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    Chapter 37: Getting to Know Each Other

    Sunny was slowly growing fond of having conversations in the dark. Without the burden of light, people were more relaxed and honest. It reminded him of the frequent blackouts that used to sweep through the city when he was a little kid. His family had no choice but to huddle together and spend a few hours doing nothing but talking to each other.

    Now, these dark hours had become some of his most precious memories.

    He was silent for a few moments and then said:

    "Since we're going to be depending on each other, should we share what abilities and Memories we have at our disposal?"

    This was a logical suggestion. If they were going to fight side by side, knowing each other's strengths was more or less vital. Still, he noticed Nephis glancing in his direction with a guarded look on her face.

    Luckily, he was obscured by darkness.

    "I'll start," Sunny said, both to show his sincerity and to reveal information about himself in a controlled manner.

    If he took the initiative to talk, he still had to tell the truth, but how much and to what extent was still for him to decide. If they were to ask and he had to answer, however… things would become unpredictable.

    "My attributes give me an affinity to shadows. I also have a slight affiliation to divinity. Lastly, I am prone to finding myself in unlikely situations."

    Cassie listened carefully, and then lowered her head, as though embarrassed.

    "Uh… he is telling the truth. Not that we doubted your honesty!"

    'Why not? I spent so much time earning the reputation of a pathological liar!'

    Sunny cleared his throat and smiled, hiding his nervousness:

    "Really? That's good to know. But… why are you so sure that I am being honest?"

    The blind girl shifted a little.

    "Oh! That's my Ability. I can "see" people's Attributes. Sometimes, I also receive, uh, "visions". They can be about the future or the past. I mean, that's what I think… it only happened a couple of times."

    Sunny swallowed, but then relaxed.

    'So, she is an oracle of sorts. Luckily, her insight is limited to Attributes… otherwise, I'd be in real trouble. Still, I'll have to be careful around her.'

    He finally realized how the blind girl had known about his birthday. The question was whether she had seen it in a vision of the future or in a vision of the past. If it was the former, was it safe to assume that he would certainly be able to celebrate at least one more birthday?

    Or did knowing the future actually affected and changed it? For example, after learning that he was definitely going to survive, Sunny might have naturally relaxed and lowered his guard. Then, he would die as the result of it. It surely seemed possible, right? That's assuming that the future could be changed. But maybe it wasn't? Then…

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    Feeling his head hurting, Sunny decided to avoid this line of thought for now. Instead, he hid his inner turmoil and said in a friendly tone:

    "That's a good Ability. Speaking of Abilities: you have already seen mine. My shadow can move independently and explore. It can't affect the material world, but we share sight and hearing. That way, I can spot danger before encountering it. The shadow is fast and stealthy: it can go anywhere and is almost impossible to notice. Oh, I can also see in the dark."

    He smiled, expecting the girls to understand and appreciate the utility of his Shadow Scout. Their reaction, however, was a bit strange: Nephis slowly turned her head in his direction, while Cassie became a bit pale and raised her hands to cover her chest.

    "Uh… what?"

    Nephis frowned and said in a flat tone:

    "Have you ever used your Ability in the Academy?"

    Sunny blinked.

    'What a strange question!'

    "In the Academy? Sure, of course. Why?"

    Oh, right… they think that I'm a pervert…


    Before the girls could say anything, he hurriedly raised his hand and blurted:

    "But I have never used it to do anything improper! You have to believe me!"

    Fortunately, it was the honest truth. However, both Nephis and Cassie looked skeptical. Sunny gritted his teeth.

    "I had more important things to do than… than whatever you're thinking about! I spent almost every waking hour learning how to survive!"

    Nephis raised an eyebrow.

    "I haven't seen you in class… even once."

    Sunny chuckled.

    "Of course, you didn't. While you were busy wiping the floor with other Sleepers, I was studying Wilderness Survival."

    It was Changing Star's turn to blink.

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    "Wilderness… what? There is such a course?"

    Cassie seemed equally puzzled.

    "Yes, there is. It might seem like an afterthought for most people, but for an outskirts kid like me, who never went to a fancy school or saw a private tutor, learning how to survive in the wilderness is the difference between life and death. Without it, I would have drowned the moment we were sent to the Dream Realm."

    On a rare occasion, Nephis looked completely bewildered. She rubbed her wrists and stared thoughtfully in his direction.

    "I see. I didn't know."

    Sunny grimaced and struggled to keep the venom from sipping into his voice. When he finally spoke, his tone was light and amiable.

    "That's okay. It's natural for someone of your status not to know…"

    When he mentioned her status, a strange smile appeared on the Changing Star's face. But in the end, she didn't reply.

    Sunny continued:

    "Anyway, that's my Ability. As for Memories, I have three. One is an armor, one is a sword, and the last one is a really loud bell."

    Now it was their turn to share. After a short pause, Nephis spoke:

    "My attributes give me an affinity to light and fire, as well as a strong affiliation to divinity. I have two Memories: a rope…"

    While she was speaking, Sunny was looking at Cassie, trying to read her expression. From what he saw, Nephis was telling the truth — but also, not the whole truth. And judging by how hard the blind girl was trying to hide her true feelings, the secret hiding among Changing Star's Attributes was not at all trivial.


    "...and a sword. The rope is very sturdy and can change its length. The sword is very sharp and can protect its wielder against souls attacks, to a certain extent. My Ability… can be used to heal."

    Sunny didn't miss the wording of the last part. "Can be used to heal"... does this mean that its main purpose was something else? He was pretty sure that Nephis would not reveal all of her cards, just like him. However, healing abilities were extremely rare. Having one that could heal, but was not limited to healing — that would be simply unheard of.

    But then again, she was Changing Star — one of the few people in history to receive a True Name in the First Nightmare. If Sunny were to consider his own Aspect Ability, nothing seemed impossible.

    'I wonder what's her Aspect rank is.'

    Outwardly, he pretended to be excited.

    "You're a Healer? That's great! Having a Healer among us is incredible luck!"

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    Cassie nodded and smiled.

    "Neph is also an amazing fighter! You should have seen her dealing with those scavengers. Well… I also did not actually see it. But it sounded very scary."

    Sunny didn't need anyone to tell him how formidable of a warrior Nephis was. He had seen it with how own two eyes. Sort of. Actually, they were his shadow's eyes. Well… whatever it had instead of eyes.

    Meanwhile, Cassie sighed.

    "It's my turn? Uh… my attributes are nothing special. I guess I have an affinity to revelations and fate. My Ability is like I told you before. It's not very useful. About my Memories, I have three: the bottle, the wooden staff and this armor. You already know about the bottle. The staff can create wind. The armor is actually of the Awakened rank… uh, Neph gave it to me when we met. It has a very powerful protective charm."

    'So… she's not only carrying Cassie on her back, she even gave away her only clothes? An Awakened-rank armor, at that? What… what is Nephis thinking about?'

    The blind girl turned away and added after a while:

    "I used to be a pretty decent fencer… before. Now I can't really fight."

    The last two sentences were obviously related to her Flaw. Sunny and Nephis, however, both chose to keep theirs secret. Despite the fact that knowing your companion's Flaw was also important for cooperation and having each other's backs, sharing something like that demanded a very high level of trust.

    Right now, there was no trust between them. And even if there was, Sunny did not plan to ever share his Flaw with anyone. Nephis, too, seemed to have a lot of secrets.

    After a while, he said:

    "Good. That's good. I think we have enough tools to survive, provided we use them right. I guess it's time to sleep?"

    In the darkness, Nephis tilted her head, listening to his words with a distant look.

    "Alright. I'll… take watch first."

    Sunny decided to be helpful and said:

    "Actually, my shadow doesn't sleep. It can wake us up if something happens."

    Changing Star slowly smiled.

    "I'll take watch first."

    Feeling a bit of coldness in her voice, Sunny sighed and shrugged.

    'Suit yourself. What are you going to watch, huh? You can't even see anything! Whatever. Just don't blame me when something giant swallows us in the middle of the night…'

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    Then he suddenly shuddered.

    'Wait... that was not a death flag, right? Right, of course not. No way...'

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