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    Chapter 88: Boat Builders

    Trying to gather his courage, Sunny looked into the distance and said in a raspy voice:

    "You've seen the creatures that dwell under these waves. Do you really want to swim across them?"

    Changing Star was silent for a few seconds, then sighed.

    "We are damned either way, Sunny. What do we have to lose?"

    She fell silent for a moment and grimaced, pale flames dancing in her eyes. Then, in a quiet voice, she added:

    "We will not light any fires, relying on your eyes to guide us west. We will hope that Cassie's armor will protect us. Maybe it will be enough."

    Sunny glanced at Neph and asked:

    "What's so special about Cassie's armor?"

    She hesitated for a moment, then answered without looking at him:

    "It's a tier six awakened Memory. One of its traits is to make the wearer less likely to draw the enemy's attention."

    While Sunny was digesting this information, Nephis suddenly trembled. Closing her eyes, she said through gritted teeth:

    "I am at my limit. My mind is… fading. If you have any questions left… better… ask them fast."

    He blinked, startled. Then, knowing that there was not much time left, Sunny asked the first thing that came to his mind:

    "Do you even know how to build a boat?"

    Changing Star simply nodded, letting him know that she did. Her expression was slowly turning lost and dull again.

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    Racing against time, Sunny frantically thought of another question.

    "How do I convince you to leave the island once your memory is gone?"

    Nephis looked at him, struggling to hold onto the last shreds of lucidity. For a moment, her eyes became clear again. White flames ignited in their depths, illuminating her pale, beautiful face.

    "Aster... Song... Vale. Say those words to me, and I will listen."

    Starting to lose the grip on her thoughts, she turned away and added after a short pause, her voice steady and even:

    "If anything happens, take Cassie and flee. Don't… don't…"

    Then, the light in her eyes slowly dimmed, and soon, Changing Star was staring west once again, all memory of their conversation gone from her mind.

    Sunny sat by her side for some time, waiting. After a while, he shifted a little and said:

    "Hey, Neph."

    She turned to him, her face bleak and full of confusion.

    "Sunny? Oh… when did you get here?"

    "A while ago."

    Then, he smiled and said in a carefree tone:

    "Hey, can I ask you something? Do you know how to build a boat?"


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    Nephis was very surprised by his question, but eventually agreed to help him. Sunny didn't tell her why exactly he wanted to build a boat, dodging the questions with practiced finesse. His Flaw was not making things easy, but with the state Neph was in, persuading her was not very hard.

    Manipulating her felt a little strange, but explaining everything once again would have taken too much time. Not to mention that he wasn't sure that it would work again.

    And there was not much time left. With every hour, their condition worsened.

    Even Sunny was having trouble keeping his lucidity intact. Every time he felt that his mind was beginning to slip, he had to inflict pain on himself to get a few moments of reprieve. Even so, his thoughts were slow and fragile. Keeping them together was taking a heavy toll on him.

    They had to flee the island as soon as possible. Sunny was determined to be ready by the time the dark sea returned.

    Turning away from Nephis to not let her see the pained expression on his face, Sunny bit his hand once again. Feeling the bitter taste of blood on his tongue, he let the wave of pain clear his mind and blinked, amused at the irony of the situation.

    He was gnawing on himself to prevent himself from being eaten. What a funny contradiction.

    Hiding his bleeding hand behind his back, Sunny turned to Neph and asked:

    "So, how are we going to make the boat?"

    She thought about it for some time, then said indifferently:

    "We will have to use the materials at hand. For the hull, we will have to use the dead demon's carapace. We can strip several armor plates of suitable shape and tie them together with the golden rope…"

    Sunny raised his eyebrows:

    "The… the Carapace Demon's armor? It's made out of some strange steel. Can steel even float?"

    Nephis glanced at him with reproach.

    "Anything can float, Sunny. You just have to make sure that you're displacing more water than the weight of the floating object. That's how boats work."

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    He blinked.

    "Ah… okay. About the sail, I think we can ask Cassie to lend us her cloak. What do you think?"

    Changing Star gave him a strange look.

    "I mean… yes? I still don't understand what got you so excited about boat building, but I'm sure she'll be willing to help you out with this… uh… passion project."

    Sunny smiled.

    "Great! Let's go butcher the demon, then!"

    A strange sentence to say with a smile, but not the strangest one he had to say to convince Neph to help him.

    A few minutes later, they reached the giant carcass of the Carapace Demon. It was towering above them like a small hill of polished metal. After that first day when the strange winged abominations had circled around the island for several hours, never daring to approach, nothing else had shown up to lay claim to the fearsome creature's meat.

    As the result, the carcass was largely intact.

    Strangely, the demon's corpse had not begun to rot. Only the metal of its carapace slowly deteriorated, losing its luster and shine, then turning less and less durable. By now, its surface was marred by large patches of rust.

    Nephis climbed up on top of the carcass and walked from side to side, looking under her feet. Then, she gestured at several spots:

    "These curved plates will be perfect if we can fit them together tight enough. Each one is long enough to form the entirety of the hull, leaving enough space for the three of us to sit side by side."

    Sunny had no knowledge of shipbuilding, so he decided to trust her judgment. Looking up from the ground, he asked:

    "What about the mast?"

    Changing Star scowled.

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    "That… I will have to think about."

    Sunny smiled.

    "Alright. While you're thinking, I'll go fetch Cassie to keep you company…"

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