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264 Warm-up Match 3

 Loud cheers filled the venue and echoes rumbled the ground as the wooden door raised. Rhode and Marlene couldn't help but frowned as the rumblings were rather vexing.

Then, accompanied with the entrance of the city owner Klautz, the cheers stopped gradually. Klautz appeared eager to get straight down to business as he briefly explained the conditions of this competition and announced the rules one by one. For convenience's sake, the rules would be equivalent to the Midsummer Festival. Both sides would decide on a battle mode before sending their members up for battles. As long as either side fell off the arena, fainted, or surrendered, there would be a victor. However, killing was strictly prohibited and offenders would be deemed the loser.

The battle started.

"Alright then. I'm up!"

Marlene said confidently without turning back and stepped straight up into the arena. This move surprised Lize, while Rhode and Gillian exchanged curious glances. Despite Marlene's aloof expression, her inner self was actually in high spirits. She normally wouldn't be this eager.

The crowd burst into cheers upon witnessing a beauty stepping onto the arena. They didn't know Marlene's identity and were here to enjoy a bustling scene anyway. They might as well use this opportunity to catch glances of some beauties. Their cheers roared and filled the entire place, as if welcoming a very important person...

On the contrary, the opposing mercenaries were hesitant as soon as they saw Marlene. Unlike the crowd, they knew Marlene's true identity. The Senia Family wasn't a family who they could mess with. What if they injured this young lady of theirs... What would happen to them?

As they discussed their options, a Thief-class mercenary interrupted.

"I'll go."

"You?"

The opposing mercenaries gazed oddly. The Thief was the vice leader of the Cyclops mercenary group. His skills were decent, but it felt rather risky for him to take the lead.

"Hey, you have to consider the young lady's identity first."

Someone reminded the vice leader. However, the Thief shook his head.

"Don't worry, I know what you guys are afraid of. But, it's a battle between mercenaries now. No matter her identity, it's a mercenary who is standing right there... Even if she loses, she'll need to admit it, right? This is the rule of the mercenaries and since she's already a member of a mercenary group, then she will naturally need to abide by the rules."

"This..."

Although the vice leader made sense, the others were still rather hesitant. In the end, they nodded in agreement. The Thief smiled as he drew a dagger from his waist and stepped on the arena.

"Why do I feel that he seems to bear a grudge against that young lady?"

The leader of War Shield said dubiously. The rest of them scratched their heads as they had known each other for a long time. Many of them saw the complains the Thief had against Marlene. However, no one knew exactly what happened in the past.

In fact, they guessed it accurately.

She's still the same...

Walking up the arena and facing Marlene on the other end, the Thief let out a sneer.

In fact, both of them didn't have any real relationships in the past. When Marlene arrived in Deep Stone City initially, she sought adventures and battle experience through joining mercenary groups. However, many mercenary groups had rejected her and Cyclops was one of them. In fact, many people within Cyclops had actually welcomed Marlene because there weren't too many Mages out there.

However, it was otherwise for the vice leader. As a Thief, his sharp senses detected the loathe toward mercenaries hidden under Marlene's facade. It was apparent that Marlene didn't belong in the same world as the vulgar mercenaries. So although she seemed polite and well mannered on the outside, there was no little spitein her. Of course, the vice leader hated such emotions and even more so since she was a noble. In the end, he rejected her application and Cyclops didn't recruit her.

But now... This woman actually stood on the mercenary's arena.

It seemed that her view on mercenaries didn't change at all.

The Thief clutched his twin daggers. He was unsure of Marlene's abilities, but despite the rate of Starlight's growth, she was still young, after all.

So then... Now's the time, Young Lady. Although I'm not sure how your leader pampers you, you should know that it's not as easy as you think to be a mercenary!

Marlene grabbed her staff and stared at the Thief before her. She wasn't mindful of his hateful expression. As the heir of Senia Family, she had faced all kinds of ridiculous jealousy, admiration, and hate. She didn't care much about what the Thief thought about herself. She was fully focused on only one thing: battle.

Ooo... Ooo... Ooo...!

The bugle horn sounded and the battle officially started.

The Thief darted forward in a flash. He wore a greyish-white armor and cape. He stooped forward and roamed around Marlene with a pace unique to Thieves. Soon enough, the Thief blended in with the entire arena, and the crowd couldn't see him at all. Marlene stood in the same spot and didn't move an inch. It seemed that she couldn't detect the opponent's movements either.

Hmph, I see.

The Thief laughed grimly. Judging from Marlene's expression, he saw that she couldn't pinpoint his position. It was as though Marlene was staring into the spot where she hoped the opponent would jump out from.

Hahahaha, do you really take me as a fool, young lady?

The Thief sneakily appeared behind her, which was extremely dangerous for a Mage. Not to mention that Marlene didn't cast a defense shield at the start of the match. Under such circumstances, this was totally advantageous for the Thief.

Now's the chance!

The Thief leaped forward with his dagger hilts aiming for the back her head. It was apparent that he wished to knock her out with this move and finish her off cleanly.

At this moment, Marlene finally moved.

She lifted her staff.

A dazzling radiance erupted from the tip of the staff, which brightened the underground colosseum in an instant. It was so bright that the crowd had to close their eyes. The Thief subconsciously shut his eyes and his heart sank.

"No good!"

Just as this thought flashed through his mind, he heard a crisp voice.

"Liarn!" (Storm)

Whizzing gales instantly lifted off from the ground.

The Thief, who was in midair, couldn't dodge this attack. He tried finding means of escape frantically.

But this was only the start. Marlene had no intentions of stopping the storm. She brandished her staff and swiftly drew a mysterious, complex symbol. As she linked up the final stroke of the bright, magical symbol, a giant fireball emerged above her and abruptly exploded.

Bam!

Huge waves of pressure filled with scorching flames exploded beside the Thief. The Thief had nowhere to hide. At this moment, he had totally given up the idea of teaching Marlene a lesson. All he hoped now was to save his own life. He had totally forgotten that this place was an arena as the dazzling radiance, whizzing storm, and scorching flames brought him into an illusion of hellish abyss.

Then, Marlene once again lifted her staff.

The storm became ice-cold to the marrow. The Thief felt as though a battle hammer had smashed heavily on his back. Then, he almost threw up due to the intense pain and pressure.

"Argh!"

The whole crowd had gone oddly silent.

The Thief opened his eyes slowly. He felt his body aching with soreness as though his limbs were almost torn apart. Before his eyes was the domed roof of the underground cave. However, it wasn't the smooth flat slab of the arena on his back, but spongy soil instead.

I lost?

The Thief stared blankly and was speechless. Then, he heard a young lady's calm, peaceful voice.

"Next."