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981 Chaotic Warfare

 The rancid air diffused with several pairs of red eyes glinting menacingly in the darkness.

Despite that, Rhode's group remained calm, except for Christie, who twitched nervously and triggered the ring on her finger. In the blink of an eye, a gentle ray of white light enfolded her entirety. But even so, she leaned closely to Bell as she sensed that this disturbing aura was similar to the devil ritual she experienced in the past.

The darkness finally separated at the next moment.

"Grrrr---!"

Hundreds of devils bound out of the darkness, widening their jaw to reveal lethal, long fangs and slashing their razor-sharp claws. Their ragged wings fluttered, pouncing them on the wall of flames like moths. Putrid stench filled the air as the devils thronged the space.

But they posed no threat to Rhode's group. These devils weren't nothing more than some annoying bugs to them.

Canary raised her arm and gestured subtly with her fingers. In an instant, the wall of flames surged and a blazing bird flew out from within to charge at the devils. Shortly after, a string of fireballs exploded, lighting the pitch-black devils up quickly as though they were drenched in flammable liquid. Not only that, but the scarlet flares also spread to the left and right, surrounding all creatures within the ring of flames. The devils bawled and burned to ashes due to the elemental flames.

The others got to work at the same time.

As Mini Bubble Gum wasn't around, Rhode took over her responsibility in protecting Christie. As for his own protection, he relied on his summoning spirits, of course. Even though devils had been wreaking havoc on the surface for some time, they were nothing in the eyes of the summoned spirits.

As usual, Celia's attack was as grandeur as an honorable soldier's. The white, shiny blade blazing with holy flames was her best offense. She brandished the blade, instantly devouring a large mass of evil darkness. On the other hand, Celestina stood beside her with an uncharacteristic, ice-cold expression, gazing at the darkness sternly. Unlike the bright, explosive action from Canary and Celia, Celestina's battle was much more mysterious and silent. She pushed her arm forward, the pitch-black chain sword in her hand blending into the darkness and vanishing before her eyes. But at the same time, the devils in front of her disappeared without a trace as though they disintegrated completely.

However, Karin was still the most eye-catching. The young lady gazed ahead calmly like she wasn't engaged in battle at all. But as soon as one witnessed the thread-made, tall trap device in front of her rolling and crushing the devils like a meat grinder, one wouldn't doubt that the devils would be used as powdered fertilizers later...

"...!"

The battle continued on the side.

Bell wielded the two daggers in a criss-cross stance before her, denying the quick, deadly claws. Then, the daggers glowed in dazzling spiritual radiance, diffusing to the surroundings endlessly like a roaring wave that repelled the devils effortlessly. Bell seized the chance to dodge the splashing blood and more razor-sharp claws.

Well done.

Rhode nodded in satisfaction. Bell had powerful swordsmanship and was also great in adapting to situations. She didn't struggle blindly against the enemies and chose to battle with self-defense in mind. This was why he taught her his swordsmanship. Of course, her main priority was to protect Christie behind her. If not, she would have easily eliminated these devils with her high-level sword skills. But... Rhode lowered his head and looked at Christie beside him. At this moment, the little girl had clenched her fists and was watching the battle anxiously. He heaved a subtle sigh. In fact, he agreed with Karen's suggestion. Perhaps Christie might be interested in adventures, but her role was more like those characters in RPG games where they must be protected by the protagonist or players, such as a princess the evil forces had gotten their eyes on. Rhode could count his lucky stars as long as she didn't blindly stir up trouble, not to mention counting on her to battle. It wasn't because she was incapable. Instead, it was her personality that made her unsuitable for battles. But Rhode understood the opinions of the other 'Christie'. This world wasn't peaceful at all. Besides, Christie possessed powerful strength and she would be involved with dangers regardless of whether she was willing or not. This was why she had to learn to face dangers and wouldn't grow if she constantly hid in safety.

"Christie."'

"... Rhode...?"

Christie lifted her head and gazed at him in astonishment. Then, he patted her head softly.

"This is your battle too, Christie."

"..."

Christie bit her lip, gazing at the battlefield ahead. Indeed, she had never faced any danger while being protected by everyone like now. Although there were many terrifying devils surrounding her, she felt extremely safe with everyone's protection. But... Was that the right thing to do?

Christie couldn't help but recall the advice that Anne told her in the past-no matter the front or back, one can only be considered a companion as long as one fought alongside others.

Didn't I come here for that?

"... I got it... Rhode..."

Christie gazed at the ring on her finger meaningfully. Shortly after, she caressed the ring and suddenly, blinding golden runes exploded and merged to form a feather pen that fell gently on her palm. She raised her right hand and a snowy scroll appeared from the thin air above her, unrolling before her eyes. Christie took in a deep breath, before touching the scroll with the feather pen. In the blink of an eye, descriptions of the current situation emerged across the empty scroll.

"... The devils summoned from darkness pounced on their targets and launched their attacks fearlessly..." Christie moved the feather pen and added a short sentence to the end.

"But all the devils vanished. In an instant."

In an instant.

In the blink of an eye, the overwhelming devils disappeared without a trace. Everything was as described by the scroll. The torch flames extinguished by Chaos and the devils' aura lit up once again, illuminating the pitch-black maze. At this moment, Christie let out a sigh of relief and closed her eyes. The feather pen turned into the ring and returned to her finger. Everything ended in an instant. Although Christie's abilities had improved tremendously with the training from the other 'Christie', she could only last a few minutes in battle.

"Her Highness Christie's abilities are amazing. No wonder she is second only to His Majesty."

Karin pushed up the glasses and muttered under her breath. Even though Christie's abilities were mystical, the holy sword spirits were used to it already. On the contrary, Canary stared in astonishment. Although she learned about the ring's attributes from Rhode, she discovered how godlike it actually was after witnessing it personally. Only a single sentence was needed from her to change the world. This was beyond anyone's imagination.

"Players would have surely spammed 'report' on this thing if it showed up in the game, Rhode."

"I know."

Rhode nodded in agreement, but it wasn't time to discuss this issue now. As Christie used 'destroy' and not 'disappear', the devils' corpses were still laying around them. Each devil was over a meter long, with a body resembling a lizard in human form. They also had a pair of ragged, bat-like wings, a thick, long tail, as well as a head of a jackal.

"Jackal Devils."

Celestina snorted as though they were the most filthy and disgusting creatures in this world. She glared at the chunks of flesh and waved her hand, erupting pitch-black flames to clean up the terrible mess.

"Seems like we're going to face some big shot from the abyss this time."

Rhode was already aware of that as Jackal Devils were common in the abyss. For instance, they were like the countless lice living on the bodies of massive devils which Rhode often encountered during Devil BOSS battles. Jackal Devils were low in level but had the upper hand in quantity. Their simple-mindedness made them charge at players and eventually self-destruct or emit poisonous smoke.

Moreover, Jack Devils would normally show up around Devil BOSSes. Rhode didn't think that it was a coincidence that they appeared and attacked them here.

"Perhaps this has something to do with Bubble's attack earlier on and they are now probing our strength."

Canary said and Rhode nodded in agreement. He checked the status of the apprentices through his system and found that they weren't ambushed by the devils. This meant that the devils didn't attack aimlessly and were ordered by 'someone' to find trouble with them. Judging from this, Gabe or the 'thing' that possessed him had the highest possibility of being the mastermind. The strength of Rhode's group was clearly witnessed by everyone before. In this case, it made sense that the devils probed their strength to see if their plans would be affected. And now it seemed like their probing had to come to an end.

Rhode wasn't worried about Mini Bubble Gum at all because it was impossible for the devils to overwhelm her. On the other hand, he was more concerned that Anne and her would be overly excited and destroy the maze...

"Hey... Leader... Are you alright!?"

Speaking of the devil.

Mini Bubble Gum and Anne showed up at the other end of the corridor. Just as Rhode expected they were perfectly fine. But this wasn't surprising to him since Mini Bubble Gum's sacred power was the natural curse of the devils. On the other hand, not to mention Celia who specialized in physical attack, a spell-caster like Mini Bubble Gum was just like a conscious, human-shaped nuclear warhead. She didn't need to hesitate before wiping out a vast land.

"We're fine, what about you? What did you meet?"

Rhode asked, recalling that the 'boom' earlier on was perhaps their signal for the start of battle. Anne wrinkled her nose before helplessly explaining the situation. In fact, Mini Bubble Gum and Anne were observing how the Golem Puppets eradicated the devils. But for some reason, the Golem Puppets seemed to be corroded by an unknown presence where not only did their appearance change, but they also launched attacks on the two young ladies. Of course, Mini Bubble Gum and Anne didn't flee. They jumped straight into battle and were eventually surrounded by Jackal Devils. While they fought the devils, they slowly moved toward Rhode's group, hoping to regroup in the shortest time possible. But since everything ended, there was nothing more to worry about.

"Corroded Golem Puppets?"

Rhode looked at Mini Bubble Gum dubiously. The latter nodded firmly.

"That's right. It must be the doings of that shameless bast*rd! Damn it! I should have killed him earlier! He's asking for death to find trouble with us!"

Mini Bubble Gum pouted. She was furious for not killing Gabe earlier on, only to be backstabbed by him now. On the contrary, Anne didn't mind. She tapped Mini Bubble Gum's shoulder with a smile.

"Hey, it's nothing serious, Bubble. We can still fight him later!"

"You're right, Anne. We will teach that bast*rd a lesson!"

"Sigh..."

Rhode shook his head helplessly and turned around.

"Alright, let's go. We still have a long way to go."

He said.

At the same time, on the other side of the maze...

"Oh?"

The mage in black robes lifted his head and gazed at the empty void before him grimly.

"They've been destroyed already? It seems like those people are a tough bunch. Alright then, we should pick up the pace too."

The mage murmured, turning to the several figures behind him.

"Hurry up, there's still a long way ahead!"

The mage snarled, startling the slim figures who trembled in fear. They followed him closely, their bodies twisting under the radiance and shaping into a brand new form.