The deep bugle horns and drum rolls filled the arena. At the same time, the angels spread their wings in the air while singing their ancient, holy hymn along with the harmonious music. The audience stood up and admired the glinting, multicolored illuminations while placing their right palms on their chests and quietly soaking in the music.
Rhode looked up at the sky and he wasn't unfamiliar with this hymn either. Almost every players from the Munn Kingdom "grew up" along with it. The contents narrated the Five Creator Dragons rescuing situations that were under the threat of riots, in turn forming an orderly world. This hymn was originally split into five sheets respectively for each of their followers. However, after the Void Dragon disappeared, the hymns also dispersed. Currently, other than the Judgement & Ruling Twin Dragons holding onto the perfect, complete hymn sheets, the Country of Light and Country of Darkness held only the sheets that belonged to them. However, even this sheet in the Country of Light's possession disappeared. After the parliament gave a prohibition order, no one sang the hymn anymore other than the Munn Kingdom. And due to this reason, after the Munn Kingdom withered away, Rhode no longer heard this familiar hymn from the melodious angel voices.
The angels flew around the arena to their rightful positions. This was the first time they appeared in the Sacred Arena, and this only represented one thing. Rhode lowered his head at this thought and shifted his gaze to the golden flag hung on the highest point.
Double Sword Angels.
Her Royal Highness Lydia had appeared in person.
At this moment, an energetic man in his 60s in thick armor stepped onto the arena while lifting the symbol of the Mercenary Association high up in his hands. He was Lauren, the president of the Mercenary Association. As the end of the Midsummer Festival approached, it was about time for him as the organizer to show up proudly.
However, he wasn't in a great mood because the Midsummer Festival was too chaotic this time. He had heard the rumors and mess from yesterday and although the four guilds had always been clashing heads, it was the first time that they had such an acrimonious falling out with one another in Golden City. Although he didn't receive any solid evidence regarding the matter, he was clear that no evidence was needed because he swore on his family's honor that the matter was definitely caused by Waltz and his men!
Lauren couldn't help but fume. Her Royal Highness Lydia had shown discontentment toward the Mercenary Association in terms of managing the disturbances caused by the group of bastards and now, this idiot caused another trouble for him. Damn it, he really thinks that I don't dare to touch him simply because he has the backing of a bunch of cock-sucking southerners?
However, it wasn't a good time to settle this dispute now. He decided that no matter the consequences, the Mercenary Association had to present an unyielding attitude on this matter. If not...
"Everyone, today, we're here on the Sacred Arena, under the eyes of the ancient warriors, with their courage as swords and shields to engage in a majestic battle. The challengers brought forth courage, honor, and beliefs, just to determine the final victor and the rights to achieve supreme glory! The names of the mercenaries will be passed down for generations, until forever!"
Lauren abruptly raised his flag and the audience exploded into cheers. After a few moments, the cheers quietened and he continued.
"Now, as the president and in the name of the Mercenary Association, I announce the start of the finals!"
Lydia shifted her gaze as she languidly laid on the luxurious, comfortable velvet sofa. She held a glass with icy fruit juice and stroked her slender fingers around its edge. Her eyes beamed with craftiness, complacency, and some cheekiness.
"Teacher, shall we have a bet on who's the final victor?"
Amund, who was standing behind her, smiled. He looked at the arena and at this moment, both parties had arrived. He was surprised after scanning the arena.
"What a surprise. Miss Marlene won't be participating?"
"That's indeed interesting... Teacher, do you think this is due to her being cautious?"
"I'm afraid I can't make a guess, Your Highness." Amund stroked his huge beard and shook his head. "To make up any conclusions from nothing is undesirable to a Mage. However, I do agree that this is a good arrangement. But their chances of winning will be much slimmer."
"I don't agree." Lydia smiled and gently waved her finger. "Unlike Teacher, I feel that this is an interesting arrangement. So... want to bet? 10 gold coins?"
"I can't count myself as fortunate even if I win though." Amund helplessly spread his arms and bitterly replied. "Your Highness, I trust your intelligence and guts, however..."
"You got to pay for what you get. Just like how the oasis seems so precious in the presence of the desert. Only adventurers who take risks will have the rights to seek miracles and victory. The strength of courage and knowledge shouldn't be underestimated. Teacher, this will be a fascinating matchup."
Lydia sipped on the juice.
"I guarantee that."
Rhode stepped into the arena and noticed Waltz on the opposite end. He sensed the hatred and vengeance from Waltz through his eyes. If Waltz's stare could kill, perhaps Rhode would have died a long time ago. But it was a pity that no matter how much Waltz stared, he couldn't inflict any sense of fear. Rhode lifted his head and revealed a splendid smile in response.
The crowd broke out into an uproar upon noticing Rhode's smile.
Ever since they came to Golden City, no one had ever seen his smile. A smile could convince one and be used to lower one's threat. However, Rhode didn't care much about such benefits. He always showed up with a stone-cold face, expressionless face. Although some astute and circumspect nobles also concealed their true thoughts with similar expressions, due to Rhode's overly beautiful face, many couldn't help but feel that it was wasteful if he didn't smile for a bit.
But now, this thought vanished.
Rhode's smile seemed oddly beautiful as well as horrifying. Almost everyone who clearly witnessed his smile trembled and subconsciously shut their mouths as though it wasn't a smile, but a viper baring its sharp fangs instead.
Waltz snorted and controlled himself in not jumping ahead and throwing a punch to that irritable face.
Lauren noticed the odd atmosphere between both of them. However, he was also uncertain and only wished that the matchup would continue smoothly without any hiccups.
However, there were many matters in this world that didn't revolve around one's determination.
"Now, we shall make our sacred oath under the flag and in the face of a warrior's spirit..."
As both of them stood before Lauren, the latter read the oath aloud while Rhode and Waltz listened respectfully. From the looks of it, there wasn't anything strange with both sides. However, as Lauren read the final sentence "... The both of you shall obey the oath," Waltz finally coldly said.
"I'm willing to obey the oath, Sir Lauren. For victory and for the honor. I'm willing to dedicate even my entire life!"
Waltz snapped his gaze to Rhode fiercely.
"Not sure if Mr. Rhode has the courage to use our lives as an oath for this battle!"
The entire crowd burst into cheers.
Everyone knew that there was this format in the Midsummer Festival which involved the life and death battle, which wasn't too different from normal competitions. The only difference was that once both sides accepted this challenge, there would be three outcomes: surrendering, falling out of the arena, or one of them dying.
In other words, once the life and death match commenced, the "No Killing" rule would be anulled.
In an instant, many turned their attention to Rhode. Of course, there were others who looked at Waltz astonishingly too. Based on the rumors, now would be the moment when Rhode was utterly discomfited. But instead, it was Waltz who was filled with hatred and Rhode seemed to be as peaceful as ever.
Rhode brought a smile to his face, which piqued Lauren's interest as he twitched his brows and stared at Waltz with discontentment. Damn you, Waltz. You dare to issue a life and death challenge before the Royal Highness. Aren't you making this difficult for us, the Mercenary Association?
Although Lauren criticized inwardly, he eventually couldn't stop the issuance of this challenge. The life and death challenge was the holiest ceremony rule in the Midsummer Festival and as the judge himself, he didn't have the rights to stop it. He could only hope for this pretty and kind-looking young man to reject this meaningless challenge. After all, since the life and death challenge would only be valid once both sides agree, so if Rhode disagreed...
In the end, Lauren's expectations fell short.
Rhode's response was unexpectedly chilly.
"I guarantee that no one from the Liberty Wings will walk away from this arena alive!"
The entire arena was dumbfounded.
They stared at the arena blankly. Even though they were anticipating an intense battle, things had gone out of control. Both sides actually issued death threats in the face of thousands in the Sacred Arena.
They were really in for a killing!
In an instant, many of them subconsciously turned their attention to the VIP lounge just below the flying golden flag. To hold such a bloody ceremony under the eyes of Royal Highness Lydia... was it really fine?
There wasn't the slightest reaction and the arena was oddly silent.
However, compared to the audience, Lauren's expression turned ashen. He stared at both of them at his wits' end. Although Waltz's issuance of challenge enraged him, Rhode's naked threat made him lose it. After being a president for so long, this was the first time someone declared to kill off his opponents before the crowd.
It seemed like this vengeance must be repaid!
Although Lauren was extremely hopeless, he had no other choice as rules were rules and he had no rights to intervene. Originally, he hoped that Lydia would step forth to put a stop to this, but she remained unmoved.
At this moment, both parties had confirmed the rules of this challenge and instantly disregarded the poor president by stepping down from the arena. This left Lauren in an incredibly awkward spot and all he could do was to sigh hopelessly and step off.
Rhode walked down the arena and what reflected in his eyes was the determined faces of his men.
"All of you heard what I said and you should know what to do."
Rhode wiped the smile on his face away and returned to his usual aloof expression. However, Lize and the rest seemed more at ease to witness this face of his. After all, those who were close to Rhode knew that there was trouble whenever he smiled.
"Remember, don't get overwhelmed by your own anger. Show up according to the sequence and do as I instructed. Forget about your honor and neglect their ugly faces. We stand here not to seek honor or recognition. All we need is to win. All of you have to understand this point..."
Rhode let out a deep breath.
"This is the last time that I am asking you. When you step up onto the arena later, your actions may be mocked, ridiculed, and even humiliated by them. Do you still have the guts to step onto the arena after giving up your honor to fight for victory?! If you regret your choice, you can still give up now."
"Anne will never ever back off! Leader!"
Anne took a step forward with her clenched fists.
"Those baddies laid their hands on Anne's friends and even injured Sister Shauna and Christie, so they can't even think about going back alive. Anne isn't afraid of what the cowardly audience will be shouting because they who don't dare to participate in the battles have no rights to question Anne's behavior!"
"I'm not afraid too, Sir."
Although Joey displayed a smile, his eyes were glinting with incomparable seriousness.
"As a newbie, I am already used to being humiliated. Such a small matter won't affect me so don't worry, this time I will win!"
"Joey is right, Sir."
Randolf drew out an arrow from his back.
"Besides, I don't think that this isn't an honorable match. It is already an honor for us to fight for the sake of victory. Sir, you didn't choose Miss Gillian and Miss Marlene for this matchup and chose us instead... We will not disappoint you!"
"Me too, Mr. Rhode."
Lize placed her clenched fists on her chest.
"Starlight is ours and I want to protect it. This is our home and for it, I will not be afraid of any obstacles or dangers."
Rhode scanned everyone's expression and remained silent for a moment before nodding his head.
"Lastly, let me say this again. Come back alive, because your life isn't worth wasting on such garbage."
As Rhode finished his sentence, the audience cheered. Everyone turned around and saw a strong, muscular old man holding two heavy shields stepping onto the arena.
Rosen, indeed, was the first to fight.
He approached the middle of the arena and looked down upon Rhode and the rest.
"You won't let anyone from Liberty Wings leave this arena alive? You've got guts, kid. Do you really think that you're capable enough to do it? Just based on all of you? What rights do you have to spew such words in my face! A bunch of bugs talking about killing? Come up to the arena, kid. I will let you know how worthless you are."
Anne gritted her teeth. She waved her fists, but Rhode held her back and stared coldly at Rosen. Then, he smiled.
"No, you won't have this chance, Rosen. Before I show up, you will be dead."
Rosen was slightly surprised by Rhode's response. Then, Rhode turned around and ordered.
"Lize, you're up."