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890 The Fate-Smashing Blade

 Marlene gazed at her other self sternly as she sensed an unprecedented, murderous aura that was so ice-cold it wrapped around her tightly. Although Marlene was experienced in such dangerous battles, she felt as though she was held in the hand of a monster like a defenseless chick and all she could do was watch the monster widen its mouth and devour her completely.

Marlene gnashed her teeth and clasped the sword in her hand, holding it before her. At the next moment, she lost control over her body as though to the effects of extreme fear.

What happened?

Marlene widened her eyes in shock, gazing at her body which she didn't know had fallen to the ground. There was a ghastly, bloody wound on her right arm. She stared blankly at her arm and her head was blank. She couldn't remember when she got hurt or why she was on the ground. As she slowly lost her consciousness, immense pain consumed her.

"This is..."

"I didn't expect you to dodge it."

Suddenly, the Magic Swordsman appeared behind her and the instant Marlene heard her voice, she jumped to her feet and stared at her other self vigilantly.

"You've surprised me. It seems like you're really strong in this world. This isn't the swordsmanship of the Senia Family, right? Where did you learn it from? Could it be from that so-called man? I can't understand why you possess such strength. I always think that women who are deceived by men will only be immersed in fake gentleness and eventually crumble in their hands. Am I not right about it?"

"There isn't only one reason for me to become stronger."

Marlene sucked in a breath of cold air. The pain on her right arm wasn't a great sign. Currently all she could do was to perhaps launch a final attack. Although Canary said that she hadn't fully mastered this attack, she had no other choices left.

"I want to stand alongside and not behind him, being the useless person who is always protected by him. I can't tolerate this anymore, so I want to become stronger and face the unknown future and enemies with him. I know I can't defeat the powerful enemies yet, so I want to be stronger!"

"... It seems like you and I are somewhat similar."

The Magic Swordsman pondered in silence. Then, she raised her sword and pointed forward. On the other hand, Marlene sheathed her sword. She bent over slightly, held the sheath with her left hand and hilt with her right in a sword-drawing posture.

"Alright then, this will be the final attack. Let me see how strongly you desire to be with that man!"

The Magic Swordsman burst forward with her sword in a dazzling red lightning. It was so quick that almost no one could react to it. But as soon as the blade was about to strike, Marlene raised the heavy, silver sheath.

At the same time, she withdrew her sword and slashed a blinding red arc.

It only took an instant.

The powerful clash cracked and shattered her sheath into bits.

Clang.

Marlene dropped her sword and collapsed to the ground palely. Although she unleashed a deadly attack on her other self, she was also hurt badly. Her left shoulder had been punctured entirely. If she didn't lift the sheath to defend against that attack, perhaps she would have been dead by now.

"I can't die yet..."

Marlene lifted her head and gnashed her teeth. Her eyes were filled with unprecedented determination.

"I promised and believed in him. This is the biggest... difference between you and I."

Marlene said as she turned to the other side of the battlefield.

"Hey, isn't this cheating?!"

The man wasn't as carefree anymore. Rhode, Lize, and Anne joined forces and took him on together. He might stand a chance if he were a pure swordsman, but he was a Spirit Swordsman. Although he had the Soul Messenger talent tree which made him a strong attacker, he was only slightly stronger than ordinary humans after his spiritual powers were sealed.

"Who cares about that. Anne, attack!"

Rhode wasn't interested in discussing fairness, of course. He knew himself perfectly that he wouldn't utter nonsense at such a critical moment. He knew that any attempt to harass the mind was meaningless. But he couldn't promise the same for the two young ladies. If his other self caught onto an opportunity to do so, he would turn the disadvantage around to his benefit. Therefore, the top priority now was to eliminate him as soon as possible!

"Got it! Leader!"

Anne responded. She raised her shield and burst forward like a flying missile, aiming for the man. The man brandished the black sword and struck the shield heavily. Boom! Anne flinched upon impact and at the same time, Lize sneaked between them with clenched fists, hurling punches at his chest. But to her surprise, the man laughed and she came to an abrupt halt.

"Yo, this young lady is quite adorable. What's your name?"

"Huh?"

They were in the heat of the battle and the random question about her name bewildered Lize. She lifted her head and gazed at the man dubiously. But at this moment, Rhode's voice sounded from behind.

"What are you doing?! Dodge!"

Lize came to a sudden realization and placed her arms before her in a crisscross stance. Almost simultaneously, the man thrust his foot forward. Although Lize got into a defensive position just in time, the powerful force threw her off. Fortunately, Anne appeared behind Lize and caught her in her arms.

"How dare you attack my woman. You've got balls!"

Rhode struck forth with his blade, aiming for the enemy's heart. Then, the loud clash of blades sounded and without a doubt, his attack was stopped by the man.

"How can you say that, my other self? I'm also you, so doesn't that make your woman mine?"

"You wish! What's mine is mine. What's yours is also mine! Why don't you bring your women for me!"

"Stop berating! My woman is also yours, alright?!"

"Not alright at all!"

Both of them slashed their blades and sparks splashed everywhere. Then, two shadow clones erupted from Rhode and brandished their swords. But this time, the man burst into laughter and swung his blade forcefully. In the powerful gust of wind, Rhode's shadow clone vanished into dust and he could only come to a halt and retreat. Without the support of the spiritual powers, the shadow clones created from the Fantasy Daybreak swordsmanship were only ordinary, which needed no explanation as to why they were defeated so easily.

"This won't do, my other self. Why have you become so timid?"

Timid?

Rhode twitched his brow.

This bastard sure knows how to brag. You think I'm still in the game, huh? Wait.

Rhode realized something.

That's right. My battle style is very different from the past. This man is indeed my in-game avatar with powerful sword skills and brute force. But my sword skills now are focused mainly on efficiency and transformation. There is only one reason for it.

That's right. 'He' belongs in the game.

While I am the 'reality'.

"Lize, Anne, attack! Surround him and don't let him escape!"

A strategy came to his mind and he commanded instantly. At the same time, he swiftly retreated while Anne and Lize dashed toward the man from the left and right. But this time they didn't go up to the man straight away because they knew that the man was as hard to deal with as Rhode. Even though he seemed rather desperate dealing with the three of them, he could easily retaliate their attacks. Anne had a hard time against him, not to mention Lize who barely learned the martial arts from Mini Bubble Gum for less than a year.

Although they couldn't overpower the enemy, the two young ladies weren't amateurs on the battlefields either. Shortly after, they picked up speed and stopped the man from heading further. The man revealed a helpless bitter smile, came to a halt, and raised his enormous blade.

"Ah, how reminiscent. This reminds me of the scene when people surround and treat me like the BOSS. This was a common occurrence back then..."

"Hmph!"

Rhode scoffed. He burst forward with his sword in a trail of afterimages and razor-sharp blade rays slashed from the gust of wind.

"Oh? You're finally serious about this battle?"

The man put up a stern expression. He clutched his sword and gazed silently to the left and right. Initially, Lize and Anne had decided to coordinate with Rhode and launch their attacks together. But for some unknown reasons, they instantly sensed a dangerous vibe as soon as the man shot a look at them, which made them slow down their pace.

At the same time, the tip of Rhode's blade arrived in his face.

Clang!

Just like before, Rhode's attack was easily stopped by the man. But this time he didn't back off. As their blades clashed, Rhode released a shadow clone and launched another attack! The man twitched his brow at this sight. Then, he brandished his enormous blade!

Clang! Clang!

The shadow clone disappeared to the attack and Rhode once again appeared from the shadows. But this time he had no intention of backing off. The instant his shadow clone succumbed to the attack, yet another two shadow clones emerged and struck their swords.

"Interesting. You intend to attack using this strategy? Surely you don't think that you can defeat me with such a boring and tasteless shadow clone technique?"

The man sulked and let out a snarl. He swung his enormous, shimmering blade and eradicated the shadow clones. But Rhode didn't give up. The moment the shadow clones were smashed into dust, two more shadow clones showed up and charged forward. Then, they were eliminated yet again.

"This is it!"

The man's eyes glinted. He let out a loud growl and struck forth with his sword. This time, Rhode was standing right before him!

The incredibly-fast black sword broke the sound barrier and this was the first time that Rhode revealed an astonished expression. But it was too late. The moment he attempted to raise his sword in defense, the black sword slashed from above and struck his body. However... Rhode didn't collapse. Instead, he shattered into bits and vanished to nowhere.

Sh*t!

The man was bewildered and it was too late. Before he realized it, Rhode had struck forward with his sword.

Clang!

In the blink of an eye, the man's black sword struck off his hand.

That's right. Rhode was waiting for this chance.

Although his other self was strong, his attributes were based on humans, after all. On the other hand, Rhode's current bloodline and strength had surpassed the limits of all humans in the game! Even without [Self-Affirmation], Rhode could rely on his powerful bloodline and turn the situation in his favor!

Anne brandished the shield from the rear and crashed into the man's back heavily. The immense impact caused the man to straighten his back like a prawn and it shattered his tight armor completely. But before he reacted, Lize appeared before him and mercilessly landed the ultimate punch on his chest.

"Argh!"

The man rolled on the ground desperately while a razor-sharp blade flashed and punctured his chest.

"I didn't expect... to lose..."

The man gazed silently at Rhode and forced out a smile.

"But this is fine too. It seems like I've improved... But... Why did I lose?"

"It's simple."

Rhode said.

"Because this is only a game to you while it is a matter of life and death for me."

That's right. This was the crucial difference between Rhode and his other self.

There was no such thing as death for players. They could heal if their health was low and respawn if they were killed. But it was entirely different in reality. Players could sacrifice an arm or half a body to defeat the enemies. But if Rhode were to do that here, he would be seeking his own death. Therefore, his strategy now had a decisive difference-protecting himself was the top priority, followed by killing the enemy. Therefore, he had been concealing his strength and only coordinated his attacks with Anne and Lize in the last moment where he revealed his true strength to secure the win. If not, even if his constitution was stronger than most humans, he was sure that his other self would definitely know how to retaliate if he revealed it at the start.

The man was him, after all.

"I see... That's true. This is only a game for me, after all..."

The man revealed a gentle smile and slowly shut his eyes.

"Hahaha. But don't think that this is the end, my other self. Do you think that I'm willing to admit defeat just like this?"

"You still got something up your sleeves?"

Rhode twitched his brows. His fate image was gradually vanishing like a melted ice sculpture and this meant that he was entirely done for. Could it be that he hadn't given up yet?

"Hahaha, do you really think that this is the end?"

His other self burst into laughter. Then, he raised his right hand and winked playfully at Rhode.

"Don't forget, my other self; I'm the BOSS of this place. Don't tell me that you won't be looting my corpse? Judging from our 'unlucky looting aura', I sure am excited about what you're gonna find from my corpse. Hahahaha..."

"You..."

Rhode's proud expression instantly turned into a sulk.