Sunny had suffered to lure the Azure Serpent to the surface, but there was a good reason to guide the mad beast there. Two reasons, even — Saint and Nephis.

Although neither of them was as capable of fighting the abomination in the water as Sunny was, they could still play an important role in the battle. It was just that he had to create an opportunity for them to do so.

And he had.

As Sunny was convulsing from pain, two arrows struck the raging leviathan.

One was entirely black, as if forged out of pure darkness… which it was. Augmented both by her [Mantle of Darkness] and [Blade of Darkness] Abilities, as well as the enhancement of the Stifled Scream, Saint's arrow pierced the Azure Serpent's one remaining eye.

It was the darkest hour of the night, and so her strength was at its peak. More than that, this first shot she sent was empowered by the dreadful destructiveness of the [Death Dealer] enchantment, and so it delivered the most damage.

And yet… the giant eye of the ancient leviathan still wasn't destroyed. It was only damaged, becoming painted red — which made the mad beast look even more menacing.

Sunny had put a lot of hope into this first salvo, but he was left disappointed. It didn't matter, though. During their violent ascent, he had been strategically trying to place himself on the side of the Azure Serpent where it was blind… however, there was no advantage to be gained there. Whatever senses the enemy was using to perceive his movements were perfect and precise, even without vision.

His plan to blind the mad beast had been meaningless from the start.

The second arrow was white.

Its impact was not nearly as forceful as that of the first arrow, but it was still quite ferocious.

Nephis had always used a sword, but it was simply a preference. As a Legacy, she had been trained in the use of all kinds of weapons, and that certainly included bows. There was a powerful Memory longbow in her soul arsenal, crafted by the forgemasters of Valor, and several enchanted arrows as well.

But even then, the white arrow barely managed to pierce the flesh of the Azure Serpent despite sliding faithfully into an already existing wound, where the azure scales and the tough skin of the leviathan had already been torn open by the Dark Butterfly. The damage was negligible.

That was just as expected, too. Neph's goal was not to wound the Great Beast with her arrows — instead, it was to deliver the black venom from the overflowing Bitter Cusp into its flesh. She coated the arrowheads with the toxin before each shot.

One dose of the black venom was not going to affect the Azure Serpent much, but ten, twenty, or thirty could weaken it… perhaps.

Sunny did not expect Saint and Nephis to bring the mad beast down. After all, all five shadows and all the soul flame were augmenting him, and him alone — he was the only one with the ability to truly damage the abomination. But they had to harass and weaken it so that he could deliver a fatal strike.

It seemed to be working.

The two arrows had not seriously wounded the Azure Serpent, but they had distracted it for a second. That second was enough for Sunny to shake off the terrible pain of having his soul damaged and slightly repair his shell. Letting out a wrathful hiss, he shot forward and bit into the side of the leviathan.

Even though the Shadow Shell had no taste buds, he could swear that he sensed the salty taste of blood on his tongue.

"That taste drove him into a frenzy."

'Devour… I am going to devour you… I am going to rip you apart!'

Forgetting the pain, forgetting the suffering, Sunny pressed his mighty jaws together in an attempt to savage and mutilate his enemy. It was only through an incredible effort that he forced himself to maintain control and let go, dashing aside just in time to avoid being trapped and crushed in the coils of the Azure Serpent's colossal body.

A drop of cold fear fell into the incinerating inferno of his fury.

'This is dangerous…'

Battling a Great Beast was already perilous enough. But the act of assuming the shape and form of a Nightmare Creature, of diving into its mind and heart so deeply, was in and of itself a great danger. Sunny had used Shadow Dance to read abominations before, but he had never tried to manifest himself into one of them.

It was too easy to get lost in that state — maybe forever.n.

Even the True Name was not a panacea. He also had to maintain his sense of self... while simultaneously denying it.

Maybe this… this was the fourth step of Shadow Dance.

The ability to preserve his identity while becoming truly formless in mind, body, and soul — and thus infinitely malleable, like all shadows were.

As Sunny nimbly dodged the attacks of the Azure Serpent and lashed out with his sharp fangs and crushing tail, more arrows fell from the darkness.

Saint was not using [Death Dealer] anymore, instead trying to weigh the leviathan down with the help of [Burden of Peace]. Nephis was continuing to poison the Great Beast with the toxin of the Bitter Cusp.

However, the abomination had quickly grown impatient with their harassment. Its movements changed slightly, and the next time the two shot their bows, a tall wave suddenly rose, washing the arrows away.

That gave Sunny an opportunity to deliver a vicious blow, however.

Coiling himself around a mangled span of the Azure Serpent's body, he slithered forward. His sharp dorsal fin bit into the mad beast's flesh, shredding it like a saw.

The soft glow of the brightening water was suddenly painted in a crimson hue.

'Die, die, die… I am going to kill you…'

The Azure Serpent growled and lunged at him, madness burning in its bleeding eye.

It was probably thinking the same.