for managing various things, so the agency hired her as my manager. One evening, we ended up talking about the Dark City."

A sad smile appeared on his face.

"Both of you only lived in the outer settlement, which had its own share of challenges, of course. Much more dire than what we who paid tribute faced in the Castle. But… but life wasn't that bright there, too."

He remained silent for a bit, then continued:

"Aiko had it way worse than I, though. Especially after one of the Pathfinders made a point of making her life a living hell… Andel, whose head Lady Nephis eventually took off his shoulders. We all knew it, but no one really helped."

A heavy sigh escaped from Kai's lips.

"Because what could anyone of us really do against one of the Pathfinders? But there was a lot of these compromises, of little lies we told ourselves as we closed our eyes to every dark, dirty thing that went on around us."

He looked at Effie, and said:

"People were starving in the outer settlement while we had our bellies full? Well, it wasn't our fault, because the Castle couldn't feed everyone. Surely, if there was more food, we would have shared. The Guards decided to harass someone? Well, that wasn't our fault either, because Tessai was too powerful, and we were too weak to resist him. And so on, endlessly. Everyone went as far as they needed to keep thinking of themself as one of the good guys."

Kai grew silent, then said quietly:

"But, you see, it actually was our fault. All of us have committed the same crime… we were all weak. When I spoke to Aiko, I finally realized that in this world, being weak is a sin, too. At least for us, the Awakened. So… yes, I want to challenge the Second Nightmare, despite being safe and sound behind the walls of the Bastion. Because I never want to close my eyes to anything, ever again."

He looked at them, then smiled.

"Seven months? That's more than enough time for me to prepare. Plus, don't you need someone who can fly? Or are you going to simply jump into that weird undersky again and just hope to miss all those flames?"

Sunny coughed.

Kai had a point…

"Well… if you put it like this…"


After Kai's unexpected and poignant confession, they spent some time simply relaxing, laughing, enjoying their food, and chatting about this and that. Kai shared his experience of winning twelve consecutive weeks of the Avatar Singer and having to lose on purpose in the end, and the furor his face reveal and the subsequent announcement of Night&Gale's upcoming comeback album caused in the music industry and among the fans.

…He also complained about having to hire a second publicist because of a strange scandal he had gotten somehow involved in on the network, causing Sunny to look away in shame and keep his mouth tightly shut.

Effie mostly talked about all the fried chicken wings she had eaten and all the sorts of beer she had drunk, as well as what types of Nightmare Creatures she had hunted… and fried, and ate. She also joked about all the propaganda events the government wanted her to participate in, and the various ways with which she had managed to dodge most of them.

Sunny shared his experience of buying a house, and how it made him feel. He almost got sentimental thinking about his beautiful armored doors that Effie had smashed through, and about his new, expensive, shiny refrigerator.

Finally, Kai had to return to his schedule. Before they parted, though, he hesitated, then took out two colorful pieces of synthetic paper from his pocket with a very embarrassed expression on his face.

Without saying anything, he handed the brochures to Sunny and Effie.

Sunny took one, and stared at it with a confused expression.

It appeared to be an invitation of some sort. On it was an image of two people standing back to back with swords in their hands, both of them extremely beautiful, in a professional kind of way.

The guy was dark-skinned and handsome, with broad shoulders and an incredibly masculine face. The girl was thin and languid, with a slim figure that bordered on being gaunter than Sunny had been in his outskirts days. She had a doll's face with big, glistening eyes and full, slightly parted lips.

…She was also wearing a very strange and impractical armor, a regal cloak, and a very expensive silver wig.

'What the hell is this?!"

The title at the top of the brochure read:

"A Song of Light and Darkness"

And right below it, in a smaller font:

"Light shines brighter in the darkest of nights. Passion blossoms hotter in the cold heart of despair."

Sunny stared at the piece of paper in his hand with wide eyes.

"Kai… my friend… what did you just hand me?"

Effie laughed.

"No way! They finished filming it?"

Kai coughed.

"That, uh… yeah. The premier is in a week, actually. My agency arranged for me to attend and give a short speech. So, uh… will you two come, please?"

Sunny shook his head.

"No, wait… no, actually, what is this thing?!"

Effie looked at him with pity.

"Haven't you heard? They made a movie about us. I mean, about what happened on the Forgotten Shore… sort of. Have you not heard about all the casting news?"

He slowly shook his head.


Then, Sunny frowned:

"Alright… alright, I get it. But why would I ever want to go and watch this? I would rather eat another Mordant Mimic! Sorry, Kai, but I am not going…"

Effie looked at him with mischief and grinned.

"Oh… hey Sunny, do you remember how I said that I only had one condition to join you in the Nightmare? Well, scratch that. Actually, I have two…"