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688 Rhythm Catcher

 After proposing the challenge, John and Orchid Heart came to the underground space projected from the Sphere of Mystery. Orchid Heart had chosen the ground troops made up of mercenaries and garrisons while it went without saying that John led his Cavalrymen. Of course, Orchid Heart had just arrived to this world and had no knowledge if the people under her. Therefore, the practical commander of this unit was Marfa while Orchid Heart was responsible in giving orders for him to implement. But even so, John was confident in running them over with his Cavalrymen. His team was clad in impressive equipment and had been through difficult challenges and training and was completely disciplined in abiding by his orders. On the other hand, Orchid Heart had nothing. Even though Marfa could provide some assistance, her troops were only ordinary garrisons and mercenaries. If John were facing Marfa and Sol's elite squads, perhaps he might feel some tension. But he totally disregarded the garrisons and mercenaries. So what if they ensured strict obedience? A single assault would shatter them entirely with such a huge difference in strength.

"Mr. Rhode, is this really fine?"

Lize asked out of concern as she gazed down from the valley.

"Should we let Miss Heart familiarize with her team first and start the battle a few days later? She doesn't have any rapport with her team. What if..."

"Don't worry, Lize."

Mini Bubble Gum waved her hand with an airy gesture from her cross-legged posture. Then, she pouted and looked at the battlefield in discontent.

"Don't be fooled by Sister Heart's looks. She's the baddest of us all. Hmph. Even though she looks to be in her own world, she has many evil tricks up her sleeves. Besides, compared to the newbies who will scramble in panic as soon as the situation turns messy, the quality of these soldiers are still rather decent. As long as they are willing to listen to orders, John will be a goner."

"Sigh..."

The group expressed confused looks. They glanced at one another with doubt, puzzlement, and even some anticipations. After all, Marfa and Sol were old, experienced warriors and they were long used to commanding and battling on the battlefield. On the other hand, Joey and Randolf were basically considered experienced mercenaries after the long amount of training. As for Lapis, she was simply here to watch a show.

But no matter what, the gazes directed at Orchid Heart were filled with anticipation. After all, Rhode appeared to be confident in Orchid Heart's capabilities and she was praised highly by Mini Bubble Gum, which proved that she must have some abilities. But... how would she go about commanding a unit she had never met and secure the win against John?

Everyone observed attentively while Orchid Heart was still in her same old sleepy self. She swayed from left to right while riding on a short, thin warhorse. At the same time, the thick, gorgeous book in her hands was spread out before her. She held the book in one hand while the other gently rubbed the page corner. Her downcast eyes hid her thoughts from everyone.

John's Cavalrymen had formed an assault formation on the gentle slope of the valley. Sun rays shone from behind him illuminated the entire plains and valleys. This was the best terrain for the Cavalrymen and this triangular assault formation was apparent of John's abilities in commanding his subordinates.

"How should we go about doing it, Miss Heart?"

Marfa narrowed his eyes as he gazed toward John's majestic group of Cavalrymen on the other end. However, the glaring sun made it impossible for him to carefully observe their every movement. Even though he had gathered the mercenaries and garrisons together, the young lady sitting casually on the back of the warhorse remained silent. Although the mercenaries and garrisons were abiding by orders strictly... This wasn't a test for them, after all.

"... Hmm..."

Orchid Heart didn't immediately respond. On the contrary, she lowered her head and fiddled with the page with her right hand. After a few moments, she let out an indistinct hum.

"Defensive formation. Spread out on both sides."

"Spread out?"

Marfa was taken aback by her answer. He turned around and gazed at the clutter of a hundred soldiers. Then, he shifted his narrow eyes to the neatly-grouped and heavily-equipped Cavalrymen in the distance. He couldn't understand what Orchid Heart was plotting. A hundred infantries against Cavalrymen was already tough enough and she still wished to spread their positions out?

"Let's start."

Before Marfa could fully understand the situation, Rhode gave his order and Canary extended her hand forward. She shot a dazzling fireball into the sky to signal the start of the battle.

"Everyone! Attack!"

John lifted his pike with a proud smile. Then, he swung the pike down before taking the lead and charging forward. The Cavalrymen behind him screamed a battle cry in unison, leaped down the slope like a mountain torrent, and aimed for their targets on the other end.

"Defensive formation. Spread out!"

Marfa raised his sword and commanded loudly without any hesitation.

Even though the troops under him weren't as powerful as players, they perfectly displayed their strict discipline. Without any delay or question, the troops split into three rows to form a narrow line of defense. At this moment, John's Cavalrymen were within close range.

"...!"

The bystanders held their breaths. John took the lead while the Cavalrymen behind him were inseparably close. Their united formation was as though a sharp blade slicing forward.

On the other end, Orchid Heart sat slanted on the tiny warhorse as though she was just a passerby while the flustered Marfa appeared more like their commander.

"Hmm?"

Perhaps due to Marfa being unable to accurately understand Orchid Heart's command, John's Cavalrymen had already charged forward when he got his troops to put up a defensive formation. John was astonished as he had experienced many battles and this was the first time that he witnessed last minute changes to formation and in such a slow speed too. What was the purpose of putting up a defensive formation when he had arrived in their faces?!

"Charge!"

John swiftly gave a command and his Cavalrymen accelerated! Both sides finally met!

Boom!

The Cavalrymen mercilessly ripped through the defensive formation that was formed in a hurry. In the blink of an eye, more than 30 troops in the defensive formation flew off upon impact. Even though they wouldn't suffer from lethal damage and die in the mirage, injuries were still unavoidable. And now, the system had labeled them as 'Dead' as they lay unconscious on the ground.

John's ruthless assault was as though a razor-sharp blade slicing through a gauze. Not only did the defensive line crumble, the surrounding troops also panicked and their formation turned into a terrible mess, where another assault from the Cavalrymen would leave them in a dead end. Marfa turned to the young lady beside him hurriedly and she lifted her head and swept a glance forward.

"Advance. Forward."

Advance?

Marfa felt that this command was incredibly strange. The opponents have punctured a hole in our formation so what's the point of us charging forward?

If Marfa was a player, perhaps he would have ridiculed Orchid Heart for having a lagging Internet connection. But Marfa wasn't in the mood to mock her judgment. He bestirred himself desperately and yelled for the troops to charge forward. Even though Marfa's orders were senseless, the troops eventually abided. Orchid Heart watched leisurely from the back while Marfa shook his head and let out a hopeless sigh. Although the formation was messy, the troops managed to maintain their formation with their long hours of training and experience.

"I guess this is asking too much of her."

Marlene let out a subtle sigh. She had led the Mage team in Flourishing Blossom, fought against the Reformist Party several times, and more or less understood situations on the battlefield. Currently, it appeared that the troops under Orchid Heart were a spent force. Even though they managed to maintain their neat formation, Marlene was sure that they would crumble completely as soon as John led another assault. The Cavalrymen had the upper hand against infantries in the first place, and it didn't seem possible for Orchid Heart to turn the situation around.

Indeed. As though proving Marlene's prediction, John led his Cavalrymen around the plain and regrouped into an offensive formation to deal the final onslaught through Orchid Heart's troops from the back. This time, Orchid Heart would be utterly defeated if she didn't come up with any adjustments.

"Stop. Gather. Turn around."

Even though the situation was incredibly tense, Orchid Heart didn't show any signs of nervousness at all. She lowered her head and scanned the page in her hand before giving another command. Marfa hurriedly urged the troops who were charging forward to stop and regrouped them. At this moment, Orchid Heart gave another command that left Marfa speechless.

"Form a triangular assault formation."

Assault?

Marfa grew increasingly suspicious of her capabilities. In fact, from the start, he felt that this young lady performed like a newbie and had slow reactions. Not only that, but she also misjudged the situation, which led to the loss of over 30 troops on their side. So what if they gathered into an assault formation? They were infantry while the opponents were Cavalrymen! There would still be a chance to win if our men have pikes, but what can they do against the Cavalrymen's assault? Isn't this asking for death?

Even though Marfa cursed inwardly, he could only follow Orchid Heart's orders since Rhode had instructed him beforehand. This time, Marfa reacted swiftly, but the result was almost the same as before: John's Cavalrymen had arrived before them when they finally regrouped.

"Sigh..."

Many of them sighed as they believed that the conclusion had been made. John's first assault had shattered Orchid Heart's troops and it went without saying that she would surely fail if he were to penetrate her troops once again... There were no two ways about it.

Even at this crucial moment, Orchid Heart nodded her head as though she was about to fall asleep on her warhorse and forced herself to stay awake like a student nodding off in class. The furious gallop of the warhorses had arrived before her. At this moment, she lifted her head suddenly.

"Charge."

That was all she said.

"Charge!"

Even though Marfa couldn't read her mind at all, he charged forward with an intention to end this battle with alacrity! It was better than not retaliating at all! Marfa raised his sword and brandished forward!

The two triangle formations collided heavily. The Cavalrymen crushed the troops below them with no difficulties and everything would end as soon as they punctured the opponents before them. But...

"Eh?"

Anne widened her eyes in astonishment. The crowd surrounding her also had a change of expression.

John didn't gain the victory as the bystanders had expected. Instead, the Cavalrymen panicked and their inseparable formation stirred like a pot of hot soup. In order to maintain the speed of their assault, the Cavalrymen maintained a certain gap between them. But now, they had totally lost the 'safety distance'. The Cavalrymen from the front and back crashed into one another. Some tried to avoid, but lost their balance and fell to the ground. The luckier Cavalrymen weren't any better. They lost their threat after losing their acceleration. In addition, the Cavalrymen couldn't even turn around among the chaos, during which the infantries took advantage of the situation and dragged the Cavalrymen down from their warhorses.

Simply speaking, it was like two triangular blocks crashing together and in the sound of a crash, the blocks mixed together as one.

In a short instance, the outcome of the battle was reversed. The strong warhorses and heavy armor of the Cavalrymen were completely useless in this tight, chaotic warfare. On the other hand, the nimble infantry unleashed their biggest potential and dodged the attacks of the Cavalrymen.

"How did this..."

No one could decipher what had just happened. They couldn't understand why John's Cavalrymen failed to exploit and penetrate through the defensive formation that was hurriedly arranged. At this moment, Rhode extended his hand and gestured to Canary.

"Alright. That's the end."

A fireball flew into the air and exploded, capturing everyone's attention. The chaotic battlefield abruptly came to a stop. Rhode strode down the gentle slope while everyone followed closely and observed with confused looks.

John was no longer as mighty as he was. On the contrary, he appeared perplexed. His helmet had been struck off during the battle and his hair had messed up into a bird's nest. Even though he was still riding on his warhorse, his expression showed that he had taken a huge blow.

How did this happen?

The bystanders might not understand why John had lost, but he knew the reasons clearly. Indeed. He had similar thoughts as Marfa when he broke through the defensive line for the first time. Orchid Heart's simple commands had no meaningful purpose in assault. But John finally realized the true reason of her hiding in the back when she ordered the infantries to clash against his Cavalrymen.

On the surface, the strength of both sides were on a totally different level, but Orchid Heart did something that left John incomparably frightened.

She broke my rhythm!

Everyone knew that there was rhythm in the battlefield, That was a kind of aggression, an imperceptible and unexplainable presence. Just like John's Cavalrymen, perhaps they were still a group of separate men when they began their assault. But slowly, they merged together as one. Breathing, galloping, and moving in unison. It was this rhythm that glued them together as a whole.

Even though Orchid Heart's assault was gruff, she captured the timing to perfection. The instant both sides collided, John sharply sensed that the cohesiveness and rhythm were instantly broken like how a dancer was in his zone and someone stepped in to interrupt his wonderful moves. This was what happened to John's Cavalrymen. The camaraderie between them and consistent rhythm were disrupted and replaced with complete chaos. Moreover, the glaring sun had caused them the chance to regroup instantly. Not only that, but the sun also snatched John's chance to observe his opponents' movements clearly, which led to them sinking into this sticky puddle of mud. The result had been determined a long time ago.

John shivered at this thought. He gazed at Orchid Heart blankly. He finally understood the meaning behind her strange commands. From the start, it wasn't due to her slow reactions that he could break through her defenses easily. Instead, she was using the chance to probe and analyze his attacking rhythm! Then, she ordered the troops to charge forward and turn around in order to use the glaring sun to her advantage in preventing his Cavalrymen from regrouping instantly. Moreover, it wasn't due to her incapable commanding skills that her troops regrouped so slowly. Come to think of it, for both times, her troops put up their formation just when he had arrived at their faces and it was too late for him to come up with any changes!

Even though the sun shining on him was so warm, he felt as though he had fallen into a dreadful ice cave. If this was a true battle, perhaps he wouldn't even know how he died. Just some troops without special training and a few ordinary commands could actually lead to such achievements? Moreover, even though it appeared simple, it was extremely difficult and almost impossible to perceive the opponent's attacking rhythm and search for an instantaneous gap to disrupt it. But this young lady actually did it so effortlessly...

"How was it, John?"

Rhode said and John just realized that the former had arrived before him. He hurriedly flipped down from his warhorse and bowed respectfully. Then, he shot a glance at Orchid Heart fearfully before lowering his head deeply.

"I've lost, Sir Rhode."

Apart from John, no one knew exactly what happened except for Sol and Marfa, who spotted the gateway to Orchid Heart's victory. Their respect for Orchid Heart grew deeply as they knew how difficult it was to achieve this. But the most important point was that they couldn't see her intention of interrupting John's attacking rhythm at all. Her reckless assault blinded everyone from her true motive and just this reason was enough to leave them exclaiming in admiration.

Since John had no more objections, the matter naturally came to a closure. The Sphere of Mystery deactivated and returned Rhode and the others to the underground and they spotted Agatha.

"Is anything the matter, Agatha?"

Rhode said curiously while Agatha lifted the hem of her skirt and bowed.

"Yes, Master. Miss Gillian and Mr. Walker have returned."

"Oh?"

Rhode's eyes glinted.