Rhode ignored the strange stares from everyone and gestured to Celia to introduce herself. She held her sword in her right hand and made a knight's bow.
"I am Celia, Master's subordinate."
After that, the girl raised her head and kept silent as if her duty was complete.
But everyone was still shocked by her short self-introduction.
While the girl didn't explicitly reveal who the Master was, everyone knew just by looking at her behavior. Their gaze slowly turned towards Rhode.
Angels were noble creatures who were far above them in status — who would've thought that one would actually call a human 'Master?'
Who is this young man?
"Mr. Rhode, erm..."
Lize hadn't figured out what was going on. On the other hand, Marlene frowned and stared at Celia. She could vividly remember Rhode summoning her at the underground ruins, and now she appeared again.
As she thought of this, she looked at Rhode with a complicated expression. On the other hand, Rhode seemed to have figured out what she was thinking, so he nodded to her in response. Even though he didn't say anything, Marlene understood what he meant.
"We will move out now. Our pace will be almost equivalent prior to our journey here."
When Rhode thought of this order, he had already planned to not entertain any questions.
Soon he began to issue commands and assign each individual their respective tasks.
"As we now have Celia, rest assured that her power is sufficient to protect all of you. Anne, your role is to work together with Celia. The fighting style of angels differs quite a bit to humans, so I hope you can quickly adapt to Celia's attack patterns. If you are unable to do so, please do let me know, do you understand?"
"Yes, Anne understands!"
Anne, as always, raised her hand to show that she had clearly understood. Still, she stared curiously at Celia. Apparently, she was fairly intrigued with this young woman with wings.
"Since everyone is ready now, let's make a move."
When Rhode clapped his hands, everyone quickly got to their feet and assembled into formation before marching off into the depths of the forest.
"Lad, you're growing more and more mysterious each second."
Sereck's lips curled upwards as he whispered to Rhode.
"If I could, I'd rather be inconspicuous."
Rhode replied calmly at Sereck's attempt to test him and turned around to the front. When Sereck saw that, he went silent smiled wryly to himself. Eventually, he took out his weapon and followed behind Rhode.
Sharp screams tore apart the stillness of the forest. Countless white shadows phased through the trees; their eyes were pitch black and burning with hatred. They stretched out their long, slender arms, trying to grasp at the living entities before them. From a distance, they could sniff the foul stench of humans, and the way they clawed at these people appeared incredibly desperate as though they had lost something precious.
Then, a brilliant light flashed.
The angel blocked the evil spirits, and after sampling the bane of their existence right before them, they quickly retreated in fear. Celia's beautiful face showed no emotion as she grasped her sword which was engraved in ancient Holy symbols. She waved her sword mercilessly and sliced the evil spirits into half, completely erasing their already meager existence.
Rhode could tell that there were a lot of people staring at Celia. It was no surprise though since he appeared to have just casually gone for a stroll and brought back an angel with him. It would be even stranger if no one paid any attention to her.
Even though Celia was the center of attention right now, she didn't seem to be affected by it at all. She just plainly followed her orders given by Rhode.
Sereck stopped looking at her.
As a Swordmaster, he had seen his fair share in life. This woman was definitely a real angel and not some illusion that was projected by the undead. Although there were rumors about high-level undead disguising themselves as angels, they could not replicate the Holy Aura surrounding Celia.
The calm and comfortable aura that soothed the mind was proof that Celia was an angel. However, what Sereck found most interesting was the swordsmanship that she used. Judging from her consecutive attacks, he noticed that the swordsmanship she used was the same as that young man.
It seems like there's some sort of relationship between them.
A moment later, Old Walker suddenly stopped and called out to Rhode, "Boy, hold up."
Old Walker bent his body and pressed his hand on the ground. After a while, he stood up and faced Rhode.
"There's a human trail here. About seven to eight people traveling to the north. And judging from the freshness of these traces... I would say approximately no more than three days."
When everyone heard Old Walker's analysis, they were thrilled. Finding human tracks in this dense forest was like looking for a needle in a haystack. If not because of his experience as a Ranger, most likely they would've traveled around in circles for days.
Contrary to the others, Rhode wasn't excited at all. After hearing Old Walker's report, his expression immediately turned dark.
"Are you sure it's north?"
"Well... yes, I'm sure. It seems like they were being chased by something fast... and their group is a little bit disordered, but it seems..."
Old Walker walked around once again and replied with confidence.
"It seems like no one got left behind."
Rhode didn't answer. He stared at the path towards the north. Under the veil of darkness, nothing but shadows could be seen in that direction. Even the Holy Light couldn't penetrate that far out. However, Rhode could easily guess what was in that direction. Withered forest, dark cave, and...
"Sigh... there's a path to heaven, but they chose the entrance to hell instead."
Rhode immediately thought of giving up; he wanted to turn around and tell everyone to pack up to go home to sleep. But he knew that it was only his fantasy. This world wasn't a game anymore, and he had no way to escape the harsh reality. Thus, he could only bite the bullet and continue moving on.
"Everyone follow me. Our next journey will be extremely difficult. Don't fall behind!"
After addressing his group, Rhode looked at Celia.
"Go check the situation ahead, but don't stray too far."
Something changed within the dark forest.
Even the slowest-witted person would be aware of this change. If the lush forest from before was silent, then the forest now was dead and creepy. The bushy trees were replaced with thin, withered trees and their twisted branches grew in awkward angles, creating a rather creepy form. When one stared closer at it, it was like an arm of a person that was struggling for help.
Celia walked in the front, the boundless darkness didn't affect her the least. She didn't care about anything else other than to complete her Master's command.
Suddenly, she made a quick movement.
When she turned around, a huge shadow fell from the sky. Although she reacted in time and lifted her sword to block, apparently there was a gap in strength between her and the shadow. She could only hold her ground for less than a second before being sent flying in the air.
Lize screamed. At that moment, as if it heard her voice, that huge shadow turned around and looked at her with coldly. After locking her gaze with that terrifying shadow, Lize couldn't speak another word as though some invisible force was constricting her body.
"Clerics! Cast Divine Brilliance now! Sereck, guard the rear, these things are very troublesome!"
Rhode wasn't surprised at the ambush. He raised his sword and commanded his group while rushing forward. When Rhode finished giving his orders, he was already at the huge shadow's side.
As if it could sense the threat before it, the huge shadow lifted its arm and smashed downwards. However, Rhode was already a step ahead of it. The very moment its arm came smashing down, Rhode retreated to the back.
The huge shadow's hand smashed into the ground and shook the earth.
At this time, the Holy Light finally revealed the monster's true appearance. When everyone including Sereck saw what it looked like, they couldn't help but hold their breath.
"Holy Soul bless me! What the hell is that!?"
The huge shadow was actually a Giant Baby.
Its shape was almost the same as any ordinary baby. Bald head, two big beady eyes and the fats on its naked body made it look quite obese. However, the creepy part was that it had a segreen colored skin and various scars on its body. If it was an ordinary baby, clearly it should have died.
But, it was alive.
It seemed to have absorbed all the evil aura surrounding this place, which turned the small, fragile infant into a three-meter terrifying monster. It rumbled as it turned around; the eyes that had lost its luster reflected the shadows of everyone. When the Giant Dead Baby opened its mouth, there were no teeth at all, but what came out next was a low roar.
Hearing that deep, eerie voice, every female in the group felt their hair stand on end. They shivered in fear and fright. Even the undead or the evil spirits didn't break their resolve, but one roar from this Giant Dead Baby caused them to hold on to each other in terror. Anne who was usually carefree and smiling also had a grim expression on her face.
Damn, I knew this would happen.
Rhode studied everyone's expression and frowned. However, he didn't stop moving. By the time the Giant Dead Baby's fist hammered the ground, he had already activated his Shadow Flash. The sword in his hand reflected a red light and pierced towards the Giant Dead Baby's neck.
The putrid-looking skin was harder than steel. Even though Rhode had used all his strength to attack, it only created a small wound. The injured Giant Dead Baby screamed like a child who was bullied and used its hands to catch Rhode.
"Old Walker, use Fire Arrow and target its eyes. As for the others, hurry up and cast Divine Brilliance, what are you guys waiting for!"
Rhode shouted angrily and woke the others up from their stupor. The old Ranger quickly retrieved a bow and arrow from his back and lit the tip of the arrow in flames. He pulled back the bow and shot it towards the Giant Dead Baby, piercing its eyes with pinpoint accuracy.
The sudden intense pain caused the monster to fall to the ground. At that moment, a concentrated holy pillar of light fell from the sky and crashed into the monster's body, causing it to writhe in agony. It struggled to lift both of its hands in an attempt to resist, but Rhode's Blade of Destruction had already pierced through its head. Disgusting dark liquid splashed out from the wound and fell onto the ground, creating a wisp of smoke whenever it touched something. Finally, the angel appeared once more to deal the finishing blow. Her sword thrust into the Giant Dead Baby's heart with full force.
A wave of holy flames emerged from the sword and enveloped the monster's entire body. In a blink of an eye, it turned into ashes.
At that moment, several low roars echoed from their surroundings.
Soon, a few huge shadows slowly emerged from the darkness.