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214 Battle in the Nest End

 The battle angel shot forward.

The devil sank into silence for a moment; then it suddenly made an ear-piercing shriek. Its screech was loud enough to send anyone to a daze as though thousands of spirits were burning in within the flames of hell. The towering chunk of flesh began to tremble violently, and it soon exploded, revealing a vestige of the holy relic within.

"NOW!"

Rhode yelled as he unhesitatingly summoned the Flame Killer. Before the poor hound could understand what was going on, Rhode gave it a 'generous' kick on its butt, sending the Flame Killer into the mouth of the wailing devil. Rhode quickly retreated and flapped his wings backward.

"---!!!"

And at this moment, a terrifying explosion shook the entire cave.

A bright, surging column of flames shot into the air from the insides of the devil's mouth. The earth quaked as the cavern walls began to lose its stability. Huge stalactites came crashing down, causing a thick layer of soil to rise into the air.

Cough...

Rhode finally landed on the ground with filth smeared on his face and a layer of soil rested on his head. Although he was protected by the Spirit Bird's wind element, after all, there was a limit to what humans could withstand. In the face of such a powerful explosion, even Rhode wouldn't dare take it head-on. Fortunately, the mercenaries were much further away, and they didn't suffer many injuries. Of course, Marlene and Lize played a huge role in protecting them with their spells.

Rhode casually waved his hand, summoning a gust of wind to clear the dust cloud. The tragic state of the devil could finally be seen.

The bloody flesh carpet had disappeared, and at a distance, they discovered the collapsed devil lying motionlessly on the floor. Its wretched appearance resembled a crushed watermelon. It was an incredibly disgusting sight. The Flame Killer's explosion had created a gaping hole in the ceiling of the cave, drilling a clean shaft straight to surface. Sunlight permeated through the newly formed opening, bringing a positive vibe to the living.

However, Rhode was slightly shocked when he found that he underestimated the power of the hound's explosion after its advancement. If it wasn't for the devil's natural resistance against fire, and its thick walls of flesh containing a majority of the force, perhaps the mercenaries wouldn't be walking right now. The underground cave was at least 100 meters below the surface... and to be able to puncture a hole all the way upwards was simply absurd.

Rhode sighed inwardly when he thought of this. Then, he withdrew his wings and walked towards the devil's corpse.

The devil no longer possessed any of its natural resistance after its death. Its body rapidly liquefied into a puddle of murky water and dried up soon after. Apart from a lingering stench, nothing was left to prove its existence.

Rhode scanned the corpse and found something that caught his attention.

There were two equipment that wasn't damaged by the explosion. One of them was a scepter carved with golden flowers, and the other was a fist-sized Spirit Core.

Not bad...

Rhode studied both equipments after picking them up. A surge of holy elemental energy churned from within the scepter. Legend told that this scepter once belonged to an archbishop who sealed the devil and was considered one of the secret treasures' of the church. If he gave it to Lize, her stats would increase substantially. However, Rhode didn't want to get on the bad side of the church just yet as he still considered the possibilities of collaborating with them. Furthermore, Rhode was aware the scepter was named 'Princess', a type of weapon that carried self-consciousness. It could judge the holder if they were genuine. If not, the scepter would rebel against the holder.

Back in the game, some players obtained this scepter by justifying themselves as 'the last hit.' Most of them were clerics who were allowed by their party members to deal the final blow to the devil. According to the game mechanics, only the person who administered the finishing blow could use the scepter. Currently, Lize was too weak and didn't have enough strength to kill it with an attack, so it was almost impossible for her to obtain it.

In any case, Rhode was more excited in the other 'free gift' that came alongside the scepter - the Spirit Core. This core originated from hell and was an exclusive item; it was even rare even to the Gods. Moreover, it was an excellent treasure for all Spirit Swordsmen. The Spirit Core had attributes that passively boosted the summoned spirits and also provide active buffs to them. This Spirit Core could even guarantee a 100% chance of summoning a high-level spirit!

Alas, the spirit summoned would most likely be a Dark elemental.

Rhode didn't intend to use the Spirit Core at the moment so he kept it in his spatial bag. Although the battle had ended, from the dreadful appearances of the mercenaries, Rhode didn't feel happy at all. The previous battle had given them a trauma, especially so after the catastrophic explosion which rocked the cave like a cradle. For a split second, they thought that this would be their final burial grounds.

The mercenaries froze in their steps. Their fingers turned pale after gripping their weapons ever so tightly. Most of them had blank expressions as they stared at the burnt chunk of flesh, dying fiends and the cracks in the walls.

Even the carefree Anne also supported herself by leaning against her shield, inhaling deeply. She had expanded most of her energy in the battle. Marlene and Lize weren't better off as they sat by a rock formation, exhausted beyond belief.

Lize took the initiative to ask, "Is it over, Mr. Rhode?"

"Yes. It's over."

Rhode nodded slowly as everyone glanced over to their leader. Then he lifted the scepter up high.

"With this scepter, our mission is complete!"

There was an awkward silence for a moment after that. The mercenaries looked at each other blankly, not knowing what emotion to display.

Huh, we completed the mission?

Did we really kill our way into Blackrock Depths and defeat a devil?

They couldn't believe it.

Many mercenaries began shivering when they thought of this. Ever since they entered the BlackRock Depths, they had been 'blessed' with Rhode's meticulous orders and continuously faced life-threatening battles one after another. Their mental capacity had been strained time and again without having much time to recover, so now that they've finally beaten the last BOSS, like an overdrawn bowstring, their taut minds snapped.

We actually defeated the devil!!

In all of Dragon Soul Continent, legends regarded the devils as the most terrifying beings that invaded their lands below ground. They lurked in the dark underworld, always ready to crush the humans on the surface. Normal humans could only dream of defeating one of them. Only those in the legendary figures from the stories were capable of killing these devils.

And now, we did it?

"Yeah!!"

"We did it!!!"

The mercenaries finally exploded in joy. Many of them whistled and screamed to express their excitement. Defeating a devil was an incredible honor, even if they did nothing for the rest of their lives, just this mission alone would give them enough substance to brag.

A wave of euphoria swept past the entire group of mercenaries. Even Marlene who had always displayed a cold expression was no exception. She stood quietly by the side, gazing at the rejoicing mercenaries warmly with an unnoticeable smile on her face. While Marlene hadn't placed them in her eyes before, but after fighting so many battles with them, it was impossible not to develop any connection to them.

Despite the insistence of many mercenaries to carry the devil's corpse back home as trophies, Lize and Celia stopped them from doing so. (Author Notes: Celia was withdrawn before the explosion and was resummoned later.)

After all, although it was dead, these things once belonged to the devil which could affect one's spirit if careless. As for the fiends, even though they were small, but they were extremely resilient. If any unborn fiend escaped to the surface, it would be a huge problem.

In order to prevent any accidents from happening, the angel engulfed the mercenaries with the Flames of Inquisition. Although it was slightly uncomfortable, the holy element within the flames could purge all remaining traces of the devil.

"Never in my lifetime would I have expected to defeat a devil," Kavos said softly as sat on a rock, gazing up at the hole in the ceiling. As a veteran mercenary, he had killed countless of people, beasts, and even monsters. But a devil? Oh divines, this term wasn't in his dictionary of 'possible missions' at all.

"Yes, our leader is awesome," Joey said cheekily as he squeezed over to Kavos.

"Honestly, I don't know how even to start fighting this thing. Normally I would've just ran for my life..."

"Me too."

Kavos smiled and nodded.

Although many people were injured, it was nothing compared to the mission's difficulty. Usually, if bandits ambushed them, they would lose at least a quarter of their men. And that kind of scenario was totally incomparable to fighting a devil. Losing an entire mercenary group wouldn't be surprising.

"Come. Cheers to our wise leader."

Kavos smiled and reached out to his bottle of liquor on his waist while Joey fished out a metal cup from his pocket.

"That's right. Cheers to the leader! Although he forbids us to drink alcohol during a mission, since it already ended, we can drink, right?" Joey laughed and said, "Damn, if only leader could be softer on the inside just like his appearance... haha! I'm famished after working so hard. Even though it's not time to feast right now, a little drink should be fine eh?"

"What are both of you prattling on about?"

At this moment, Rhode's voice sounded behind. Joey's expression froze but when he slowly turned his head around, he maintained a passionate smiling face.

"It's nothing, leader. We were just amazed by how well you commanded us."

"Oh..."

Rhode nodded, and then he extended his arm without any expression. Joey glanced at the direction that Rhode pointed to and had chills down his spine. He stared blankly at a charred fiend that was clearly dead for some time.

"Sir, this..."

"Aren't you hungry? This is for you; you can even eat it right now. Try it; it's chicken flavored. Crispy too."

Joey stared at the 'crispy chicken' with an ashen complexion. Gulp. He swallowed his saliva and gathered his courage to touch it. The moment his finger felt the fiend, for unknown reasons, its body suddenly twitched.

"Ahhh!!"

Joey withdrew his hand at lightning speed and sprang back like a spring, disappearing into the crowd.

"Sorry, leader, I was wrong!!"

Rhode shrugged when he saw the Joey 'running for his life', and then he shifted his attention to Kavos. Kavos was slightly more refined; his rigid face still managed to bear a smile and he slowly stood up.

"I'm sorry, Sir, I will go attend to my guys... Those group of b*stards are too careless; I'd worry if they create any trouble while celebrating..."

Kavos turned around and quickly left.

Rhode stared at Kavos as he disappearing into the crowd then, he lowered his head and looked at the fiend on his hand. Once again, he confirmed that he had no talent in making jokes.

After this brief interlude, the mercenaries swiftly cleaned up the battlefield. Frankly, there wasn't much to do. Almost everything here had been contaminated by an evil aura and couldn't be brought out. Meanwhile, Celia used her holy flames to purify the grounds once more. Although there were no loot for the mercenaries, they weren't upset one bit. After all, the remuneration from the church would be more than enough. After signing the contract, the mercenaries had no reason to bicker about their rightful claim of the loot. Furthermore, the fact that they defeated a devil was an absolutely memorable event to them. Thus, without any grumbling, they quickly made their way back to the stronghold.

After two days, the Starlight Mercenary group finally returned to the surface, and upon reaching the Mercenary Association, Rhode handed the scepter to the church who had been waiting anxiously.

"Thank you for your help, dear Sir." A female sister expressed her thanks gracefully.

Draped in a full white gown which only revealed her delicate face, she carefully accepted the scepter and bowed courteously.

"May the blessings of the divines be forever with you, brave warrior. No matter what challenges you face in the future, I hope you will be able to find your rightful path."

Rhode nodded and placed his right hand on his chest, slightly bending over.

"The rapid river would eventually flow towards the right stream, and the storms would never deceive my eyes. I am deeply honored to receive such fair blessings. May there be an everlasting order for all living things."

The sister widened her eyes with astonishment. Then, after a few moments, she revealed a gentle and cordial smile.

"Please forgive my rudeness, Sir. I almost believed that it was a real Holy Knight standing in front of me."

"The honor is mine, leader of order."

Rhode didn't have to think much when replying to the sister. Back in the game, Rhode interacted with the Country of Law's churches for most of his time, so he was extremely well-versed with their conversations and etiquette. Although these few short sentences wouldn't bring him any material benefits, it was enough to leave a good impression on the church.

After bidding goodbye, Rhode left the Mercenary Association and immediately saw Lize when he stepped out of the main entrance.

"Thank you for your hard work, Mr. Rhode. Did everything go well?"

"Everything is good."

Rhode wasn't surprised with Lize's concern since she was a cleric and could be considered to belong to the church.

"Where are the rest?"

"After receiving their rewards, everyone left on their own business. Marlene said she wanted to buy some tonics... Are we heading back to the stronghold now?"

"No."

Rhode shook his head, which surprised Lize.

"You head back first. I'll need to go find someone."

Rhode extended his hand and examined a ring he found in Barney's bag. Initially, Rhode didn't intend to bring this broken thing back, but he realized something that reminded himself of something important.

"How surprising. They were actually involved in this?"