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    Chapter 52: Clarity

    In that moment, hovering on the edge of nothingness, Sunny realized that he was about to die.

    He had to struggle against the fog that permeated his mind, slowing down his thoughts and dampening all emotions.

    All except for fear.

    Despite the fact that his body was broken and his mind was paralyzed, some stubborn part of Sunny was still refusing to give up. He wasn't ready to die. At least not without giving his all to survive.

    He was revolted at the thought of giving the world the satisfaction of the win.

    That would be so infuriating. Hadn't he told Hero that he was going to survive no matter what, to spite them all?

    That's right. He might be a shameless liar, but a promise was still a promise.

    But… how was he even supposed to survive? No matter how he looked at it, the situation seemed to be hopeless.

    As the scythe slayer approached, its eyes shining menacingly with bloodthirsty crimson light, Sunny tried to pierce through the fog that enveloped his mind. However, his attempts were aimless and weak. It was hard to find purchase in the fog.

    He needed an anchor.

    Suddenly, a simple thought caught his attention. It was something that he had repeated a thousand times, burning it into his mind.

    'Repetition, experience, clarity.'


    He remembered what Nephis had taught him. The essence of combat was murder. Any action performed during a battle served only one of two purposes: it was either to kill your enemy or prevent the enemy from killing you.

    If he could learn that, he would have enough clarity to master the mind.

    Back then, he didn't really understand the profound meaning behind the simple word "clarity" that Nephis had used. But now, with his mind in shambles, he was finally able to grasp it.

    The two truths behind the essence and purpose of combat were simple and solid, almost tangible. Even in his half-conscious state, he was able to use them as a stable foundation in the fog. Then, he reformed his mind around this foundation, building it along the stark lines of that truth.

    Suddenly, he was able to think again.

    What's more, his thoughts were clear and incredibly fast, free of all unnecessary distractions.

    This was clarity.

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    Sunny looked up at the advancing monster, calmly weighing his options.

    His body was pretty much useless. He couldn't move his limbs at all. The shadow still followed his commands, but it was busy doing an important job — keeping him from dying immediately.

    Even with its help, he wouldn't be able to last long.

    But this was a useless thought. He couldn't do anything about it, so there was no sense in wasting time considering it further.

    With his body immobilized, Memories couldn't be used.

    That left only the Echo.

    The carapace scavenger was going to have to be his only tool to either kill the enemy or prevent the enemy from killing him.

    The monster was quickly approaching Sunny. Its mandibles moved, viscous saliva flowing down from them in a torrent of transparent mucus. In a flash of lightning, he was able to see and instantly register every spike, every scratch, every abrasion on the creature's carapace.

    The handle of Changing Star's sword was still protruding from its body, washed in azure blood.

    'What an ugly bastard.'

    Sunny was being hypocritical. Truth be told, with its black carapace painted with crimson patterns and a mighty body specially designed for mayhem and slaughter, the scythe slayer looked striking and incredibly menacing.

    It was almost majestic… in a terrifying, murderous kind of way.

    Unable to move, he had to look helplessly as the monster closed the distance between them and loomed over Sunny's broken, bleeding body.

    Its scythes rose into the air, ready to strike down.

    Looking right into the monster's burning eyes, Sunny thought:

    'Go to hell, you overgrown bug!'

    The scythes shot toward his body.

    …In the last moment, something massive and furious rammed into the monster from the side, throwing it away. It was Sunny's carapace scavenger.

    Not bothering with its own safety anymore, the Echo entwined itself with the enemy in a chaotic mess of limbs as they rolled on the ground. Despite the fact that it was smaller and weaker, its crazy assault and complete disregard for its own life were enough to give the bigger monster some pause.

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    The Echo lashed out with its pincers, ramming them against the creature's carapace in a crazy whirlwind of blows. For a moment, the howling of the wind was drowned out by the clamor of chitin striking against chitin. The slayer's carapace mostly held, but a couple of cracks did appear on its black surface.

    However, it was still superior to the scavenger in every way. Even with one of its scythes pinned awkwardly under its body, the monster was more than able to repel the sudden attack. With an angry screech, it sliced with the other scythe, cutting one of the scavenger's pincer arms clean off. Then, it strained its legs and threw the smaller creature away.

    In the process, the rear leg that was already wounded by Sunny broke off, but the monster didn't pay it any attention.

    Burning with madness and fury, it untangled its limbs and slowly stood up. Another deafening screech resounded in the howling darkness of the storm, hurting Sunny's ears.

    'Now what?' he thought, momentarily lost for ideas.

    But then, something very unexpected happened.

    As the slayer moved to finish off the Echo, it had to slightly raise and lean its torso back to account for the loss of a rear leg and keep its balance. At that moment, a bolt of lightning landed right in the middle of the small island.

    With how tall the monster was, the lightning was immediately attracted to the handle of the sword that was still sticking from its body, aimed at the sky at a slight angle. At that moment, Changing Star's longsword suddenly became a lightning rod.

    Instantly, hundreds of millions of volts of electricity coursed through the slayer's body.

    In a blinding flash of light, it was thrown to the ground. Whisps of smoke rose from the cracks in its carapace.

    In a strange turn of events, arcs of residual electricity danced on the monster's chitin, slowly accumulating on the crimson patterns on it. Under that influence, the crimson pattern changed its color, becoming white and incandescent.

    Sunny stared at all this in bewilderment.

    'It's… glowing?'

    For a second, he hoped that the monster was dead. But no, a single strike of lightning was not enough to kill a creature like that. Just a few moments after being electrocuted, the slayer moved, slightly shaking its body.

    Although it was in a rather bad shape, it was still alive and full of murderous intent.

    Looking somewhat dazed, the monster gathered its limbs and tried to stand up. Slowly but surely, it was coming back to its senses. The bone scythes scraped against the rocks, helping it rise.

    However, before it did, Nephis was suddenly right in front of it.

    Grabbing the hilt of the longsword, she grimaced as the heat burned her hands. Then, she twisted the blade, making the slayer's body twitch, and pulled it out, breaking apart a large portion of its lower torso armor.

    The monster tried to slash at her with a scythe, but Changing Star was quicker. Dashing to the side, she simultaneously lashed out with her sword. The glowing, white-hot blade caught the creature's arm right below the joint and cleaved through it, sending the terrifying bone scythe flying through the air in a rain of azure blood.

    The slayer screeched and swatted her away with one of its legs. Nephis was thrown back and rolled on the rocks, losing her grip on the sword. Her eyes momentarily lost focus.

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    The monster, on the contrary, was back to its sense. It seemed as though the sudden pain of losing a limb had shaken it wide awake. Raising to its full height, it opened its ugly mouth and let out a deafening, enraged shriek.

    Then, it lunged toward Neph with all-consuming hatred burning in its eyes.

    But it didn't get far.

    Right as the livid monster was beginning its attack, the battered Echo appeared in its path. Its one remaining pincer shot forward, plunging into the wide gap in the armor created by Changing Star's sword. Twisting its arm, the scavenger pushed it inside the enemy's body, wreaking havoc on its innards.

    In the end, it even lifted the whole monster in the air a little, its pincer going in almost up to the shoulder.

    The slayer lashed out with its scythe, piercing the Echo's chest through.

    Then, it twitched a couple of times and fell still.

    The scavenger screeched angrily and jerked its pincer, tearing the bigger monster's torso clean off its carapace. Proudly giving the eviscerated enemy one last look, it then staggered and collapsed to the ground.

    Sunny tiredly dismissed the Echo, hoping that it can survive.

    He wasn't feeling too well.

    In fact, he was pretty much done for.

    [You have slain an awakened monster, Carapace Centurion.]

    The Spell's voice fell uselessly on his deaf ears. It sounded distorted and distant.

    [You have received a Memory: Starlight Legion Armor.]

    [Your shadow grows stronger.]

    'I won.'

    Sunny closed his eyes, finally allowing pain and exhaustion to flood his mind.

    The fog was back, making everything feel like it was happening to someone else.

    He was tired.

    And he couldn't breathe.

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    Drowning in blood was not very pleasant.

    As his conscience begin to slip, he heard the sound of someone's hurried steps.

    And then, two soft hands gently touched his face…

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