Chapter 1031 The Greatest Nightmare
Fire crackles filled the silence among the group as they sat around the bonfire. Each tended to his wounds, some wrapping plain bandages around their severed arm. As for those with broken legs, they simply reduced the bone to its original shape. Their stamina did the rest.
Dal and Fae had some injuries, but they were not as severe. After some rest, the two of them should be fine. Uncle John was nowhere to be seen after announcing that the last trial would only have a single decision. However, knowing this dungeon, all of them felt more uneasy by the fact.
"As a former demon, do you have any idea what the last trial would have?" asked Joey the Dullahan, whose tanned muscular body shielded Alexie from the rest. Koby was still healing him, even disregarding his own injuries.
"My body might have been demonic, but my mind always belonged to me," replied the warrior as he gazed into the fire. "It was not tainted by the earlier trial, either," he raised his eyes to scan the rest.
No one answered him, because they could not deny that the ninth trial has been hellish, to say the least. All of them had to face their darkest secrets, and no one dared to claim that they were fine after that.
"We should not fight amongst ourselves," said Koby from the side while his eyes fixated on Alexie. "If the final trial needs just a few seconds to finish, that means the difficulty is already fixed. We can take our time to prepare for different scenarios."
"Maybe we would have to decide that someone dies among us," said Fae while looking into the flames. "That would be an easy choice, would it not? It has to be me. I deserve it."
The usually stoic and unimpressed woman has now changed to be a self-loathing wacko. The three men did not know how to respond to that, but they could not blame her after witnessing the heinous way her sister died.
"I doubt such a scenario would come up," said Joey with a frown. "The last trial has to be something to do with Alexie and his destiny. It might be a decision to either take the responsibility or not."
"Sir Alexie has already rejected that monster which offered him power," said Dal with a pondering expression. "I doubt he wants to be the demon king or whatever."
No one could decide what the man wanted to be. After reaching this far in the demonic dungeon, everyone had no choice but to enter the final trial. They would either emerge with bountiful rewards for clearing such a difficult dungeon or end up as undead in its eighth room.
"We just have to wait for him to wake up," said Koby as he looked at the wound on his chest. "This wound is going to leave an ugly scar, but it would not kill him."
"What about your arm?" asked Joey as he glanced at him. "How come you did not even try to heal it?"
"I gave it away in exchange for freedom," answered the mage without hesitation or fear. "I have no intentions of bringing it back."
"Have you been held captive?"
"Only by fear."
Joey nodded in understanding and decided to focus on healing his body. Unfortunately, he could not contact the young lady because he had to wait an entire day. He wanted to tell that this man turned out to be the prophesied demon king.
The minutes turned to hours, but Alexie showed no signs of waking up. The last hour arrived, and the tower sent them a warning. Once a day passes in the demonic dungeon, it would restart and erase their existence. No survival and no chance of revival.
"Do we wait until the last minute?" asked Dal as he stared at the giant clock that signaled their doom. The Red Tower seemed eager to announce their execution.
"That is impractical," said Joey with a shake of his head. "We cannot trust the words of someone inside this trial. We have to go inside now."
"Alexie has yet to wake up," said Koby with a frown. "I finished healing his wound, but he seems to be in some sort internal struggle. I hear him whisper strange words from time to time."
"Even if it takes a few seconds to make the decision, it would be better to go prepared," said Fae who seemed to be calmer now. "We can throw Alexie into the portal, but it might be too dangerous."
"Someone has to stay with him until the last minute," said Dal with a frown. "I will take that role. The rest can go ahead and enter the final room."
"Are you sure about this?" asked Joey with a frown. "He might never wake up again."
"Then I will take him into the final room myself," said Dal with a nod. "I vowed to serve him, and my vows are more important than my life. Go ahead and enter the final room, soldiers."
Joey was the first to nod and start walking toward the gate, followed by Fae, who shot them one last glance before going through the portal. Although they speculated this portal took them out of this demonic world, it might lead them somewhere worse.
Koby tried to heal Alexie some more, but his mana ran dry. The Dullahan patted his head and told him to leave as well, which he did half an hour before the time was over. Dal was the only one left beside Alexie.
"What a strange twist of fate this is," said Dal with a smile as he gazed down at the unconscious man. "I truly believed that you would be the person who ends my life. Now, I would happily give away my life if it means saving yours."
No response came from the unconscious man, but Dal still had half an hour to kill before the tower restarts the dungeon. Thus, he had all the time needed to tell his story and what led him into this dungeon.
"Before I entered the Red Tower, I was a nobody. A hooligan who grew up in a criminal city and grew up to be a part of it. My master found me and trained me to be a warrior, before she sent me on a quest to save the world."
As he remembered his past life, Dal was growing emotional. The moment he mentioned his master, his tears welled in his eyes. He closed them while reminiscing the past.
"I had no idea what saving the world meant, Sir Alexie. She just told me to leave our city and become a better man, and fate would lead me here. Despite her belief in my character, I still deceived you into saving me. And even then, you forgave me."
Dal wanted to confess that he had no idea what he was doing here. His aspiration was something bestowed upon him by someone he admired, nothing more. However, this has changed now.
"If you are truly the one bringing down gods, then I might have found my quest," muttered Dal while staring down toward the unconscious man. "Your existence makes me feel like I am a part of something greater."
After those words, Dal closed his eyes. The minutes passed in silence one after the other. Alexie showed no signs of waking up, and the warrior raised his head to see that only five minutes remained.
"I wonder what it would feel like to be erased from existence?" muttered the warrior. Five minutes turned to four and then to three. "Are we dying here, Sir Alexie?" asked Dal while closing his eyes with a smile.
"My name is Arthur Silvera, and this is not the place for us to die," a hoarse voice answered the warrior, making him snap his eyes open. The collapsed man was gone from the floor, and Dal snapped his head to see him standing in front of the gate. "A greater fate awaits us both, Dal."
"…I am sure of that, Arthur Silvera," said Dal as he rose from the ground. "We have two more minutes to finish the final trial. Uncle John said it needs just a few seconds, but we cannot trust him."
"He has no reason to lie," said Arthur as he turned his head toward Dal. His eyes shone golden like the sun, making the warrior feel pressured by the determination in his eyes. Before, Arthur showed no such certainty in his eyes. "The final trial will be the greatest test of our beliefs."
"What test?" asked Dal with confusion, because Arthur Silvera spoke with such certainty as if he has foreseen the final trial.
"A test whether we would bend… or break," said Arthur as he turned around. "Follow me, Dal. Throw yourself into the most horrifying nightmare, which you never want to wake up from."
A familiar ceiling with many cracks, so familiar that Arthur knew how many they were. A bed with pits in different sides, making his back hurt just from looking at it. As he turned around, a room presented itself in his view.
"I am back," muttered Arthur with unknown emotions as a knock came on the door. Before he could answer, his mother pushed the door open and came into his room with a smile.
"Wake up, sleepyhead," said the woman who aged beyond her years. "I thought you had a date with that sweet girl?" she nudged him slightly before noticing his gaze. "Is something wrong?"
"Nothing wrong, just… glad to see you well," said Arthur as he rose from his bed and pulled away the covers. "What date are you talking about?"
"You can go downstairs and see for yourself," said his mother with a smirk that made Arthur amused. After a nod, he decided to follow her suggestion.