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    Chapter 82: Fear of the Unknown

    Sunny fell into the soft embrace of spiderwebs, screaming, his whole body convulsing in spasms of terrible pain. The unbearable agony radiated through his nervous system, his mind drowning in the endless torrent of torturous, excruciating, harrowing suffering.

    It felt as though every muscle, every fiber, every molecule of his body was being torn apart and reassembled, only to be torn apart again. His eyes, especially, felt as though there were two white-hot metal rods inserted in them, making all the other pain pale in comparison. Or maybe they had become searing spheres of molten metal themselves…

    He clawed at his face, leaving bloody marks on it. However, seconds later they were already gone, erased by some unknown force. His voice was soon gone, too, leaving Sunny without an outlet to express his horrible torment.

    The process was the opposite of the gentle rebirth he had experienced after passing the First Nightmare. It was violent, ruthless and unnatural, forcefully reshaping Sunny's body into something that it was not meant to be.

    That nothing was ever meant to be.

    Powerless to stop it, Sunny had no choice but to endure the agony. All he could do was try not to go mad from pain. Tears were streaming down his face, leaving bloody trails in their wake. There was no end to torture.

    …Then, after what felt like an eternity, there was. The pain subsided, lessened, and finally vanished. Sunny was left lying on the thick carpet of spiderwebs, utterly drained and depleted.

    In the silence that was broken only by the hoarse sound of his ragged breathing, the Spell's voice whispered:

    [You have acquired a new Attribute.]

    [One of your Attributes is ready to evolve.]


    Sunny remained motionless for a long time, slowly coming back to his senses. The memory of the terrible ordeal was still echoing in his mind, making him shudder from time to time. He was afraid to open his eyes and look at his body, afraid to see himself changed in some horrific, repulsive way.

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    'Have I become a monster?'

    Feeling a sense of dread, Sunny shut his eyes tighter.

    However, he did not feel like a monster. In fact, he didn't feel different at all. From what he could tell, he still had two hands, two legs, and soft human skin. There was no change in his strength and resilience.

    It was as though nothing had happened.

    'Come on. Just do it…'

    With a nervous sigh, Sunny opened his eyes and looked himself over. Everything was the same. He shifted his perception and studied himself again through the shadow.

    He was still human.

    Well… something did change, but he couldn't quite describe it. It was as though his vision was slightly different from before. The world seemed… deeper, somehow. Sunny only noticed the difference because of the contrast between his own perception and that of the shadow.

    Previously, they were more or less similar.

    'A drop of ichor… that came from the Weaver's eye…'

    Carefully, he raised a hand and touched his eyes. They felt the same.

    But they were also different. He just couldn't understand in what way.

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    Lowering his hand, Sunny noticed a drop of blood on one of his fingers. It came from a small scratch on his cheek, one that had not healed like the others.

    Deep inside his blood, Sunny noticed a barely visible hint of the golden shine. As if the radiant drop of golden liquid he had absorbed was still there, now a part of him, strongly diluted and fused into his own bloodstream. The shine was so faint that he had almost missed it.

    Sunny suspected that in the light, it wouldn't be visible at all.

    'What… the hell… have I done to myself?'

    That was the moment when he accidentally glanced at the Pupetter's Shroud, simultaneously thinking about the golden shine. Something switched in Sunny's head, and suddenly, he saw the Memory differently.

    His eyes widened.

    Under the surface of the grey fabric, five glowing embers were shining with ethereal light. Each of them represented a nexus and anchor of countless diamond strings that stretched to different parts of the armor, weaving an intricate, elaborate, unpredictable pattern.

    It looked a lot like the inner void of the Spell, only at an infinitely smaller scale.

    However… Sunny was surprised to find out that he sort of understood the pattern. A newly found innate knowledge helped him sense the traces of logic behind the seemingly chaotic placement of the strings, a defined purpose behind every twist and turn. They were meant to achieve certain effects… durability, resilience… and another, more complex type of protection.

    The hint of understanding came naturally to him, as though it was his innate ability.

    'I need to... study this further.'

    Intrigued and apprehensive, he entered the Soul Sea. A familiar dark expanse of still water appeared in front of his mind's eye. There was the looming Shadow Core, the shining satellites of his Memories, and the strange feeling that something was moving just beyond the periphery of his vision.

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    Out of habit, Sunny turned his head to try and catch sight of that something, knowing that he would not see anything.

    However, this time, he did.

    With a startled yelp, Sunny flinched away and lost his balance.

    'What the hell! What the actual hell!'

    Out there in the darkness, at the border of the dim light cast by the shining Memories, stood motionless black figures. They were shadows… shadows of creatures he had killed.

    There was a shadow that resembled the slave with broad shoulders and bloodied back, one whose name Sunny had never bothered to learn. His figure was deformed and horrifying, as he had been transformed into a murderous beast after becoming the host of a Mountain King's Larva. That Larva was then strangled by Sunny.

    The shadow of the Mountain King itself was towering above him, just as dreadful and abhorrent as the tyrant had been when still alive. Sunny shuddered as he remembered escaping from the horrid creature's claws.

    The shadow of the cruel slaver that had hit him with the whip was also there, standing beside the tyrant. This was the first, and for now the only, human whose life Sunny had ended with his own two hands. He even stole the boots and cloak of the dead man's body.

    On both sides of them, there were other shadows. Hulking carapace scavengers stood silently, their pincers lowered to the ground. A fearsome centurion's savage silhouette could be seen among them, surrounded by the giant centipedes, bulbous knots of carnivorous worms and a few strange, maneating flowers.

    Every single being that had fallen by Sunny's hand was there in the form of a shadow. Or, to be more precise, every being whose shadow's fragments had been absorbed by him.

    Despite the fact that shadows had no eyes, he couldn't help but feel that they were all staring at him…

    Silent, motionless. Watching.

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    Feeling cold shivers running down his spine, Sunny gulped and stood up, his legs shaking a little. Finding out that a small army of dead shadows had appeared inside your Soul Sea was not the most pleasant of surprises. Let alone if those shadows once belonged to creatures who you had personally slain.

    He clenched his teeth.

    'Can I repeat… what the actual hell?!'

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