[Trial Successful. Obtained the Holy Symbol of the Guardian —Recover the lost Glory, recreate the Glory of the past]
The system prompt was easy to understand, but for it to appear now was kind of weird.
Rhode, of course, knew what his Glory was. Especially considering that it was derived from his own effort. The series of trials he had to go through to attain the title of the most powerful Summoning Swordsman was no easy feat. He had to participate in a PVP championship with over ten thousand other players competing against each other via dueling. Everybody knew how the story went from then on; Rhode emerged victoriously and was crowned the title of the Top Summoning Swordsman in the entire Dragon Soul Continent.
Now, it seemed that the current quest was pushing him on the path to attain his past Glory once again.
But it was strange; he knew he wasn't in the game world any longer. There were no players, no game company, and unquestionably no global PVP championships. It was akin to being transmigrated to the Tang Dynasty era and then receiving a quest to win an F1 racing cup.
Rhode had seen the Holy Symbol of the Guardian before. In the game, many other classes had something similar to the Holy Symbol that he possessed. Mages had their magic circle, swordsmen had the Symbol of Bravery, Knights had the Code of Chivalry, and Clerics had the Holy Heart. Even Thieves and Rangers had a Magic Tattoo. These items were only obtainable after a test. The Summoning Swordsman class also had their own Magic Tattoo, but it wasn't equivalent to the Holy Symbol of the Guardian, instead, it was more like a Soul Contract than anything else.
Two lines of silver and black intertwined with each other, forming a complex, yet beautiful pattern on his hand. The pattern then linked with the summoning circle on his palm. When Rhode willed it, the pattern hid under his skin, concealing itself from sight.
[Holy Symbol of the Guardian (Recovered the Heart of Honor)
Heart of Honor: All Summoning Spirits consumption is reduced by a third; the duration of summons increases by a third (Mine Honor is my Life) ]
(ED: CN direct translation is Glory is my Life, but I think Shakespeare's quote feels better in this context.)
Rhode finally felt relieved. He slumped on the ground and reverted the holy sword back into a card. Currently, Rhode was extremely spent; his face was incredibly pale as he had lost a significant amount of blood. The bloody gash on his hand already formed a scab. Indeed, Blood Tears was an extraordinary weapon, as long it absorbs enough blood, it could display a shocking amount of power.
...Though it'd be better if he didn't have to use his own blood.
Once the trial ended, the barrier that blocked out Marlene had shattered. During the fight, all she could do was anxiously watch Rhode battle against overwhelming odds, so now that the barrier had been destroyed, she quickly ran over to Rhode.
"You're injured?!" Marlene screamed out of concern when she saw Rhode's lacerated palm which was full of blood and flesh.
Rhode waved away her worry and said, "Just a minor wound."
He tried to stand up, but after losing so much blood, he lost his balance and fell back to the ground. Fortunately, Marlene caught his arm in time and supported him from the side.
Seeing him in such a weakened state, Marlene furrowed her brow and said softly, "You should rest. There are no more enemies around. After you recover, we can proceed on."
Facing her insistence, he did not say anything else. His excessive blood loss and overconsumption of Soul Power had weakened him greatly. It wasn't a good choice if he forced himself to walk, thus, with Marlene's help, he settled against a nearby pillar to restore his strength.
While Rhode was resting, Marlene wasn't idling. She fished out several crystalline gems and placed it beside Rhode before softly chanting a spell. Soon, a translucent hexagonal prism appeared and enveloped both of them.
"This is an intermediate protective spell," Marlene explained with her head slightly lowered, apparently aware of Rhode's gaze on her. "It can recover injury and strength to a certain extent. I-I think that you should take a good rest after going through so much. This is the Senia family's heirloom; it isn't something that anyone can break..."
Marlene's voice was trembling slightly when she spoke. From the two days they had spent traveling to the Rock of Lament, Rhode had constantly kept his vigilance. Once there was a bit of movement, he would react immediately. From time to time, he would command her to check on the men following them. Frankly, this made her extremely worn out as she had to sleep on the cold hard ground. The rough, jagged stones and the smell of bushes made her miss her fluffy bed in Golden City. She just wanted to lie around and not do anything; however, she knew that what she was experiencing was nothing but trivial when compared to Rhode.
On the surface, it appeared that everything had gone according to Rhode's plan. If there was a problem, he was there to solve it. But after traveling with him, Marlene understood how much effort he needed to put in to guarantee his success.
It could be said that she was quite similar to Rhode. Since young, she had many prestigious titles labeled after her such as, 'Pride of the Senia family', 'Magic Academy Genius', 'Magic Fairy'. From the perspective of outsiders, she was the genius that could memorize any kind of spell in one sitting, and her understanding of Soul Power was far more profound than anyone else. But they did not see how much effort she had to expend behind the scenes. When the other kids were playing outside, she sat in a room with piles of ancient books surrounding her. While the other young ladies were attending a banquet, she was alone in a cold, underground room practicing her spells over and over again.
Even when it was bedtime for the children, she would be busy practicing social etiquettes in front of a mirror. The latest example would be her current plight. At the moment, the nobles back in her hometown were practicing horse riding. As for her, she had to face several dangerous situations in this forest with Rhode.
Many people were envious of her. Naturally, accepted all the envy. She was proud of her talent and her ability because she was willing to work hard for it.
On the other hand, Marlene would not allow anyone to look down on her. In her opinion, if her hard work were demeaned by those who only knew how to play or complain all day long, it would simply be an insult to her.
That was precisely the reason why Marlene could understand Rhode. Even when he reprimanded her, she would accept his opinion and keep silent because she knew that the man in front of her was smarter, more talented and more hardworking than her. Since she couldn't accept anyone trampling on her effort, naturally she wouldn't neglect other people's effort.
Of course, neither did Rhode know what Marlene was thinking about, nor did he want to guess. Back then, when he was young and innocent, he had tried to simulate his ex-girlfriends thoughts. When she broke up with him, he was confused. He thought that he knew what she was thinking. Then his imagination started to go wild. Did she lose interest? Did she find another man? Were they not suitable for one another?
It was only until later when he found out the truth. The reason why she broke up with him was that he attracted a lot of attention from his looks, making her feel incredibly pressured. And for the average modern women of today, having a boyfriend that was more beautiful than them was nothing worth envying.
From that moment on, Rhode no longer cared about these things. Since Marlene had guaranteed their safety, he did not say anything else and closed his eyes to begin recuperating. Moreover, according to his knowledge, it was indeed a strong barrier.
Although the pillar was cold and hard, he did not mind at all.
"Mr. Rhode," a soft whisper entered his ears.
Rhode opened his eyes and turned towards Marlene. He saw her laying his cloak on the floor. Then he noticed that she was looking at him hesitantly.
Marlene's body froze for a moment when she felt his gaze.
T-that's right... this is n-nothing more than repaying my gratitude to him.
He was hurt because of me, as a member of the Senia family, I must compensate for it, and be proud of it.
Mmm, yes, yes! That's right. That must be it!
"...If you don't mind... you can lie here..."
Marlene gently patted the top of her thighs; her face was so red as if she was squeezing out blood.
"I-I think you can rest better like this. It's healthier than leaning on the cold pillar. An...and your hand is hurt, although I didn't help you in the battle, the least I can do is to help you treat it. My healing spell is not as good as Lize, but as a mage, I still know some basic spells..."
"May I?" Rhode nodded and replied after a while.
When Marlene saw him nod, she immediately stared at him and made a firm expression as though she was willing to do anything.
"Of, of course! N-no problem! This little act simply doesn't count as anything!"
"Okay then, sure."
He did not wait for Marlene to say anything else. He rested his head on her lap and closed his eyes. Because of Rhode's sudden move, Marlene's body turned stiff for a moment. When she recovered, he had already fallen into deep sleep.
"...how rude!" Marlene glared at the young man who was sleeping soundly on her lap.
After a while, she shook her head and sighed. Then she carefully took Rhode's left hand and placed it on her own.
Using her other free hand, she conjured a spell that brightened up the surroundings. When she saw his injury clearly under the light, she gasped once again. Other than his thumb, all of his other fingers were broken; his blood flowed down his arm, dripping onto the floor.
"It's actually quite serious..."
She knew that Rhode's wound wasn't light, but now that she could study it closely, she could not help but tremble. With great care, she slowly took out her handkerchief and gently wiped the blood.
As a mage, Marlene had learned some basic first-aid skills, but she had never used them before because she rarely got hurt. And even if anyone she knew got injured, they wouldn't be in a near-death state... at least that was the case for most of the time.
However, currently, as she realized her clumsiness in bandaging, she couldn't help but scold herself. If only she had learned how to bandage by looking at it Lize...
When she stared at Rhode's finger right now, it totally resembled a carrot.
Ahh...if only Lize were here...
Marlene's body suddenly stiffened.
Marlene did not know why, but when she recalled Lize's figure, deep down her heart, she felt a trace of annoyance. Why was she behaving like that? Lize was her best friend, and she was a cleric. If she were here, she would have easily taken care of Rhode's wound. Marlene did not know why, but when she imagined Lize healing Rhode's wound, she felt unhappy.
Is it because that I'm too tired these few days?
She frowned and pondered to herself. In the end, she could not find the answer, so she decided to put aside this matter and continue to bandage Rhode's injury.
In the ruins, only a magic light moved back and forth in silence...