Chapter 50 Death Trap
The scavenger was dead. However, it wasn't Sunny's blade that killed it.
While circling the target, he was focused on staying unnoticed and not alerting the enemy to his presence before reaching the optimal position for an attack. After that, he only saw the monster's back.
That's why he didn't notice the terrible wound that ran from the top of the creature's torso to its segmented legs, obscured by the rain.
The unbreakable carapace was cut open like a tin can. The scavenger's flesh and mangled organs could be easily seen through the large gap, oozing azure blood. It streamed down only to be washed away by the storm.
He might have felt awkward about performing a perfect ambush on a long-dead monster if not for the fear of whatever had killed it in the first place.
Looking around, he hesitated and summoned the Azure Blade back, then wrapped himself in the shadow.
The small island was silent except for the howling of the wind. The rain was still falling down, forming a constant veil that hid away all details and distant objects. A rare flash of lightning sometimes flooded this bleak world with stark whiteness. Then, a thunderclap would come, making the skies tremble.
With cold fright settling deep into his bones, Sunny cautiously moved to the next scavenger. He could tell from some distance that it was also dead, but had to come closer and make sure. Indeed, he was right: the creature was almost severed in half by the unknown assailant. Its wet innards were lying on the ground in a messy pile.
The darkness had long ago stopped being comforting, becoming terrifying and oppressive instead. Sunny shivered.
…By the time he checked on all eight monsters and confirmed that they were all dead, he was nauseous and scared out of his wits. When Sunny had first realized that the black shapes were, in fact, scavengers, he thought that the situation was as bad as it could get. Now, he wasn't sure anymore.
In fact, he was pretty convinced that things went from bad to worse.
Standing near the last scavenger, Sunny observed his surroundings and thought about returning to Neph and Cassie. Maybe the terrifying killer had already left the island. They could just hide and hope for the best. He wouldn't be alone, at least.
However, not knowing what kind of danger was hiding in the darkness would drive him insane long before the morning came. Plus, with his Fated attribute, "hoping for the best" was a fool's errand.
That's why, although his body was covered in cold sweat, Sunny gritted his teeth and slowly walked toward the ridge that was obscuring the rest of the island from him. Coming close, he started climbing, trying to be as quiet as possible.
The ridge wasn't very high, so he was able to scale it without much effort. Sticking close to the rocks, he raised his head a looked down.
Then, he immediately wanted to let go and fall to the ground.
Right beneath him, just a few meters away, a dark silhouette was outlined against the rocks. It was much larger than the scavengers, with jagged spikes growing out of its thick carapace. Its chitin was black and crimson, like an ancient armor splattered with fresh blood. Instead of pincers, two terrifying bone scythes were protruding from the joints of its arms.
Each one was long and sharp enough to split a scavenger in two.
Sunny froze, afraid to move. He even stopped breathing.
'So that's the killer.'
It was one of those monsters that they had seen retrieving the transcendent soul shards from the giant shark's carcass, or another of their kind. He remembered how the two creatures had cut through the horde of scavengers, killing or throwing aside any beast that got in their way. Slaughtering just seven of them would not pose a problem for something that deadly.
Not to mention getting rid of three Sleepers.
Careful not to make a sound, Sunny slowly lowered himself down. His whole body was trembling. Moving his arms and legs with utmost precision, he began climbing down from the ridge, praying not to be heard, sensed, or noticed in some other way.
Luckily, the monster remained oblivious to his presence.
Reaching the ground, Sunny took a few steps back, still facing the ridge. He had to force himself to turn around. Feeling as though his back was being pierced by invisible needles, the young man stealthily moved in the direction where he had left his companions.
A couple of minutes later, he returned to Nephis and Cassie. The girls were tense and nervous, waiting for his return in the darkness. Before coming out of the shadows, Sunny let them know that he was approaching.
Nephis moved, lowering her sword a little. Her face was a little grim.
"What is the situation?" she said, careful to keep her voice low.
Sunny slowly exhaled, finally feeling a bit safer. For the first time, he was genuinely happy not to be alone in this cursed place.
"There are eight scavengers around us. But they're all dead. The killer is one of those big monsters we saw, the thing with the crimson pattern on its carapace and scythes instead of pincers. It's hiding from the storm beneath a stone ridge not far from here."
A bolt of lightning flashed, illuminating everything around. In its aftermath, it looked as though two white sparks ignited in Changing Star's eyes. Soon, the reflection was gone, leaving them grey and inscrutable again.
She tilted her head and whispered, as though talking to herself.
"An awakened monster."
Sunny licked his lips.
"Yeah. So, what should we do?"
Nephis thought for a while, leaning on her sword. Then, she looked at him and said:
Sunny stared at her, lost for words. Finally, he collected himself and said the first thing that came to his mind…
"Are you nuts?"
The idea of fighting that thing was pretty ridiculous, if not completely insane. Realizing that his words might have sounded a bit rude, he cleared his throat and added:
"I mean… have you thought this through? How are we supposed to kill that monstrosity?"
Nephis slowly inhaled.
"It's not a question of thinking things through. We simply have no choice."
She glanced at Cassie, who was listening to them with a pale face, and explained:
"We can't leave the cliffs before morning, and neither can the monster. However, once the sun rises, it will easily see us and attack. Then, our only advantage — the element of surprise — will be gone. If we have to fight it anyway, it's better to be the ones initiating the fight."
Changing Star looked around and added:
"It's not completely dark yet. Although barely, I can still see. Once the night comes, this won't be the case. So we will have to attack it first, and do it soon."
Sunny shook his head.
"This still doesn't explain how we are going to kill it. That thing just dispatched eight scavengers like it was nothing. We are not its opponents. We don't even know its weaknesses!"
Nephis frowned. After a short pause, she said:
"It's just an awakened monster."
Sunny couldn't help but stare at her in disbelief.
"What do you mean, "just" an awakened monster? Have you forgotten that all three of us are only Sleepers?! Dormant humans are not supposed to be able to deal with awakened beasts, let alone monsters. The fact that we can reliably kill scavengers is already abnormal!"
She looked back at him, undisturbed, and simply answered:
"But we are abnormal."
Sunny stood there with his mouth open, not knowing what to say.
"You and I both are not exactly ordinary Sleepers. Aren't we? Don't try and deny it. Someone ordinary simply would not have survived in this place."
He frowned, not happy about her line of thought. Meanwhile, Changing Star continued:
"You, me, plus the awakened beast you have as an Echo, plus the advantage of a surprise attack. I'm not saying that it will be easy. We might die. But there's a good chance that we won't."
She looked down, at the silvery blade of her sword, and added after a couple of seconds:
"In any case. As I have already said, we don't have a choice."
Sunny gritted his teeth, trying to find a logical retort. However, her reasoning seemed unassailable. He just had a really bad feeling about fighting that monster.
In the ensued silence, Cassie, who had been quiet all this time, suddenly spoke:
"You are forgetting about the main advantage we have over that thing."
Both of them looked at her, surprised.
The blind girl turned to face them and slightly lifted her head.
"We are intelligent, and the monster is not."
Her words echoed in the darkness. Sunny sighed.
It seemed that a fight with the bone scythe monster was inevitable.
Some time later, he was standing in the darkness, looking at the terrifying creature in front of him. His expression was grim and somber. Tightly gripping the Azure Blade, Sunny slowly inhaled.
The ominous feeling he had before was still there, now stronger than ever.
'I don't like this.'
With this thought, he exhaled and raised his hand.