Under Sunny's watchful eyes, the Echo began to change.
The light falling from the Shadow Core seemed to seep into the flesh of the stone creature, making it shine with dark radiance. Wisps of shadowy fog emanated from beneath her impervious plate armor, slowly merging with it. It looked as though the Stone Saint was engulfed in ghostly black flame, being remade by it.
What little color there was on her body was washed away and replaced with nothing but darkness. Only two crimson fires burning in her ruby eyes remained, slightly changing their hue and becoming more menacing.
Of course, all these changes were happening on the surface. If not for the traumatic transformation that Sunny had gone through to inherit a part of Weaver's forbidden lineage, this would have been all he saw.
However, with his eyes altered by the agony of consuming the drop of divine blood, he was able to see much more.
Beneath the surface, the essence of the Echo was being changed as well, in a way much more fundamental than its outer appearance.
The shining embers that served as anchors for the weave of diamond strings had lost their radiance, becoming as transparent and empty as the Shadow Core itself. The diamond strings were gone, replaced by a sea of darkness. That darkness had a form, a shape that perfectly followed the lines of the Stone Saint's body.
It was as though a living shadow was now inhabiting it, usurping the role that had been played by the pattern of the sorcerous strings once.
Although similar in appearance to the original Echo, this new creature was a completely different type of existence. Sunny had never seen anything like it before.
It was created by his Aspect, after all.
The process of transformation, meanwhile, was coming to the end. The ray of dark light cast by the Shadow Core was disappearing, its reflection drowning in the calm water of the silent sea. The black flames were already fully absorbed by the stonelike armor of the Saint, gone with the dark radiance of her smooth granite skin.
Sunny observed the Stone Saint. Clad in the lusterless black armor, with two ruby flames burning in the deep shadows of the visor, she looked like an incarnation of pure darkness, a noble demon send to wage war against heaven from the depths of hell. What changed the most, however, was her presence.
Before, the Echo felt like an empty shell, a magical tool rather than an actual being. Now, however, there were hints of mysterious will in her crimson eyes, a subtle sense there was a nascent spark of sentience burning somewhere deep within her lightless soul. Or whatever it was that the menacing monster had instead of a soul.
This was a Shadow.
Just as this thought appeared in Sunny's mind, the faintly familiar voice of the Spell resounded above the dark waters of the Soul Sea:
[You have created a Shadow Monster: Stone Saint.]
Hearing these words, Sunny smiled. However, a second later, the smile disappeared from his lips, replaced by a pained expression.
Only now, after the process was complete, he felt a subtle emptiness permeating his whole body. He felt… weakened. The loss of a hundred shadow fragments was finally making its effect known. He had suspected that spending them in this way would reverse the process of power accumulation that had consumed him for these last few months, but it was still an unpleasant feeling.
He was much stronger than he had been during the journey through the Labyrinth, however, some of his physical might was unmistakably gone, leaving him with a bitter feeling of regret.
No, no… he had known that this would happen, and decided to proceed with the experiment anyway.
It was well worth it.
Forgetting about the change in his physical state, Sunny walked around his Shadow and observed her from different sides. The Stone Saint's eyes silently followed his movements, sending glints of crimson light reflecting from the black surface of the tranquil sea.
'This is… amazing. I wonder what she is capable of…'
Summoning the runes, Sunny immediately noticed that there was a new cluster shining right beneath the one describing his Echoes.
Shadows: [Stone Saint].
Excited to learn more about his new pet monster, Sunny was about to concentrate his attention on the runes, but then stopped and glanced down at his own shadow, a little embarrassed.
"Uh… sorry. How are you feeling, buddy? You aren't, uh, you know… jealous or anything?"
The shadow looked away and pretended that it didn't know him. It was seemingly indifferent to the appearance of a new shadow creature in his service, even though this new Shadow had a capital letter to its name.
"Well, I just wanted to say that you shouldn't be. I still value you very much! Even though the Stone Saint is probably capable of slicing powerful monsters into tiny pieces with her sword, while you're still just a useless piece of… uh… an incredibly capable scout and my most trusted confidant, I still appreciate you. Yeah."
He stared at the shadow for a bit and, seeing that it didn't react in any way, turned away.
'This guy, he'd better step up his game. Ha!'
Focusing on the runes, Sunny summoned the description of the Shadow and read:
Shadow: Stone Saint.
Shadow Rank: Awakened.
Shadow Class: Monster.
Shadow Attributes: [Battle Master], [Stalwart], [Spark of Divinity].
Sunny blinked. It seemed as though Stone Saint's divine Attribute had evolved to match his own. Was it because he was her master? This was a nice surprise. However, he still didn't see how she was different from before.
Frowning, he continued to look through the shimmering runes:
Shadow Description: [Shadow Saint was created by the treacherous Lost From Light in the cursed darkness of the Forgotten Shore.]
'Again with this whole treachery stuff. Can I get another epithet, huh?'
But in the next moment, he forgot all about this little frustration. Because the following line of runes showed him something really unexpected.
Just beneath the description, a familiar set of runes shined in the air:
[Shadow Fragments: 0/200.]
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