15th day in the Land of Chaos .
Rhode shifted his gaze away from the sandstorm to everyone around him . He opened the pocket watch, looked, and closed it . In this crazy and chaotic world, time was meaningless . But even so, he requested everyone to advance at their own pace because he was clear that once humans lost their perception of time, they were close to the verge of insanity .
“Leader, two more are missing . ”
Anne reported . Rhode knitted his brows and put away the watch in his pocket . He lifted his head and looked at the rather depressed young lady . Although they were mentally prepared for this predicament, the number of people who entered the Land of Chaos couldn’t be compared to the previous time . Back then, there were around 20 of them, which Rhode could manage to watch over them . But this time, excluding the Bow Knights, there were around 200 soldiers . Although Rhode’s Order barrier could envelope everyone in safety, the fear and insanity of the Land of Chaos wasn’t tolerable for everyone . Even though everyone looked out for one another, there would still be occasional times when some went ‘missing’ .
Fortunately, most of the ‘missing’ ones were ordinary mercenaries . This was expected because even with the protection of the Order barrier, they also needed determined minds and will, which they seemed to lack . Perhaps they weren’t afraid of blood through the slaughtering in battles, but the mental torture of being blocked off from the outside world was worse than the agony of physical pain . As they couldn’t tolerate the confusion of their consciousness, they were lured by Chaos and left the Order barrier, which they were eventually shredded in the endless storms .
I guess this is asking too much of them?
Rhode sighed . If it were players exploring the Land of Chaos, perhaps a 100-man party with the right coordination and skills could succeed even at his current level . But now, these men were NPCs, which explained why he involved nearly four times the number of players . However, problems still occurred regardless . From the day they entered the Land of Chaos until now, there were around 40 who went missing or died in battles . Although this didn’t give rise to panicky situations, Rhode knew that signs of concerns were starting to show up in his men . Even though everyone was mentally prepared before they came here and they heard about the situation in this place, it was different after experiencing it for themselves .
However, what caught him between laughter and tears was that under such a circumstance, the Thieves under Joey and mercenaries under Marfa were the ones who were on the brink of going insane . On the other hand, the Clerics led by Lize who he was most worried about couldn’t behave more normally . Initially, Rhode doubted their mental strength to cope with the harsh conditions here and thought they would be crying and asking to return home minutes after stepping foot into here . But in the end, Lize told him that as Clerics, they had gotten used to the nights as they prayed in the church on their knees all day and throughout the night . Compared to the adventures—yes, the difference wasn’t too huge .
No wonder the Country of Law and church were the ones who defended everyone when Chaos started wreaking havoc on the continent . It seems like they were indeed capable…
“How is Christie?”
“Not doing well, but Marlene is taking care of her . She will be fine . ”
As expected, Christie fainted the instant they entered the Land of Chaos . She had a weak constitution to begin with and even a split second of disconnection with Order would impact and hurt her hugely . If there was something that Rhode considered lucky, it would be that Christie didn’t suffer the torturous agony of a bulging head and heavy feet . But even so, she was still feeling weak despite being in the Order barrier . She also wasn’t able to walk normally, so Rhode handed her to Marlene’s care since Marlene couldn’t cast her magic spells in the Land of Chaos anyway . The two young ladies were protected in the middle of the team and Marlene carried the heavy responsibility of caring for Christie .
Come to think of it, what’s going on with them insisting to join me…
Rhode let out a hopeless sigh . Then, he lifted his head and gazed to the front of the team .
“Bell . ”
Bell turned around and gazed silently . After several days of rest, the wan little girl looked much better now . Her thin, sallow face turned round and smooth while her pale yellow long hair slowly regained its vibrancy . She wore a fitting, simple black dress now . However, what left Rhode speechless were the two daggers she brought when she left the refuge . He had taken a look at them, but deduced that they were just daggers forged with the most primitive method .
He initially suggested switching her weapons, but was firmly rejected by her . Although she didn’t say anything, her panicky behavior of hiding the two daggers behind her proved her intention . Fortunately, she was in the Legendary Stage and he wasn’t worried that she would be killed by anyone even without a legendary weapon .
Thanks to the Order channel inside Bell, Rhode faced much fewer troubles in the Land of Chaos this time . The Order channel constantly provided the powers of the tinder, which strengthened the Order barrier and kept the Chaos Creatures away . Not only that, but Bell also used the relation between the Order channel and tinder and engaged in teleportation to shorten the distance from their destination . However, it consumed a huge amount of her spiritual powers whenever they teleported, so Rhode might as well use her as a timestamp . The duration of a day was determined from whenever she restored her strength and used the next teleportation . This was also done in consensus with others, where Anne even used the amount of spiritual powers which Bell restored to determine if it was ‘morning’ or ‘night’ .
Currently, they were in the core region . Rhode gazed at the violent storm ahead as he heard the smacking and crashing of the storm against the barrier, which made him worry that the Order barrier might shatter at any moment and everyone would die on the spot… He shrugged at this thought .
“How many more teleports do we need to reach the tinder?”
Bell pondered for a few moments before raising her right hand and revealing two fingers . Then, she lifted her left hand and showed three fingers .
“Two to three times, is it…?”
Although it wasn’t clear from her actions, Rhode basically understood what she meant after the amount of time spent with her here . The closer they were to the core, the stronger the Chaos Creatures were . Moreover, her strength would be consumed entirely and instantly after teleporting . It was due to this that the strength of Order inside her used to maintain the Order barrier also weakened, which resulted in them having to deal with the Chaos Creatures’ attacks after every teleport . The battles only ended after Bell slowly restored her strength and the powers of the tinder re-strengthened the barrier . Although Rhode didn’t lose too many men over this, he still didn’t get complacent . Currently, everyone’s mentality was almost at their limit . He only wished that they would quickly get over this; if not, they would continue to suffer the trauma even after they returned to the Land of Atonement safely .
“Get ready for teleportation . ”
Rhode gave Bell an order . Then, he turned to everyone and let out a sharp whistle .
Everyone hurriedly packed their stuff while the Bow Knights stood up and raised their bows in unison to form a circular defense formation around them . The Half-Demons and Battle Mages were responsible for the second layer of defense . The remaining ones were responsible for protecting Bell, Christie, Marlene, Lesa, and the Clerics in the middle .
After ensuring that everyone was ready, Rhode nodded to Bell, and the little girl raised her right arm .
A dazzling silver-whitish radiance emanated from her body, swirling to the peak of the Order barrier . The ground shook and the translucent barrier instantly flickered . In the blink of an eye, white radiance enveloped everything . Rhode shut his eyes from the incredibly glaring light of Order . After several teleportations, he already knew what would happen next . Shortly after, the ground beneath his feet was as if a carpet was being pulled away and gravity disappeared, and the world twisted on him…
Rhode opened his eyes and swung the silver-whitish blade in his hand .
A Chaos Creature resembling a rotten jellyfish was sliced into half by him, and shattered into light dust and scattered all over . However, Rhode didn’t let his guard down . He clasped Star Mark with both hands, tolerating the dizziness from the teleportation . He stared at the Chaos Creature that had turned into dust before him . As expected, the scattered dust once again coalesced, and a razor-sharp triangular horn emerged in midair and propelled to him . He squinted and brandished the sword . The gleaming blade erupted with silver-whitish flames and engulfed the triangular horn and mysterious dust altogether . In a mournful scream, the flames of Order surged and burned the Chaos Creatures into ashes .
Rhode gnashed his teeth while gazing at the gloomy sky . Even though he was prepared to face powerful enemies, he sulked after watching the enemies take shape before him . The Order barrier had been weakened to a stage where it was barely visible . The frantic storm of Chaos began to corrode their bodies . At this moment, Bell had fainted in Christie’s arms while the latter hugged her tightly and scanned the surrounding palely .
As expected, the amount of spiritual powers that Bell needed to teleport increased as they ventured closer to the core . Without enough strength to maintain the Order barrier, who knew what in the world would happen if this continued!
“Protect Bell . Activate the defense shield!”
After experiencing several battles, everyone had gotten used to dealing with the Chaos Creatures . Shortly after, the Bow Knights released their arrows on the Chaos Creatures . The Clerics in the middle chanted in harmony and a golden rune emerged in mid air and formed a translucent barrier that kept out the Chaos Creatures’ attacks .
But this was only the start .
One of the mercenaries shrieked . He brandished the sword and was as though struggling to break free from something . But at the next moment, he flew out of the Order barrier after an invisible force struck his chest and vanished completely in the chaotic storm . Everyone froze to the spot at this sight and even Rhode began to feel nervous .
Something isn’t right .
The air was filled with the stench of death . The unprecedented threats made Rhode’s hair stand . He clutched Star Mark and scanned the surroundings . Then, at this moment, the storm around them slowly dispersed while dazzling radiances spilled through the clouds behind it and enveloped everyone . However, no one felt warmth from the ‘sunlight’ . Instead, all they felt were cold chills .
“Lize, strengthen the defense!”
At the same time, something strange happened suddenly .
The storm gradually retreated as though being attracted by a force . Shortly after, everyone witnessed an enormous shadow flitting across before them . Then, tentacles that were as huge as stone columns emerged in midair and smashed on the Order barrier . Boom! Cracks immediately formed on the barrier!
Two more gigantic tentacles struck the barrier heavily . Then, one of the tentacles retracted swiftly as another mercenary flew to it . At the same time, several tentacles emerged from the storm and smashed heavily on the Order barrier .
Rhode sulked . He swung the silver-whitish sword in his hand and a dazzling, white lightning flashed . As the silver-whitish flames blazed, Celia emerged in midair and pulled the mercenaries who were about to be dragged out of the Order barrier . At the same time, she brandished the sword and sacred flames erupted on the blade, inflicting damage to the tentacles, which withdrew quickly . On the other hand, the Bow Knights hurriedly released their arrows which interwoven into a net of light and kept the tentacles away .
Then, another powerful storm whirled .
Everyone narrowed their eyes . The Bow Knights in the front row put away their bows and gazed ahead vigilantly . But at the next moment, the crazy storm dispersed without any warning .
The mercenaries looked around them in fear . What replaced the storm was a wide, flat land while clouds flashing with golden radiance floated above in the pitch-black sky . Beneath their feet was a flat, gray land . In an instant, many of them thought that they were dreaming . However, Rhode knitted his brows and looked ahead bitterly because he knew that this was neither a dream nor the effects of the Order barrier . Instead, they had been dragged into an enormous, shattered Order fragment .
“This is terrible…”
There was a 10-meters-tall octopus floating in midair ahead . Its eight tentacles writhed while its two eyes emanating golden radiances stared silently at everyone from above the clouds . The pitch-black, rotten flesh on its surface disgusted them .
“What… is that…?”
At this moment, the others also noticed the strange creature floating in midair . They sucked in a deep breath of cold air while Rhode hopelessly swept a glance to the unconscious Bell in Christie’s arms because he knew exactly what this ‘octopus’ was . But… Are you really not the internal response to these creatures, Bell? Players in the game have explored the Land of Chaos over a hundred times and can count with their fingers the number of times they met this creature . Just why is my luck so horrible?
Rhode lifted his head and gazed at the enemy .
325th floor of the Bottomless Abyss . The projection of the Duke Devil—Chaos Tentacle, Serras .
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