Sunny, Nephis and Cassie sat on a branch of the great tree, waiting for the sun to set. The branch was wide enough to accommodate twice as many people, so they weren't worried about being spotted from the ground. Still, they remained silent and motionless, warry of the giant monster that sometimes appeared beneath their hiding place.
The sound of his footsteps sent shivers through the tense bodies of the three Sleepers.
Not once since coming to the Forgotten Shore had Sunny hoped for the night to come faster. But there was a first time for everything.
They could only proceed with the next step of the plan after darkness had fallen, so there was nothing to do now but wait. Sitting with his back against Neph and Cassie, Sunny stared into the distance and tried not to think about anything.
Obsessing over past mistakes and future risks was only going to dampen his resolve. And it was already in short supply.
Meeting a setback so early into the plan really through Sunny off his game. He still couldn't recover from the sudden loss of the precious Echo. Of course, he knew beforehand that many things could go wrong… in fact, he had even warned the girls that there were too many unpredictable elements, and thus it was impossible to reliably predict their chances of success.
Nevertheless, he had not expected to lose the strongest member of their group at the very beginning. The first stage of the plan was supposed to be the safest. Things to come were going to be much more dangerous.
Sunny looked at the darkening skies, barely visible through the thick canopy of the great tree's crown, and listened to the noise of the rising sea. In the dim twilight, Cassie shifted a little and then gently squeezed his hand.
Her warm touch made Sunny tense up, but then, realizing that the blind girl was just trying to console him, he allowed himself to relax.
'Stupid. What am I, a kid? Holding hands will not solve anything.'
But, despite these grumbling thoughts, Sunny reluctantly realized that he did feel a bit reassured, with no logical reason at all.
Maybe they were going to pull this off after all.
If this was their will… who dared to stop them?
Soon, the night descended, drowning the world in absolute darkness.
The Ashen Barrow had become an island in the black, undulating void of the dark sea. The braches of the great tree swayed gently in the darkness, their vibrant scarlet leaves now indistinguishable from the obsidian surface of the wood. The leaves whispered and rustled, creating a calming melody in the threatening murmur of the surging waves.
- Visit ʟɪɢʜᴛɴᴏᴠᴇʟᴘᴜʙ.ᴄᴏᴍ, for the best no_vel_read_ing experience
Sunny sighed, knowing that the moment of truth was approaching. He was sure of his plan… as far as it was possible to be sure of anything in this cursed place. But he also knew all the risks and all the things that could go wrong.
At the end of it all, they were still tossing a coin, hoping that its fall was not going to spell their doom.
He felt Neph's position shift. She turned her head and glanced in his direction, a calm expression on her face. Today, her inexplicable ability to remain composed in any situation, no matter how dire, was especially frustrating.
Even though Changing Star could not see anything in the pitch-black darkness of the Starless Void, she knew that he would notice her questioning look.
Sunny closed his eyes, then opened them again and slowly exhaled.
The three of them moved, performing a rehearsed set of motions. Cassie carefully shifted to the side, giving Sunny and Nephis space to do what needed to be done. Sunny gently placed the seaweed rucksack between himself and Neph, then opened it.
His motions were slow and cautious.
Inside the rucksack, two large clay containers lay surrounded by several layers of soft seaweed fiber. These jars were made by Sunny himself, and as such were not particularly sturdy. After all, he wasn't a craftsman — all his knowledge about pottery was received in a single day of listening to Teacher Julius's rants about the importance of clay in the development of human civilization.
Still, he at least remembered the basics.
Inside the jars, all the oil they had gathered from the centipede monsters splashed around, making Sunny's heartbeat unsteady. A centipede monster had two sacks in its body, each containing a different oily substance. When mixed, these substances produced an incredibly corrosive, deadly oil that could eat through a scavenger's carapace in seconds.
It was also highly flammable.
The jars contained the two components of the centipede oil. If they were to break during their run to the great tree, allowing the components to mix… well, there was a reason why the rucksack was entrusted to Nephis while Sunny carried Cassie despite his inferior physical endurance.
The centipede oil was the centerpiece of his plan.
Placing the clay jars on the branch, Sunny took out one last thing from the rucksack. It was a makeshift torch made out of bone and… yeah, more seaweed. Traditionally, torches were supposed to be made out of wood, but on the Forbidden Shore, bones were much more easily found than sticks.
In the darkness, he found Neph's cool hand, took it into his own and then placed the torch on her open palm.
- Visit ʟɪɢʜᴛɴᴏᴠᴇʟᴘᴜʙ.ᴄᴏᴍ for a better_user experience
At that moment, Sunny couldn't help but remember the other times Changing Star's hands had touched his body. The first time was when he was dying, his chest crushed by the carapace centurion's bone scythe. The other time was on the day he handed her the Starlight Legion Armor and learned about her cruel Flaw.
Both days were very memorable, although for different reasons.
He had a feeling that this day was also going to be forever etched in his memory… provided they live to see the morning.
Sunny deeply inhaled.
Nephis nodded and then rose to her feet. Standing tall, she grasped the torch and closed her eyes, as though praying. Clad in white armor, with her silver hair dancing in the wind, she looked like a beautiful, solemn angel.
Then, white radiance ignited beneath her eyelids. In the next moment, bright fire burst from beneath her hands, igniting the top of the torch. Changing Star opened her eyes, extinguishing the light shining in them, and raised the torch high above her head.
In the lightless world, this single small flame looked like a lonely star drowning in the sea of darkness.
Simultaneously, Sunny stepped to the edge of the branch, inhaled deeply… and screamed at the top of his lungs.
"HEY, ASSHOLE! COME GET ME IF YOU DARE!"
Then, all hell broke loose.
Attracted by the sudden burst of light and Sunny's belligerent cries, the Carapace Demon appeared out of nowhere in a storm of fury. Its towering legs tore through the ashen sand, throwing clouds of it into the air. Two scarlet eyes immediately focused on the shouting human, sending a nervous shiver through Sunny's legs.
"Yeah, right here, you pile of scrap! Come and get it, fat lobster! This is my island now!" he shouted, pretending to not be scared out of his wits.
The demon dashed toward him. This behemoth was as tall as a house, but still not tall enough to reach the branches of the great tree with his scythes. So, for the moment, Sunny was still safe.
He was pretty sure that this won't be the case for long, but it was enough time to bring the plan to fruition.
- The latest_epi_sodes are on_the ʟɪɢʜᴛɴᴏᴠᴇʟᴘᴜʙ.ᴄᴏᴍ website.
If he doesn't miss…
Just as the Carapace Demon was about to appear right beneath the branch Sunny was standing on, he took a deep breath, aimed, and tossed both of the jars down.
The creature reacted with lightning speed, slicing both jars into pieces with his horrible scythes. However, it was of no use: the oily liquids contained inside still rained on its carapace in a torrent, followed by a scattering of clay shards.
If anything, it only made the surface of the impact larger, covering most of the demon's metal carapace in a layer of liquid.
The two components mixed, producing the deadly corrosive oil, which then burned into the lustrous armor. Sunny held his breath.
… However, the centipede monster's oil, which was capable of destroying the unbreakable chitin of both scavengers and centurions, turned out to be completely ineffective against the strange alloy covering the Carapace Demon's body. It didn't even leave a scratch on it.
Sunny's face darkened.
Nephis silently appeared by his side, raising an arm.
'... just as I expected.'
Luckily, Sunny did not put a lot of value on the oil's corrosive qualities, to begin with.
He needed the oil for its other quality.
Guided by the loud sounds produced by the massive monster, Nephis moved and threw the torch down with a powerful swing of her arm. Spinning, the torch streaked through the air like a meteor and landed right in the middle of the demon's carapace.
… In the next second, the giant creature was engulfed in flames.
Sunny did not really expect the fire to be able to damage the demon. He was sure that the behemoth could withstand much more than just simple heat.
- Visit ʟɪɢʜᴛɴᴏᴠᴇʟᴘᴜʙ.ᴄᴏᴍ for a better_user experience
But now, covered in the burning oil, the Carapace Demon shined brightly in the pitch-black night of the Forgotten Shore.
He had turned into a fiery beacon, calling all the monsters of the cursed dark sea to come crawling from its black depths.