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The seven suns were shining in the azure sky.

Sunny was sitting close to the slope of the island, staring fixedly at the flowing water. His eyes were dark and tired. With the temporary camp destroyed, he felt strangely homeless. Much worse, neither he nor Nephis had managed to come up with a viable solution for their fatal problem.

They had considered many things.

Every Memory in their possession had been studied and examined, but none of them, nor any combination of them, revealed a way out of the perilous situation. The best they could hope for was prolonging their stay on the carapace of the Black Turtle, somewhat.

They could use the Dark Shaper to try and repair the cracks in the stone shell. There were other unreliable measures, as well… but that would just buy them a few more days, at most.

There were other Memories that they could use to try to escape. But attempting escape was tantamount to suicide. The Great Nightmare Creatures guarding both the water and the sky were not something they could outrun.

…Then, there were Sunny's Shadows.

He had once thought that Saint was their best hope of slaying the Azure Serpent. However, after witnessing the mad beast in battle, he didn't think that the taciturn knight could achieve such a feat anymore. Not only because she could not enter the water, but also because his plan to augment her with both the shadows and the white flames had been crushed.

Saint… could not receive the blessing of the fire. Or rather, she could not reap its full benefits.

The augmentation had worked perfectly fine in his basement before could not reap its full benefits.

The augmentation had worked perfectly fine in his basement before the Southern Campaign, but Saint underwent a fundamental transformation after that. She was now a Devil whose body and soul were infused with elemental darkness. And while true darkness somehow worked in tandem with Sunny's shadows, it refused to accept Neph's light.

Saint could either use one or the other. In any case, the result was not nearly as powerful as Sunny had imagined it to be.

They could bestow the power of shadow flame on his other Transcendent Devil, though. Sadly, Imp was not nearly as formidable of a warrior as Saint. On top of that… the little bastard was in a coma.

Or a food coma, at least.

The scrawny goblin had finally stopped devouring the tarnished silver and fell into a deep slumber. Sunny had a hunch that after the great mass of mystical metal was fully digested, his gluttonous fiend would grow much stronger. But there was no telling how long it would take, so he sent Imp into the nurturing black flames of his soul to complete the evolution in peace.

In any case, Imp was of no help for now.

The same went for Nightmare. The tenebrous steed had loyally guarded their dreams and subjugated a good number of them, but he was still an Awakened Terror. Even if the black stallion managed to unlock his Terror Ability, he was no match for a Great Beast… let alone a Great Monster like the Dark Butterfly.

So, Sunny and Nephs had no tools that could help them escape from the shell of the Black Turtle.

…Which was why Sunny was sitting on the cold stones and staring aimlessly at the water.

The water… was much less cloudy than it had been before. The vivid red color had receded, turning pale pink. The Black Turtle only had so much blood, after all, and by now, most of it had dissolved in the endless current of the Great River.

As he looked, the water suddenly foamed, and a giant serpentine head rose from its depths. A familiar gaze pierced him, brimming with hatred and madness.

The Azure Serpent… did not look too good. Just like the carcass of the Black Turtle, which had once seemed grand and indestructible, was now pitiful and hollow, the Great Beast was in a dire state.

One of its cloudy eyes was gone, replaced by a bloody hole. Half of the terrifying fangs in its obliterating maw were either cracked or broken. Whole chunks of flesh were missing from its long neck, revealing red meat and white bone.

And yet… the Azure Serpent was undeterred. It was just the same. Its fury was the same, its hunger was the same, and its mad determination to kill the two humans was the same.

The Great Beast stared at Sunny, and Sunny stared at the Great Beast.

"Aren't you a persistent one?"

His voice sounded grim and hoarse.

Sunny remained silent for a while, then suddenly spat:

"But what do you even know? Do you think you're so special? I know fury, too. I know hunger, too. I know madness, too! Oh… and I've killed plenty of creatures more powerful than me, too."

A dark smile appeared on his face.

"Who are you to dare stare me down, beast? I am Lost from Light, who was born from the shadows. I am the rightful heir of death and the bastard son of fate. Wherever I go, ruin follows. If you had any sense, you would have run away as soon as you saw me."

He shivered slightly, then sighed.

"Ah… but it's too late now. What a pity."

Standing behind him, the Sin of Solace laughed with disdain.

"Wow. What a speech! What are you, an eighth-grader?"

Ignoring the apparition, Sunny looked away and stood up.

There was only one way to leave the island. He had known it for a long time, but felt reluctant to admit it.

However, there was no time to lie to himself anymore. Now, it was the time for the truth, no matter how hideous and terrifying it was.

Walking through the crumbling landscape of the dark island, Sunny found Nephis. Despite everything, she was still practicing with her sword… the lethal blade, and its master, were both beautiful.

The world of the Great River was lethal and beautiful, too.

Sensing his approach, Nephis stopped and glanced at him with a composed expression. Sunny took a deep breath before coming to stand next to her, looking into her eyes.

"I have something to say."

She nodded slowly.

"What is it?"

Sunny lingered for a moment, then offered her his hand.

"Give me your flame. All of it."

Nephis frowned slightly, a hint of concern appearing in her striking grey eyes.

"Why?"

He looked at her silently for a while, thinking.

Sunny had told the old snake that ruin followed wherever he went. But, really, he was the one following ruin around most of the time. The two of them followed each other, unable to separate, just like a shadow and a star casting it could not be separated.

They were quite a pitiful pair.

Eventually, he steeled his resolve.

"Because I am going to kill the Azure Serpent."