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594 Confused Heart II

 [Spirit Swordsman Advancement Special Mission - Perishment in the dark]

[You have touched the doors to the spiritual road and are about to enter a whole new realm to experience the spiritual test. Use your spiritual powers to eliminate the presence before your eyes and as long as you overcome this obstacle, you will receive new summoning powers...]

[Requirement: Destroy the Mind Devil]

[Mission Reward: 329,000 EXP. Talent Skill Level +1. Receive Advancement Ability 'Reflective Blade'. Skill Point +1. Activate one of the Talent Skills without using a Skill Point]

[Mission Progress: 0%]

Isn't this ridiculous...

Rhode let out a long sigh. He had suspected that there were some flaws in the game system. Normally, the game system wouldn't respond when Rhode represented the Guild to accept missions, which made him believe that this was the difference between reality and the game. However, to his surprise, the game system would distribute some missions randomly. Apart from the Guild construction missions that were traceable, the other missions would pop up without any reason, which left Rhode somewhat annoyed. Although he could receive a lot of EXP from completing missions, the random occurrence of missions was similar to driving an uncomfortable old car that was close to being scrapped. The system didn't distribute any mission to him when he wished for it, but when he didn't ask for it, he would be forced to accept some random missions... That didn't feel good.

Fortunately, Rhode wasn't an OCD sufferer who had to accept and accomplish all missions before proceeding. If not, he wouldn't have given up the 'Fiery Rose' mission in the Fiat region. However, it was different this time. As the Spirit Swordsman Class Advancement Mission, it would be tremendously beneficial for him. The Talent Skill Level +1 would allow him to enjoy endless benefits because the skills in the Talent Tree couldn't be increased further once they were maxed out. However, if he could complete this mission, he could forcefully upgrade one of the skills above its maximum capability by 1 level. Take the Taboo Halo, for example. Rhode could increase its effects to boost the summoned spirits' offense and defense by 4 points, instead of 3 points in its maximum capacity. If he used it to strengthen the Legion Horn, he could decrease the amount of spiritual energy consumption by one-fifth.

Rhode was familiar with the mission which required to eliminate the [Mind Devil]. It was a monster born between the cracks of Chaos. However, unlike most Devils, the Mind Devil didn't possess powerful strength. Although it was a level 55 Elite monster, its physical and magical attacks were about the standard of level 30. However, it relied on its special technique-Mental Manipulation. It would capture those with weak willpower and enlarge the emotions and trauma in their hearts endlessly. The emotions would be materialized and used to engage in battle where even an innocent-looking rabbit would become terrifyingly powerful as an Elite Devil.

Although this monster seemed hard to deal with, Rhode wasn't afraid. After annihilating the Duke Fiend, the [Sisko's Fantasy] equipment that Rhode looted would be effective against it. Even though the Mind Devil's Mental Manipulation was a rare mental attack, it wasn't high in level. After the Mind Devil lost the support of this skill, it would become as week as an Elite monster between level 30 to 35 and Rhode wouldn't have any problems dealing with it. This wasn't the first time Rhode faced such an enemy and he knew what its weaknesses was. Therefore, there wouldn't be many dangers with sufficient mental preparation.

Although the inn owner didn't give too many descriptions about Emerald Valley, Rhode didn't need to consider the possibility of other monsters emerging since the system mission had indicated that it was the Mind Devil.

The monster wasn't powerful and Rhode had the ability to go against it. The biggest problem for him now was candidates.

There wouldn't only be the Mind Devil in the Devastated Grounds, just like how there wouldn't only be a BOSS in the dungeon without its critters. Rhode wouldn't enter Emerald Valley alone because the situation would be dire if he expended most of his strength in dealing with the critters before facing the Mind Devil.

Normally, Rhode would bring Anne and Lize along. Anne was straight forward and survived on instincts which would be effective against the Mind Devil. The Mind Devil was an expert in facing enemies with clouded minds and would be helpless against a Half-Beast like Anne who relied on instincts. Whereas for Lize, she wouldn't be in huge trouble if she cast spiritual defenses using her spells.

However, the situation was different now. Lize was acting really peculiar and her emotions had been fluctuating a lot recently. It would still be fine for normal battles, but for a battle that involved mental strength, it was hard to guarantee that Lize wouldn't be bewitched by the Mind Devil.

In the end, Rhode made his decision.

After resting for a night in the inn, Lize seemed to have returned to normal. When Rhode exited his room and arrived at the hall, Lize and Anne were having breakfast. Anne presented a rare, quiet side of her and savored the delicious bread. She spotted Rhode and the little mermaid and she waved her arm cheerfully.

"Ah, Leader, good morning."

"Good morning, Anne, Lize. It seems that you two had a great rest."

"Good morning, Mr. Rhode."

Lize lifted her head hurriedly. Then, she lowered her head in uncertainty.

"I'm really sorry about yesterday..."

"You don't have to apologize to me. I was the one who didn't consider the monthly troubles that every female has... Sorry about that."

"Ah..."

"Hmm?"

Anne tilted her head curiously as though she didn't understand what Rhode meant. On the contrary, Lize looked with a little flush across her face as though she had a fever. She tried to explain, but she eventually lowered her head and quietly ate her food.

"Leader, what are we doing next?"

Anne looked at Lize and shifted her gaze to Rhode obediently without skipping and clinging to his arm like she usually did. Rhode pondered for a moment.

"Lize."

"Ah. Yes, Mr. Rhode, is anything the matter?"

Lize laid down the utensils and wiped her lips with a handkerchief before standing up and pressing the creases on her clothes. Rhode nodded in satisfaction before sweeping a glance to Anne who was watching them curiously.

"You went back for a rest early yesterday, so you weren't aware of the possible dangers on the route toward Emerald Valley. We heard from the inn owner that Chaos is wreaking havoc there, so we may not act according to plan. I have decided to bring Anne along to check on the situation. During this period, I hope you can purchase some supplies from the market, so we can have some suitable food for ourselves after we enter the Elf Dominion. Although the Elves don't treat wild animals like how the Druids worshiped them, it will still get under the Elves' nerves if we hunt wild animals under their watch. I'll leave this matter to you."

"Alright, Mr. Rhode. No problem."

Lize didn't suspect anything strange. After breakfast, she left the inn and headed into the market. Anne always loved the bustling environment and she had almost gone along with her. However, unsure if she was held back by Rhode's gazes or due to the conflict from the day before, Anne sat quietly beside him and awaited his orders.

After confirming that Lize wasn't within their sight anymore, Rhode placed the wine glass which he had been fiddling with on the table and stood to his feet, caressing the sword hilt by his waist lightly.

"Get ready to move out, Anne. It will be dangerous this time, so be prepared."

"Yes, Leader. No problem!"

Anne raised her shield and responded with a smile.

This was the final solution Rhode had come up with. He didn't wish to risk their lives by bringing Lize along. Considering her unstable emotions, and he felt that safety was the main priority. However, it wouldn't be kind of him to leave her behind without giving a proper reason. This was why Rhode came up with this excuse to occupy her, while Anne and the little mermaid followed him into Emerald Valley. Although they would be without a Cleric's support and healing, the little mermaid who had been by his side wasn't just there for display. After experiencing battles along the way, Snow had leveled up several times and she currently had 8 Offense and 12 Defense, which was comparative to the high-defense Nether Tentacles. Moreover, the little mermaid had also learned quite a few support skills, which included 'Healing Rain', 'Frozen Barrier', 'Water Cell', and 'Detoxify'. Even though these support skills weren't as powerful as a Cleric's, they had the upper hand on variety and were useful to a certain extent. Rhode was confident that the little mermaid could stand in for Lize's absence.

Emerald Valley wasn't far from Blackberry Town. It took the trio two hours to arrive at their destination and the merciless, afternoon sun was at its peak. Exuberant trees spread across the Country of Law borders and Emerald Valley was no exception. Lush shrubs and forest could be seen everywhere, and the stream flowing along the river course. Normally, such scenery would be picturesque and magnificent.

However, it was entirely different here.

Chaos had eroded the edge of Order. The warm sunlight had become dark and dull. Even the bushes on either sides looked like pitch-dark nests as though monsters were hidden within. Turbid water flowed through the river silently like a thick layer of grease.

"Leader, is this the place?"

Anne furrowed her brows. Rhode had told Anne everything about the Mind Devil along the way. However, she didn't expect that the invasion of Chaos could actually turn such a beautiful place into this unbearable state.

"That's right, we're here."

Rhode nodded slightly and gestured to the little mermaid. The little mermaid revealed a cheerful smile and nodded with might. She swiped her tiny webbed hands to the side and a trail of light emerged in the water ball, releasing clear bubbles out of the water ball and cooled the sultriness. Then, specks of ice crystal crystallized around them and formed a translucent ice shield. Although the ice shield wasn't as powerful as a Cleric's protective barrier, it would still be useful in resisting ambushes.

"Let's go."

Rhode drew the twin daggers from his waist in a smooth motion while Anne took down the shield from her back and the trio entered Emerald Valley.

It was noon.

"Hu..."

Lize wiped the sweat beads off her forehead and gazed at the items she had arranged neatly before her. It was already noon and Rhode and Anne hadn't returned yet. Lize felt ill at ease. She walked to the window and gazed out with complicated emotions. However, the view of Blackberry Town failed to assure the young lady's anxious spirits. Rhode suspected that Lize had taken the initiative to join their journey into the Elf Dominion due to the complex emotions that she was feeling after witnessing Anne's actions.

Anne was an adorable, straightforward young lady with well-defined likes and dislikes, which were her good points. But now, they had become the reasons that Lize was worried the most.

Lize had been observing along the way and tried to pluck up her courage to compete with Anne. However, the more she observed, the less confident she felt. She wasn't as cheerful and outgoing as Anne, and she couldn't disregard others' opinions like Anne could. Lize wished that she could be like Anne-rely on Rhode. Wrap her arms around his arms. Speak to him casually about daily topics. However, she just couldn't do it. Whenever she tried to, something from deep in her heart always stopped her.

I want, but I don't dare to.

I can't do it.

It's still the same now.

Lize turned her gaze into the room with much more complicated emotions. Mr. Rhode brought Anne along to check on the situation and he left me here. Lize didn't wish for this to happen. She didn't want Rhode to be alone with Anne.

She equally disliked having such thoughts, but...

"Why is Mr. Rhode not back yet..."

Lize murmured. After a few moments, she lifted her head firmly as though she had made up her mind. She looked out of the window once again, but this time, her eyes weren't wandering worriedly anymore. She fixed her gaze on the indistinct mountain in the distance.

If I wasn't mistaken... Mr. Rhode said that they were heading into Emerald Valley to check on the situation...