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893 New Presence of Death

 [Begin bloodline seal unlock]

A scarlet magical ritual emerged beneath Marlene's feet when suddenly, four steel chains emerged out of thin air and bound her limbs. Then, Marlene gnashed her teeth while gripping tightly onto Rhode's hand. She became extremely pale as though the magical ritual was absorbing her blood through her feet.

"Argh... Argh..."

Although Rhode couldn't understand how painful it was, he knew from her strong clasp that this pain wasn't tolerable for ordinary humans. At this moment, her sharp fingernails had almost pierced into his flesh and judging from her ashen complexion, she would surely let out an extremely tragic scream if she were to open her mouth.

But all Rhode could do was wait.

[Bloodline seal unlock--Progress 30%]

The young lady shuddered instinctively to the pain that was beyond her limits as she struggled to break free. But the steel chains were there to stop her from escaping. No matter how hard she struggled, the steel chains wouldn't budge at all. At this moment, she was like a wild beast who fell into a trap and desperately attempted to flee.

"Argh.... Argh! Argh!!"

The bone-chilling screams resounded in the silent room. Her lip was bleeding from her biting. She gazed ahead lifelessly while struggling to retract her hand from the tinder. But no matter how hard she tried, her left hand was as though attached to the tinder and couldn't move at all.

[Bloodline seal unlock--Progress 60%]

Slowly, Marlene stopped fighting, but this wasn't because the pain had stopped. Instead, the loss of vitality and magical powers made her powerless. She raised her head and stared into the starry night devoid of emotions while trembling like a dying frog. Anne and Lize couldn't bear to witness her agony anymore. Although they respected her decision, it was impossible for them to not rescue her with whatever it took. But even so, they couldn't avoid the reality. All they could do was to stand by the rear and witness everything at their wits' end.

[Bloodline seal unlock--Progress 80%]

"Damn it. Hurry up!"

Rhode cursed under his breath. He had never felt time pass by so slowly. He sensed that Marlene's spirit was gradually dissipating. Her body was slowly turning ice-cold and her final trace of consciousness was crumbling to the agony. But he couldn't do anything about it. He had decided that this method was simply a risky gamble. He wasn't sure if this would work and all he could do was to raise the success rate.

[Bloodline seal unlock--Progress 90%]

Marlene stopped shuddering and the magical and spiritual radiance emanating from her body were so faint that they could barely be seen. The final vibrancy of life from her gradually vanished. On the other hand, a strange circular scarlet magical ritual emerged over the tinder as though separating its internal by using blood to spread across the entire surface. This symbolized that the seal was about to be released. Rhode became vigilant and watched as everything unfolded.

Almost there.

Rhode muttered under his breath while gripping onto the Illusion Crystal tightly. He could only come up with one solution to rescue Marlene. If his prediction wasn't wrong and what the young lady who looked exactly like Marlene in the strange space said was true, it would be Marlene's natural death as soon as the progress hit 100 percent. In other words, Marlene would be completely dead. It was due to this that the young lady could then enter Marlene's body and fuse as a whole new being. Based on Rhode's countless experiences in dealing with Liches, he was clear of the basic knowledge about spiritual transfer.

He had another solution and he had to rely on the fact that he was a Spirit Swordsman.

The Spirit Swordsman was a class that signed contracts with spirits that were asleep in this world in order to summon them into battles. There were two important points here. One was to awaken the spirits and two, the spirits must belong to this plane of existence. Spirit Swordsman couldn't summon spirits from other planes of existence like Mages.

This was his final choice.

All Spirit Swordsmen had a unique class skill-Spirit Language. The Spirit Swordsmen needed to use this skill to awaken spirits in this world and sign contracts with them. This skill wasn't actually considered a talent or a sword skill. Therefore, it couldn't be enhanced using skill points or increased in mastery. But this was the most important skill Spirit Swordsmen had because this was how they received their summoning cards.

Not only that, but this skill also had another ability-forcefully awaken sleeping spirits and interact with them without the soul cores. After obtaining their permission and agreement, the spirits would turn into cards. But Rhode had never used this ability in the past because it would consume a whole lot of spiritual powers to summon them without the existence of soul cores. Not only that, but there was also a high chance of failed summons. Therefore, he had basically never done so, especially after receiving the holy sword cards in his arsenal.

He currently didn't have any soul cores with him.

Therefore, his last choice was to borrow the unlimited spiritual powers from the Illusion Crystal and continuously activate Spirit Language. This way, he could summon Marlene's spirit to return to her body before the young lady could. Then, he could use Marlene's body to seal her own spirit within the card. Thereafter, he could appoint a position for her so she could forever stay by his side in her physical form. As for the young lady, she would be completely devoured and slaughtered by the tinder as soon as she failed to enter the vessel.

But success wasn't guaranteed. Rhode had to awake Marlene's spirit before the young lady came to her body. Besides, there were also plenty of uncertainties. He was also aware that spirits like Marlene's who died as sacrificial offerings were usually gravely injured and might possibly lose their consciousness and wouldn't be able to respond to his callings. If Marlene couldn't respond to his summons and the other spirit entered her body, the final connection between her spirit and body would be broken and he wouldn't know where to find a relic that was related to Marlene to re-summon her spirit.

Of course, Rhode had explained everything to Marlene beforehand and hoped that she could work with him on this. After all, all these were theories and only heaven knew if they would succeed.

[Blood seal unlock-98%-99%-100%. Seal unlocked]

[Preparing the next phase]

Rhode's eyes glinted as soon as this system prompt emerged. Then, he held Marlene's hand tightly, turned around, and quickly released a summoning ritual on the back of his hand. A dazzling magical radiance extended from his arm to his body. In the blink of an eye, the entire ritual enveloped the two completely. The steel chains released their grip on her limbs and she hovered in midair. At this moment, her eyes were completely spiritless and her body was ice-cold.

"Marlene, wake up!"

Rhode yelled, but the young lady didn't respond and the summoning ritual suddenly dimmed. The system prompted the failure of [Spirit Language].

"Damn it! Marlene!"

Rhode cursed and yelled again, but there was still no response. He was getting anxious as it had been five times since he released [Spirit Language] from the start and none of them worked. Although he sensed that Marlene's spirit was still connected to her body, she was completely lifeless as though her soul had shattered into bits. Could it be that he neglected the factors involving the bloodline seal? Could it be that her ancestors came up with this countermeasure when designing the seal?

"Marlene!"

The summoning ritual flickered. Rhode relied on the [Illusion Crystal] and activated [Spirit Language] more than 30 times, but Marlene's spirit still didn't respond. At this moment, the system prompt emerged.

[Seal unlocked]

The scarlet magical ritual above the tinder spread across the space before disappearing entirely. Then, an illusory young lady emerged from the tinder and held onto Marlene's hand that was attached to the tinder. She smiled and gazed at Rhode.

"It seems like you haven't given up."

"Do you think I'd give up that easily?"

Rhode stared coldly at the young lady who looked exactly like Marlene.

"I guessed so. But it's a pity that I'm still the ultimate winner."

The young lady revealed a grin as she slowly left the tinder, extending her arms and merging into Marlene's body. Rhode wanted to stop her, but his hands were holding onto Marlene's hand and the Illusion Crystal.

Is there really no other way?

Suddenly, he recalled what the other 'Christie' said to Lesa-"Although Miss Marlene is important to her, it is still different from Miss Christie."

The spirit seal... Bloodline unlock... Fusing the spirit to the body... Could it be...

"Marlene!!"

Rhode snarled. This time, he coalesced all the spiritual powers and injected them into Marlene's sleeping spirit, to which her body shuddered and she widened her eyes abruptly.

Her maroon eyes glinted in an unprecedented radiance.

"R... Rhode..."

At this moment, the young lady who was about to enter Marlene's body retracted her arms in a fluster as though she was electrocuted. Then, her arms cracked, shattered, and crumbled instantly.

"No! Why did this happen! Why? Why did this happen?!"

The young lady glared at Marlene, but couldn't understand what had happened. She had lost her delightful smile and became extremely furious. On the contrary, Marlene extended her arms and gazed silently at her.

"Come back..."

"No... No, I'm not...!"

The young lady suddenly became distorted. Then, Marlene swung her arms and countless gold magical strings bound the young lady completely in midair.

What's going on?

Rhode gazed curiously at Marlene and the young lady who struggled to break free from her. The situation took a sudden turn as though the vicious demon king became a tiny critter and the trembling princess transformed into the final BOSS.

What kind of development to the plot is this?

"Rhode..."

Marlene turned around and smiled at him. The latter looked into her maroon eyes and all he saw was trust and love just as usual.

"My body is already dead. I'll leave the next to you."

"I know."

Rhode sighed and let loose of his left hand and raised it into the air.

"Awakened spirit, I hereby summon you. Are you willing to be my spirit and fight alongside me forever?!"

"I'm willing to be with you until eternity, Rhode!"

Marlene smiled and answered without hesitation. Then, she extended her hand and placed it on his left hand. At the same time, a card emerged in his hand.

"---!"

Suddenly, a massive golden ritual resembling countless, enormous, connected gears erupted from beneath Marlene's feet. The powerful flow of magic instantly shrouded the room. Marlene hovered in midair and at the next moment, she had as though became the owner of this space. Then, two light columns rose from the ground with two silhouettes within.

"I knew Sister Marlene wouldn't disappoint us."

It was Christie. She flew out of the light column and smiled at Marlene.

"There's not much time left. Let's continue to the final ritual."

In the other light column, the young lady from the library spoke softly. Then, she drifted to Marlene's side and formed a triangle with them while Rhode, Anne, and Lize watched curiously at them.

"Like the agreement with Master thousands of years ago, the tinder shall be awakened and the glory of Order shall eradicate all Chaos."

"Like the agreement with Master thousands of years ago, fate is changing and the endless sky shall envelop the land."

Both of them chanted before turning to Marlene and spoke in unison.

"Adhering to the will..."

"Adhering to the traditions..."

"I, hereby, in the name of the Fate Deity Warden--Christie Nabelis..."

"I, hereby, in the name of the History Deity Warden--Alice Darlaston..."

"Acknowledge the Wisdom Deity Warden of the Six Deity Wardens--Margaret Arcturus's return to the third seat!"