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    Chapter 78: Bliss

    In the morning, Sunny was woken up by the gentle rustling of leaves. Opening his eyes, he saw rays of sunshine falling through the scarlet crown of the Soul Tree, painting the world in soft shades of pink. The sight was beautiful and tranquil. It felt as though none of the dangers and terrors of the Dream Realm could reach him here.

    A soft breeze touched his skin, bringing with it coolness and the smell of fallen leaves.

    For the first time in a long while, Sunny felt at peace.

    'Is this what a vacation feels like?'

    If so, their decision to have one was the best decision ever.

    He sat up with a yawn and lazily looked around. Cassie and Nephis were already awake. Seeing them put a smile on Sunny's face.

    'Why the hell am I grinning?'

    Shaking his head, Sunny put on a serious expression and said:

    "Good morning."

    The girls greeted him. Then, Nephis slightly tilted her head and asked:

    "Hey. Do you remember why we didn't leave anyone to keep watch last night?"

    Sunny blinked. Indeed, why hadn't anyone guarded the camp?

    "Uh. No. I guess we were too tired? Plus, it's so safe here. Why deprive ourselves of sleep?"

    She frowned. Sunny expected Changing Star to berate them, but, unexpectedly, she just shrugged.

    "...I guess."

    'Huh. That's not like her. Am I not the only one in a great mood?'

    To make Neph feel better, he pointed down and said:

    "Don't worry. My shadow would have warned us if anything had happened ."

    She seemed to have forgotten about her question already, returning to whatever she had been doing before. All three of them were easily distracted these days. Sunny sighed.

    "So… what are you guys going to do today?"

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    Cassie turned to him with a smile and answered in a teasing tone:

    "Nothing! We're on vacation, remember? So we're just going to rest and relax."

    'Sounds like a plan. Speaking about plans…'

    At that moment, Cassie scowled and said with a comically strict expression:

    "You too, Sunny! You are not allowed to plan, plot and scheme. Just sit back and enjoy the day. Alright?"

    Sunny scratched the back of his head.


    He felt as though he was forgetting something.

    But what?

    Looking at Nephis, Sunny hesitated and asked:

    "Remind me, why did you climb the Soul Tree yesterday?"

    She glanced at him in confusion.

    "Uh… I don't really remember. To get the fruits?"

    Sunny smiled at the mention of the miraculous fruits and nodded.

    'Yeah. That makes sense…'


    A few days passed by. Sunny, Nephis and Cassie spent them idling away, not concerned with anything in the world.

    Their tired bodies and minds needed time to rest.

    They slept until noon, ate the delightful fruits and sat around the fire, talking or simply soaking in the warmth. Sometimes, they would play games or engage in other forms of entertainment.

    Other times, they would keep to themselves, enjoying the almost forgotten feeling of privacy. Sunny had been a loner for most of his life, so these past few weeks that he had spent side by side with other people, without even a minute to himself, were a taxing experience. He relished the opportunity to be alone with his thoughts once again.

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    Luckily, the island was large enough for the three of them to stay apart if they didn't wish to be disturbed.

    Not that it happened often.

    At first, he had expected that lazing around doing nothing would very quickly grow boring, but surprisingly, it did not. He felt perfectly fine simply laying on the ground and staring at the gently swaying branches of the Soul Tree, caught in a blissful reverie. In moments like these, he would lose track of time, often realizing that entire hours had passed only when the sun was about to set.

    The concept of time, in general, had become strangely hard to grasp. Sunny wasn't entirely sure how many days they had spent on the peaceful island. He was pretty sure that it was less than a week, but couldn't remember the exact amount.

    Not being able to remember something had become a common occurrence. All three of them were turning increasingly absentminded and forgetful. Sometimes, Sunny would catch himself straining to remember details of his previous life or notice the strangeness of their behavior. But a minute later, he would forget about these concerns, distracted by some innocuous thought or occurrence.

    His memory was becoming hazier and hazier. The only clear things in it were how delicious and refreshing the magical fruits were, how pleasant it was to live under the shade of the Soul Tree, and how magnificent it was.

    The Tree was beautiful, benevolent and generous. It protected them from the cursed blight of the crimson labyrinth, kept the monsters away and provided nourishment both for their bodies and for their soul cores. Sunny was becoming increasingly convinced that finding the majestic Soul Tree was a true blessing.

    The thought of leaving its gifts behind and returning to the horror of the outside world seemed less and less attractive.

    Why leave when they were perfectly happy here?

    Well… at least two of them were.

    While Nephis was as carefree and tranquil as Sunny and Cassie in the beginning, as time went by, she grew strangely despondent and gloomy. It seemed as though she had reverted back to her old, distant and unsociable self.

    Instead of chatting or relaxing with them, Changing Star ended up spending most of her time sitting on the western edge of the island alone, staring into the distance with bleak eyes. Sunny had no idea what was wrong.

    He was worried about her. Not even the frequent, insistent lapses of memory managed to overcome his concern about Neph.

    On one of the evenings, Sunny approached the western slope of the island, feeling as though his head was about to split from pain. For some reason, he kept forgetting the reason for this visit on the way here. It took all of his willpower to hold on to his intentions.

    He wanted to check on Nephis.

    Just like always, she was sitting at the ridge of the western edge, gazing into the distance. Sunny climbed onto the ridge and sat down, looking at her with hesitation.

    "Hey, Neph."

    Changing Star glanced at him. Her indifferent expression was back, making any attempt to understand her true emotions futile.

    However, it was clear that she was not alright.


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    Sunny scratched the back of his head.

    Was he seeing things, or was her hair a bit longer than before?

    "Why aren't you enjoying the vacation?"

    Changing Star frowned. After a while, she said:

    "Don't we... need to keep moving west?"

    He raised his eyebrows, surprised.

    "West? What is in the west?"

    Neph's frown deepened, turning into a scowl.

    "I… I don't remember. But I feel… I feel…"

    She grew silent, then said quietly:

    "I feel like I have to do something very important."

    'Abandon the Soul Tree... what a strange idea.'

    Sunny pondered for some time, trying to understand where she got the idea that they had to move somewhere. Finally, he asked:

    "Why west, of all directions?"

    Nephis turned to him. There was a strange, pained expression on her face. Gritting her teeth, she whispered:

    "I don't know."

    Sunny sighed.

    If she didn't know, then he, of course, had no idea either. All he knew was that he wanted to make her feel better.

    But how?

    Sunny frowned, trying to think of a way. He felt that there was something very obvious that he was forgetting. Something that would instantly erase Neph's suffering...

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    When the realization hit him, he froze.

    'Of course! How could I forget...'

    The answer was so clear. He just had to climb the Soul Tree and find an especially juicy fruit for her to eat...

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