It was nothing strange for Rhode to have a person of an opposite-sex accompanying him through the night . However, Rhode felt an unprecedented peace and tranquility with Christie around .
The little girl’s petite body snuggled in his arms and through her thin pajamas, Rhode could feel her fragile body like a pitiful doll made of crystal . Christie rested her hand on Rhode’s chest and gazed at Rhode with her clear, round eyes that were always fondly attached to him .
Rhode didn’t have any obscene thoughts about her . This wasn’t because Christie lacked charisma . In fact, even though the little girl was still young, her slowly-developing body also let off a youthful, yet seductive charm . Not to mention, she had a beautiful face and she was always gentle in her actions . Before Rhode could feel a sense of lust towards her, a feeling that he had never felt before occupied him .
He wanted to protect, accompany her, and wished that she could grow up healthily and happily… Rhode was somewhat astonished by this thought of his because he had never felt this way for a woman, even for Marlene and Canary . This feeling was even more complicated as he faced Christie before him .
Just like she was his younger sister .
After that night, Christie insisted to ‘supervise’ Rhode’s work and rest and Rhode couldn’t do anything about it . In order for Christie to not sleep too late and affect her health, Rhode had no choice but to put down his paperwork and rest with her .
Her condition looks much better than last time .
Sensing her warm, tiny body in his arms, Rhode thought to himself . When he first met Christie, she was almost all skin and bones . But now, her skin seemed to be glowing and her condition was much better, which was a good sign . However, Rhode couldn’t help but worry every time he thought of the mysterious powers contained inside her . After all, he wasn’t aware of how it would affect her in any way .
“… Rhode…?” Christie’s soft voice sounded in his ear .
The little girl was always soft-spoken as though every word required a lot of her strength . This wasn’t because of her health issues; instead, it was because the little girl was unfamiliar with the way of speaking after being imprisoned in High Cliff Village for a long time . For ordinary humans, speaking couldn’t be easier . However, it wasn’t easy for Christie to find a way to speak normally again . Due to this, Christie would often not be able to speak smoothly and would always pause and hesitate between words . From the start, Rhode was rather worried; however, he was getting used to her style of speaking gradually .
“What’s wrong, Christie?” Rhode stroked the little girl’s silky hair as he gazed into her eyes while Christie narrowed her eyes at ease and lifted her head . “… You should rest… Rhode… It’s very late now… You need to sleep… early…”
“Don’t worry, Christie . I will keep my promise,” Rhode assured her and let out a bitter smile as Christie sounded like she was nagging at a child . Indeed, Rhode was behaving like an obedient child in front of Christie for the past two days . He would get up and sort out the intelligence report instantly after Christie had fallen asleep because he knew that the little girl wouldn’t be able to watch over him ‘overnight’ due to her weak body . However, Christie was no dummy either and she had thought of a way to take care of him .
Rhode patted on Christie’s back gently . He realized that he had been neglecting her for a while now and he was also clear that as a guild leader, he couldn’t possibly be by her side every day . On the other hand, Christie didn’t have the strength to help Rhode and the others, which resulted in her being disassociated with them sometimes .
However, Christie didn’t give up trying . She had always been searching for tasks that she could do and this was why she took the initiative to take care of Rhode . She hoped that she could become someone useful and not someone who always needed to be taken care of .
Due to her gruesome childhood, it was perhaps right to say that this little girl knew better than anyone that good things wouldn’t just fall from the sky . She worked really hard within her capacity like helping Lapis with the designs or running errands for others within the Fortress . However, these tasks seemed too insignificant for her . Besides, Rhode could feel that Christie wasn’t too satisfied too .
He wasn’t worried that Christie would feel defeated . But he was more concerned that this little girl would do something extreme that her body couldn’t handle . But…
“Christie, how have you been doing in the Fortress?” Rhode lowered his head and spoke gently in her ears while Christie nodded slightly . “… Good… Rhode, everyone treats me… well… There is Sister Bubble… She is willing to be my friend…”
“It’s good that you can make friends here,” Rhode felt relieved after hearing her cheerful words .
Rhode had once requested Bubble to get along with Christie since; after all, Bubble’s age was closest to Christie amongst everyone living in the Fortress . Besides, Rhode also knew that even though Bubble had a malicious mouth, she was actually really soft-hearted . Furthermore, both Bubble and Canary were full of curiosity towards this little girl who looked almost exactly like Rhode . Judging from Christie’s tone when she mentioned Bubble, Rhode could see that she liked the little fellow too and that was the best he could hope for .
“But… I hope to be with… Rh-…” Christie mumbled and before she could finish her sentence, she couldn’t resist the temptation of the sleep demon . The little girls shut her eyes slowly and she fell into a deep sleep .
“…” Rhode caressed her long hair gently and he knew what the little girl was about to say .
That was an innocent wish of hers… But Rhode knew that he couldn’t grant it, at least for now . But what about next time? Will I be able to grant her wish?
Rhode closed his eyes subconsciously and he too fell asleep…
It was pitch-black everywhere .
Rhode gazed at the vast and indistinct darkness before him . His conscious was rather blurry and the entire world seemed to be shrouded in a dark, mysterious cold fog… At the next moment, the dark fog before his eyes vanished and a brand new scenery replaced it .
“This is…” Rhode widened his eyes in astonishment . The pitch-black, gloomy sky extended endlessly while the dried-up earth was free of any living creatures and the dead trees were as unpleasant as a distorted gibbet . Rhode puckered his brows as he had never been to this place before . Meanwhile, something seemed to be calling out to him .
Rhode lifted his head and discovered a massive, tall circle-shaped tower that had appeared out of nowhere . The steps circled upwards beside his feet, all the way until the platform on top . The icy-cold wind blew gently at his ear as though inviting him upwards .
Rhode walked up the spiraling flight of stairs .
It seemed that this high tower wasn’t as tall as he had seen after he walked upwards . Also, his concept of time seemed to be indistinct too as Rhode couldn’t remember exactly how long he had been walking for . All in all, he arrived at the top of the tower as he returned to his senses .
Rhode saw a petite figure that astonished him .
A luxurious, elegant, upper-class black lace dress wrapped the little figure . Its silky, pitch-black long hair swayed along with the wind and a scarlet ribbon formed into a bowknot on its slender, fair neck . Rhode wasn’t unfamiliar with that face—it was his .
Or perhaps, that was Christie’s .
“Christie?” Rhode widened his eyes at the strange sight and took half a step forward to size up the little girl carefully . No matter from which angle, this little girl before him must be Christie who had fallen asleep with him . But he realized their differences quickly .
Unlike the gentle, loveable Christie, this little girl possessed an unprecedented, pressurizing presence . She stood on the spot as though she was the dictator of this ice-cold world . Her resolution was absolute and nobody could threaten or change her status . Countless shadows swayed under her feet as though they were welcoming their master warmly or perhaps, they were unable to escape the hands of this tyrant .
“Who are you?” Rhode was slightly startled as he felt that things weren’t looking right . At this moment, Rhode vaguely realized that he was in a really realistic dream . Moreover, Christie’s appearance had alarmed Rhode even more . With his experience, he knew that this wasn’t anything great .
The little girl smiled and opened her mouth as though she was speaking . But Rhode couldn’t hear anything as the whizzing sound of wind blew past his ears as though blocking off everything . “I can’t hear you; who exactly are you?”
‘Christie’ shook her head as she strode forward nimbly . She extended her hands and lifted the ends of her skirt to give a lady-like bow . Then, she lifted her head and gazed into his eyes . At this moment, Rhode discovered that the biggest difference in this ‘Christie’ was her eyes .
It was no longer Christie’s purple and blue eyes . Instead, it was a pair of incredibly beautiful purple pupils . Her deep purple eyeballs were as though burning and emanating a weak radiance which let off a luring and mysterious charm . The little girl smiled gently before extending her arms solemnly to grab Rhode’s right arm . She lifted her head and spoke once again . “…”
But Rhode still couldn’t hear her voice . He could hear the sound of the sliding movements on his clothes, the sound of the whizzing wind, the crackling of the branches on the withered tree . However, he could hear nothing from this little girl before him . Even though he could see the folding and widening of her lips, it was too difficult for him to read her lips . The little girl didn’t seem to be bothered that Rhode couldn’t hear herself . She said her piece and clasped his arm before lowering her head to peck on the back of his hand lightly .
“—!” Rhode felt a burning sting and his vision distorted as though a scarlet radiance had flashed before his eyes . Before he knew it, the world that he was in began to crumble and shatter… once again swallowed by darkness .