44 Cassie's Dream

With pretty much every muscle in his body sore, Sunny walked over to the girls and fell on the ground. After catching his breath, he looked at Cassia.

"Cassie? Do you feel better?"

Several seconds later, the blind girl slowly nodded.

'That's a relief.'

He shifted and hesitated for a bit. Cassia didn't look too well. Her face was still very pale, with a distant, dazed expression on it. Her body at least was no longer trembling. Sunny wasn't very good at talking to people, let alone placating them. He wasn't sure what to say.

He cast a gaze at Nephis and sighed inwardly. Who knew that one day he would turn out to be the most sociable person for as far as the eye could see? What a joke…

"Can I have some water?"

Cassie turned to him and scowled, as though confused by the question. Then, she suddenly gasped and opened her eyes wide.

"Oh! Oh, sorry. Yes, of course…"

She summoned the limitless water bottle and offered it to Sunny. He took it with a grateful smile and greedily drank a few gulps before giving the bottle to Nephis. Eventually, it returned to Cassie.

"You drink some too."

After she did, he awkwardly patted the blind girl on the shoulder.

"Everything seems to be fine now. Uh… did you dream of another vision? You can tell us. If you want."

Cassie hesitated for a bit before saying:

"I… don't know. Maybe it was just a nightmare."

Sunny and Nephis exchanged glances. They both doubted that what Cassie saw was a simple nightmare. After all, people usually did not dream in the Dream Realm. The blind girl, meanwhile, continued:

"I don't really remember. It's all in fragments."

Sunny carefully considered his words, not wanting to pressure Cassie too much.

"You can just tell us what you remember. Maybe we'll be able to make sense of it together."

Cassia sighed and tentatively nodded. After a long pause, she finally found the courage to speak:

"At first, I saw a… a boundless darkness locked behind seven seals. Something vast was churning in the darkness. I felt like if I directly saw it, I would lose my mind. As I watched, terrified, the seals broke one after another, until only one remained. And then that seal broke, too."

She trembled a little.

"After that… I don't know. It was as though my mind shattered into a thousand shards, each shard reflecting its own image. Most of them were dark and scary. Some I have already forgotten. The other…"

Cassie fell silent, remembering.

"I saw the human castle again. Only this time, it was at night. There was a lonely star burning in the black skies, and under its light, the castle was suddenly consumed by fire, with rivers of blood flowing down its halls. I saw a corpse in a golden armor sitting on a throne; a woman with a bronze spear drowning in a tide of monsters; an archer trying to pierce the falling sky with his arrows."

Finally, she looked up, her face full of horror.

"In the end, I saw a colossal, terrifying crimson spire. At its base, seven severed heads were guarding seven locks. And at the top, a… a dying angel was being consumed by hungry shadows. When I saw the angel bleed, I suddenly felt as though… as though something so precious that it can't be described with words was taken from me."

Her voice became quieter.

"Then, I felt so much sorrow, pain and rage that what little remained of my sanity seemed to disappear. That was when I woke up… I think."

Nephis and Sunny remained silent for a while, trying to make sense of what Cassie had told them. Even if Nephis had an idea, she didn't show it. Sunny, however, was totally lost. He couldn't even begin to decipher the hidden meaning behind the vision… if it even was one.

Previously, Cassia'a vision about the castle was pretty much straightforward. It showed her a human fortress and even the direction in which it was situated. This time, however, her dream was disjointed, full of weird symbolism and vague, uncertain images, much more like a charlatan's prophecy than a vision gained through an Aspect Ability.

Finally, he sighed.

"Maybe it actually was just a nightmare. Your previous visions weren't like this, right?"

Cassie silently shook her head.

Sunny scratched the back of his head.

"Well… people don't usually dream in the Dream Realm, but you do. Perhaps seeing a random nightmare once in a while is a side effect of your ability."

The blind girl turned to him, a faint relief written on her face.

"You really think so?"

He hesitated, trying to find the right words.

"Why not? It's a possibility."

Inwardly, however, he felt uneasy.

'A dying angel being consumed by shadows… why does it sound so ominous? I should try and stay away from angels in the future. Gee, what has become of my life. A sentence like that doesn't even sound insane anymore…'

With that, they were finally ready to welcome a new day.


Some time later, they were sitting on the western edge of the stone platform, looking at the scavengers below. Sunny's shadow was busy scouting a path to the next high landmark.

"Were there always that many?"

Sunny glanced at Nephis and shook his head.

"No, there were much more. They seem to be almost done with the carcass. I doubt it will last until nightfall."

Which meant that, by tomorrow, all these beasts would be roaming the labyrinth, making it hard for the three Sleepers to make any progress. It would be best to leave today and put some distance between themselves and the horde before the scavengers were done with their feast.

However, without scouting a path in advance, there was a chance of not making it to safety in time. Both options were risky.

Nephis frowned, seemingly thinking the same.

After a while, she said:

"I don't want Cassie to spend another night near this statue. Let's leave now."

Sunny thought for a while, then opened his mouth to offer his own opinion. However, a sudden commotion below prevented him from speaking.

Down at the bottom of the disappearing sea, amidst mounds of broken coral, the carcass of the giant shark-like monster — the remaining half of it, to be precise — was almost stripped of meat. And between its white bones, something was shimmering in the mud.

Two extremely large, luminescent crystals.

Sunny's eyes widened.

"Are those…"

"Yes. Shards of two transcendent soul cores."

Transcendent… two of them…

Suddenly, he was simultaneously filled with greed and fear. Greed because of how rare and precious transcendent soul shards were; fear because the giant shark turned to a be a corrupted devil, at least.

One corrupted devil, if not stopped by a Saint or a large number of Awakened, could potentially destroy an entire city. Sunny belatedly realized that he was much closer to death on that first night than he had previously thought.

"Should we…"

"Wait and listen."

He stared at Nephis and then obediently listened to the distant, barely audible clamor of the scavengers.

After a while, he noticed some disharmony in it.

Nephis suddenly tensed up.


She pointed in the direction of the labyrinth. After concentrating on it, Sunny was finally able to notice two massive shadows stepping out of a particularly wide passage.

A second later, the creatures casting those shadows appeared in sight. Sunny gulped.


The monsters looked like the scavengers, but not quite. To start with, they were much larger, towering above the surroundings at more than three meters of height. Their carapace seemed to be thicker. It was colored in deep black and scarlet, like an ancient armor drenched in blood. Here and there, vicious-looking spikes were growing out of the carapace, making their every move much more dangerous.

Additionally, instead of heavy pincers, their upper arms ended with long, curved, terrifying bone scythes.

Sunny felt cold sweat running down his spine.

"What the hell are those things?"

Nephis tilted her head.

"Monsters, I guess."

Nightmare Creatures with one soul core were called "beasts". They were dangerous and strong, but mindless. If they were able to develop or were created with a second core, they became "monsters". Monsters were much more devastating and possessed some rudimentary, warped form of intelligence. They were the next step in a Nightmare Beast's evolution.

And these two seemed to be bigger, deadlier versions of carapace scavengers.

Sunny and Nephis watched as the two monsters approached the carcass. The scavengers were visibly afraid of them, rushing to get out of the way. Those who were too slow were mercilessly thrown to the side or cut apart by the bone scythes. Rivers of azure blood were flowing into the mud.

'What are they doing? Did they come to absorb the soul shards?'

Finally, the monsters reached the carcass. Each of them took one of the shards. However, instead of absorbing them, they simply turned around and carried the precious crystals away. The scavengers made way, following the shards with their little, hungry eyes.

Sunny blinked and looked at Nephis.

"Do we still leave now?"

Changing Star frowned and hesitated. A few moments later, she shook her head.

"No. We'll go tomorrow."

Then, she turned west and observed the retreating monsters.

"...Get your shadow to follow these two back."

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