Marlene expression turned cold. Since her birth, she had never been treated like that. She was a rare magic genius in the family, whether it was her parents, family, or even the teachers in the magic academy, they had always been polite to her. With her ability and status, she always held her head up high, never needing to compromise with others. But she still followed her family training regime and never slacked off.
When she heard Rhode's first requirement, although somewhat unwilling, she still could accept. But the second requirement was something that she definitely couldn't compromise!
Marlene was always confident about her strength. She started training as young as 6 years old, and now 10 years had already passed. In all her life up till now, she hadn't failed to live up to expectations. Even now, when she experienced a bottleneck after entering the middle circle, she wasn't worried. Just as her teacher explained, at the moment, what she lacked wasn't knowledge, but actual combat experience. As for her talent in understanding the concepts of magic, there wasn't much difference between her and the teacher.
And now, Rhode just denied her ten years of effort!
"Mr. Rhode, I can tolerate the first condition, but I can't accept the second!"
Marlene raised her head proudly, staring straight at Rhode without wavering. Looking at her stubbornness, Rhode frowned but did not say anything.
On the side, Old Hank prayed that she would give up.
Please fail, fail, fail, then nothing will happen...
"Why?" Rhode asked.
"Because you don't know what am I capable of!"
Marlene declared confidently. Since this was the first time they met, she was certain that he didn't know how talented she was. Based on the information she got from Uncle Hank, she knew that he was a swordsman and not a mage. So how could he understand the intricate nature of mages and spells? If they were of the same class, perhaps she would respect him slightly more, but as a swordsman, he wouldn't be able to offer her any help.
Marlene clenched her teeth. She wanted to stand up and curse Rhode. But in the end, she maintained her composure and bottled her anger. After all, her opponent did not show any signs of anxiousness; if she lost her temper, then it would reflect poorly on the Senia family's prestige.
Suddenly, Rhode stood up. A trace of joy appeared on Old Hank's face. Perhaps this youngster couldn't take it any further. Thank god. Now, if only this youngster could curse ruthlessly so that the young miss would leave Deep Stone City, that would be for the best... Therefore, Old Hank prepared to stand up with Rhode to act as a mediator. However, Rhode's next sentence almost made Old Hank faint.
"Then, let's try it."
Marlene simply stood up and agreed after hearing his challenge. Both of them failed to notice Old Hank's face turning from black to purple and purple to black. The colors on his face flashed too quickly as if it didn't know which color was better for the situation right now.
At this time, a voice sounded from the stairs.
"Mr. Rhode, I have already prepared the breakfast. What are you..."
Lize walked down from the stairs and discovered the two extra people in the hall. At first, she was mildly surprised to see Old Hank, but when her gaze fell onto Marleen, she immediately gasped.
"You are... Marlene?" Lize asked in disbelief.
Marlene looked back at Lize. After realizing that it was really Lize, her expression eased and turned into a warm smile.
"Lize! Is it really you? I never expected that I would meet you here! Where did you go? How did you end up in Deep Stone City? Are you okay?"
The composed girl from before finally showed her cheerful and lively nature. Marlene ran towards Lize and held her hands in excitement. She began bombarding Lize with questions. Facing Marlene friendly attitude, Lize felt a little bit awkward and stole a glance at Rhode as if she was worried about something.
They both know each other?
Rhode was surprised. He thought that he was the mysterious one, but it seems as though Lize had many things hidden from him as well. Her being a half angel? Information that only nobility should know? And now she was even acquainted with Marlene Senia?
Judging by how Marleen greeted Lize, surely her position wouldn't be low. Otherwise, Marlene would not be that friendly to her.
So who is she actually?
"I'm fine, Marlene."
Lize felt Rhode's questioning gaze on her and she quickly let go of Marleen's hands in a panic. Then, she quickly changed the topic.
"Why are you here? Shouldn't you be in the Golden City...?"
"I've entered the middle circle stage. Teacher said that to improve further, I will need to travel and gain some real combat experience." Marleen explained proudly. "Yesterday, I heard that this mercenary group was lacking members, so I came to see if I can join... How about you Lize? Why are you here?"
"I...After that happened, I have always been here."
Lize spoke in a low voice, as if she was afraid that Rhode might hear it. But she quickly changed her expression and asked Marleen.
"Are you really going to join the mercenary group? Marlene, this is not a game, this time our mission is going to be very dangerous..."
"I have decided, I must join this mercenary group."
This time, Marlene gave up the unpleasant feeling between Rhode and her. At this moment, she only thought of her long lost best friend. How could she leave her behind? But Rhode immediately doused her flames of enthusiasm.
"Don't make a decision too quickly, Ms. Marlene. You have not passed my test yet."
Marlene's face turned serious again when she heard Rhode.
"Of course. I will not run away. Moreover, I also want to see how strong you are."
Rhode always preferred direct methods and did not like dragging things for too long. He could tell that Marlene was also a decisive person. After agreeing to the duel, they did not waste any more words. Rhode led the group to the garden outside, and after all this time, Lize didn't know what was going on.
"I won't show any mercy."
Marlene said softly. After that, her demeanor immediately changed. She had turned into the Marlene of the Senia family, and not the Marlene that was cheerful in front of Lize.
The luxurious purple robe accentuated her curvy figure, a flowery trim on her collar and cuffs revealed her family's identity. With a ruby wand in her hand, she took up a combat stance. Meanwhile, Rhode was staring dejectedly at the ground.
Elemental Mage, Middle Circle Level 7. According to the player level, she was supposed to be level 15...
Rhode completely read her from head to toe with just a glance. The ruby wand on her hand had an imbued fire element, and her robe had several protective magic circles which meant that it could trigger an auto-defense mechanism without her actively casting a defensive spell. From this point and coupled with his first impression towards her, Rhode already guessed her fighting style.
That was to be expected as a former leader of the No.1 guild. Rhode had done countless of PKs in his gaming life, and this wasn't any different. Furthermore, players were many times more difficult as they could move as they chose, but on the contrary, NPCs could only react based on the equipment they had. Thus, Rhode had completely predicted what attacks she would make later on.
Meanwhile, as Rhode completed his plan for this duel, Marlene had troubles finding an opening.
That was because Rhode, who was standing before her, did not move at all. He did not equip any weapon, nor take any combat stance. He was simply standing still at his own leisure.
This action made Marleen hesitate slightly. It wasn't because she hadn't fought in a duel before, but this kind of casual behavior in a duel... However, the young miss was still genius of this era. Even though she did not know what Rhode was trying to pull off, she decisively ended her hesitation. No matter what the opponent was trying to do, as long as she put her mind to it, she would definitely win!
Followed by a chant, she took half a step forward and raised the wand on her hand. Flames appeared on the tip of the gem and shot towards Rhode. Wherever the fire passed, the surrounding temperature would rise, it even caused the ground to be scorched black. The weeds immediately turned into ashes. As the temperature was too high, it instantly charred the vegetation.
The flame consumed Rhode's figure and the two people who were watching this scene screamed in surprise. On the other hand, Marlene was sulking because she could felt that she did not hit the target! She had failed!
But a genius was indeed a genius.
After noticing that something was wrong, she immediately gripped her wand and struck it towards the ground.
A violent whirlwind arose from beneath her feet. The air condensed into a series of razor-sharp wind blades. That wasn't all, the temperature within the eye of the storm dipped drastically, forming icicles which spun within the whirlwind.
As he observed Marlene's performance, Rhode could not help but shake his head and sigh. In the game, the mage was one of the top classes in regards to DPS. He never thought that in reality, it was also as strong. Marlene's level was higher than Rhode by only five, but her attack damage could be considered to be almost twice of Rhode's.
Among the players, there was a saying. When a mage is PK-ing, even if he didn't know the position of the enemy, as long as the mage cast all his available spells, he could at least kill something.
That was how strong and terrifying mages were.
But to Rhode, although he found Marlene's damage to be excellent, her casting was full of loopholes. Apparently, she did not know what she was doing right now. In fact, when she was attacking, Rhode had already used Shadow Flash and snuck behind her. However, she still stood her ground. Even though realized that something was amiss and reacted quickly by casting storm to avoid being ambushed by him, but if she couldn't find the source of the threat, casting a skill blindly would cause the opposite effect.
Rhode flipped his right hand and shot forward.