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 What happened?

Rhode frowned upon hearing Anne's scream while the other mercenaries also turned around.

"What's wrong Anne?"

"Leader... This child. She... She..."

Anne stammered and pointed hesitantly at the girl before her eyes. Lize and Marlene couldn't take it any longer as they lifted up the hood of the cloak to take a peek at her. Then, they sulked immediately.

"This is too much!"

Marlene stood up in a rage while Lize was stupefied.

"This... This..."

Borrowing the radiance from the bonfire, Rhode managed to get a close look at the face hidden in the darkness. He was also taken aback.

Dark, lavender colored hair covered the girl's forehead and right eye while a leather mask covered her lower facial features. It was wrapped around her head and tightly bounded by strips of leather to the back of her head. Small breathing holes were cut from the mask, allowing her to breathe and speak. And if one looked carefully enough, the bottom of the mask was bound to a hard collar, chained securely with a lock, preventing anyone from taking the mask off.

Is this a new torture method?

Rhode frowned and finally understood the girls' reactions to this disgusting matter. After witnessing a small child receiving such physical abuse, who wouldn't be enraged?

"What happened?"

"This is terrible! Which bastard did this?!"

At this moment, the rest of the mercenaries started surrounding her. They looked at the girl with shock, not knowing what to say. Shauna frowned and turned over to Randolf, who was standing by the side.

"Randolf, go get a dagger. We'll see if we can remove this thing."

"Yes, I'll go now."

After hearing Shauna's command, Randolf nodded and just when he was about to turn, the little girl grabbed his clothes by the edge and frantically waved her hand. She pointed to her mask and shook her head.

"What do you mean?"

Facing the little girl's odd behavior, everyone didn't know what to do. Even Marlene was also unsure.

"You mean... this mask... you can't remove it?"

"..."

The little girl nodded affirmatively, pointed at her mask and shook her head again. Maybe it was due to her being startled suddenly, her breathing started to quicken and began to cough. She bent over and covered her mouth with one hand while letting out deep coughs. Her whole body shook as if she was a small boat at sea stranded in a storm, waiting to capsize at any time.

"Let me see."

Lize hurried over and cupped the little girl's hands. Soon enough, warm white lights shone and covered the little girl's body. The little girl slowly calmed down and raised her head and stared at Lize with grateful eyes. She slowly glanced around at everyone and when she saw Rhode, her eyes widened. Her body shook slightly, as if attempting to convey something but eventually fell right into Lize's arms instead, closing her eyes.

"How is she?"

Marlene asked out of concern while Lize shook her head and sighed.

"She's okay; she's just a little weak now. Maybe letting her rest is a good choice, but..."

Lize's voice trailed off while looking at the little girl.

"When I used my healing just now, I realized her body is really weak. She probably didn't have anything to eat for a long time... but that isn't the worse news. She'd been inflicted with a deadly disease which can't be cured in a short period of time. "

"Then why did she come out even though she was so weak?"

Anne's face was in disbelief. Not only that, the rest of the mercenaries were also unable to understand. Their reaction wasn't weird considering that an ill person should be resting. Even if there were any difficulties, it was no excuse to be working under this kind of weather. Furthermore, the leather mask on her face was incredibly suspicious. If it was to cover up her injuries, then why would it even need to seal up her mouth and nose. It made it seem like it was a sort of punishment. She's only a little girl, what could she have done to receive such an ordeal? Not to mention this was just plain cruelty, not even murderers or bandits would receive such a treatment.

"This isn't a problem that we should concern ourselves with."

At this moment, Rhode finally spoke.

"Shauna, go start another fire inside and boil some hot water. Lize, Marlene, Anne. This child will be under your care. After the water is boiled, use it to wipe her body. With her skin damp from the rain, she can't possibly go to sleep this way. As for those lambs... I think they shouldn't pose much problem with the help of the rest. We can save the questions for later. Shauna, you are dismissed from sentry duty tonight, leave it to Old Walker. You just need to be by this little girl's side tonight. And the rest of you will have a rest as per normal."

Since Rhode had given his orders, everyone silently agreed without objection. According to Rhode's command, everyone went back to their regular duties. Old Walker replaced Shauna as the sentry while the other mercenaries went back to their spots in the cave. Some of them started to discuss about the recent matter while slowly falling asleep.

Marlene led Lize and Anne to a new fireplace in the depths of the cave to clean the little girl's body with warm water. That wasn't all, Marlene meticulously used her magic to create a sand wall to form a divider - No matter what, there will always be a difference between male and female.

When all of these ended, it was already late at night.

After being healed by Lize's, the little girl fell into deep sleep. Marlene and Anne laid down nearby and closed their eyes to rest. They were already tired from a day of journeying, now that this happened; naturally, they couldn't hold it much longer. Shauna sat by the side, quietly staring at the kindling as it crackled by the fireplace.

"Mr. Rhode, are you not going to sleep?"

Rhode turned his head and around and saw Lize standing behind him with the little girl's cloak in her hands with the intention of drying it with the heat.

"I'll be sleeping soon. How is she?"

"Worse than I imagined..."

Lize couldn't help but frown. When she wanted to clean the little girl, her scrawny body shocked her. Lize noticed many bruises on the body, and based on experience, she knew that those were bruises caused by punches and blunt impact. Not only Lize, but even Marlene and Anne couldn't imagine just how cruel anyone could be to abuse such a weak little girl. Furthermore, Lize also found out that these injuries didn't only happen once. Even Marlene with her steady and gentle demeanor, swore that she would utterly roast those abusers into cinders.

"Her body condition is terrible. Also... her ailment seemed to be difficult to heal. I have tried my best but to no much avail."

"I see..."

Rhode nodded emotionlessly and lightly tapped on Lize's shoulder.

"You have an early rest too. We will be reaching the High Cliff Village tomorrow. Maybe this girl is one of the villagers there..."

Rhode wasn't sure himself. He wasn't unfamiliar with High Cliff Village, but he couldn't remember there was such an NPC. The way she dressed was simply too eye-catching. No players would have missed her. However, from the start of the game until the very last day, there were no news or rumors regarding her which left Rhode scratching his head. He tried his best recall the series of quests he had to finish in High Cliff Village, but there was nothing.

In truth, there may be subtle changes within the game. Some NPC may choose to leave or disappear and anyway, during this period of the game, it was only the beta phase. Even players might not be able to reach the High Cliff Village. If this girl was an NPC that only appeared in the beta phase, then spotting her in the official release was not possible either.

Or maybe, something went wrong?

"I understand, Mr. Rhode."

Lize nodded and hesitated briefly and eventually asked Rhode a question out of curiosity.

"But, Mr. Rhode... you seem to be familiar with such situations?"

"I had handled such similar situations before, so I am already used to it."

Rhode frowned upon hearing Lize's question and casually answered her.

"But that was a long time ago..."

Rhode sighed and turned his head towards the mouth of the cave.

The rain was still pouring, growing increasingly louder and louder as if competing with each other.

"Ultimately, there's nothing much to say. You should go and get some rest."

"Yes... Mr. Rhode."

Lize paused momentarily. She firmly believed that she felt a sense of yearning in Rhode's eyes. But, she didn't ask any further and simply nodded before quietly taking her leave.

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