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160 One Choice

 "Ah----!!!"

A sudden, shrill scream caused the mercenaries to panic slightly. They quickly turned their heads to glance at each other, trying to find the poor soul that met their demise. But a while a while, to their surprise, the mercenaries found out that none of them were missing.

So then, where did that scream came from?

They started to scan their surroundings cautiously. Rhode frowned and turned his attention to the nearby little residences of the villagers.

It served as a reminder to them that there were other people around. The village which had fallen into darkness and silence previously, suddenly awoke. Under the chilly night, a mixture of painful screams, high pitch screams, angry growls and sharp sorrows could be heard vaguely. This confused the mercenaries even more. They looked towards Rhode, hesitant of their next course of action. At this moment, even idiots would recognize that the undead were targeting the villagers now.

What should we do?

Rhode only stood in the center of the defensive zone and observed the surrounding village; his stoic expression revealed that he didn't actually care about what was happening to the villagers.

"Sir, those people..."

After a brief moment of silence, Randolf finally couldn't take it anymore and spoke. But before he could complete his sentence, Rhode gestured with his hand to interrupt him.

"I know. Let them be."

"Let them be?"

"The undead's target isn't the village, don't be fooled. And don't forget our mission..."

"Our mission is to take them down. Don't get tricked by them."

"But, those villagers..."

Shauna also said with hesitation.

"No matter what, the villagers are still outsiders. I don't wish my men to return as lifeless zombies. Compared to all of you, it's much easier for me to cut those guys up into pieces."

Rhode's casual answer left all the mercenaries stunned. Their jaws hanged loose, thinking how odd can their mercenary group leader's attitude be. Of course, most of the people here were veterans. Thus, they were able to understand Rhode's meaning. The undead's 'strategy' was clear. After they realized that they couldn't break through the mercenaries' defense, they decided to divert their attention to force the mercenaries to scatter their defense. And once the mercenaries scattered, they would be easier to be dealt with. If Rhode sent some of his men to check on the situation, maybe the undead already prepared to ambush them. If so, it would be a huge loss for Rhode's team.

On the other hand, if Rhode used his elites to help the villagers, then his current defensive position would be compromised. In other words, no matter the choice, there is a high chance of falling into the enemies' trap. This tactic was commonly used by bandits, especially when mercenaries were required to escort merchants through dangerous routes. If the bandits weren't able to penetrate their defenses, then they would use more underhanded means such as holding family members captive to force the mercenaries apart. Once the defensive line broke, they would charge in and eliminate the weaker members.

Rhode was 80 to 90% sure that his enemies were coming for Christie. The little girl was too weak for them to escape while fighting against the undead. Celia and Rhode were the strongest members of the group, and if he went into battle himself, he couldn't oversee the entire operation. In the case of an emergency, he did not have enough trust in the other three maidens to command the mercenaries individually. However...

"Master, I'll go check it out."

Celia turned around and reported softly to Rhode.

"You don't have to worry about me..."

"..."

After hearing Celia's request, Rhode went silent for a moment. Afterwards, he tapped on Anne's shoulder, indicating that he wanted her to protect Christie. He walked out from the circle to Celia's side and drew his sword from his waist area.

Rhode's expression turned solemn and said, "You have five minutes." Then, he spoke softly, "If you're not back after five minutes, I will summon you back by force."

"Yes, Master."

Celia answered softly and hurriedly spread her wings, flew into the night skies.

"Mr. Rhode."

Looking at the angel maiden who flew away, Marlene was a little uncertain.

"Will Miss Celia be okay by herself? What if there's big trouble..."

"I only sent her to check on the situation. Not for her to resolve the issue."

"But..." Lize said timidly.

"Our mission is to protect the village..."

"No, Lize."

Rhode shook his head gently.

"Our mission is to get rid of the undead creatures. Don't be mistaken. Our duties do not cover the protection of the village. Strictly speaking, their lives and deaths got nothing to do with me, and whether I will rescue them or not, will depend on my mood. But a pity, until now, my mood isn't too good."

"What he means is that those baddies in this village aren't worth to be protected."

Anne grumbled while swinging her little fist around.

"Anyway even if we rescue them, they would turn around to blame us. After all, these people don't understand what gratitude is, so they're better off dead!"

"Alright, this isn't the problem that all of you should be concerned about."

As if detected something, Rhode readied his hand and a crimson blade slashed a bright light in the air.

"We have company, again."

"..."

Along with Rhode's words, deep growls sounded within the darkness. Dozens of dark figures stood up on the roof of houses surrounding the square. Wrinkled skin, lifeless eyes, holding onto broken weapons, some bones could be seen in the rotting bodies, releasing a putrid smell.

"Everyone, get ready to carry out our second strategy."

Rhode raised his sword and commanded.

And at this moment, accompanied by the monstrous-like growls, the ghouls jumped right toward them.

---

Celia spread her majestic wings and flew in the night skies. Borrowing the brilliance of her aura, she quickly spotted the source of chaos. In front of a little house, many villagers collapsed in a pool of blood, and beside them were shivering militias gripping on the flame torches as if it was their last lifeline.

"What happened?"

The angel maiden landed gracefully and questioned.

"Those damned undead!! They attacked Beck and even captured their son!"

One of the militia waved his flaming torch angrily. Because angels were highly regarded, he didn't reprimand her directly he still displayed a strong sense of unhappiness in his voice and expression.

"What are those mercenaries doing, aren't they here to protect us?"

"That's right, that's right. So what in the world is going on!"

"My son, my son...!!!"

Many cries of terror and uncertainty flooded the village.

Facing the chaotic situation, Celia didn't comment much. She scanned the surroundings briefly, and as if sensed something, she began to frown slightly.

"Immediately run. Now. Hurry up."

Celia quickly gave an order to the mass.

"Why do we need to listen to you? We are going to find that child because he's definitely alive! Not sure what those damn undead will do to them. If we don't go..."

Before the militia finished his sentence, at this moment, Celia opened her eyes wide and swung her sword forward with her right hand. The overflowing holy flames started erupting in all directions, with Celia as the core. This sudden change shocked all the villagers that they screamed and raised their hands in the air, attempted to defend themselves from the holy flames.

But the silver flames didn't cause them any harm. Instead, the fire felt like a gentle wind blowing past their bodies. And at the same time, the undead spirit hidden in the darkness screamed and revealed their original identity. It quickly flew away to avoid the silver flame, and at the same time, it growled angrily.

"..."

Celia stared coldly into the undead in front of her. The villagers were also stunned and stared at the undead that unknowingly appeared beside them. Their mind went blank, not knowing what to do.

"Ah... ah... ah..."

And at this moment, a deep and sinister voice sounded.

"I've already locked on the position of my prey... but to my surprise... an angel? This is a big harvest. Your soul must be so beautiful. My master will definitely reward me hugely!"

"... So you are the depraved devil worshipper?"

Celia raised her sword and retracted her wings. She observed the surroundings attentively, but the voice suddenly laughed, as if he felt that was a stupid question.

"I am not depraved, Miss Angel. You angels will never understand humans... but this isn't weird. We humans have our thinking and goals... I don't treat this as 'depraved'... "

"Maybe I should put it this way. This is my battle for hope. For this, I don't mind using my soul as a transaction just for the person who is more important than my own soul. I think, Miss Angel, you wouldn't understand my thinking."

"... I don't intend to understand."

Celia replied coldly.

"Besides, under the brilliance of the dragon soul, no matter what ambitions you or your master have; eventually everything will turn to nothingness ---- because those are things that aren't supposed to be in this world."

"Well said. But it has got nothing on me."

The voice paused, before continuing with a sarcastic tone.

"But since you're here, then we can just cut the chatter... I have my job to do. As for these children... they will properly serve you, so you'd better not leave okay Miss Angel. If not, today will be the end for these innocent people ---- So then, how many of these people can you save?"