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884 An Uncertain Decision

 Wheel of Fate.

Two rows of candlesticks burning with azure flames were lined up in the corridor, illuminating the pitch-black, silent space. The red carpet laid across the floor didn't seem affected by the passing of time as it looked brand new. The mysterious patterns on the ceiling resembled circles spinning and linking to one another, displaying a magnificent view. This place could be considered one of the holiest and most mysterious places in this world.

But something totally unrelated to its holiness was happening now.

Pow!

The smack from hand to flesh sounded. Lize turned away and gazed at the wall, unable to witness the scene. On the other hand, Anne widened her eyes in excitement.

"Argh!"

Marlene supported herself with her left hand on the wall while covering her mouth with her right hand as immense pain struck from her bottom. At this moment, tears welled in her eyes as she trembled with her bottom raised high, displaying an insulting, yet alluring pose. However, she didn't have any intention of retaliating. She gnashed her teeth and suffered from the violent pounding.

Pow!

"Argh!"

Marlene lifted her head and tears flowed from her maroon eyes. But despite that, Rhode let out a scoff.

Pow!

"... Ah...!"

Marlene couldn't tolerate it anymore. She let out a painful moan, which Rhode nodded in satisfaction and retracted his right arm. Then, the powerless young lady leaned and slid down the wall while Lize ran up to her hurriedly.

"This is too much, Rhode. Not even my father has hit me before!"

"This is a punishment, Marlene. A child who lies has to be punished. I'm sure you're aware of this."

"Argh..."

Marlene stepped back instinctively and felt at ease after feeling the wall behind her. Although she admitted that it was her fault, Rhode's punishment was just too humiliating. She had to let him smack her bottom with Lize and Anne watching from the side. Not only that, but Lize was also her childhood friend who had never seen her in this embarrassing manner. Besides, Anne's exciting gaze was also another form of torture for her.

"You have to get my approval before trying to be the protagonist of a tragedy. I never understand why women love to watch those dramas with protagonists tortured by their mother-in-laws, abandoned by their husbands, only finding true love after being hurt so badly. I know that everyone has preferences, but it is a disease if one can't differentiate between reality and imaginary. Let me..." Rhode slapped his hands together loudly, which Marlene subconsciously protected her bottom with her hands. "... Smash that fantasy of yours into bits, shall I? Are you awake now?"

"Argh..."

Anne and Lize chuckled while gazing at the embarrassed Marlene. They heard what happened from Rhode and of course, they were also resentful that Marlene kept this secret from them. Even though they were also concerned about her safety, the heavy atmosphere around them was gone after Rhode's punishment.

"Really. Why does every woman around me have the same problem? You won't die if you don't get into trouble. Are you resentful that the humiliation of your foolish choice isn't enough?"

Rhode let out a sigh before sweeping a glance to Lize and Anne. Lize instantly lowered her head in shame-the Prison of Mad Love was the worst memory she could have in her entire life. If the two cards didn't exist, perhaps Lize could treat everything as just a nightmare and brainwash herself to forget about it. But after Rhode received the two summoning cards, she could forget about escaping this nightmare...

On the other hand, Anne revealed a splendid smile. She scuttled over, clung his arm, and lifted her head proudly as though waiting to be rewarded.

"That's right. Anne has never kept any secrets from Leader. Anne always tells everything to Leader as long as Leader wants to know about it." Anne puffed out her chest and gazed at the other two young ladies with her emerald green eyes. All of a sudden, Lize and Marlene who were lowering their heads and reflecting upon themselves raised their heads abruptly and started a 'staring warfare' with Anne. In the blink of an eye, the tension in the air rose drastically, but was quickly extinguished by Rhode.

"You've also gotten into trouble in the past. Don't forget your pains after the wound has healed."

Rhode knocked his hand on Anne's forehead. Come to think of it, Anne was the first among them who got into serious trouble. Back then, she consumed the potion behind his back and almost became a cripple. If it weren't for her luck to be awakened successfully, perhaps she would be a mascot laying in bed all day now. Frankly, the three of them had terrible memories... No, this also wasn't the way to describe them. Back then, only Lize was by Anne's side when the latter got into trouble. On the other hand, Marlene wasn't present when Lize got into trouble. Whereas for Lize, she naturally wouldn't mention the humiliating experiences of her showing up with the extreme personalities of Sadist and Masochist despite her close relationship with Marlene.

It seemed like the lack of information had brought upon tragedies. Come to think of it, the advancements in technology allowed communications all over the world, but there were still couples who broke up due to all sorts of reasons. It seemed like heart-felt communications were still the key for humans despite advanced technologies.

Alright, the punishment has ended. Time for some serious matters.

"Although I'm not sure how you became aware of that, it's indeed the truth, Rhode."

Marlene said. She was clearer than anyone of her identity and purpose.

"Indeed. Just as Rhode mentioned, I'm the vessel for..."

Marlene held her hand on her chest.

"The fact that I possess the four main elements is evidence because ordinary Mages can't possibly have such strength. It can also be said that this is impossible to happen to humans. This is also why I became the most important member of the Senia Family and came to you under fate's guidance. Besides... Father informed me that my blood and soul are needed as sacrificial offerings to unlock the seal on the tinder. According to historical records from when our ancestors sealed the tinder, they used 'double spiritual resonance' to seal the Madam's spirit within the tinder."

I see...

Rhode twitched his brows as his doubts were finally resolved. The spell 'double soul resonance' might seem extremely mysterious to the natives, but it couldn't get more common for players. It could also be said that every family with some history in their bloodline would possess this spell. All in all, this was a common story where a powerful being appeared at some point in time in the families' history. The person would use an exceedingly powerful weapon before getting targeted by outsiders for his or her mighty strength. Therefore, under no circumstances, the family would use the 'double soul resonance' spell to seal the person's soul. After the sealing spell was cast, it was basically impossible to be forcefully dismantled or destroyed. They could only rely upon luck. If they were lucky, like Marlene who had either the same looks, bloodline, or strength as the ancestor, they would receive the rights to take a test and unlock the seal. After passing the test, one could receive the ancestor's equipment, wisdom, and strength. If one failed the test, one would become the sacrificial offering for the ancestor's revival.

Since this was the case, the conflict between the game and reality was resolved. After the battle in Golden City ended, Marlene died and the Senia Family perished. On the other hand, the 'double soul resonance' also required the support of the same bloodline. However, since everyone in the family no longer lived, the seal naturally fell apart. This was perhaps why Rhode was able to awaken the tinder back then without any issues. As for the young lady who looked exactly like Marlene, perhaps she would be eliminated by the Order tinder as soon as the seal was unlocked.

But now, since Marlene and the Senia Family were still present, the seal wouldn't automatically be dismantled. If Rhode wanted to unlock the seal, he needed to slaughter everyone in the Senia Family including Marlene, which was meaningless and unrealistic.

Could it be that he still needed to sacrifice Marlene in the end?

But... Rhode recalled the message Lesa had passed on from 'Christie'. According to her, Marlene's importance to her ancestor was unlike how important Christie was to the other 'Christie'. After hearing Marlene's explanations, he discovered that something was amiss.

"Marlene, is there anything else that you're hiding from me?"

"No. I swear, Rhode."

Marlene subconsciously placed her hands on her bottoms and answered.

It seemed like Marlene was also unaware. Since that's the case, I have only one choice left.

Rhode lifted his head and gazed at Marlene.

"Marlene, if it is possible, are you willing to be with me forever?"

"Huh?"

Marlene stared blankly. She swept a few glances to Lize and Anne before nodding shyly.

"Of course, Rhode... If I have that choice, I will definitely be with you forever. But this is my fate."

"You're not entirely gone yet, so don't be too sure."

Rhode waved his hand and interrupted her. Then, what he said gave her a huge surprise.

"Besides, even though I can't promise it will succeed, I have a solution to help you resolve this problem."

"Is that true, Rhode?"

Marlene's eyes glinted. If there was the slightest trace of hope left, she wouldn't give it up.

"Didn't I tell you earlier to not resolve any problem on your own? Do you treat me like an idiot who doesn't know anything? If I learned this much earlier, I would have made more preparations. But now, even I can't promise that I'll succeed."

Rhode continued to gaze at her.

"And perhaps you will also need to give up on some things."

"... No problem, Rhode."

Marlene nodded without hesitation.

"No matter the result, I will trust you. This time, I will not keep anything from you."

"Good."

The corners of Rhode's mouth rolled up.

"Alright then, let's settle this problem."

Thereafter, Rhode explained to them the current situation and the test that they needed to pass-the Wheel of Fate and fate images. As long as they could defeat the fate images, they would hold the rights to enter the core area of the tinder. But...

"Leader, you mean that even though the other Anne is Anne, she will not be a Shield Warrior?"

Anne asked while curiously scanning the corridor. After passing through the dim corridor, the four of them entered a dazzling space where mirrors were placed all around them.

"That's right, the fate images are just projections of yourself from another dimension. Although they look exactly like you, they lived entirely different lives and the decisions they make may be completely different from yours. Perhaps Marlene may turn into a Swordsman while Lize may become a Mage or Thief. No one is sure about that. Even though their strength is similar, the threat will be significantly different due to unique class skills, so don't let your guard down. It is especially so for spell casters like Marlene and Lize. The Wheel of Fate cuts off all abilities to cast spells and not even my summoning cards can be used. Understand?"

"Erm... Rhode?"

Marlene asked dubiously.

"... Since my fate image is as strong as I am now... Can you let me give it a shot?"

"Like I said, the Wheel of Fate cuts off all spiritual powers. You can't use your spells."

Rhode puckered his brows and turned to Marlene. The latter hesitated for a few moments before reaching out for a sword hidden inside her robe.

"This was what happened. Miss Canary taught me some of her sword skills back then in the fortress... Thanks to her guidance, the level of my sword skills is almost on par with my spells... So if it is possible..."

"Huh?"

Rhode was astonished. At the same time, Lize also raised her arm.

"Me too, Mr. Rhode... Miss Bubble has also taught me some close-combat skills... Even though I'm not as good as Marlene, I feel like my skills aren't too far from my spell casting levels."

"..."

Rhode gazed at the ceiling blankly.

Right. Why did I forget that even though these three young ladies aren't players... They are natives with insane bloodlines and skills...