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892 The Tinder

 Everyone cleared the final obstacles after defeating the fate images and they were about to enter the core and awaken the tinder. It should have been a thrilling and nervous moment, but...

"Sister Lize, what's wrong with Leader?"

Anne asked as she gazed at Rhode leading the way lifelessly as though he hadn't been sleeping for days. After leaving the Wheel of Fate, they arrived at a descending stairwell where they were surrounded by the boundless, beautiful starry sky. But the young ladies were more concerned about Rhode. Ever since the battle ended and they received the spoils of war, he had been behaving this way. They were concerned that he would miss a step and tumble down the whole stairwell...

"I'm not too sure. Maybe it has something to do with that crystal..."

Lize shook her head helplessly and exchanged a dubious glance with Marlene.

The item that Marlene found was the Projection Crystal and strictly speaking, it wasn't considered an equipment. It also wasn't a kind of material like the [Illusion Crystal]. Instead, it was sort of a tool for the construction system. In other words, it was similar to the Sphere of Mystery that was useful when utilized by the system.

But...

Although it possessed strong powers, it was useless for Rhode.

Although it possessed strong powers, it was useless for Rhode.

Because this was so worthy to note, it had to be said twice.

The Projection Crystal sounded really powerful, but in reality it was a fairly simple item-it could visualize everything in the scope of the system and present the views before the holder. In other words, it was like the 24/7 secret surveillance cameras around his territory. As long as he wished to, he could retrieve any footage from any location and time. Not only that, but he could also magnify and replay it countless times. Just as the name suggested, it used the magical powers to project the scenes on the crystal. Therefore, everything would be presented clearly before him as long as they were in a place with sources of magical powers.

But this wasn't all.

Rhode's system already came with the holographic map and all the Projection Crystal could do was to evolve the simple satellite map into a real-time street view. Nothing would be kept secret before his eyes within his territory.

Although he could use the crystal to peep at some women in the shower or changing room, he was more interested in women who were willing to get intimate with him and he wasn't that pathetic to peep on them. Apart from that, the Projection Crystal was also soul-bound, which meant that no one could activate it except for him. But he couldn't possibly hide in his room all day just to fiddle with it too.

It was due to this that he was speechless as soon as he received this item that sounded incredible, but was in fact useless for him. If it weren't soul-bound to him, he could still get others to watch his territory on behalf.

Currently his only choice was to check if Sara could use the Projection Crystal. After all, she was a Corpse Slave who lived on his spiritual powers. Since this was the case, Sara's spirit was aligned with his and if she could get it to work, he could leave it in her hands. As a Corpse Slave, Sara was an expert in keeping secrets and could work 24/7, which was the perfect choice.

Of course, the prerequisite was that she could activate the Projection Crystal.

If not... Rhode could only use it for peeping purposes...

Rhode let out a helpless sigh. What was the point of having this item that seemed awesome, but was in fact useless trash?

"Erm... Rhode?"

Marlene called out from the back and dragged him back to the cruel reality. Up until this moment, he discovered that he had arrived at the end of the never-ending stairwell. There was a tall stone door before them which seemed almost exactly like the metal door from before.

Have we reached our destination?

Rhode pulled himself together and Lize and Anne also watched in silence. There was a much more important problem to handle-Marlene.

Marlene had confessed everything to them and even the always carefree Anne knew the fate that Marlene was about to face. But not even Anne was willing to give up. She might be innocent, but she wasn't foolish. She knew that everyone risked their lives to come to this place and were they going to give up knowing that Marlene would be sacrificed? Impossible!

But... They weren't that cruel to sacrifice their close friend. Although Rhode was confident that he could rescue Marlene even if she had to be sacrificed, the thought of their close friend dying before them was unbearable.

"Mr. Rhode, how's the situation above?"

Lize asked with knitted brows. Rhode pondered in silence before responding.

"I communicated with Lesa. Currently the Chaos Creatures have continuously attacked for 98 times. Even though Christie has helped them delay for three more days, it seems like she's at her limit."

"Huh? Three days? Why do I feel like we've only been here for about two days?"

Lize shrieked in surprise. But she couldn't be blamed because even though Order preserved the flow of time in this place, they couldn't actually relate to the true duration of time. It was only through hunger that they estimated the time, but the issue was that there basically weren't any ordinary humans here.

Anne was a half-beast and even though she was gluttonous, her bloodline allowed her to go without food for two to three days. Lize was a half-angel and similar to the elves; their appetites weren't huge and a couple of fruits could restore their energy. It went without saying for Rhode. Although he didn't know what his bloodline was, he was sure that he wasn't a pure human. On the other hand, although Marlene was 'once' considered an ordinary human, she seemed to be impure after her other self did something to her in the weird space from before, where she didn't feel fatigue or the need to drink along the way. Apart from being pale after her shoulder was punctured and losing a lot of blood, she was basically fine.

It was just too difficult to expect them to rely on their bodies to grasp the true flow of time.

"Perhaps the flow of time is different here from above."

Rhode puckered his brows and said.

Players didn't care much about these details, but he discovered from Lesa that more than 10 days had gone on the surface. The attack of Chaos was pressing hard and 'Christie' helped them buy more time by using the Knowledge Scroll three times in a row. According to 'Christie', her body would crumble completely if she cast it one more time. Therefore, she couldn't continue battling anymore. However, this was more than enough for Rhode. If it weren't for her, perhaps the surface would have been swarmed by the Chaos Creatures by now.

But even so, the next phase would be the last one. The defenders above suffered gravely and he had also lost one-third of his mercenaries. But what gave him the most heartache was that Lesa ordered the Bow Knights to protect the mercenaries, and more than half of them died. Rhode knew that he didn't have much time to delay anymore.

At this moment, Rhode realized the three young ladies were gazing at him silently. All of their gazes were unique albeit having the same meaning behind them-it was time for him to make the decision.

"Forget it. I shall leave it to the will of Heaven."

Rhode muttered and nodded to Marlene.

"Marlene, open the door."

"Yes, Rhode."

Marlene appeared rather nervous. She turned around and raised her right hand. Shortly after, the metal staff appeared in her hand and she slotted it into the door. Then, the stone gears spun and the door gradually opened.

There was no sound.

This five-meters-tall stone door opened silently without the slightest noise. What presented before them was a scene that they had never seen before.

"Woah..."

Anne exclaimed in awe. Lize covered her mouth in surprise.

It was a vast starry night with stars connecting to form rivers of light that flowed gently like the galaxy. In the middle of the space was a sphere in the form of a dim sun, flickering and emanating gentle white radiances.

"Is that the tinder...?"

Marlene stared blankly and muttered under her breath. She felt as though everything in this world existed for it. She couldn't turn her eyes away from the flaming sphere like she was a moth pouncing onto flames... It was only until Rhode held her shoulder that she came to a halt and realized that she had entered the sacred temple unknowingly.

"Let me go in first."

Rhode shot a look at Lize and Anne. Then, he raised his head and gazed at the tinder. Up until this moment, everything was as he remembered. As long as he followed the proper steps, he would be able to awaken the tinder. But if his guesses were correct, he wouldn't be able to awaken it. But humans often weren't willing to give up, wasn't it?

He went up to the tinder and placed his hand on the blazing, mini sun.

Shortly after, a line of system prompts emerged.

[Tinder detected a trigger]

[Begin verification phase]

[Begin lineage matching program]

[Tinder Origin---]

"Beep...!"

Rhode's heart sank to the ear-screeching siren. As expected, he saw a system prompt that he didn't wish to witness.

[Detected the seal]

[Failed to unlock seal. Failed to awaken the Tinder]

"Tsk!"

Rhode scoffed. If it were possible, he wished to simply slash it apart with his sword and end everything. But it was a pity that as a Spirit Swordsman, he wasn't familiar with the seal.

"Celia, Celestina, Gracier, Madaras, Shira, can you handle it?"

Rhode communicated with his summoning spirits, only to be responded with their inability to unlock the seal.

"This seal has been enhanced by the pure blood and spirit of humans. Sister Shira may be able to forcefully destroy it, but it will be impossible to unlock it."

Celestina who held the highest authority in magical theory answered and Rhode twitched his brow.

"Forcefully destroy it?"

"That's right. Destroy the seal and the object altogether. It should be possible with Sister Shira's strength."

"... Forget it."

Rhode had no doubt that Shira was capable of destroying this sealed tinder. But the sole purpose of him coming to this place would become meaningless. He let out a helpless sigh before turning around to the young lady and extending his hand.

"Marlene, it's your turn."

Anne and Lize gazed worriedly at the young lady beside her. Marlene shook her head with a bitter smile, extending her hands and caressing their hair.

"Alright then, Lize, Anne. I'll be right back."

Marlene had never spoken to them in such a tone. It felt as though she was just going ahead to observe the situation and admire the scenery. On the contrary, Anne and Lize were speechless. They wanted to hold her, but their rationality froze them to the spot. As a result, they simply nodded and watched as Marlene stepped forward with a smile on her face and held onto Rhode's extended hand.

"Are you afraid?"

Although Marlene presented a gentle smile, Rhode instantly felt her cold and shaky hand. As soon as Marlene turned away from Anne and Lize, she bit her lip and revealed a look of struggle as though she was about to cry.

"No matter what, this is what I have to do, isn't it, Rhode?"

Marlene gazed at the young man before her. At this moment, she stripped away her strong facade and revealed all the anxiousness and fear in her.

"That's right. Besides, I promised that I'll be by your side."

Rhode nodded firmly. While holding onto her trembling hand, he reached out for his pocket and grabbed the Illusion Crystal. Marlene blinked and her maroon eyes restored their unprecedented peace. She pondered in silence before showing a gentle smile that was much more vibrant than the sun before her eyes.

Then, she placed her hand on the tinder.

Shortly after, the system prompt emerged.

[Detected seal remover---begin bloodline seal unlock. Progress 1%]