Sunny was pretty sure that his shadow was capable of much more than just being a silent follower. After all, the Spell had described it as being an invaluable helper. It was now up to him to find out how exactly Shadow Control could be of help.
As in many other matters having to do with Aspects, there was a certain level of instinctual understanding buried deep inside his subconscious. This understanding was either given to him by the Spell or was something innate to every Awakened. Sunny just had to sense the subconscious knowledge and learn how to put it into practice.
Once again, he concentrated on sensing his body and spirit, then commanded the shadow to perform a series of simple motions. With each of them, he was growing more and more familiar with the feeling of controlling the shadow.
Pretty soon, it was as natural to him as breathing and walking. The shadow felt like a part of his body.
Satisfied with this initial result, Sunny carefully gave it a new command. Without pause, the shadow separated itself from the soles of his shoes, walked to the other end of the room and turned around, staring at him in slightly mocking silence.
Sunny was left without a shadow.
'This is not scientific at all,' he thought with an amused smile.
Science never really applied to anything having to do with the Spell, after all.
As the shadow walked away, he felt a very weird split happening in his mind. It was like his perception had separated into two distinct sources. One was his body, the other — his shadow.
With a bit of trying, he managed to focus on the second source. Instantly, his vision blurred.
"Whoa!" Sunny blurted, surprised.
"Whoa!" the shadow heard from the other end of the room.
Sunny blinked. In his mind, there now existed two pictures. One was of his room's door, with an indifferent shadow standing in front of it. The other was of a pale young man sitting on a chair, wide-eyed and bewildered.
ᴘᴀ ɴ ᴅᴀ n ᴏ ᴠᴇʟ
He raised an arm and waved it in the air. Simultaneously, the pale young man raised and waved his.
'I can perceive the world through my shadow?'
He sat for a while, thinking. An ability like that opened up a lot of possibilities. With his [Child of Shadows] attribute allowing him to see and move stealthily in the darkness and [Shadow Control] allowing him to send out a sneaky shadow as a scout, he was pretty much a perfect spy.
A spy was someone who gathered information without exposing themselves to a lot of risk. A role like that suited Sunny's taste very much.
Of course, spies were also able to strike from the shadows with deadly precision. Armed with information, they were masterful ambushers. With the prior knowledge of the opponent's weaknesses, their attacks were surgical and lethal.
But any direct confrontation would mean putting himself in danger, so Sunny wasn't very keen on becoming an assassin. After all, his Aspect still lacked the means of directly enhancing his combat performance.
'Shall we test it?'
He looked at the shadow and gave it a command. With an exaggerated sigh, the shadow bent down and nimbly slid under the door.
Instantly, he could see both the room and the hallway outside. Sunny closed his eyes to focus on the picture projected from the shadow.
Moving stealthily from one shadow to another, it glided down the hallway. With a bit of timing and consideration, his scout was practically invisible. Sunny passed by a couple of Sleepers and listened in on their conversation. Not finding it very interesting, he continued forward.
Finally, the shadow stopped at a corner. To its left were the elevators, to its right — the way to the girls' dormitory.
All sorts of provocative images immediately entered Sunny's head.
'Oh my!' he thought, blushing.
Yes, with this ability, it was also very easy to fall into utter depravity! But no, no. He couldn't do it. Not because of some high moral principles…
It's just that, with his reputation of a pervert, the chances of being asked if he had done something unbecoming were pretty high. So he needed the ability to honestly answer "no".
'So… I probably shouldn't. Right?'
'Of course you're right! Don't even think about it!'
Back in his room, Sunny sighed with a lot of regret. Then he directed his scout to hide in the shadow of a passing Sleeper and followed him to the elevators.
Some time later, Sunny's shadow was hiding in a corner of a large dojo. He was observing his fellow Sleepers who, under the guidance of Instructor Rock, were going through the motions of the introductory combat class.
Today was mainly dedicated to testing their general competency and abilities. After that, the Sleepers were going to be separated into groups based on their level, such as novice, advanced or expert, as well as their weapon of choice. Some would be assigned a personal tutor or paired together.
Currently, Sleepers were taking turns delivering their strongest punches to a wide plate attached to a special measuring machine. After each strike, the machine would display a number corresponding to the Sleeper's physical strength.
In theory, a machine like that was not hard to build. However, considering that many of Sleepers had combat-oriented Aspects that enhanced their might in a variety of ways, it was actually a marvel of engineering and durability.
Their technique and training also affected the final result.
Most people were getting numbers ranging from ten to fourteen. It was considered a good result, something that only the most athletic people could reach. However, a lot of Sleepers, obviously those with enhancing Aspects, were able to achieve a score of fifteen or even sixteen.
'I would probably get ten or eleven,' Sunny thought, feeling a little bored.
Then he suddenly perked up, noticing that it was turn for Nephis, the highest-rated Sleeper of their batch, to strike the plate.
The slender girl approached the machine and, without much preparation, delivered a sudden, crushing blow. Sunny wasn't very well-versed in martial arts, but even he was impressed by the flawless economy and speed of her execution.
'She had a lot of training.'
Nephis was becoming more and more intriguing. What's her actual background?
After a short pause, the machine displayed the result: sixteen. Sunny felt a bit disappointed.
'Not that impressive. I was expecting more.'
She was the proud bearer of a True Name, after all!
After that, only Caster remained. This time, Sunny couldn't even see the flying fist — it was just too fast. The machine trembled and took more time calculating. Finally, two numbers appeared.
p ᴀɴ da-n ᴏv el Twenty-one.
Everyone gaped at the display, stunned. More than a few admiring looks were thrown at Caster, who simply bowed and took a step back. Instructor Rock smiled.
"Not bad. Now, we will move to sparring and evaluate your general level of training. I need two volunteers to begin."
Nephis was the first to step forward and walk to the center of the ring. A couple of seconds later, a tall and extremely muscular Sleeper followed and faced her.
"The rules are simple. Make your opponent's back touch the floor or throw them out of the ring. Use whatever abilities and techniques you find appropriate."
'Oh, the show is starting!'
Watching Sleepers fight each other was not only entertaining, but could also provide Sunny with knowledge of their powers. Back in the room, he leaned forward and rested his chin on his palms.
The tall guy attacked without wasting any time. His muscles bulged, threatening to tear the soft fabric of his white dobok. He advanced like an unstoppable mountain, sending a vicious kick flying.
… A second later, he was lying on the floor with a dumbstruck look on his face. Nephis didn't even change her stance.
Instructor Rock gave her a cheerful look and grinned.
What followed could only be described as a massacre. One after another, Nephis managed to defeat almost every single Sleeper present in the dojo. She didn't seem to be faster or stronger than them, but each time someone entered the ring to fight her, they would inevitably end up beaten and thrown to the ground.
Sunny watched the process with a growing sense of amusement. However, at some point, even he felt a bit of unease.
Nephis moved with the calm precision of a battle machine. Her technique was clean, graceful and ruthless. No matter what type of attack was thrown at her, she was able to either predict or instantly react to it, then deflect and turn it against the attacker with the minimum amount of effort.
It didn't matter whether her opponent was poor, rich or a Legacy. Everyone would end up dealt with in a matter of seconds.
What's more, through the whole process, the composed expression on her face didn't even change once. It was like Nephis was made out of metal.
'Is… is she even human?' Sunny thought, suddenly apprehensive.
What was he going to do if this Changing Star were to end up as his enemy?
The best course of action would be to run away. Or better yet, try not to antagonize her, to begin with. After all, the sun was also a star, and shadows didn't mix well with sunlight.
Finally, Caster was the last one remaining — once again. However, he didn't seem to be perturbed by the miserable failure of every other Sleeper. With a soft smile on his lips, the young man stepped into the ring.
Caster and Nephis faced each other. Their eyes locked for a few seconds, and then Caster slightly bowed.
"Lady Nephis. Please excuse me in advance."
'What is he going to...'
… A moment later, Sunny opened his eyes in shock.