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    Chapter 54: Spoils of War

    For a long while, they just sat quietly together. Nephis was looking at the horizon, thinking about something only she knew about. Sunny's mind was strangely empty.

    From time to time, he would cast a glance inside his Soul Sea, observing the recuperating Echo. The scavenger managed to survive its fight against the Carapace Centurion, even if it was just barely. Now, enveloped in a cocoon of light, it was flowing in the calming darkness of Sunny's soul and slowly regenerating.

    If an Echo managed to retreat into the Sea of Soul alive, it would eventually recover from any wounds. The holes on the scavenger's carapace were already beginning to close. Its lost pincer arm, however, was not growing back any time soon.

    Sunny sighed and summoned the runes. He decided to go over the spoils of the harrowing battle.

    Shadow Fragments: [28/1000].

    Since it was his Echo that delivered the final blow, the kill was considered to be his. Thus, he received four shadow fragments, two for each of the Centurion's awakened cores. The shards of the cores themselves went to Nephis as per their agreement. She decided to consume one herself and give the other one to Cassie.

    The reward was sizable, but seemed disproportionate to the amount of trouble they had gone through to get rid of the terrifying monster. Ultimately, dormant humans like them were really not supposed to battle awakened Nightmare Creatures.

    'No way, really?' he thought to himself, full of sarcasm.

    It was just their bad luck that there was not a single Dormant-rank creature in this whole damned region of the Dream Realm.

    Sunny remembered his lofty plans of hunting weak monsters while safely protected from all their attacks by his tier-five Awakened armor and couldn't help but smile bitterly. Who knew that the Puppeteer's Shroud would turn out to be merely a minimum requirement for survival, as opposed to a huge, odds-defying advantage.

    Still, that armor had already saved his life twice, so it was doing its job.

    Speaking of armor…

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    He lowered his gaze.

    Memory: [Starlight Legion Armor].

    Memory Rank: Awakened.

    Memory Type: Armor.

    Memory Description: [Born in the all-consuming darkness, seven valiant heroes made an oath to return light to the cursed land. Time has erased their names and their faces, but the memory of the defiant oath still remains.]

    'Teacher Julius would have been ecstatic to be reading this stuff.'

    The old man used to be an avid explorer and student of the Dream Realm's history before becoming a professor in the Awakened Academy and settling down in one of the most prosperous human Citadels. He was still one of the leading researchers in that field, often irritating hunting expeditions with requests to explore this or that ruin.

    Sadly, Sunny had no idea when they would meet again.

    He cleared his throat and looked at Nephis.

    "Anyway. I have a present for you."

    She turned her head and looked at him with a bit of confusion.

    "A… present?"

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    Sunny smiled.

    "Yeah. I forgot to tell you that I received a Memory after we finished off the Centurion. Guess what type it is?"

    He glanced at her expectedly. However, Changing Star did not guess. In fact, her expression did not even show a hint of curiosity. After an awkward pause, Sunny had to look away.

    "Uh. It's an armor. So, give me your hand."

    Physical contact was required to transfer a Memory. Otherwise, he would have preferred to avoid it for as long as possible. There had already been too much contact between them for his mental composure.

    In retrospect, being invaded by the healing flame was a strangely intimate experience. Not to mention the memory of her soft touch…

    Not that he had been in any condition to think about such things back then.

    Staring right at him, Nephis slowly held out a hand. Sunny hurriedly grasped it in his own, wishing to be done with this part of the process as soon as possible.

    Her skin was cool and soft.

    Trying not to get distracted, he willed the Starlight Legion Armor to be expelled from his Soul Sea. One of the spheres of light disappeared from the Shadow Core's orbit. Immediately, he felt something akin to a spark of electricity moving through his body and into Changing Star's.

    She blinked and retracted her hand.

    Then, Nephis stood up, walked a few steps away from the edge of the cliff, and summoned the Memory.

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    Spinning sparks of light appeared around her. A moment later, they covered her porcelain body and turned into a black, skintight bodysuit made out of an unknown, durable material. It looked quite similar to the rubbery seaweed that permeated the area.

    Then, intricate pieces of pristine white plate armor materialized over the black bodysuit. First the greaves and vambraces, then articulated pauldrons and rerebraces, then cuisses and sabatons. Finally, a breastplate engraved with seven shining stars appeared to protect Neph's torso, short enough to pose no hindrance to her mobility. It was followed by a helmet with a white plume.

    The engraving of the seven stars was identical to those carved into the giant knight statue's cuirass.

    The armor looked light and elegant. It was simultaneously functional and flattering, both providing high levels of protection and accentuating the graceful lines of Changing Star's body. A stark contrast of black and white made for quite a striking sight.

    Nephis dismissed the helmet, letting her silver hair move in the wind. Then, she summoned her sword and performed a few tentative pirouettes, testing out the weight and flexibility of the armor. Seemingly satisfied, she then let the sword disappear into the air.

    Sunny observed all this in silence. When Neph was finally done, he asked:

    "Well? How is it?"

    She turned to him. Soon, a wide smile appeared on her face. Beaming with delight, Nephis hesitated and finally said with a bit of embarrassment:

    "Much better."

    Sunny heaved a sigh of relief.

    At least now all three of them were properly clothed. That was good.

    Really good!

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    Not only because Changing Star's combat effectiveness would dramatically increase due to the acquisition of a reliable armor, but also because now he wouldn't have to be distracted every time he saw her…

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