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    Chapter 93: Black Water

    Apparently, as far as accomplishing the impossible went, Nephis had outdone even Sunny. An Aspirant triumphing over an awakened tyrant was already unbelievable enough. But killing an Awakened Terror gave the word "unbelievable" a whole new meaning.

    'No wonder her Aspect Ability is so versatile.'

    Now, he was almost sure that Changing Star's Aspect was of the Divine Rank, just like his. That would explain why she was able to both heal and destroy with her strange and formidable powers, a combination as rare as his own Shadow Control.

    'What's the probability of two Sleepers with Divine Aspects ending up so close to each other in the Dream Realm?'

    Close to zero. It seemed like the unpredictable [Fated] Attribute had twisted the strings of fate once again.

    Sunny felt shivers running down his spine.

    His innate Attribute was capable of bringing both terrible curses and incredible blessings. At first glance, their meeting with Nephis seemed like the latter. But, if it was truly the result of [Fated] manipulating destiny, it could turn out to be the worst of calamities in the end.

    After all, one of the possible meanings of her True Name was Star of Ruin.

    The fear he had felt in that short moment before crossing swords with Nephis was still fresh in Sunny's mind.

    And there were other things that she had revealed, too…

    She apparently knew something about the [Drop of Ichor], being that she had called it a "Lineage Memory" without batting an eye. That suggested that Nephis knew much more about the Spell than Sunny and the rest of the public did. It seemed as though there were secrets in the upper echelons of Awakened that they didn't want anyone else to know.

    The three mysterious names she had told him might have been another of these secrets. And that last word she used, asking which "domain" he belonged to. What were these domains?

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    So many questions…

    Sunny spent many hours pondering them, as well as going over all the information about the Forgotten Shore he had gathered.

    The carapace boat flew over the dark water, drawing closer and closer to the western horizon.

    Soon, he felt that the night was already drawing its last breaths. The light of hope ignited in Sunny's heart.

    However, this was when their luck had finally run out.


    The disaster came unexpected, violently throwing them into a void of confusion. This time, Sunny had not felt anything approaching the boat. The danger simply appeared out of nowhere, leaving him no time to react.

    One second, the black waters were calm and clear. The next, they were boiling with movement, grotesque tentacles rising from them and wrapping themselves around the hull of the boat.

    Sunny tried to jump to his feet, but at that moment, the whole vessel was violently jerked to the side. Falling, he heard the moans of metal being bent and torn apart. Then, salty water filled his mouth.

    Rising, he caught a glimpse of Nephis standing at the bow of the boat, her silver sword lashing out at the approaching tentacle. However, blinded by darkness, she failed to notice a different threat. Another tentacle twisted and coiled around her body…

    Then, without even a scream, she was gone, dragged into the dark depths, with no hope to return. All that remained was a long blade stuck helplessly in the bulbous flesh of the massive tentacle.

    Sunny's eyes widened in disbelief.

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    'No, no, no... this can't be happening...'

    The hull of the carapace vessel was then crushed and torn into pieces, throwing him into the cold, black water.

    For a moment, Sunny was stunned by the coldness. Then, wrapping the shadow around his body, he swam up, trying to reach the surface. Soon, he succeeded and spun, trying to see something… anything… to give him hope.

    But there was nothing around, only undulating waves and twisting tentacles.

    Except for…

    Far in the distance, Sunny noticed an unclear shape rising above the water. He strained his eyes, trying to discern its nature. Then, his heart skipped a beat.

    A few hundred meters away, a giant stone hand towered above the surface of the sea, its palm opened as though trying to embrace the sky. It was slender and delicate, carved by the unknown sculptor with almost inhuman skill. If Sunny didn't know better, he would have thought that the hand belonged to a living, breathing being.

    But all of this didn't matter right now. All that mattered was that he had a chance to survive.

    Straining every muscle in his body, Sunny dodged a twisting tentacle and swam toward the hand, moving as fast as he could.

    But then, he suddenly stopped. And looked back.

    Misshapen pieces of metal and bone — all that remained of their boat — were floating on the surface of the dark sea. He had seen Neph being pulled under the water by the tentacles of the unknown creature, but Cassie, clad in her enchanted attention-repelling tunic, had a chance to escape.

    He couldn't just leave without at least trying to find her.

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    '...Or can I?'

    A dark thought appeared in Sunny's mind. After all, his own survival was the only thing that really mattered. Everything else was just a distraction...

    'Why don't you think about yourself for a second? Are you really going to risk your precious life on the off chance that this helpless girl is still alive?'

    He hesitated.

    'Admit it, she is nothing but a burden. You always knew that one day she was going to drag you down…'

    Yes, he did. But…

    'But what? You're going to die, fool! Turn around and flee, now!'

    Why was he even hesitating? This was his chance to escape! His only chance, perhaps! He had to survive!

    Feeling an almost unbearable feeling of regret filling his chest, Sunny slowly inhaled.

    Then, he gritted his teeth and dove down, heading back to the spot where their boat had been destroyed.

    'What are you doing?! Have you lost your mind?!'

    He couldn't see in the black water, but his Shadow Sense was still somewhat effective. He had a chance to feel Cassie's presence, at least if she wasn't already dead and dragged to the bottom of this cursed abyss.

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    'You fool! How is she worth it?! Why are you doing this?!'

    Grimacing, he forced his annoying inner voice to shut up. In his mind, the answer was clear:

    'Because I want to!'

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