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    Chapter 85: One Step at a Time

    Sitting inside the Vile Thieving Bird's nest, Sunny frowned and clenched his fists.

    Something unnatural was happening to them ever since they came to the Ashen Barrow. Now that he had remembered Cassie's warning, it was apparent that their minds were affected, making them forgetful and easily distracted.

    Even now that he knew about it, thinking straight was strangely hard. It took all of his will just to keep the knowledge of the anomaly in his memory.

    The events of these past few days were still hazy. Remembering something else, Sunny closed his eyes in frustration.

    Had they really spent mere days on this island? The number of shadow fragments he received from eating Soul Tree fruits suggested otherwise. It was quite possible that as much as a whole month had passed since the first time they ate them.

    And their minds were corroded a bit more with every day that passed. Pretty soon, there would be nothing left of them at all. Only empty shells, walking around wearing their faces.

    Sunny's face paled.

    With a growing feeling of dread, he realized that there were large gaps in his memory. He could not remember how they got to the Ashen Barrow, and where they were going. Other things, too, were unclear and blurry.

    'Stay calm.'

    Despite how compromised his memory was, there were still ways to understand what was going on, and then maybe undo it. After all, he was able to remember Cassie's warning. That meant that their memories were not gone, just obfuscated.

    'First step: resist the impulse to forget everything again.'

    Not succumbing to the constant pull on his mind was not an easy task, but he was able to manage, at least for now.

    'Second step: try to understand the reason why you were able to remember these things.'

    When Cassie begged him to remember the number five, she must have already known that he would receive a new Attribute. He had noticed the existence of the mysterious fifth Attribute as the result, which triggered the frightening revelation.

    However, why was he able to not forget about the existence of the fifth Attribute altogether?

    What made him so special? Cassie had even said that he was the only one who could do it. Why him and not Changing Star?

    Sunny massaged his temples. Then, a sudden realization came to him.


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    One of the enchantments of the Puppeteer's Shroud was providing him with a small amount of resistance against mind attacks. That's why he was slightly less susceptible to the frightening forgetfulness that infected them on the Ashen Barrow.

    That was the reason why he had been the last one to agree to eat the "miraculous" fruits. Why he had often felt that things were wrong. He was also the only one who had managed to remember Cassie's warning, even if it took him a long time.

    Cassie knew about the Puppeteer's Shroud, and that's why she had chosen him instead of Nephis.

    'Smart girl.'

    So… their warped state was the result of a mind attack. But who could attack them on this desolate island?

    The answer was pretty obvious.

    'That damned tree!'

    Looking down, Sunny felt cold sweat running down his back.

    The Soul Tree was, in fact, a colossal, ancient and utterly horrifying Nightmare Creature. If he was right, then its power had to be simply unimaginable. He was afraid to even think about what its rank and class were.

    'No wonder it was able to drain a whole area of the crimson labyrinth of all life.'

    No wonder it was able to survive and thrive in this hellish place. Of all the horrors in this hell, it might have been the most terrifying.

    Finally, Sunny knew the reason why no other Nightmare Creature dared to approach the Ashen Barrow. Even monsters were afraid of the Soul Tree.

    …Except for equally harrowing things that dwelled beneath the waves of the deep, dark sea.

    There was no way for them to destroy it. The Soul Tree was just too big, old and powerful. For a moment, Sunny entertained the idea of setting it on fire, but quickly abandoned it. He would need a volcanic eruption or some sort of divine intervention to burn that colossus down.

    'So… what to do?'

    After thinking for some time, Sunny decided not to be hasty and move forward one step at a time.

    First, he had to know the exact situation with his Attributes.

    Summoning the runes, he tried once again to read the description of the hidden fifth Attribute.

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    The result was the same. He knew it was there, but could not remember what it was no matter how much he tried.


    Confirming that it was still impossible for him to solve that mystery on his own, Sunny moved his attention to the Mark of Divinity. New runes appeared under its description:

    [Mark of Divinity] Attribute Description: "You bear a faint scent of divinity, as though someone briefly touched by it once, a long time ago."

    [Mark of Divinity] is ready to evolve. Proceed?

    Not wasting time, Sunny said "yes".

    Immediately, the name and the description of the Attribute changed. The new runes read:

    Attribute: [Spark of Divinity].

    [Spark of Divinity] Attribute Description: "Every fire starts from a spark. Somewhere deep within your soul, a radiant spark shines with divine light."

    He didn't feel any changes within himself. It seemed as though the question of whether or not he wanted to proceed was just a formality, and the Attribute already evolved back when he had consumed the drop of ichor.

    'My affiliation to divinity has increased. Neat. Although I'm not sure how it might be useful…'

    Was that spark of divinity the reason why he was now able to see the inner workings of Memories, as well as some other stuff like the shadows in his Soul Sea? If so, was it a universal trait of all Awakened with high divine affiliation, or just his?

    For some reason, Sunny felt that it was the latter option. He had received the drop of ichor from a being called Weaver, and then became able to see the strings that were weaved through the Memories, giving them their unique qualities. It wasn't hard to see the connection.

    If this was true, did it mean that there were different kinds of divinity? And he inherited a small amount of a very special kind of divinity?

    Was Weaver even a deity? Every god he had heard about was named in a similar fashion. There was Shadow God, War God… well, that's it. He had never heard the names of any other god.

    However, Weaver's name was different.

    Maybe Weaver was not a deity at all…

    Maybe he, she or it was actually one of the Unknown.

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    Sunny shook his head, feeling that he had almost allowed himself to get distracted and release the hold on his memory. He could not allow himself to go on tangents now…

    Concentrating, he looked at his new Attribute, [Blood Weave.]

    [Blood Weave] Attribute Description: "You have inherited a part of Weaver's forbidden lineage. Your blood has been altered and embued with odd tenacity."

    So… he would be less likely to bleed out in the future? That was a very nice enhancement.

    However, it did not help Sunny with his current situation.

    It was time for the next step…


    It was early morning when Sunny descended from the Soul Tree. However, he didn't bring any fruit with him.

    Walking over to sleeping Cassie, he took her by the shoulders and gently shook her awake. The irony of how this situation mirrored the one where Cassie had told Sunny to remember the number five was not lost on him.

    The blind girl slowly came to her senses and turned to face him with a sleepy, confused expression.

    "Sunny? Why are you up so early?"

    He hesitated, then said with a friendly smile, trying very hard to act as though everything was alright.

    "Actually, I didn't sleep at all this night."

    Cassie frowned. Luckily, she could not see the sorry state he was in, nor the dried blood on his face.

    "Really? Why?"

    He shrugged.

    "I decided to climb the Soul Tree and search for some fruits. But that's not very important. Hey… your Aspect Ability allows you to see other people's Attributes, right?"

    She nodded, still confused.

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    "Yes. You know this. Why?"

    Sunny lingered, then said in a carefree tone:

    "Can you take a look at mine?"

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