Deep Sea Embers
Chapter 658: Sudden Change?

In the grand assembly hall of the ship, ghostly green flames erupted suddenly, sweeping through the area in seconds. These flames had been brewing silently for what seemed like an eternity, now erupting with the roar of thunder and howling winds, consuming everything in their path.

Alarmed shouts and angry roars echoed from all corners. The shadow demons in the hall sensed the rise of the green flames and reacted instantly. The weaker demons lost control immediately, while even the stronger ones, overwhelmed by terror and instinct, ignored their partners’ commands. Dark, eerie rifts opened in the air, dragging the unfortunate disciples and priests into these chaotic voids with screams of despair. Only a few “lucky” ones remained, hastily preparing to confront these unexpected and violent foes.

Amidst this chaos, gunfire rang out, mingled with the fizzling of several weak magical spells and curses that ineffectively landed near Duncan and Alice.

However, the flames formed an impenetrable barrier. These weak attacks were useless, unable to breach the fiery wall. Bullets tinged green by the flames fell harmlessly to the ground. Missiles and acid, conjured by demonic forces, transformed into more flames mid-air, turning back on their summoners.

Alice, eyes wide, watched this intense and dangerous display. Surrounded by bizarre demons and frenzied cultists, she felt no fear. She had come with the captain to observe, and the chaos around her was thrilling.

But soon, the overwhelming disorder became too much.

She turned towards the loudest part of the hall, her expression shifting to a slight frown. Raising her hand, she summoned invisible threads that gracefully floated into her hands—a precaution she had prepared knowing the hall was filled with dangerous cultists, whom the captain had warned were inhuman.

With Alice at the center, a wave of paralysis swept over the cultists. They froze, rigid and motionless, then began transforming into puppets.

At that moment, a deep, resonant drumming sound erupted from the center of the hall. A massive force surged forth, momentarily quelling the ghost fire and interrupting Alice’s puppetry.

The Saint, on a high platform, finally acted. His eyestalks lifted, and a myriad of black bones resembling arthropod limbs clicked and clacked around his enormous brain. They stretched and expanded, morphing the cage-like structure into a giant spider with the formidable brain at its center. The brain pulsated with drum-like beats, echoing a heartbeat, amplified by its swollen veins.

Duncan watched, astounded, as the Saint ascended from the platform. The skeletal spider-like creature clung to the platform’s edge, emitting erratic, chaotic hisses.

Duncan’s face registered stark surprise—he had not anticipated that the creature could appear even more repulsive.

Before Duncan could express his thoughts, he and Alice were assaulted by the sound of terrified, despairing screams echoing throughout the hall. The cultists who had survived the initial demonic chaos and fiery assault, and who had narrowly avoided transformation by Alice, now underwent a grotesque metamorphosis. Their human forms swelled unnaturally, their skin stretching and pulsing as if something monstrous within tried to burst free.

In a horrifying spectacle, the bodies of these cultists ruptured, disintegrating into gruesome pools of flesh on the floor. As each cultist perished, the symbiotic demons connected to them collapsed and disintegrated in succession.

Yet, these disintegrating demons did not vanish into thin air.

Instead, they morphed into swirling clouds of black smoke, converging toward the high platform at the center of the hall.

On the platform, the “Saint” watched the unfolding chaos, raising his sinister, bony limbs. His brain, pulsating eagerly, absorbed the black smoke from the dying shadow demons. Within moments, he grew significantly larger, and a potent, menacing aura radiated from his brain, distorting the space around the platform.

“You’ve quickly turned against your own followers,” Duncan remarked, a hint of surprise in his voice as he observed from afar. “I didn’t expect that.”

“Weaklings have no place here… They would either fuel your flames or become sacrifices for Anomaly 099,” the Saint retorted, his voice raspy and deep, his limbs clicking. He began to descend from the platform, his movements deliberate and menacing. “It’s better that they strengthen me… I will represent them in the final battle against you…”

Disinterested in the Saint’s speech, Duncan casually raised his hand. The ghost fire, which had briefly been subdued, reignited with vigor, spreading swiftly towards the platform.

“You’ve managed to gather quite a bit of information,” Duncan noted nonchalantly. “But I suggest you cooperate. My request is simple—I just want a conversation with your ‘Lord’… and perhaps to know where this ship is headed.”

“Indeed… You pose a significant threat to us, ‘Captain Duncan’,” the Saint responded, his limbs moving against the advancing flames. “Therefore, I cannot allow you to proceed… Oh holy master, grant me your blessing!”

With a roar that echoed the terror of its skeletal form, the Saint caused the space around him to momentarily warp. The ghost flames nearly engulfing him were pushed back. Then, driven by a fervor for martyrdom, he leaped high, hurling himself towards Duncan in a reckless, suicidal charge.

“The time for martyrdom has come!” he bellowed, propelling his monstrous form at Duncan, master of the fiery maelstrom, in a final, desperate attack.

This monstrous entity, resembling a grotesque skeletal spider, shouted fanatically, repelling the surrounding flames with its immense power. It surged forward like a dark, unstoppable meteor, fearlessly hurtling towards the daunting “subspace shadow.”

Facing this otherworldly threat, Duncan calmly opened his palm towards the advancing monster. The green ghost fire swirling in the air began to converge, amassing a formidable force poised to engulf the skeletal spider in seconds.

Yet, the Saint executed a surprising maneuver in mid-air.

With unbelievable agility, the creature plummeted straight downwards, its descent marked by a deafening roar as it crashed through the hall’s floor, creating a vast chasm and vanishing into the ship’s bowels, burrowing through the decking below and disappearing from Duncan and Alice’s view instantly.

Duncan: “…?”

Alice: “…?”

The abrupt turn of events left even the seasoned Duncan momentarily stunned. Equally surprised, Alice looked first at Duncan and then at the gaping hole still emitting ghostly flames, finally expressing her confusion, “Did it run away?”

Fleeing? On the vast ocean, aboard a ship entirely consumed by my ghost fire, where could the “Saint” possibly escape to?

Duncan’s brow furrowed as the sounds of destruction and the creaking of strained supports echoed from below. Then, realization struck him.

“No, it’s not fleeing—it’s trying to destroy the ship!”

The massive skeletal spider continued its relentless descent, aiming for the engine room just ahead.

Speed was critical. It needed to act before the ghost captain could respond and before the raging ghost flames could overtake it.

The very bottom of the ship was near, just beyond the remaining layers of flooring and walls, past the labyrinth of pipes… There, the nitroglycerin, secretly placed aboard by his followers, awaited.

A single detonation within the steam core would trigger an uncontrolled chain reaction from the reactor, powerful enough to annihilate the entire ship. Only then would the “Holy Land” be safe.

The monstrous, skeletal spider-shaped “Saint” tore through the ship with alarming speed, slicing through steel plates, pipes, and every obstacle in its path. What was once the pride and lavish construct of the cult was now rapidly being dismantled into irreparable ruins by its frenzied excavation.

Despite this, the “Saint” did not waver in his resolve. He quickened his pace, carving through the steel behemoth’s belly with even greater swiftness.

He had foreseen it all—the demise of everyone, including himself.

In his grim determination, the skeletal spider-like “Saint” recognized the inevitable fate of his weaker followers. They would succumb to despair, their bodies consumed by the relentless flames. He understood that his own survival was equally impossible, as the engulfing shadows had already cut off every potential escape route. Even a change in direction at the brink of darkness was now futile, as the ship was hopelessly ensnared in an abyss of darkness.

He acknowledged that directly confronting Captain Duncan was a foolhardy endeavor. His clearest premonitions had only shown him a rapid and insignificant end to his own existence.

Confronted with the certainty of his own demise, he resolved to undertake a more audacious course of action. He could not allow the ship to fall into Duncan’s hands, nor could he permit the secrets of the “Holy Land” to be unveiled. The consequences of such an outcome would render his sins utterly irredeemable.

With a resounding crash, the final wall obstructing his path gave way.

The innermost chamber, housing the steam core, finally came into view.

In its monstrous form, the skeletal spider clambered into the room, awkwardly landing on a platform surrounded by a network of pipes, valves, and control panels.

He raised the eyestalks on the fringes of his body, meticulously scanning every inch of the chamber.

As anticipated, there were no surviving cultists within this space. Only a few lifeless bodies lay strewn across an open area nearby. Closer to the control panels and valves, the eerie, twisted shadows of humans seemed imprinted onto the surfaces of the machinery, marking their final moments.

The “Saint” felt no sense of mourning for these fallen comrades.

His eyes, or what served as eyes, fixed on the end of the platform. There, just as he had expected, lay the stack of explosives—the crucial element he had been seeking, the key to executing his final, desperate plan.

Chapter 658: Sudden Change?
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