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    Chapter 48: The Storm

    "We need to move, now."

    As Nephis turned to him, Sunny grabbed Cassie and helped her stand up. His face was even paler than usual, and there was a panicked look in his eyes.

    "Now! Help me get her back on the scavenger!"

    The silver-haired girl raised her head and looked at the sky. Soon, her expression darkened. Without saying anything, she did as he had asked.

    Cassie seemed a bit disoriented. She grabbed the reins and helplessly turned to her friend:

    "Neph? What is going on?"

    Changing Star glanced at her. When she eventually spoke, her voice sounded heavy.

    "A storm is coming."

    Meanwhile, Sunny sent his shadow to climb on top of a tall pillar of coral and looked ahead, trying to understand how far the cliffs they were aiming for were. From the look of it, there was still a considerable distance to go. However, the giant statue was already much further away.

    Going back now would have been suicide.

    He turned to Nephis:

    "We're about three or four kilometers away from the cliffs. Do… do you think we can make it?"

    She scowled.

    "If we take the most direct route. Maybe."

    Sunny hesitated, then asked:

    "What about the monsters?"

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    Changing Star looked ahead and gritted her teeth.

    "We'll have to cut through."

    'That's it? That's the plan?'

    As he was fruitlessly trying to come up with some devious trick to save them, Nephis turned her head and glanced at him, puzzled.

    "What are you waiting for? Run!"


    As they darted forward, heavy drops of rain were starting to fall on the ground. Strong winds were howling between the coral blades, sending bits of mud and seaweed flying. With storm clouds gathering in the sky, sunlight dimmed, and a cold twilight descended upon the labyrinth.

    Sunny was running with all his might, as though his life depended on it — because it actually did. He was leading their small group, choosing the straightest path toward the cliffs with the help of his shadow. Nephis was a step behind him. The scavenger carrying Cassie was stomping through the mud with its eight legs in the back.

    Without the need to avoid monsters and death breathing down their necks, they moved with amazing speed. Side passages and crimson walls were flashing past them in a blur. There was no need to hold back and conserve strength for the long run — if they were late to reach the cliffs by a minute, their lives would be over. They had to give it their all.

    Sunny was ready to fight a series of bloody skirmishes all along the way, but, to his surprise, the inhabitants of the labyrinth did not give them much trouble. The scavengers seemed to be as panicked as they were. The bulky beasts were busy trying to hide inside the coral mounds or burrowing underground.

    On the rare occasions when one of them showed aggression, a quick slash of the sword or a threatening clack of a pincer was enough to make the monster change its mind.

    However, no matter how fast they were moving, the storm was faster. The rain quickly turned into a pelting downpour, each drop becoming a torrent. The winds grew in strength, striking against their bodies with enough force to make them stumble. The light dimmed even further, reducing visibility to almost zero.

    Finally, a blinding bolt of lightning tore through the darkness, followed almost immediately by a deafening thunderclap.

    In the next moment, the ground under Sunny's feet trembled, causing him to lose balance and fall. He rolled in the mud and tried to stand up, but slipped and fell again. Someone's arm grabbed him by the shoulder and helped him rise.

    In the darkness of the storm, Sunny saw Changing Star's face. She opened her mouth and shouted:

    "Don't stop! Run!"

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    He almost couldn't hear her behind the roaring wind and rain.

    By the time Sunny began to move, the dark, salty water was already as high as his shins. He gritted his teeth.

    The sea was coming back.

    He couldn't determine where the water was coming from, but with each minute, it was rising higher. Soon, it was up to his knee, then up to his waist, making running almost impossible. The speed of the group slowed down considerably.

    It was then, in a sudden flash of lightning, when they saw a dark mass of stone ahead.

    They had made it to the cliffs.

    Almost at the same time, a terrible rumbling sound came from the depths of the labyrinth. Turning back, Sunny saw a colossal, crushing torrent of black water rushing through the crimson forest. Some distance away, a tardy scavenger was caught by it and thrown against the coral walls. The unbreakable carapace of the mighty creature cracked and burst open like a rotten egg.


    He turned to Nephis:

    "Time is up! Start climbing!'

    She caught him by the arm.

    "Dismiss your Echo!"

    Sunny didn't know whether the scavenger could scale the cliff. In any case, Cassie wouldn't have been able to hold on if it did. He helped the blind girl get down and then sent the monster back to the Sea of Soul.

    Nephis lowered herself to let Cassie climb on her back, then tied them together with the golden rope. Not wasting any time, she gritted her teeth and stepped forward to grab onto the wet rocks of the cliff wall.

    They began the ascent, rushing to get as high as possible before the black torrent hit. Some time later, Sunny screamed:


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    In the next moment, a wall of dark water hit the rocks mere meters beneath their feet. As Sunny held for dear life, the whole cliff shuddered. A few boulders fell from somewhere high above, missing his head only by chance.

    Somehow, all three of them were still alive.

    However, things were far from being over. The black water was still rising, now with frightening speed, threatening to swallow them at any second. They had to keep climbing, and they had to be faster than the surging sea.

    Sunny cursed as he searched for the next hold to grab onto. To survive, he had to scale the face of the cliff with crazy speed. However, hastily climbing wet rocks was a recipe for disaster: one slip of a hand, and he would plunge down to be crushed against the cliffs, drown, or be eaten by some giant monster.

    The torrential rain and hurricane wind made everything even worse.

    And yet, there was no choice.

    He frantically kept climbing, tearing his skin on sharp rocks. Every muscle in his body was in agony. If not for the shadow wrapped tightly around his body, Sunny would have been long dead. But even with its help, the surging dark water was getting closer and closer.

    "Damn it! Damn it all!"

    No matter how hard Sunny tried, he couldn't win back any distance. Soon, the water was at his feet. The sea slowly swallowed his legs, then his torso. He kept climbing, now fighting against the weight of the water and the force of the tide that was trying to tear him away from the cliff.

    But it was useless in the end.

    When the water covered his shoulders, he felt his finger slipping from the wet rocks. Sunny tried to hold on, but the current was too strong. He was pushed away like a weightless toy, losing any purchase…


    ...In the last second, a golden rope fell into the water beside him. Shaken, Sunny grabbed onto it and held with all his strength. The rope drew tight and lifted him out of the water. His feet touched the cliff wall again.

    Not wasting any time, he resumed climbing with the help of the rope. Finally, a strong hand grabbed him from above and dragged his body over the edge of the cliff.

    Sunny fell to the ground, struggling to breathe. After some time, he looked at Nephis, who was lying in a similar position to his right, equally as drained. She was still clutching the golden rope in her hand. Cassie was sitting a few steps away from them.

    He wanted to laugh, but had no strength for it.

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    They survived.

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