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863 The Tinder Origin

 It wasn't always a good thing to have a pair of lucky hands.

Although Marlene had indeed found this rare treasure, it was also a hot potato for Rhode. The value of an Illusion Crystal on this continent was enough to break nations into wars. Rhode was confident that if news of him obtaining an Illusion Crystal leaked, the Country of Darkness would definitely come for him. After all, this was the most precious gem in the eyes of Undead Creatures who relied on spiritual powers. Besides, if the Undead Creatures were able to get the Illusion Crystal in their hands, the strength of their army would rise without a doubt. A person's talent would arouse the envy of others and this was true for Rhode, as he had snatched the Illusion Crystal from others in the game. He knew what dangers this would bring to him. Back then, Starlight dominated two-thirds of the Light Mainland and was second to none in strength. However, there were still players who brazenly attempted to steal the crystal. If Rhode were in the game right now in this current state, perhaps he would be the focus of hatred of every other guild.

Fortunately, only Marlene and him knew about this as he immediately put it away into his spatial bag. Of course, Marlene was also aware that many people would go crazy for it and it was the source of many conflicts. Besides, the Illusion Crystal was extremely rare and many people didn't have the chance to see it at all. If it weren't for Rhode's system which prompted the item's name when it landed in his hands, perhaps he would have treated it as one of the rarer magic crystals.

Currently, Rhode didn't know what to do with the Illusion Crystal. Although it was possible that he used it to create a set of armor with full immunity to physical, magical, and skill attacks, he also knew that this was rather risky. Besides, perhaps even Lapis was incapable of producing such a set of armor. It would be great to use the crystal on magic equipment like the Mage Association. But now, Rhode didn't have the required technologies, so he could only take one step at a time.

This wasn't his current goal and he was only a distance away from the Tinder Origin. But...

"I hope you can teleport us directly to the Tinder Origin this time."

Rhode gazed sternly at Bell. The latter pondered in silence before raising her right arm and showed two fingers.

"I understand. It will be safer if we teleport twice instead. But I can't guarantee that we won't face the same situation next time," Rhode said.

Although Rhode previously hoped to meet a few more of Serras's projection to get more Illusion Crystals, he knew that Marlene was extremely lucky to find it. Besides, Serras was considered one of the easier targets among the devil bosses. Currently, Rhode's group was about to reach the core of the Land of Chaos. Even though the Tinder Origin's protection barrier kept out all Chaos Creatures, the creatures would still be lurking outside. Although the Chaos Creatures might not be as powerful as a projection of Serras, a stronger opponent might also appear instead. Such a surprise was enough once and Rhode couldn't handle it if it were to happen twice.

"Can you succeed in one try?"

"..."

This time, Bell didn't respond immediately. She lowered her head and gazed at the ground. After a few moments, she looked up, clenched her fist, and drew a huge circle with her arms. Then, she nodded and shook her head.

"You can give it a try if you have sufficient strength. But, you can't guarantee that you'll succeed?"

Rhode didn't know that he always had the talent in reading sign languages. He was surprised. Even though Bell's hand gestures were completely random, he basically understood her thoughts. Bell nodded in response. Then, she raised her hands again, drew a circle on his body, and did a tugging motion. She put her hands down and gazed at him in silence.

Of course, he knew what she meant. In fact, as a being with the strength of Order, she theoretically could succeed in one attempt. No, it could be said that theoretically, Bell could teleport them to their destination after they entered the Land of Chaos and didn't need to waste so much time.

But this was only in theory.

Just like in theory, motorcycles could overtake the high-speed rail. However, the prerequisite was that it must contain the engine of an airplane. This was a meaningless theory. Bell could succeed in one attempt, but she would die as her petite figure wouldn't be able to withstand the tremendous pressure. In fact, such signs were already visible on her. From the start, she felt a little giddy after each teleportation. Thereafter, as the Chaos energy increased, she had to exert more strength of Order in order to break through the Chaos obstacles. This was also why she became incredibly weak at the later stages, where she had even fainted before the battle with Serras. Of course, she was also under the influence of Serras's presence. Currently, she clearly indicated to Rhode that if they were to do it, she might be hurt to a certain extent.

On the other hand, Rhode was also aware that this would be rough on her. Although the elder seemed to have sealed the strength of Order in Bell from a young age and her body had acclimatized with the flow of strength, she was still too young, after all. Even though she didn't know how old she was due to living in the refuge, judging from her appearance, perhaps she was only around 10. No matter how strong she was, she couldn't make up for the flaws in her body, unless she was an exception like mix-bloods like Anne, Sol, Lize.

"Wait."

Rhode patted her head, stood up, and waved to Lize. The latter uncharacteristically curled her lips and went up to him.

"Is... Anything the matter, Mr. Rhode?"

"Hmm?"

Her stiffened tone caught his attention. He knew that some things were better off knowing than neglecting.

"What's wrong, Lize? You seem to be in a bad mood."

"Nothing."

Lize stared at him in resentment before placing her hand on her chest.

"Mine isn't as huge as someone else's, anyway."

Ah. I see.

Rhode shrugged. But he let out an inward chuckle after hearing her grumbles. Since she was willing to complain about it, it meant that she was no longer angry. Besides, he sensed that although she didn't sound happy, she seemed much better after talking about it. Women's hearts were just indeed like needles at the bottom of the sea...

"Being small also has its benefits."

Rhode embraced her gently, at the same time sneaking his hand into her robe and caressing her soft skin. Her knees weakened and she fell into his arms.

"Hmm. Soft and smooth. You're still as sensitive."

""M-Mr. Rhode!"

Lize held her collar and gazed at everyone who was resting, afraid that they would witness it. Fortunately, the Bow Knights were chit-chatting away while the others had fallen asleep. However, Lize wasn't as 'shameless' as Anne. As soon as she felt his hands moving down inside her, she quickly stopped him.

"S-Stop playing, Bell is watching."

Lize pleaded in embarrassment. Rhode smirked, pinched her chest, and retracted his hand. Then, the young lady hurriedly tidied her robe. She glared at him fiercely before lowering her head with a blush.

"Y-You... were looking for me just now, Mr. Rhode?"

"If I recall correctly, Bubble has taught you plenty of things, right?"

"Yes, Mr. Rhode."

Lize knew that Rhode didn't ask her over just to tease her and she nodded in response. In the Land of Atonement, she had been learning from Mini Bubble Gum almost every day. Although the lessons were difficult and torturous, there were lots of skills that were useful for Lize. Players in the later stages of the game would receive all kinds of unique spiritual spells and Mini Bubble Gum wasn't an exception. Some of the spiritual spells weren't taught in the church and Bubble taught all of the unique spiritual spells to Lize. Anyway, Mini Bubble Gum didn't need the low-level spiritual spells to get by her days here anymore.

"So, have you learned the Soul Merge?"

"... Yes, Mr. Rhode."

Although she didn't know why he asked this question, she nodded in agreement.

"But, Soul Merge is a dangerous kind of..."

"I know."

Rhode waved his hand. Mini Bubble Gum was his personal Cleric and he knew her skills inside-out.

"All right. I need you to get prepared. Before we start the teleportation, cast the Soul Merge on Bell and appoint me as the target."

"Huh? Mr. Rhode?"

Lize asked, puzzled. As a Cleric, she knew the dangers of the Soul Merge spell. It was used to decrease the damage taken by the main target by transferring the damage to the secondary target. This was a rare technique, which was why Clerics who learned this technique formed parties with the powerful tankers. This way, the tankers would take lesser damage during BOSS fights. In the past, Rhode wasn't suitable to take up the job. But now... there shouldn't be much problems with his strong constitution.

"Is something wrong with Bell's body?"

"The next teleportation will affect her body to a certain extent, so I want to share a portion of her damage."

"B-But, Mr. Rhode, you will be..."

"Don't worry. Although I'm not a main tanker like Anne, my defense is still rather strong."

"Why don't you just let Anne do it!"

Lize glared at Anne who was snoring away. Judging from her blissful expression, the young lady must be dreaming of a sumptuous meal at the moment.

"Mmm... No... Leader... Anne can't eat anymore..."

... Perhaps she was eating another source of protein?

"... Mr. Rhode, I still think that it's better to let Anne do it."

It was rare to hear a tone with murderous intent from a Cleric.

"All right, stop arguing. Go and get prepared now."

Rhode had no choice but to chase Lize away after taking a glance at Anne in order to prevent another quarrel. At this moment, he felt someone tugging on his sleeve. He turned around and saw Bell shaking her head firmly.

"No, Bell, this is my responsibility."

He said determinedly.

"You're my subject, and I won't let you die. Besides, I'm confident, so don't worry about me."

"..."

Bell let go of her hand. Then, she nodded firmly at the young man.

The time has come.

Rhode stood among everyone and gazed at the powerful storms wreaking havoc outside the safety of the Order barrier. Bell stood beside him and held his hand tightly. Lize stood behind them and extended her arms forward. A translucent spiritual thread was connected between Rhode and Bell.

"Let's begin, Bell."

"..."

Bell didn't respond, when suddenly, Rhode felt a violent force striking him from within his body. That was a pain that he had never felt before as though one was dissecting him through his skin, flesh, blood vessels, bones, and organs. He knitted his brows, but he was aware that this pain was simply the spiritual presence of Bell inside him. Although he knew that this method would hurt his soul to a large extent, the difficulties of breaking through the Chaos obstacles was much more than he expected and this was something that he had to do.

He found himself drifting in the air while suffering from the agony within. Apart from that, he also felt the soft little hand holding onto his. After an unknown period of time, the dark, chaotic world around him was swept away and replaced by a dazzling brilliance and the reemergence of the land.

It's finally over.

Rhode let out a sigh of relief after confirming that the teleportation was completed. Then, he looked at the sky.

What presented itself before him was a beautiful azure sky with drifting white clouds. Beneath his feet was a wide, verdant grassland, but what captured everyone's attention wasn't the scenery. Instead, it was the majestic tower standing before them. Although it seemed abandoned, the tall structure stood firmly. At the peak of the tower was a faint flare that took over the sun in illuminating brightness to this land.

That was the tinder.

"Phew..."

Rhode and Bell exchanged looks with each other. As Rhode took half of the damage, she didn't faint like before despite her pained and pale expression. Rhode let go of her hand and stroked his fingers through her long hair. But he didn't expect that Bell smiled at him for a second before turning around and returning to Christie's side.

"Mr. Rhode, here is..."

Lize lowered her voice at the sight of this round, majestic tower.

"That's right, Lize."

Rhode nodded.

"We've reached our destination."