Frank and his men reached the 'crime scene' at the same time.
Calling it a 'crime scene' wasn't entirely appropriate either as nobody noticed any corpses or traces of battles along the way. There was nothing at all!
It was unnerving.
Nobody believed that the loud scream was an illusion. After a quick headcount, they confirmed that they were short of 1 person.
With such a obvious outcome, something must be wrong with Frank if he didn't realize the problem by now.
"Continue to find him."
He didn't have any intention to give up that easily. Instead, lifted up his arm and clenched his fist in the air.
"Form groups of three. If there's any attack, report to me immediately!"
None of them defied his orders. They nodded and spread out to search for traces of their comrade.
However, no one noticed that inside in the tunnel, Rhode was quietly hiding and peeking out within a crevice that looked like a gap in an alley and attentively catching on to every movement.
"Hmm, it seems like these guys aren't too bad."
Rhode silently nodded to himself. Once the mercenaries scattered, he carefully slipped out from between the gap.
"This style of battling is meaningless, Master."
Celia followed closely behind Rhode and gave her view of the situation with a serious expression.
"Such a sneaky victory will not bring us a glory!"
"So, what do you suggest then?" Rhode spoke without looking back as he leaned on the wall attentively, scanning both directions to ensure no one was around.
"We should fight them face to face with dignity!"
Celia held up her sword in front of her with both of her hands, maintaining the staunch, yet somehow saintlike demeanour.
"What? Are you stupid?"
The one who answered Celia wasn't Rhode, but it was Gillian instead.
"Haven't you realized that these guys are abnormal?" Gillian continued.
"Master's strength is far below them. Only when we take such approaches then we can achieve victory and accomplish the mission! Will you take responsibility if we end up being surrounded by them after engaging them face to face? Can you please use your brain? Or did all the nutrients end up in that chest and wings of yours. It is fine if you fall in battle because you can revive, but if something irreversible occured to Master, what do you intend to do?"
Celia's expression changed after listening to Gillian's counter.
"This... I will not let this happen!! I will give my all for my Master!"
"Hmph, if the world can be conquered by your words alone, then I can help master conquer the entire universe." The cheeky female voice echoed in Celia's head once again, giving her no chance of a comeback.
"As long you give your best? - Okay, okay little bird with wings, now is not the time to fill your head with your own distorted knighthood view of willpower. Focusing on the battle is your duty. Remember that you are a summoned spirit. Live up to it, just like those dogs who stick with their owners till death! Don't mess up this situation, stupid!"
Celia remain silent as she knew deep down that Gillian was right, albeit her being slightly disrespectful with her words. However, even if she wanted to rebut, she couldn't because Gillian's rank was much higher than hers! Unlike Gillian, Celia was only a normal battle angel, whereas Gillian was an elemental lord. Although the both of them did not belong to the same deck, this hierarchical relationship was distinct.
Celia remained quiet as she gripped onto her sword, following behind Rhode without a word. To act as an assassin who sneakily hid in the darkness wasn't her forte when she was a knight that often battled face-to-face.
Soon enough, Rhode spotted his target.
Three mercenaries were walking slowly in the tunnel with burning torches in their hand, carefully scanning the surroundings as if they were looking for something. None of the mercenaries seemed to be shouting for their comrade's name, therefore it was quite clear that the notion was meaningless, and that the missing comrade did not mean much to them. They were more concerned about their own safety - If not they wouldn't have left their homes to become a mercenary for money.
At this moment, the three mercenaries were focusing their attention on the front and their immediate sides. Rhode, who was behind them, closed the distance between them rapidly.
1 step... 2 steps... 3 steps...
Rhode matched the pace of his steps with that of the men's footsteps. Once the time was right, Rhode stood up from his crouched stance and gestured towards Celia with a hand signal. Although she was dissatisfied with his choice of engagement, she was indubitably still very dedicated to him. After spotting his hand signal, Celia did not hold anything back as she spread out her wings in a split second. She raised her sword high and flew towards the three poor souls.
The sound of the air splitting from her wings immediately attracted the three mercenaries. They swiftly spun around and could only gasp in horror.
Upon receiving their commands from Frank, the three mercenaries had mentally prepared themselves to meet creatures that lived in the darkness. However, never would they had imagined they would encounter an armoured, holy angel flying towards them with a sword in her hands. The holy aura from her wings exploded with white light as she left a trail of snow-like feathers floating down behind her, causing them to fall into a dreamy illusion.
The three mercenaries truly believed that they were in a dream.
This isn't the surface. Why is there an angel here?
Before they could receive an answer, Celia swung her sword in a clean line and created an inferno of silver-whitish flame in her wake, filling the path with holy flames.
Actually, the holy flames weren't actually glaring, it could be said that it seemed gentle and soothing. However, it was a totally different feeling after the flames broke out. In a split second, the three mercenaries felt as if they were gazing at the sun. All they could see was pure, deafening whiteness. That wasn't the end, while the sacred flames burned within them, it unconsciously dragged out their deepest intrinsic desire for anger and hatred.
As the holy flames swept past the mercenaries, it did not cause much physical damage to them. Their skin was scorched badly, but they were still able to grit their teeth and unsheath their weapons.
Although they were still blinded by the flames, they were incomparable to their previous strength. They had powers that could guarantee to protect themselves from sneak attacks even though they could not see.
The mercenaries adopted a defensive posture as they expected the angel to follow up with an attack. But contrary to their expectation, she merely landed and retreated.
Before she landed, Rhode had already appeared from the shadows.
With his sword in his right hand, he gazed straight at his target. He lifted up his left hand and placed it on the blade of the sword. Rhode then pulled his sword to the right, drawing fresh blood that coated the blade. Once the Crimson Blade absorbed the blood, it started to shine magnificently.
Rhode lowered his body and sprung into the air with his sword, his stance poised beautifully in the air, like an immemorial painting. Once his sword reached its peak, he swung down with all his might, drawing a perfect glowing arc that flew out from the Crimson Blade.
The man and the angel's switch between offense and defense were incredibly well timed. While he was in the air and ready to strike, Celia was in the front. When he unleashed his sword attack, Celia perfectly matched the timing and sidestepped backward, allowing the glowing arc to fly mere inches above her head, toward the enemies.
The three mercenaries totally didn't anticipate this.
When they laid eyes on Celia, they started charging towards her. But they didn't expect that their own actions brought them closer to death.
The glowing, bloody red arc came crashing down as it caught them by surprise, however, they did not succumb to panic nor fear, but instead, they revealed ferocious smiles on their faces.
The three mercenaries roared and raised their weapons.
Dark smoke-like energy erupted from their body, engulfing their entire being as if they were lit on fire. Accompanied by this enigmatic flame, the temperature dipped drastically and started to release a putrid smell.
The dark flames enveloped their weapons as they clashed with Rhode's attack.
The impact of the collision resounded in the narrow tunnel. The sand, stones and boulders all started falling and vibrating.
It was at this moment when their ferocious smile on their faces turned into one of indescribable fear.
They were confident that their own power could easily stop the enemy's attack. But, everything changed after they experienced Rhode's attack.
Who says that we are trash? We don't give a damn about such weak attacks!
This notion only lasted in their mind for merely a second. When they finally realized that this arc of Rhode did not disappear after the collision, it was too late.
When the glowing arc collided with the black flames, it suddenly split and formed dozens of small blades. These small blades then quickly spun around the mercenaries, condensing into a strong whirlwind while trapping them within a sea of blades. The sharp blades easily sliced their flesh, leaving them with open wounds.
That wasn't all, now it was Celia's turn to strike!
The battle angel was totally impervious to the whirlwind. She raised her sword and flew directly in front of the mercenaries. She swung her sword, cleaving one poor mercenary in half as the sacred flames burnt his body into nothingness.
The other two tried to escape, but Celia wouldn't allow that to happen. She gripped her sword and gathered the sacred flame at the tip of her sword. Then she swung her sword sideways, causing both of the mercenaries to be completely consumed by the sacred flames. Not long after, they finally breathed their last as they lay on the ground without any movement.
"Master, there are people coming from the front, left and back! The one behind is the nearest, the one on the left is the furthest!" Gillian's cheeky voice once again echoed inside Rhode's ears from behind.
He nodded with satisfaction and immediately beckoned to Celia with his left hand. Both of them quickly disappeared into the darkness, leaving no traces behind.
The true battle had yet to unfold.