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Effie, who was already standing up to leave, froze, then slowly sat back down. Kai dropped his wooden mask to the floor and stared at him with wide eyes. Even Cassie seemed a bit stunned, despite knowing most of the things he had just said already.
A deathly silence settle in the room, and Sunny found himself being pierced by two dumbfounded gazes.
He scratched his neck, then coughed awkwardly and looked away.
"Yeah… that's more or less all that I wanted to say…"
Of course, the decision to reveal these secrets to his friends had not been an easy one. In fact, it went against everything that Sunny believed in… every instinct in his body screamed that he was making a terrible mistake.
But instinct was not always the best advisor. Otherwise, what was the point of having intelligence and the ability to think about your decisions?
The fact of the matter was that Sunny had already done irreparable damage to his relationships once because of his untrusting nature. Back on the Forgotten Shore, he had kept his secrets a little bit too well, failing to understand how his deceptiveness would make others perceive him.
Sure, he had a reason to behave the way he had… and yes, he had never really lied to his allies, simply withholding or manipulating the information a little to keep himself safe.
But the others did not know about his reasons. All they knew was that their trust was never returned fully, and that he was full of secrets, discrepancies, and insidiously subtle ways to keep those secrets to himself. Sunny had never explained himself… and in the absence of an explanation, the misunderstanding was bound to inevitably take its place, perhaps to dire results.
Who knew… if had been more open with Nephis, she might have not considered him a liar, absorbing that false perception into her own forming self. Would things have ended differently, then?
Regardless, currently, Sunny knew both the Aspects… and, more importantly, the Flaws of every member of the cohort. But they couldn't say the same. They revealed their weaknesses to him, but he held on to his own, failing to reciprocate this trust.
For now, everything seemed fine… but that one-sided nature of their friendship was bound to fester in the future, and the small crack it created could grow in size, eventually destroying it.
Plus… even Mordret knew his secrets. It would have been silly if the Prince of Nothing did, but Effie and Kai did not. Not to mention dangerous…
So, Sunny decided to take a leap of faith and put his trust in his friends. It had been a long time coming, anyway… but, damnation!
Why did being honest with people feel so… disgusting?
'What a loathsome sensation… curses, I'm all itchy…'
…After a full minute of stunned silence, Effie finally spoke, her voice sounding uncharacteristically tame:
"Now… hold on, wait a minute…"
She raised her small hand and showed one finger.
"Your Flaw… we sort of already had a general idea, after spending so much time with you. It is still… wait, you can't lie at all? What?"
"I can't say a lie aloud, and I am compelled to answer any question asked of me truthfully, or at least to the best of my ability."
He expected some sort of spicy question to follow immediately, but Effie remained silent, showing just how bewildered she was. Even her usual mischievousness disappeared. Instead, the little girl simply raised a second finger.
"…Alright. The True Name… we sort of figured that out, too. You seemed reluctant to share it, for some reason, so Kai and I did not press."
Sunny let out a heavy sigh, hesitated for a moment, then forced himself to speak:]
"That… has to do with an Innate Ability of my Aspect. If certain conditions are met, it can make me vulnerable to those who know my True Name. That is why I kept it a secret… and also put a lot of effort into appearing as weak and pathetic as possible, so that no one would even suspect that a weakling like me could possess a True Name."
His face grew a bit dim.
"Being considered a weakling is generally great, because it makes enemies underestimate you. I'm more than fine with people thinking little of me. But… uh… after I started pretending, things got out of hand really fast…"
Effie blinked a couple of times, remained silent for a moment, and raised a third finger.
"Well, I guess that explains a few things. Now, about Lord Mongrel — we knew, of course! I mean, it was sort of obvious…"
At that point, both Kai and Cassie turned to her and spoke simultaneously. Kai seemed even more surprised than before:
"What?! I didn't know!"
…Cassie, meanwhile, seemed a bit confused. She asked hesitantly:
"Uh… I am sorry, but who is Lord Mongrel?"
Effie stared at them with a funny expression.
"What do you mean, you did not know? You were the one who helped him buy that armor!"
Kai opened his mouth, then closed it, then opened it again:
"…Wait, what armor? I helped… the stone armor from the Memory Market? That dusty, ugly thing? No, it's not the same! The material is completely different! The fit, the design… Mongrel's armor is very chic! Not at all like that cumbersome stone clunker!"
Sunny covered his face, then said somberly:
"The stone changes to a stonelike metal due to an enchantment… it was just broken and required an Awakened to activate the restoration process. As for the fit, you do remember that Memories adjust themselves to accommodate the owner's body, right? Hell… now that I have a tail, even it is armored when I summon the Mantle."
The young man stared at him with a lost expression, then leaned back on his chair.
"Oh… uh… I see, then. But, I mean… no, never mind…"
Sunny massaged his temples.
"I never meant for Mongrel to get famous. I just wanted to practice swordsmanship in the Dreamscape, and all good aliases were already taken. Who knew that a damned broadcaster would spread the clip of me dispatching him everywhere on the network? Oh, gods… and things only got worse after that…"
Effie looked at him, then at her three fingers, then made a little fist.
"But the rest… a Divine Aspect?! What?! Do those even exist?! Three soul cores?! A daemon's lineage… what even is that?! And what is next, are you going to tell us that you have a Divine Memory, or something?!"
The little girl let out a nervous giggle and mockingly shook her head.
Sunny stared at her for a bit, then cautiously cleared his throat.
"Ah, well… actually… I have two…"
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