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592 Brave First Step

 Specks of pale flames lined up along the dim canopied passageway. Di ambled and gazed at the scene filled with an aura of death and sadness before him. The young Vampire presented a vague smile, at the same time, stretching out his slender, pale fingers and arranged his cuffs, collar, and the hem of his attire. Sinister-looking stone statues could be seen curling up above the eaves on both sides of the path. As the footsteps approached, their empty eyes glowed with faint spiritual radiance. However, they quickly faded into pitch-darkness after spotting Di's arrival.

Di flattened every crease on his attire meticulously like a robot. When he arrived at the heavy stone door at the end of the path, he hung his arms by the side of his body. The Dark Elf clad in steel armor standing by the stone door puckered his brows while resting his hand on the dagger hilt by his waist. He scanned the uninvited guest from top to bottom. After a few seconds, he gestured to his companion and they saluted respectfully before making way with their heads lowered. Deep rumbles sounded as the tightly shut stone door opened gradually. At this moment, the smile on the Vampire's face vanished and was replaced by a stern expression.

A deep, hoarse voice sounded as though from the bottom of the graveyard. "I didn't expect that you bats would actually head out for visits... Rascal, what do you have for me?"

"Your Honorable Sir Nefarian." Di lowered his head immediately and bowed deeply to the darkness. "I'm really sorry to visit you while you're busy. Please pardon my rudeness. I wouldn't have come and disrupted your peace if it weren't for something important. This is related to you, Sir, so..."

"Cut the crap. Get straight to the point," the mysterious voice interrupted harshly.

Di's words came to an abrupt stop and his expression remained unperturbed as though he wasn't the one getting interrupted. After all, the presence before him wasn't someone who a small Vampire like Di could argue with. It was the strongest out of the Four Legendary Generals and the most reputable presence among them, the 'Spirit Chaser' Balende. Nefarian could be said to be the protector of the Country of Darkness. Although the Country of Darkness was a nation of immortals, death wasn't actually rare in this place. Of course, almost all the deaths were abnormal and unnatural in nature.

After experiencing countless conspiracies, schemes, assassinations in the thousands of years, it proved how powerful and terrifying Nefarian was to still be one of the Four Legendary Generals. No one knew exactly how long Nefarian had existed for. Rumors said that he had been protecting generations after generations of Dark Dragons loyally even before the Four Legendary Generals existed. Di knew that no ordinary presence could deal with such a formidable presence. There were also several 'pioneers' who had challenged the 'Spirit Chaser', but they weren't successful at all. Those that issued the challenges had all died and he still existed as though he would live on forever.

But Di was different.

"Yes, Sir. I'm truly sorry for my rude behavior... But this matter is indeed related to you. This is how it goes, Sir. I have received orders from Royal Highness Ashvril to investigate the Munn Kingdom and I've unintentionally discovered the murderer of your student, Sir Vulture. This is extremely important, so I didn't dare take matters into my own hands. That is why I'm reporting this to you. According to my investigations, I'm sure that the highly reputable 'Mercenary Noble' in the Munn Kingdom, Rhode Alander, is the culprit," Di lowered his head. Even though there was no response, Di didn't reveal a single trace of annoyance on his face. He continued to lower his head and waited patiently for a response. After a few moments, Di heard a snort. "Alright. Get lost now."

The stone door closed slowly and the Dark Elves that were hidden in the darkness took big strides forward and guarded it. Di bowed respectfully to the door and turned around. In the blink of an eye, his body distorted and blended into the darkness, vanishing in a puff of smoke.

The Dark Knight in steel armor leaning against the wall like a decoration moved forward. Spiritual radiance burned in its eyes as it approached the stone door. "Sir, those scheming Vampires..."

"I know what you're going to say. But no one can get away scot free from killing my student. I've also heard about that human. Rumor has it that he has two Legendary beings in his territory. Hmph. Those little bats are truly simple-minded. Although His Majesty indeed has intentions to lay hands on the Country of Light, it isn't wise to blindly provoke the Archangel. I'll leave this matter to you. I hope you won't disappoint me."

"Yes, Sir."

The Dark Knight bowed solemnly, turned around and left the passageway with big strides. The specks of Undead flames lined up beside him extinguished suddenly as though a strong gust of wind had blown over them and only endless darkness remained.

***

Roar! The gigantic Tree Monster released storm-like sawdust from its trunk rapidly. Then, it let out a bellow and struck its thick, long roots out of the ground. The roots fluttered everywhere like tentacles.

"Waa!" Anne yelled out in horror.

She swiftly sprung up and somersaulted backward to avoid its attack. However, she couldn't balance herself in midair and the razor-sharp roots aimed toward her.

Shing! Suddenly, an ice wall rose from the ground and deflected the flying roots. The Tree Monster shifted its massive trunk fumingly and lashed forward the thick roots.

At this moment, a beam of gloomy radiance struck the Tree Monster from above and the ferocious creature instantly became dispirited. The roots it lashed out lost momentum and flopped to the ground like soft noodles. Then, dazzling blade rays erupted in a vast sky full of stars. Spiritual radiance linked up the specks of starlight and formed an enormous net of blades that slashed toward the Tree Monster. The pitiful creature collapsed heavily to the ground and shattered into a pile of debris.

"Yay-! Leader is the best!" Anne jumped up to her feet and cheered with raised arms. Rhode sheathed his sword and moved forward while Lize displayed a bitter smile beside him. The little mermaid gazed curiously and timidly at the defeated Tree Monster. Rhode stared at Anne with an expressionless face. "There's still a distance away from our destination. Don't provoke these meaningless things."

"Understood, Leader!" Anne nodded with all her might.

She chuckled and ran up to Lize and the little mermaid. Rhode shook his head helplessly. After receiving the 'guidance' from the little girl in his dream, he had chosen to head off immediately into the Country of Law. To Rhode, the earlier he could restore the twin daggers into Holy Sword Cards, the better it would be for him. Although Gracier and Madaras were equally great as weapons even without awakening, Rhode had a preference for their special ability [Stealth] as the Carlesdine, 'Elves of the Wind', in human form.

[Stealth] wasn't a high-level swordsmanship technique. Instead, it was an ability similar to a Class talent. It was similar in a sense that, as a Spirit Swordsman, Rhode could summon spirits to battle while other swordsmen could only summon spirits through magical equipment no matter how hard they cultivated. [Stealth] would be a relatively useful technique in future battles. Once Gracier and Madaras could take up human form, Rhode could even use them as ultimate assassins. Their experienced assassination skills and [Stealth] skills as 'Elves of the Wind' would make them equal to two squadrons of experienced Dark Elves.

Not only that, when the twin daggers joined the Holy Sword Card Deck and officially became Rhode's summoning spirit, he could use the 'Pursuit' talent technique to receive the [Stealth] effects for himself. This would make his battles much easier.

It was due to this reason and the prophecy of the Country of Darkness he had received in his dream that he decided to leave the Land of Atonement and search for a method to fully awaken the twin daggers. Of course, Rhode had requested for Mini Bubble Gum and Canary to continuously patrol the border of the Land of Atonement. He didn't keep the dream a secret from them. Although the dream might be an illusion which was formed using his memories as a basis, he thought about it through a player's perspective. The two young ladies didn't believe that it was as simple as just a dream either.

They had also experienced the strength of the Country of Darkness's Undead Army with Rhode in the game, which was why they agreed firmly. Also, for the sake of safety, Rhode had given them half of the management rights to the 'mercenary construction system'. If there were any strange presences crossing the border and stepping into Rhode's territory, the system would trigger an alarm and the young ladies could eradicate the intruders as quickly as possible. Besides, they had rich experiences dealing with Undead Creatures, so there wasn't a chance that they would be duped by their tricks.

However, Rhode faced a small problem before leaving.

He had thought of heading there alone for the sake of convenience. However, Anne took advantage of the opportunity and pestered him to let her join. Rhode didn't refuse because he saw that the slaughtering of creatures along the way could gain him some EXP. At this current stage, ordinary bandits and critters weren't able to provide him with a significant amount of EXP anymore. Moreover, almost all his missions were randomly triggered in this world. This was why Rhode couldn't choose missions just like in the game and clear dungeons to level up. After all, this was the real world and a dungeon wasn't enough for him to clear several times.

Without the methods of accomplishing missions and clearing dungeons to gain EXP, Rhode could only use the most mainstream and primitive way to strengthen himself-grinding monsters. Coincidentally, there was a location with wild monsters between level 40 to 60 along the way. Although the monsters were high in level, they weren't as difficult to deal with as the Elite monsters in dungeons. Grinding higher-level monsters would give him a lot more EXP and the location was near the Land of Chaos, which increased the respawn rate. This was why Rhode planned to strengthen himself on the way there and also level up the little mermaid. He welcomed Anne in strengthening herself since she was willing. After all, it would be much more efficient to get into battles than to sleep the whole day.

However, Rhode was surprised that there was also an unexpected guest apart from Anne.

It was Lize.

Rhode felt curious because Lize wasn't the type who liked to head out for adventures. She would normally be by his side when he requested. After she heard Anne request to join Rhode into the Elf Dominion, whiteness spread across her face and lifted her hand to request the same.

After the 'accident' that day, Lize had been behaving awkwardly whenever she met Rhode and Canary. She would blush, stutter, and consciously avoid them. Rhode couldn't do anything about it because this was Lize's nature. On the other hand, Anne was entirely different. Although she had also witnessed the scene, she behaved as per usual the next day as though nothing had happened. However, Lize couldn't do that. After all, time was the best cure for everything. As long as Rhode gave her enough time, perhaps she would recover from it.

But he didn't expect Lize to make such a surprising move...

Rhode sensed that the young lady hadn't untied the knot in her heart. Although she took the initiative to join Rhode on the adventure, she had been avoiding him and spoke more to Anne instead as though she was nervous.

It's really hard to guess what women are thinking.

"Leader! Leader!" Anne skipped to Rhode and hugged his arm passionately. "Anne is tired! How much longer do we need to reach the Elf Dominion?"

"Don't worry." Rhode gazed at her and shook his head. "If we continue at this pace, it will take about three days. But I want to inform you beforehand that their social custom is different from human society, so you must be careful with your behavior. Also, the uneven road to the Elf Dominion will be filled with dangers and troubles. I hope you're ready for it."

"Of course, Leader!" Anne brandished her shield proudly before clasping to Rhode's arm once more. "With Anne around, there will not be any problems!"

No one noticed that Lize had lowered her head with a complicated expression while her eyes revealed a glint of the worries deep in her heart.