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211 Parasites

 Boom... boom... boom...

Each step felt like a steel hammer pounding at their hearts. The mercenaries held their breath and stared at the black silhouette until the light completely revealed it.

"Oh Holy Soul..."

The moment Kavos saw the figure, he lost all sense and left his jaw agape. He was terrified to the extent that his daggers almost fell to the ground. Luckily, Kavos realized what was happening and regained his composure.

In front of them was a huge, fat and bloated abomination.

It appeared to have some features of a human - and perhaps it used to be a human, but at the moment, it was just a corpse decayed beyond recognition. Under its skin were bulging 'balloons' filled with fluids. Its massive head was squeezed between its shoulders with no neck in sight and its face was so crammed with fat that even the eyes couldn't be located.

Marlene extended her arm and quickly put it down. She wanted to hold her neck and push the vomit back into her stomach. However, she realized that doing this would create an opposing reaction, so she immediately stopped. Lize held her mouth and retreated to the back of the crowd. Anne didn't change her expression, but she still clenched her fist into a ball. It appeared that even Anne couldn't tolerate such things.

"Parasite."

Only Rhode remained the same. From his usual calm voice, it was as though this revolting piece of flesh didn't exist.

"It looks like the brave adventurers from before have become part of the nest. Keep your distance and beware of the tentacles."

Rhode raised his sword and pointed forward. All ten of the Parasite's fingers transformed into soft, flexible tentacles, lashing left to right continuously, crashing on the rock walls. On each tentacle, there were rows of small teeth, and even if they hadn't fought with them before, the mercenaries knew these small teeth weren't for having a meal...

"...!!"

The Parasite opened its mouth and roared. No one knew if it was suffering in pain or was it just purely enraged by instinct. However, it didn't affect Rhode. As the parasite roared, Rhode took this opportunity to dash forward with the battle angel Celia following closely behind. Her swords were raised high, and soon enough, a silver flame erupted from her blade.

The Parasite retaliated by lashing one of its arms at the duo. As a devil-type, it definitely couldn't tolerate the bright holy radiance that Celia emitted naturally.

Its hatred brought some sort of grievance - if the abomination could complain, then it would probably scream at these people to leave him alone.

Can't you see I'm deep underground to avoid this damnable light? Why can't you people spare a thought for me before bringing that thing here?

Isn't this considered bullying?

Of course, Rhode and Celia didn't bother about its feelings. The tentacle shot towards Rhode at frightening speeds, but Rhode, who managed to dodge it, followed up by crushing a green card that materialized in his palm. The Spirit Bird made its iconic cry as it pierced through the air.

At the same time, a lightning-fast attack struck from above Rhode, but he quickly parried the attack with his Crimson Blade. Before the Parasite could attack again, a bolt of lightning smashed into its body, causing it to retreat a few steps back in panic. Positive and negative energy always contradicted one another, so Celia was well-prepared for this. When facing the numerous tentacles, the angel had to just cast a small defensive barrier to guarantee her safety.

However, the other mercenaries were having a hard time.

Those tentacles that missed its target ended up being a stray attack which disrupted the mercenaries at the rear. The mercenaries weren't as strong as Rhode or Celia, and furthermore, they were inexperienced against fighting this foe. Should they rush up to attack? Or should they focus on defending?

The indecisive mercenaries took a few steps back. At this moment, Anne finally stepped into battle. Although Rhode's orders were to protect Marlene and Lize, as a Shield Warrior, Anne carried out her duties flawlessly. She quickly barreled to the front and expanded her golden shield, protecting the mercenaries to the rear.

"Bang!!"

The tentacles that struck the shield rebounded backward. Similar to the fiends, once the tentacles entered the ring of fire, the exterior flesh immediately charred. However, they weren't as weak as the fiends. While the damage dealt was quite noticeable, it did not stop lashing out at the mercenaries.

"You bunch of idiots, MOVE!"

Kavos reacted quickly and rushed forward with his daggers. Swish! He slashed at a tentacle but his attack wasn't powerful enough to sever it.

Kavos then drew back the corners of his mouth and attempted to try again. However, at this time, a silent figure suddenly appeared in his field of vision. Another pair of burning daggers moved so quickly that it transformed into a furious blaze. Kavos only saw a flash, and suddenly the tentacle retreated in a hurry. The tentacle was gravely injured, and Kavos knew it definitely wasn't him that did it.

He blinked his eyes in shock and saw a young man with a wide smile waving to him before disappearing into the shadows. His movements were as swift as the wind, and each strike was as fluid as the flowing river. Kavos recalled that this young man's name was Joey. If he remembered correctly, this lad was a newbie who had only recently became a mercenary for less than two years. But judging from the speed and precision from Joey's attack, Kavos couldn't believe that it came from a newbie. As a thief, he could naturally see it wasn't an easy feat. At least in this area, Kavos didn't feel that this Joey fellow was any weaker than himself. Moreover, his movements seemed to be much more flexible than himself... and he was much younger...

Where did Rhode find so many young and capable talents?

Before joining Starlight, his men had discussed the various young talents from time to time, especially the genius mage, Marlene. In the whole of the Paphield Region, none of the mercenary groups had a mage to work for them, yet Rhode managed to hire one. Considering that this genius mage was from the renowned Senia family, to be able to fight alongside the heir of a legendary and powerful family was like a dream that shouldn't have existed. A delicate daughter of a noble family should be obediently sitting in a luxurious room, sipping on high-grade tea... and not fighting in a dark tunnel with other mercenaries.

But he had to admit; this young lady did very well.

But the more the truth seemed this way, Kavos felt even more suspicious. He couldn't figure out why the heir of a renowned family line would be spending her days mixing around with the mercenaries. Though he heard that she would only be here temporarily, according to Kavos' understanding and experience with noble families, this 'temporary period' seemed rather too long. Especially when linked to Rhode's identity, he suspected if the motive of this young man was to build a mercenary group that was simple and pure.

However, Kavos didn't have the time to consider this topic right now. At that moment, the other mercenaries lifted their weapons and dashed towards the tentacles, striking them to the ground, forcing it to retreat. They switched between attack and defense to wear down the tentacles. Rhode didn't expect much from these mercenaries since with their current capabilities, they just wouldn't be able to confront the monster head on without receiving injuries. So all they did now was to stay within the ring of fire and defend.

But this method worked.

After receiving a barrage of attacks from the mercenaries, the Parasite decided to stop attacking, and it used its tentacles to block the attacks by Rhode and Celia. That bright lightning and the holy flames were the banes of its existence. The Parasite had initially thought that destroying these few insects wouldn't be difficult, but it finally realized that it lost its advantage. Even there was a difference in strength, Rhode and Celia were still able to cause damage to its body.

The Parasite released a thunderous roar of pain and anger. Then, it opened its mouth and spat out a greenish goo while lashing its tentacles at the duo.

Rhode was familiar with the Parasite's attack patterns, so he didn't allow himself to get caught by not sticking too close to its body. He knew how many fiends were hidden underneath its twisted body. Though it had 'humanly features,' frankly, it was more of an aircraft carrier than anything. Thousands of fiends squirmed underneath its skin which was why it appeared as though its muscles were bulging and twitching by itself. Rhode knew that the Parasite would release the barrage of fiends if he got too close.

Therefore Celia and Rhode chose to assault the Parasite while keeping a reasonable distance.

The many tentacles grazed past him by mere inches numerous times. He didn't turn back although he heard screams from the back as those weren't the sounds of fear or panic. It appeared as though the mercenaries were doing a fairly good job, but Rhode knew that it was only temporary. He had to seize the moment to finish this monster. After all, humans had a limit to their stamina while the devils could go on for days. Despite humans generally being a fragile race, they also have their good traits, and that was their tenacity. Thus, Rhode decided to pick up the pace.

Once again, he evaded the Parasite's attack, but this time, Rhode didn't retreat like before. Instead, he took a step forward and lunged his sword towards the monster's body. The sword burst out with an intense light, causing an explosion on impact. The Parasite's body stopped moving for a moment; then, the broken skin began to crawl back into position, replacing the gaping hole with countless of mini tentacles. Suddenly, Celia, who was behind Rhode, followed up by piercing the Parasite with her sword.

Celia's body, which was fully composed of the holy element, appeared to be the Parasite's living nightmare. When Rhode's attack broke the Parasite's exterior defensive layer, Celia drilled her holy sword through the gaping hole before it could close up. The Parasite roared in anger, but Celia ignored it. She clenched her teeth as she grasped the hilt of her sword with her other hand and pulled it sideways with all her might. The gaping hole became a huge, long gash which stretched from its left shoulder to the right waist. A trail of silver flames released from the sword consumed the monsters within, preventing the tentacles from restoring its body.

Once he saw this, Rhode abruptly raised his hand.

"Everyone back off!" Marlene yelled at the top of her voice.

She had been carefully observing Rhode's movement for this moment. Soon enough, the mercenaries opened up a path of the mage. And at this time, the young mage raised her wand and chanted a mysterious incantation. Suddenly, the air surrounding her dropped to subzero temperatures. A myriad of icy swords formed out of nowhere as it revolved around Marlene, who unhesitatingly shot them towards the Parasite.

"!!!"

The icy swords pierced into the Parasite's body, aggravating its wounds. An icy chill spread out from the swords, enveloping the Parasite with a thick layer of frost. It immediately stopped its moving and its numerous tentacles fell heavily to the ground. The chill continued to seep into the wounds that Celia had torn open, freezing any tentacles that still could move.

This was Rhode's plan to tackle the Parasite. Although he could defeat it by using a more destructive approach, he knew that the enclosed environment would not take kindly to explosions. Furthermore, in the game, if the Parasite blew up, the players would receive an undesirable 'Parasite' debuff. Not only would it lower their attributes, but it could also even take their life. If they couldn't remove the debuff on time, the only result would be death.

Thus, only by using a method to freeze it would be the best solution for this situation. For this matter, Rhode didn't have any choice but to rely on Marlene as he didn't own any spirits of the Water element.

He raised his sword and slashed downwards.

The bright radiance of his sword released immediately. It transformed into a massive hammer which smashed squarely onto the Parasite's frozen body. The Parasite's body cracked and fell to the ground. Dozens of frozen tentacles spilled out like a river and before it could prove to be a threat, Celia's holy flames had turned them all to ashes.

Good, everything went as planned.

Rhode withdrew his sword as he gazed further down the dark tunnel.

If things went smoothly like this, it would only be a matter of time before completing their mission.

"Is it done, master?" Celia asked.

After engulfing the corpse with her silver flames, she folded back her wings and strode to Rhode's side. The rest of the mercenaries began to walk up to the corpse and examine the remains of the monster. Some of them even wondered how did they defeat this terrifying monstrosity.

"That's right," Rhode nodded. "At least for now."