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454 An Undead Angel

 "T-This is...!" The Lich widened its eyes in shock as the overwhelming scarlet flames erupted on Rhode's right hand and extended along the viper-like sword towards its arm. The Lich retreated immediately. At the same time, its dull gems glittered in a mysterious magical radiance and formed an inverted triangle as the Lich turned illusory. In an instant, its body distorted strangely while glinting flames shrouded it.

Boom! Along with an ear-deafening explosion, the Lich had been shrouded entirely in the inferno of flames. However, this apparently wasn't able to end the Lich's life because it charged out of the flames almost instantly and miserably. The Lich was no longer composed; instead, it was feeling emotions that it hadn't experienced-fear, panic, and astonishment.

"How is this possible?" Although the Lich's body was burning with flames, it widened its eyes at the ground in disbelief instead of extinguishing them instantly. A young lady enveloped in scorching flames from head to toe lifted her head and cheekily smiled towards it.

"Huhu... It's not easy catching your tail. To be honest, I actually never expected Master to succeed... However, this isn't bad news to me." Gillian thought aloud as she pointed her finger at the wavering Lich who was wrapped in her flames like a ghost in a carnival swaying and serving their eternal owners. Meanwhile, the two undead mercenaries stopped attacking and shivered as they retreated to the side.

However, the undead mercenaries weren't the only ones who retreated.

Even Anne and Delno backed off to the sides hurriedly because Gillian, who had recovered the strength of a Fire Elemental Lord after unlocking her seal, had become a being that was linked to the Fire Plane of Existence. Suffocating and unbearable waves of flames hit everyone in their faces.

Delno rubbed his eyes dubiously before scanning the figure who had blended into one with the flames. However, he turned around quickly. This being was so blazingly hot that any living creature that gazed at it would feel their eyes burning. If they didn't turn their gazes away, perhaps their eyes might melt entirely.

Only the dead could avoid their getting their eyes melted, but the Lich wished it wasn't this fortunate.

"How is this possible..." The Lich gaped and the pure flames sneaked into its body along with an inhaled breath. Then, the flames exploded within the Lich's body and it seemed as though a sky lantern was being lit on the inside. However, as a matter of fact, this didn't inflict too much damage to it because it was no longer a living human.

The Lich gazed at the striking, burning figure foolishly as it couldn't figure out what exactly had happened. Although a Lich's style of attack wasn't orthodox, it was still highly confident with its senses. It was sure that this young lady wasn't this powerful just a few minutes ago. Even though the Lich did sense pure fire elemental powers in Gillian, it chose to neglect it due to its insignificance. At this point, the young lady's fox ears and tail had become her best camouflage. Perhaps one would be suspicious if a human possessed such pure fire elemental powers, but it wasn't that strange for a half-beast at all.

But now, the Lich realized that its thoughts were completely wrong.

"This is the end for you, little imp." Gillian displayed her palm at the Lich while grinning proudly. The Lich raised its arm in response; however, it wasn't trying to escape or counter Gillian's attack. The surroundings had been completely superimposed by the Fire Elemental Plane of Existence under the Fire Elemental Lord's manipulation. The air began to twist and seal itself and it had become impossible for anyone to flee. If the Lich tried its luck, it would definitely find itself in the Fire Elemental Plane of Existence and vanish in a puff of smoke immediately.

But even so, the Lich continued to lift its arm innately in the face of death and destruction. It tried to leave at least a trace of itself in this world.

Gillian clenched her right fist abruptly.

The Lich was instantly devoured by the flames. In a blink of an eye, its extended shriveled arm was as though a withered piece of firewood lighting up in a raging inferno. Before it knew it, the Lich's arm had vanished into a puff of smoke while the flaring flames spiraled and twisted in the air as though a throbbing, swelling heart.

Although Liches could still revive themselves using their phylactery, this pitiful Lich wasn't this fortunate because Gillian had sealed this creature within her flames entirely. The Lich's spirit howled furiously while struggling in the flames. An image of its face revealed itself on the surface of the flames for a split second before disappearing instantly, like a stone through a water surface.

The flames shrunk abruptly before it swelled and exploded.

Everything had ended.

"Phew..." The flames surrounding Gillian dissipated gradually and the city ruins that were shrouded in full red returned to their usual, quiet state. The lanterns on the metal trestle that were lit with spiritual flames previously had been replaced with true, glorious flames, bringing color back to this lifeless, ice-cold city.

"Oh, lord..." Clack. Metzel's sword fell to the ground as he stood foolishly while gawking at the city that had changed beyond recognition. His unfortunate mercenary companions standing before him vanished into thin air and nothing remained of them apart from their scorched shadows. Meanwhile, Shirley was equally dumbfounded as she was frozen to the spot. After all, a battle involving a Commander Level Lord was unimaginable for these two mortals.

Grey, snow-like ashes descended from the sky slowly and laid a thin layer of dust. Anne stood on her feet and scanned the surroundings before picking up her shield. Although Rhode had explained to Anne the battle plan before they entered the ruins, the young lady wasn't fully satisfied. It seemed like her battle with the undead mercenaries wasn't exciting enough for her. "That's all? Anne still wants to play a little more..."

"You'll have more chances next time." Rhode kept the scarlet card and let out a long sigh of relief. Although everything seemed to be working out, Rhode suffered some losses. He didn't receive a single EXP from killing the Lich. Furthermore, Rhode paid for Gillian's 'entrance fee' with two-thirds of his current EXP and he was close to almost dropping a level.

What a headache.

Gillian was similar to those damned nuclear weapons. Although those powerful nuclear weapons could destroy the world in a single strike, their horrifying side-effects limited their usage. At this point in time, Rhode was hoping that the EXP reward for completing the Castel Plateau Ruins Mission was still available. If not, he couldn't justify suffering so many losses without even gaining a single level.

However, this was a problem for the future. Soon, Rhode turned around and gestured to the group. "Let's go."

After the Lich had been annihilated entirely, the group had been on a plain sailing journey. The four meter tall walls and the incomplete, yet majestic statues welcomed them along the corridors.

Rhode didn't search in the Lich's ashes as he knew that there was nothing left of it. Nothing could survive the pure flames of a Fire Elemental Lord, which was also something that Rhode was depressed about. From a living human's perspective, this grand victory was an encouraging one. However, from a player's point of view, losing two-thirds of his EXP and facing the threat of dropping a single level while being unable to obtain any equipment from the BOSS was an utter tragedy.

The worst thing was that, in future, he would lose much more if he wished to summon the Fire Elemental Lord again as he had utilized the two privileges granted to him. However, he was glad that the battle with the Country of Darkness would only happen next year and he had more time to reset the summoning cooldown. If not, he would be grieving badly now.

The group passed through the corridor in the central area and arrived at the palace located in the deepest area of the city ruins. This once glorious palace had lost its grandeur and sobriety, but was later redecorated with the Lich's strange sense of beauty. Fortunately, almost all of the odd furnishings had been swept away by Gillian's flames.

Celia and Celestina had returned into their cards. The former was recuperating after suffering a fatal blow from the Lich while the latter returned into her card instantly after the battle ended as she was extremely dissatisfied with Rhode's rude actions. She continued to ignore him no matter how hard he called for her.

The mission wasn't complete yet.

Rhode entered the palace and witnessed the filthy corridor under the bright, burning flame. There were bones, dilapidated putrid limbs, and revolting shoddy creatures soaked in crystal bottles scattered all over the place like a low budget, third-rate, sci-fi horror movie. Every Lich had a research field which they were experts in, and it seemed that this Lich was interested in the manipulation of creatures. If it were born in Rhode's human world, perhaps it would have been a promising madman in the scientific research of genetic modification.

Rhode turned his gaze to the mission details interface before him and the Castel Plateau Ruins Mission was still incomplete, unsurprisingly. This 5 Star Mission would require an item to prove its 100% completeness. Rhode would need the Necromancer's skull and teeth; however, as the BOSS had become a Lich that eventually burned into ashes, there was nothing for Rhode to obtain. In this case, Rhode had to obtain something else: the phylactery.

The phylactery was a necessity for a Lich on a journey as it would retain the Lich's soul forcefully in this world even if the Lich were annihilated. Given enough time to regenerate its soul, the Lich could revive and seek revenge on its murderers.

However, this Lich wasn't that fortunate because its soul had vanished in Gillian's scorching flames entirely before it had the chance to be reclaimed by the phylactery. This phylactery was now just a meaningless artifact and perhaps it would still have a chance to be used in explaining the spells of the undead creatures.

But...

"Hmm?" Anne stopped walking and pricked her ears with a puzzled frown. "Leader, Anne hears something."

"From?" Rhode questioned.

Everyone stopped moving as soon as they heard Anne's report. Although Anne was usually carefree about many matters, her hearing was much more sensitive than Rhode's and Gillian's. Gillian twitched her mouth with a look of disapproval before regaining her usual expression.

Rhode turned towards the direction Anne pointed to.

It was a room with a sealed wooden door smeared with vicious, profane patterns. A putrid smell assailed their nostrils through the cracks of the filthy, broken door. Rhode pondered for a moment before approaching the wooden door and pushed it open.

Then, Rhode twitched his brows.

As expected.

A naked Battle Angel stripped of all her majesty presented herself before them in a shameful posture with her four limbs bound and hung up by steel chains. A pair of shriveled bones expanded in place of the flawless, feathered wings and her ashen complexion made clear that she was no longer alive. However, her faint breathing seemed to deny this speculation.

Rhode scanned the Battle Angel and paused his gaze on her stomach.

Her smooth belly was bulging as though she were pregnant. Leaving the question about how Angels got pregnant to later, the strange lines slithering beneath this swelling skin surface proved that it was definitely not an adorable infant hidden within.

"Master, what did you find out?" Anne peeked her head out from behind Rhode's arm and exclaimed when she witnessed the Angel. "Woah! What's that?"

"T-that's..." Metzel's group were flabbergasted as soon as they recognized the Battle Angel that they were so familiar with. Rhode stepped forward and stroked the bulging belly that felt ice-cold to the touch and had some strange 'fetal' movements.

"This is the Lich's phylactery," explained Rhode.

Rhode finally understood how the Lich had the powers of an Angel despite being an undead creature. Although it was true that Angels possessed sufficient powers to fulfill the requirements for the evolution of a Lich, the conflict between their negative and positive energy was definitely unavoidable.

However, this Lich came up with a genius move. It didn't purely borrow the Angel's powers. Instead, it came up with an unknown method to create an embryo that lived between life and death and forced it into the Angel's body. This way, since the embryo wasn't a pure undead creature, the holy powers that the Angel possessed couldn't cause enough harm to eliminate it. Then, the Lich could receive the filtered powers through the embryo to execute its evolution. However, there was a flaw in this almost perfect scheme: the Lich's most powerful undead powers had been weakened after mixing with the additional holy attribute. However, at the same time, the Lich received a certain extent of resistance against attacks of the holy attribute. Perhaps this Lich would have become a disastrous monster if it managed to reincarnate.

However, it had lost this chance forever.