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    Chapter 45: Sound of Laughter

    Because of the shadow fragments Sunny had absorbed in the last few days, the range of Shadow Control has increased a little. However, it was still far from being enough to explore deep into the labyrinth. He only got the general direction in which the two large monsters were moving.

    They were going west.

    After telling this to Nephis, there was pretty much nothing else for him to do. In the end, Sunny decided to simply rest — the next day was promising to be full of hardships and danger, so it was in his best interest to let his body recover as much as it could.

    Some time later, Sunny was lying on his back, staring at the grey sky. Cassie was sitting beside him, lost in her thoughts. Nephis was meditating. At least, that's what it looked like: she might as well had been asleep, for all Sunny knew.

    After a while, Cassie turned to him.


    He tilted his head to look at her.


    The blind girl hesitated.

    "Do you… do you think we'll be able to return home?"

    Sunny glanced at her and furrowed his brow. A few seconds later, he turned away and looked at the sky again.


    Cassie smiled:

    "You really think so? Why?"

    'What's with all these questions?'

    He sighed and tried to find the right words.

    "Because of her."

    He pointed at Nephis, knowing that Cassie won't see it. There was no one else on the stone platform, though, so it was pretty obvious who he was referring to.

    "I'm also not someone to die easily. In fact, I'm willing to bet that you couldn't have found a better duo of Sleepers to escort you across the Dream Realm. If anyone can survive this, it's us. So, yeah. I think that our chances of making it back are pretty high."

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    Cassie suddenly giggled.

    "Aren't you a little too full of yourself? You were in the second to last place!"

    Sunny shrugged.

    "That's only because someone smart told me to keep a low profile. Otherwise, I would have ranked higher."

    Then, with a grin, he added:

    "Much higher! Third to last, at least!"

    The blind girl couldn't help but laugh. The melodic sound of her laughter made Sunny feel much better — he had not heard anything like that ever since coming to the Dream Realm. It was nice to see that people were still able to preserve a bit of mirth even in this hellish place.

    Come to think of it, this was the first time he heard Cassie laugh at all. Back in the Academy, she was always dull and bleak.

    After this sudden outburst, Cassia's expression slowly turned wistful. A few seconds later, she asked:

    "What do you miss the most about home?"

    Sunny tried to think of something, but failed. He wasn't sure that he even had a home in the real world — the tiny room he had been renting previously was nothing but a temporary shelter from the rain. As for the real world as a whole, his life there wasn't that pleasant either.

    Finally, he said:

    "I don't particularly miss anything."

    Cassie was very surprised.

    "Really? Don't you miss your family?"

    Sunny smiled.

    "I don't have a family. Well… I guess I have a sister somewhere. But we haven't seen each other in many years."


    The blind girl fell silent. Several seconds later, she said quietly:

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    "I miss my family the most."

    There was longing and sadness in her voice. Sunny didn't know what to say, so he stayed silent.

    "Mom and dad must be really worried about me right now. No… no, actually, they wouldn't be worried. They would be heartbroken. They must think that I'm as well as dead already."

    Sunny glanced at her and sighed.

    "You seem to care about them a lot."

    Cassie turned to him in confusion.

    "Of course. Isn't it normal?"

    Sunny stared at the grey sky. The wind smelled of rain.

    After a while, he said:

    "I wouldn't know."


    In the evening, Nephis made Sunny perform the thousand strikes again. After that, they ate the last strips of dried scavenger meat and took turns sleeping, so that one of them could always keep an eye on Cassie.

    Thankfully, nothing happened during the night.

    When the morning came and the dark sea retreated, they prepared to leave the giant statue. Nephis was the first one to climb down. Before that, she had a few words to say:

    "Today will be different from before. There will be much more scavengers roaming in the labyrinth. We might not be able to create an ambush or avoid fighting several of them at once."

    She looked at Sunny:

    "If anything happens, your job is to bring Cassie away. We can retreat by using passages that are too narrow for the scavengers. If we get separated, proceed to the high point by yourselves. Don't wait for me. Do you understand?"

    With a somber expression, he gave her a nod. Nephis returned it.

    "Good. Time is of the essence, so let's go."

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    With that, she began the descent. After Nephis reached a point twenty or so meters below them, she found purchase and waited. Using the golden rope, Sunny lowered Cassie down. Just like while climbing up, they took turns helping the blind girl. Luckily, climbing down the statue was much easier.

    Soon, they reached the ground.

    Entering the labyrinth, the trio moved forward with haste. The shadow was ahead of them, scouting for monsters and optimal paths. Despite that, their progress was slow and chaotic. They had to constantly change direction to avoid groups of scavengers, often ending up in dead ends or moving further away from their destination.

    Sunny, who played the role of the scout and navigator, felt his brains slowly starting to boil.

    At some point, however, they inevitably ended up in a situation where a fight was unavoidable.

    There was a large group of scavengers at their heels, and a pair of them blocking the path ahead. Neither of the two groups had noticed the Sleepers yet; however, since there were no other passages to turn into, it was only a matter of time.

    Nephis considered their options for a few seconds. There was a scowl on her face. Finally, she said:

    "If there's only two, we can take them."

    Sunny looked at her with uncertainty in his eyes.

    "But there's no time to set up an ambush."

    He wasn't quite sure how they could fight two scavengers at once. Despite how good of a teacher Nephis was, he only practiced with the sword for a day. Facing against a scavenger alone was risky.

    Changing Star shrugged.

    "It's almost the same. I'll attack first. You follow behind in the shadows and finish one off once they turn. Then, we kill the second one together."

    The whole plan was based on the assumption that Nephis could survive under the onslaught of two scavengers, both attacking her simultaneously. Sunny was very impressed by her prowess, but he wasn't sure that it was possible. There was a large probability that Nephis would die.

    He still remembered that she wasn't present in Cassie's first vision.

    But what else could they do?

    A bit rattled, Sunny gritted his teeth.


    After a short pause, Nephis summoned her sword.

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    Then, she stepped forward.

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