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69 Whos The Hunter

 An idea flashed in the minds of the three black-cloaked men.

Who wouldn't relish this godsent opportunity? A solo girl surrounded by darkness and currently preoccupied with something else... Even if she were a mage, she wouldn't be able to escape once they made a move.

However...

The three men scanned their surroundings with a slight frown on their faces, clearly a little worried about an ambush. They weren't here for on a stroll and had to be vigilant. But after contemplating for a moment, they concluded there shouldn't be much risk if they acted now.

Nevertheless, they were still rather puzzled. Why was this woman unguarded? Where was their 'primary assassination target?'

If he had died, the female mage wouldn't be so calm. Did he leave her here alone and venture deeper inside?

The three men glanced at each other and made hand gestures to communicate with one another. In the end, they couldn't think of anything else more possible than what they had already discussed. Based on their intel, this young man was quite skilled, so it wasn't surprising if he was confident about his strength and left the female mage here as he explored the ruins. While they couldn't see far in the darkness, they could at least make out a faint outline of a torch burning in the distance.

The leader of the black-cloaked men went silent. A moment later, he raised his head, revealing a pair of eyes gazing with resolution. He slowly lifted his right arm and swung it downwards in an arc.

Begin operation!

The other men dashed into the darkness stealthily once they received their orders.

Their well-honed killing intent began to surface.

-

Marlene stared at the intricately carved patterns on the pillar in front of her. She wasn't studying those patterns; rather, her head kept ringing with the words Rhode had delivered to her before leaving.

Those people will undoubtedly try to attack you. I will need you to act naturally and pretend that you don't know anything. Do not worry; I have a way of stopping them. Rest assured Marlene, I will not allow you to get hurt.

Rhode appeared to be 100% reliable when he reassured her, but to be totally cool about being the bait was completely rubbish. Therefore she could not resist secretly glancing at her surroundings once in a while.

Meanwhile, under the flickering light, a shadow shifted from time to time. If Marlene observed carefully, she would realize that someone was lurking nearby.

The pressure on her wasn't light at all. It was especially so when she heard the methods from Rhode about how they were going to deal with her. Her heart froze. Death was enough to cause fear in people. If was far better off being dead than to imagine what they were going to do with her after being captured.

Frankly, Marlene had considered summoning her magic sphere to brighten the area so she could see where the enemy was hiding. But in the end, she swallowed her fear and chose to believe in Rhode.

What an unreasonable man!

When she thought of herself putting total trust in a man, Marlene suddenly felt like she was becoming stupid. Why did she have to believe him? Why must her life dance in the palm of his hand? Was it because he convinced her? Or was it because of other reasons...

Even when facing her father, Marlene was never THAT obedient. So why did she listen to his every word? Somehow, before this man, every word he spoke was something that she was unable to oppose.

Is it because of the duel before? That shouldn't be it.

Although he is the first man to injure me, I'm not a weak woman who would become obedient once scared, right?

Marlene shook her head repeatedly, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get him out of her mind.

Then she berated herself inwardly. "Don't think about him anymore!"

Thus, in order to take her mind off him, she began to focus on deciphering the meaning of the ancient symbols on the pillar.

A woman mind is really complicated...

"....chosen knight...to protect the world..."

Her white and slender fingers traced the mysterious carvings, carefully examining the ancient symbols before her as she murmured to herself.

"....the source of power...came from...soul contract...under the void..."

Her voice became softer as her expression became increasingly focused.

Marlene completely neglected the danger around her.

-

A chance!

The black-cloaked men snorted coldly. As professionals, they did not make any rash moves. They knew that their opponent was a mage - and a genius one at that. Therefore, if they weren't 100% confident about capturing her, attacking her and losing their stealth advantage was a silly move.

Initially, they discovered that she was quite cautious, so they refrained from making a move. But they could've never suspected that her cautiousness was because she was anticipating their arrival. Instead, they thought that it wasn't strange for a young girl such as her to be entirely calm in a dark cavern - and furthermore, she was all alone. Now that she gradually immersed herself in deciphering the weird symbols on the pillars, they finally had the opportunity to close the distance.

One of the black-cloaked men stretched out his hand and pulled out a cloth. Then, he lowered his body and crawled towards her slowly.

Unfortunately, it didn't go as well he planned.

A sharp, scarlet blade pierced through his throat noiselessly. The man's eyes widened in horror as he almost lost consciousness. He gripped his neck and attempted to shout for his comrades, but he found that he could only open his mouth and wriggle his tongue wordlessly. At this moment, a cold metallic blade opened a gap in his body.

After that, darkness shrouded his entire world.

The body that had lost its vitality slumped to the floor, but before it touched the ground, Rhode grabbed it and gently laid it down. Then, Rhode gave a quick glance at his surroundings and quickly retreated.

Shadows swallowed his silhouette.

-

It's been a while, why hasn't he made a move yet?

The man who was hiding behind the pillar frowned to himself. He stared at Marlene's defenseless back and felt a bit annoyed. Based on their plan, one was responsible for the attack while the others were supposed to back him up if something went awry. But now, judging at how much time had passed, shouldn't he had made his move?

Or did something happened to him?

Perhaps it was intuition or instinct. The man turned around to inspect his surroundings.

But the only thing he saw was a red flash.

"---"

Bright, red blood sprayed from his neck, and he collapsed immediately. Once again, Rhode quickly shot forward to support the body and slowly laid the corpse on the floor. If anyone observed Rhode's swift actions right now, no one would have imagined that he was a swordsman.

Number two is down.

Once he confirmed that he obtained EXP, he prepared to retreat once again.

But suddenly, a swishing sound came from behind.

Rhode instinctively rolled to the side. He felt a cold sensation on his left shoulder when a black shadow shot past him.

As expected of a professional.

Rhode clenched his teeth to endure the searing pain on his left shoulder. He wanted to quickly get rid of the three of them so he could move on to the other two guarding the entrance. If everything went smoothly, they could've easily gone home after this. Unfortunately, the opponent did not give him that opportunity.

When the first attack failed, the black shadow didn't attack Rhode again; instead, he turned around and directly rushed towards Marlene.

Rhode quickly stood up and crushed a green card in his palm, summoning the Spirit Bird who immediately shot towards the last black-cloaked man.

All of these events happened in a flash. Even when Rhode got injured by the enemy's attack, Marlene did not discover anything wrong. But once the black-cloaked man gave up hiding, it was too late. Marlene turned around hastily and saw a dagger thrusting towards her. The gap between her assailant and herself was less than half a meter!

Marlene's protective garments activated their defensive spells, but she didn't expect that the man could easily penetrate it as though he was cutting a cake.

However, the very next moment, the only thing Marlene could hear was an explosion.

Boom!! A wind blast produced by the Spirit Bird hit squarely on the man's back. It was like an invisible fist punching the enemy, launching his body towards the ground.

Rhode sighed.

When he saw the man rushing towards Marlene, he already knew that his smooth sailing plan had come to an end. Obviously, this man was aware that his strength was able to pierce through Marlene's protective spells. He made the right choice to launch an attack instead of relying on her protective spells.

And it seemed like his decision was indeed correct.

But now wasn't the time to feel relieved.

Marlene dashed to Rhode's side, and at the same time, the black-cloaked man slowly stood up. Although it appeared as though the Spirit Bird's attack created a large impact, the damage wasn't fatal at all. Moreover, the man was an advanced level assailant. Killing him wasn't that easy.

Rhode's left hand shielded Marlene while his right lifted the sword.

At the same time, the black-cloaked man also whipped out a knife and a dagger, emitting a thick killing intent from his eyes.