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    Chapter 32: Making a Choice

    With an empty stomach and a head full of thoughts, Sunny returned to the center of the platform and sat down. After a while, he beckoned to his shadow and said:

    "Wake me up if anything happens."

    Then, he closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep. His consciousness quickly slid into the sweet embrace of darkness, giving Sunny some well-needed rest.

    In the middle of the night, however, a sudden impulse stirred him awake. Sunny jumped to his feet, his groggy mind full of tense apprehension. He was afraid that the owner of the giant tentacle had come back to finish the job.

    Or maybe some other horror from the depths had sensed him and decided to snack on human meat.

    However, the sea was quiet and calm. He didn't hear any abnormalities around the knight's statue.

    "What is it?" Sunny whispered, addressing the shadow.

    The shadow silently pointed him in a particular direction.

    Turning his head, Sunny squinted. He quickly understood why it was a good idea to wake up. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been able to see…

    Out there in the distance, a few kilometers away, a small orange light was shimmering in the darkness. Its reflections were rising and falling with the movement of waves.

    It was too far away to make out any details, so Sunny just stared at it for a while. Pretty soon, the light disappeared.

    "Other Sleepers? Natural phenomenon? Or some monster laying a trap?"

    Memories of nightmarish deepwater creatures immediately came to his mind.

    Shaking his head, Sunny lay back down and attempted to return to his slumber. However, this time sleep was escaping him. Pangs of hunger were still not unbearable, but slowly becoming more and more intense. The thirst, however, was worse.

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    In the end, he remained awake up until the sun rose again, sending the dark sea in retreat.


    As soon as the morning came, the pincer monsters crawled back from their hiding spots and rushed to the giant carcass to continue their feast.

    Sunny watched them for some time and then walked to the opposite side of the platform to take a look in the direction where he had seen the mysterious light the previous night.

    At a considerable distance from the headless statue, five or six kilometers away, the ground rose naturally and formed something akin to a hill. On top of that hill, an especially massive coral pillar rose to the sky.

    From the looks of it, its upper branches were just high enough to stay above water in the night.

    Various ideas stormed into Sunny's head, but at the end of it, only two questions were really important.

    First of all — would he be able to find the way through the labyrinth and cover that distance during the day? And more importantly, should he even attempt to do it? After all, there was no indication that the source of the mysterious light was something beneficial, as opposed to dreadful and deadly.

    Not having enough information to make a choice, Sunny settled back to study the monsters. He did, however, send the shadow to investigate as far into the labyrinth as the range of Shadow Control allowed, hoping to chart at least the beginning of the path that could potentially lead him to that hill.

    Logically speaking, he was as safe atop the headless statue as he probably could be in this strange place. The only problem was, he was going to die soon because of thirst or hunger.

    Both problems were solvable if he were to venture down. He could desalinate the seawater in a number of ways taught to him by Teacher Julius, with materials that were present pretty much everywhere in the Dream Realm. He could also prepare traps and hunt a pincer monster to eat. With their massive size, just one of them would be enough to feed him for weeks.

    He could easily see such a routine: hunting by day, returning to the statue at the approach of the night. It was probably his safest choice.

    However, this way of doing things lacked one vital element: the potential for improvement. It was well suited for keeping Sunny alive, but had no way of giving him hope. If he was destined to spend the rest of his life in the small area surrounding the headless statue, devouring monsters and trembling at night in fear of being devoured by something bigger in turn…

    Well, he would rather just jump down and end it right now.

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    That pretty much meant that the only choice left for him was to try and reach the source of the orange light. And if Sunny was really trying to attempt it, he had to do it before the pincer monsters were done consuming the giant carcass.

    That way, at least, the surrounding segment of the labyrinth was going to be free of them.

    Firm in his choice, Sunny decided to leave the headless statue the next morning. He would spend the rest of today exploring paths through the labyrinth and preparing himself mentally.

    With that, he closed his eyes and concentrated his perception on the moving shadow.


    In the night, a sudden storm descended upon the dark sea. Sunny was stirred awake by the shadow in time to prepare himself for the crushing winds and the pelting rain.

    Usually, rain always put him in a bad mood. But this time he was too thirsty to think about anything except for freshwater. Staying low so as to not be blown over the edge of the platform, Sunny cupped his hands and waited until they became filled with rainwater. Then he raised them to his mouth and greedily drank.

    Strikes of lightning illuminated everything above the churning sea. If anyone were to see Sunny now, they would have noticed a wide grin on his face.

    The storm continued to rampage for several hours. Sunny crouched in the middle of the platform, enduring its rage. More than once, a tall wave would crash into the headless knight's neck, threatening to wash him away. But Sunny held tight to the deep grooves in the stone surface of the platform, sticking to it like glue.

    By morning, when the storm finally dissipated, all of his muscles were sore.

    But there was no time to waste.

    As soon as the monsters came back to the carcass, with a few stragglers quickly following behind, he slid over the edge of the platform and began to nimbly climb down.

    Sunny had to thank Wilderness Survival classes once again, since he had been taught the basics of rock climbing as well. Teacher Julius was adamant about giving his student a crash course in all possible forms of traversal. Additionally, Sunny had already scouted the optimal way down and memorized the best holds and indentions to grab onto with the help of his shadow.

    Soon, his feet finally touched the ground.

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    Despite the fact that leaving the safety of the headless statue was going to put him in considerable danger, Sunny instantly felt his mood improving. Remaining passive for the last couple of days did not suit his character well. Now, even if his plan were to end in failure, at least he was going to go down doing something that he had decided to do.

    Trying and failing was better than not trying at all.

    The black mud was deep enough to slow him down, but not to the extent he had been afraid of. With some practice, Sunny was soon able to walk at an acceptable speed. What's more, as long as he stuck to the shadows, his steps were light and silent, producing no squelching noises from the mud.

    He headed for one of the paths that were supposed to lead him to the distant hill and entered the cool shade of the crimson labyrinth.

    Immediately, a strange feeling enveloped his mind. It was as though the world beyond the labyrinth did not exist anymore, and all that was left were its twisting, dark paths.

    'This thing almost seems endless.'

    Shaking his head, Sunny sent the shadow to scout ahead, hoping to be notified of any latent danger in advance, and began to move forward. His life now depended on whether or not he would reach the distant hill before the sun began to set.

    He didn't even want to think about what would happen if he were still inside the labyrinth once the dark sea came back in an unstoppable flood.

    The shadow moved ahead of him, not meeting any hurdles. Sometimes it would climb high to scout the direction of different paths, allowing Sunny to choose the optimal route most of the time. However, he still had to backtrack a considerable distance once or twice, ending up either in a dead-end or on a path leading in the wrong direction.

    Despite that, everything seemed to be going smoothly.

    Sunny even had time to carefully study the interior of the labyrinth, noticing more details of its composition, as well as a frightening amount of unrecognizable bones hiding in the mud beneath his feet.

    Because of how well things were going, he lowered his guard a little. His arrogance was also to blame — with his extensive preparations and skillful control of the Shadow Scout, Sunny subconsciously patted himself on the shoulder and assumed that everything was going to be fine.

    That's why, when the mud directly in front of him started to move, he was a fraction of a second late to react.

    In the next moment, a massive pincer shot out of the ground and tore through the air, threatening to cut his body in half with one crushing strike.

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