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    Chapter 94: Battle in the Depths

    Because he wanted to.

    For once, Sunny's heart wasn't full of fear and despair. Instead, it was filled with defiant indignation. He was tired of bending under the pressure of the world, furtively clutching to the tiniest glimmers of hope, always afraid, always willing to do anything, abandon anything, just to survive for another day. It wasn't enough anymore.

    He wanted to make the world bend to his wishes instead.

    He wanted to live like a human being instead of an animal.

    In these past months, Sunny had changed without even noticing. Somehow, he had grown unsatisfied with his previous way of life, one where his sole goal of survival at all cost overshadowed everything else. Whether he lives or dies had always been the only thing that mattered. But now, how he lived mattered more.

    What was the point of having no master if he lived like a slave?

    Gritting his teeth, Sunny dove into the dark abyss.

    The cold water embraced him like a burial shroud. He couldn't see in this cursed blackness, relying only on his shadow sense for guidance. Salt sipped into the bite marks on his hands and the cut on his neck, making them burn. Not paying the agony any attention, Sunny used his considerable strength to propel himself deeper and deeper into the darkness.

    He could feel the giant tentacles moving in the water around him, pulling the pieces of the carapace boat into the gargantuan maw that was hiding somewhere far below. Once or twice, he had to desperately twist his body to avoid being touched by one of them.

    But still, no sign of Cassie. His lungs were starting to burn.

    Sunny dove deeper.

    At this depth, the water pressure was starting to affect his movements, making each stroke feel heavier. Even with his body enhanced by the shadow, there was a limit to how much it could withstand. Sunny suspected that without the Blood Weave, he would have suffocated a long time ago.

    What's worse, he felt as though he was getting closer and closer to the actual body of the unknown horror that had destroyed their vessel. He still couldn't sense its massive shape, but judging by the girth of the tentacles that surrounded him, the monster couldn't have been far.

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    And then, Sunny finally noticed something.

    A short distance away from him, a small shadow was struggling against a much larger and ferocious one.


    Gathering all his strength, Sunny swam toward the blind girl with as much speed as he could muster. As he drew near, he could discern the details of what was happening.

    Cassie was being pulled down, a smaller tentacle coiled around her body. She was still struggling, trying to get free, but her movements were growing weaker with each second. She was suffocating.

    Filled with fury, Sunny propelled himself forward and grabbed onto the tentacle, feeling slippery flesh throbbing in his grip.

    If he had any choice, he would have avoided touching that thing at all costs. But fighting underwater was tricky… if he wanted to deliver any sort of a powerful blow, he had to find some form of support first.

    Summoning the Midnight Shard, Sunny strained every muscle in his body and slashed across the tentacle, right below the point where it was coiled around Cassie's lower torso. He knew that he wouldn't be able to do any serious harm with that strike, which was slowed down to a crawl by the burdensome resistance of the black water.

    However, his amazing sword was still sharp enough the cut into the fleshy tentacle, causing a cloud of dark blood to gush out of the wound.

    The tentacle furiously twitched and shot sideways, as though trying to shake the attacker off. Flying through the darkness, Sunny held on for dear life and moved his blade upward, slicing the spongy flesh apart.

    He never hoped to chop the tentacle off with one strike. No amount of strength would have allowed that to happen. Luckily, swords were able to pierce, slash… and cut.

    Pushing the blade, Sunny cut deep into the tentacle. When the tsuba was about to touch the wound, he changed his grip and pulled the tachi down. Monster's flesh spread apart under the razor-sharp blade, barely offering any resistance.

    A torrent of blood surged out, and with the last push, the tentacle was completely severed.

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    Sunny was finally able to turn his attention to Cassie to see how she was doing.

    What he sensed made him scowl. The blind girl was barely conscious.

    He needed to get her to the surface as fast as possible.

    Pushing away the twitching remains of the tentacle, Sunny dismissed his sword and grabbed Cassie across the torso, feeling how cold her skin was through the thin fabric of her tunic.

    Weakly, she tried to resist, not realizing that it was him and not the monster. Pressing the blind girl to his chest, Sunny turned his head up and felt a wave of desperation crashing against the walls of his mind.

    His lungs were in agony, no air whatsoever left in them. His body was slowly losing its strength, full of terrible pain and thirsting for a breath of fresh air with maddening intensity. Even if he could see anything, at this point, his vision would have begun to darken.

    And they were so, so far away from the surface.

    What's worse, the horror of the depths was now alerted to his location. Countless tentacles were already moving, surrounding them in an impenetrable barrier of flesh. A second or two later, they would be crushed to death in the devastating embrace of the sea monster.

    Sunny didn't know how to save them.

    But he wasn't going to give up, no matter what.

    Making an arduous stroke with his one free hand, he held tightly onto Cassie and swam up. The tentacles were approaching, blocking all paths of escape. Sunny gritted his teeth and…

    In the next moment, the water around them suddenly turned pure white.

    An incandescent radiance filled a vast expanse of the cursed sea, obliterating any sign of darkness. The explosion of light was so intense that it pierced through Sunny's eyelids and hurt his eyes.

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    It was as though a miniature sun had ignited somewhere far below them, turning the endless black abyss into a pristine white void. Tidal currents of radiant water surged tumultuously, throwing the world into disarray.

    The gargantuan tentacles convulsed and writhed madly, as though in the throes of unbearable pain. The unbreakable barrier of flesh fell apart.

    Sunny wasn't about to let this chance go.

    Straining his suffocating body, he swam to the surface, dodging the writhing tentacles. With the furious white sun burning in the depths below, he could see their shapes clearly. Moving faster and faster, he propelled himself up with everything he had left.

    Sunny knew that surfacing that fast was dangerous, but there was no other choice. Both Cassie and himself did not have a lot of life left in them.

    They needed air.

    Although it seemed like an eternity, the white radiance began to dim just a few moments later. But it didn't matter. Sunny was already past the barrier of tentacles, swimming up with desperate speed.

    He was afraid that they wouldn't make it. His consciousness was already beginning to wane, slowly slipping into the cold clutches of empty nothingness. Even knowing that there was nothing but water around, he was still overwhelmed by the suicidal desire to open his mouth and inhale as deeply as he could. His muscles were spasming, devoid of oxygen for too long.

    …And then, finally, Sunny's head broke the surface. Blinded by pain, he drew in a gasping breath and coughed uncontrollably.

    Held tightly in his arms, Cassie was doing the same. Her chest was ruggedly moving up and down, sucking in the sweet ambrosia of air. Sunny never knew how precious it was before, not even while being slowly poisoned by the harmful, polluted air of the outskirts.

    They made it.

    Trying to compose himself, Sunny looked around. The last remnants of the white radiance were long gone, erased as if they had never existed. The world was once again consumed by absolute darkness.

    However, far away in the east, the first light of dawn was about to shine from beyond the horizon.

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    Catching the glimpse of the giant stone hand, Sunny gripped Cassie's shoulders and swam in that direction.

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