Shadow Slave-Chapter 944 Safe And Relatively Sound
ƥαṇdαηθνε| After the ominous mountain disappeared from view, hidden by the snowy slopes and darkness... the mundane darkness of the polar night, not the unfathomable true darkness that they had just barely escaped from... the convoy finally came to a stop.
Around them was the familiar landscape of the Antarctic Center. Deep in the mountains, they were temporarily protected front the wind by an overhanging cliff, and had reaclted a wide area that was somewhat fit to serve as a campsite. The vehicles needed to be checked after the recent mad dash, and the people needed time to come to their senses.
Pitts, they had no idea where they were. Sunny had to scout the area, determine their location on the map, and come up with a route forward. He also needed to make sure that there were no swarms of Nightmare Creatures close by or heading in their direction, and do a thousand other things.
'Ah... I don't want to...'
Creating a bridge of shadows had cost him a lot of essence, but the mental strain had been far worse. Sunny felt tired and lazy, but he had no choice except for to get busy right away. Rolling off the roof of the military vehicle, he landed on the snow, sighed, and sent his shadows to explore.
By then, the members of his cohort and other people had already emerged from their transports. Some went about establishing a camp and searching for good watch posts, while some headed toward him with complicated faces.
Pretty soon, he was surrounded by the Irregulars. A few of them looked relieved to find him safe and relatively sound, others were mostly full of questions. Luster, who had witnessed more titan the rest, was the first one to speak:
"Captain, sir! That... that was something else."
Sunny simply nodded, in agreetnent with the young man, for a change.
Luster hesitated for a few moments, then asked cautiously:
"But, uh... what was it, exactly?"
He stared at Sunny, and added in a suddenly hoarse voice:
"I don't mean that amazing bridge you made, I mean the... the other thing. The one that almost gobbled its up."
Sunny did not answer for a while. Eventually, he shook his head and looked south with a dark expression.
"I do not know."
He had a few ideas, though.
The being that had dwelled in the old tunnels was too vast and powerful to be a simple Nightmare Creature. it reminded him a lot of the Crimson Terror of the Forgotten Shore... so, perhaps, it was also a terror, one that had gone into a slumber to evolve into a titan. Or maybe a titan that was in the process of evolving to a higher Rank.
Or maybe it was a creature that had entered the process of evolution, only to be devoured from the inside by a different, more insidious abomination.
...In any case, Sunny was certain that he and Saint had messed the whole process up, somehow, and even lived to tell the tale.
Speaking of Saint... he wondered if site was alright. The damned beetles had not seriously wounded him, but she had been standing much closer to the eerie black dimension - whether it was a heart, a harrowing egg, or a Chrysalis - when it burst open. Sunny had not seen his Shadow since.
He was also curious why her broken stone sword had managed to harm the sphere when the Cruel Sight failed.
Sunny knew that Saint was not destroyed, since he had felt her return back into his lightless soul after being dismissed, but she might have sustained severe damage.
Sunny gave several orders to the Irregulars, checked on Professor Obel, and then found a quiet place to find out. Somewhat: nervous, he summoned Saint... but nothing happened.
'Damnation! Just as i thou... huh?'
Something was not right. The taciturn demon's absence felt different from how it usually was when wounded Shadows slept in the nurturing black flames, repairing themselves.
He almost could not feel her at all.
Concerned, Sunny dove. into the Soul Sea, stared at the four dark suns of his shadow cores for a few moments, and then summoned the runes.
Shadows: [Marble Saint], [Soul Serpent], [Nightmare].
The runes describing the Serpent were lifeless, indicating that it was outside his control. Saint's, however, appeared normal. He concentrated on her name and read:
Shadow: Marble Saint.
Shadow Rank: Ascended.
Shadow Class: Demon...
Everything looked normal. However, at the very end of the field of shimmering runes, a new string of them appeared.
Sonny's heart skipped a beat.
[...Marble Saint is evolving]
He remained motionless for a while, then sighed.
'So that's how it is...'
Leaving the Soul Sea, Sunny looked up, breathed in the cold air of the polar night, and smiled crookedly. He was both happy and despondent.
Saint had risen to a higher Class once before, after slaying the Forsaken Knight. Back then, she had ripped a strange dark jewel from his chest, and ate it. Then, his Shadow - who had been an Awakened Monster at the time - disappeared back into his soul to enter the process of evolution.
Saint must have gotten something from the dark sphere as well.
Sunny was elated to know that she was evolving once again, wondering what form his shadow knight would assume, and what powers she would gain. However, he also remembered that, last time, her evolution to a higher Class had lasted for more than a month, robbing him of her support throughout the civil war in the Bright Castle.
This time, too, he would be left without his strongest aide for a while.
Saint must have known that, too, so this time, she did not return into his soul core of her own free will, instead choosing to remain in the waking world to assist him. However, Sunny had dismissed her himself, not knowing what that would entail.
"Well... there was no other choice, anyway. That was the only way to get her safely back to the convoy."
And now, the safety of the fleet was laying squarely on his shoulders, and his alone.
'Rest well, Saint. You deserved it.'
When she returned, her powers would undoubtedly be much greater. Sunny was going to need every bit of that power to survive the rest of the Antarctica campaign, but for now...
For now, he would have to lead the fleet the rest of the way to Erebus Field without his faithful Shadow.
'I better get busy, then. It would not do to have Saint return only to see that we are still stuck somewhere in the mountains... no, not at all. We're both going to be Ascended Devils, so I'll have to work hard to... you know... not be. overshadowed by my own Shadow!'
He looked down and let out a bitter sigh.
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