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    Chapter 457: Ivory Tower

    "Saint… come look at this…"

    Sunny sat on the soft grass, enjoying the sunlight and the cool wind. He had not even known how much he missed them... missed everything, really. Looking back, it was hard to imagine that he had endured more than a month of utter nothingness without losing his mind. His experiences in the Dark City, it seemed, made him far more resilient.

    ...The shadow of the Ivory Tower was slowly moving closer as the evening approached, marking the passage of time. It was peaceful and quiet on the green meadow of the heavenly island.

    Answering his call, the taciturn demon appeared nearby and stood silently, observing the magnificent white tower. Her ruby eyes, however, did not show any emotion.

    He sighed.

    "...Well, I think it's lovely."

    The soaring island was not very large, so Sunny could more or less see its edge not too far away, surrounded by floating slates of shattered marble. There was a meadow on this side of it, a grove that rustles under the wind, and a graceful gazebo built of the same white material as the Ivory Tower itself. The stone arch inside of it was also white, and empty. The portal was gone.

    Some distance away, connected to the gazebo by a stone path, stood the magnificent great pagoda that had once belonged to the Demon of Hope. If its copy in the Sky Below was somber and ominous, the original was the complete opposite. It was beautiful, graceful, and slightly surreal, as if too sublime to exist in the mortal realm.

    …In a sense, it did not.

    Something about the Ivory Tower made Sunny uneasy, however. He couldn't quite describe the feeling, but it was as though he simultaneously felt pulled toward it and threatened by it. The sensation did not come from his intuition, but more so from the deepest corners of his soul. It was rather strong.

    And there was also something strange in the shape of the tower itself.

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    There was a weird thing that went around the base of it, circling the whole perimeter of the great pagoda and disappearing from view. That thing was almost of the same color, but slightly less pristine, and made out of long and weathered sections.

    After looking at it for a while, Sunny finally realized what the thing was.

    …Bone. Wrapped around the tower was what remained of the tail of some giant, dead creature. He frowned.

    '...Good thing it's dead. I hope it remains this way.'

    Sunny sighed, used the Cruel Sight to help himself stand up, and headed toward the edge of the island. Saint followed, putting the blade of the Midnight Shard on her shoulder.

    Reaching it, he cautiously looked down and saw the disjointed patchwork of the Chained Isles far below. From this high, they looked like pieces of a beautiful mosaic that someone had laid out on the backdrop of velvety darkness, with a scattering of radiant stars shining in between.

    Sunny gazed down for a while, then picked up a rock from the ground and threw it over the edge.

    The rock fell for a hundred meters or so without meeting any resistance. Then, however, it suddenly cracked and exploded into shards, which then became dust and were scattered in the wind.


    It seemed that the Crushing was still there. It's just that the Ivory Tower itself was not affected by it, as well as the island it stood upon and a small area surrounding it.

    How was he going to come down?

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    Sunny stood at the edge for some time with a resentful expression on his face, then turned around and walked deeper into the island, circling the Ivory Tower from the left.

    On the other side of the great pagoda was a clear lake, with streams of water flowing out of it and falling over the edge of the island. In the bright sunlight, it seemed as though the entire surface of the lake was shining with pure golden radiance. Sunny looked at his reflection in the water, then at an intricately engraved bench standing near it, cut from white stone.

    Finally, he walked further on and reached a vantage point from which the gate of the graceful tower could be seen.


    The gates looked very similar to those he had opened in the depths of the Sky Below, with the main difference being the color and the absence of soot.

    …As well as that there were skeletal remains of a giant beast lying in front of them, its serpentine body wrapped around the tower, its massive skull resting right near the tall white doors. Each of the terrifying fangs of the great beast was as long as Sunny was tall, at least. Deep darkness nestled in its empty eyes.

    He shivered.

    'Is that… a dragon?'

    Indeed, it was. Right in front of Sunny were the weathered, snow-white bones of an actual dragon. The image of the mighty creature laying dead in front of the pristine tower was solemn, mysterious, and terrifying.

    What could have killed such a being?

    Thinking that he didn't wish to know, Sunny lingered for a while, then headed toward the remains of the dragon. He was desperately hoping that the great beast would not stir and come to life. If that happened… well. It was better to not even think about it.

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    Reaching the white skull of the mighty creature, Sunny hesitated for a bit, then walked between the terrifying fangs and approached the gates.

    …They were slightly ajar, so he didn't even need to use essence to unlock them.

    Sunny gathered his courage, raised his hand… and pushed the gates open.

    Suddenly, he felt a bit sleepy.

    'What… what is this?'

    Shaking his head to chase the sleepiness away, Sunny walked inside the tower and found himself in a great hall, bright light streaming through its tall windows. The air inside, however, was infused with a strange, shimmering darkness.

    And in its center, there were…


    Seven chains sprawled from the pristine white floor, as if growing out of it, each ending in a broken shackle. The shackles were inscribed with a myriad of runes and marred, their metal torn. They were also the source of the strange shimmering, which rose from their surface in ethereal wisps.

    A chaotic, everchanging mass of pure darkness pulsated in the very center of the great hall. No, it was not darkness… rather, it seemed like a rift in the fabric of reality, one that could devour even light itself.

    Sunny tensed, then took a tentative step forward, hoping to see what was hidden behind the darkness.

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    As soon as he did so, however, a familiar voice echoed in the silence of the great hall:

    "Stop, Sunless! Turn back if you wish to live."

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