(ED: Yet another NSFW warning nearer to the end....)
Rhode slammed his fist on the table and gritted his teeth after reading the system prompt.
He had been praying hard for some sort of difference between reality and game while on the way back, but the harsh truth presented otherwise.
Under Anne's status was the 'Weakened' debuff.
Rhode calmed himself down before sitting on the chair and closing his eyes. For a brief moment, he attempted to collect his thoughts, but after a few seconds, he stepped out of his room and made his way towards the guest room at the end of the hallway. Without hesitation, he extended his arm and knocked.
"Ah, Mr. Rhode."
Lize, Marlene, and Christie answered the door. Lapis wasn't amongst them as Rhode had sternly ordered the poor alchemist to reflect on her actions in her room.
"How's Anne doing?"
Lize shook her head helplessly.
"The side effects of the potion is too strong. Almost all of Anne's energy had withered away. All I can do now is to preserve what's left of her strength within her body. Mr. Rhode, do you know how long will the side effects last?"
"Anne's performance was baffling indeed."
Marlene remarked in her usual tone as though the effects of that incident had disappeared. She frowned and twirled her hair with her finger before continuing, "I have no idea exactly what that potion was, but its immediate effects instantly raised the strength in Anne's body... and the side effect was equally frightening... I will seek guidance from my teacher about this matter."
Rhode nodded towards Marlene and shifted his gaze towards the other two.
"It's getting late now, go and rest. Leave her to me."
Lize widened her eyes in surprise, whereas Christie hooked her tiny finger onto Rhode's sleeve.
"... Can Christie stay with Rhode and Anne...?"
"You should rest too, Christie."
Rhode got down on one knee and revealed a warm smile.
"It's already very late now... and you should also take care of your body."
A trace of reluctance flashed across her face, but it disappeared as quickly as it came and the little girl left the room obediently with Lize in hand. At this time, only Marlene, Rhode and the sleeping Anne was left in the room.
The atmosphere instantly turned awkward.
"Mr. Rhode, you don't seem very happy that we had won the tournament?"
Marlene quietly observed Rhode's expression. Her red pupils were glistening with warmth and a gentle radiance that even she wasn't aware of.
"We certainly should be happy over our victory, but it is a pity that we sacrificed too much."
Rhode shrugged his shoulders before dragging a chair from the side.
"Although I know there's no use in regretting now, I still have to say that I wished I didn't send her up."
"But Anne will eventually still fight, and we all know that's for certain."
Marlene revealed a bitter smile whereas Rhode nodded in agreement. Although Anne appeared childish on the surface, she always did things with determination. However, this may be a good and bad thing at the same time. It was no easy task to 'train' Anne's character because - after all - humans weren't made out of numerical data that one could modify whenever they please...
Rhode pressed his hand against his forehead - Within his summonable spirits, there was also a troublemaker.
"So... Marlene? Do you have anything else for me?"
Lize and Christie had already left, and only Marlene chose to remain. Rhode didn't believe that Marlene was here to admire Anne's sleeping posture.
Marlene hesitated for a moment before handing a letter to Rhode.
"It's regarding the matter of the Alanic Foundation... We, the Senia Family, are currently supervising the foundation of which my father had fully taken over. This is an invitation letter that my father asked me to present to you. It is an invitation to our Senia Family's Central Magic Ring after the midsummer festival. He wants to thank you in person."
Rhode nodded and asked, "How's that woman now?"
"I don't know..."
Marlene's expression turned rather sour as she looked down and shook her head.
"I don't know what Ellenson will end up as... I heard that her parents will be sending her to a monastery for a period with hopes that... there will be some changes..."
Marlene intentionally trailed off, but Rhode knew that she was aware what would happen to Ellenson. A noble young lady who had been 'stained' couldn't continue to live in the family any longer.
"This isn't your fault, Marlene. But I know such shallow consolation is useless to you right now."
Rhode turned around and looked into the maiden's eyes.
"That man came for you, but he dragged your friend into it. I can understand how you feel. But no matter what Marlene, you must toughen up as this is one of the challenges you must face - at the very least, I can guarantee that you have my support."
Marlene was slightly surprised and revealed a bright smile.
"... Mr. Rhode, this must be the first time I've heard you speak such sweet words to a lady... I've got to admit that it's not too shabby..."
"Are you done with your nonsense? Give me that."
Rhode chided jokingly as he pricked his brows slightly and held out his palm. Marlene on the other hand, obliged and smiled wryly before passing the invitation letter to Rhode.
In the process of passing the letter, their fingers gently brushed against each other, causing Marlene's body to stiffen instantly.
Rhode looked at Marlene dubiously. At this moment, the lady's white and snowy cheeks were smeared with a red blush and her eyes looked entranced. However, Marlene soon brought herself back to her senses.
"Sor-Sorry, Mr. Rhode... It's late now and I should go back and rest... well then, goodnight."
Marlene quickly spun around and left in a hurry, leaving behind a trail of fragrance.
After returning to her room, Marlene immediately shut the door and plunged right into her soft, wooly bed. At this moment, her face was bright red, and her breathing was abnormally deep.
Why is this happening?
Marlene placed her hands on her chest, feeling the intense pounding of her heart. She thought that she could calmly face everything by now. However, the truth proved otherwise.
The instant their fingers met, Marlene was immediately reminded of that night. Although she was semi-conscious, these blurry emotions seemed to reflect most clearly in her memories more than anything else. Marlene was once again reminded of Rhode's body temperature, fingers and... that intense and thrilling pounding.
Marlene restlessly writhed on her bed as her body temperature slowly rose. Her slender fingers unbuttoned the collar before she clumsily fondled herself with her eyes closed. Soon enough, Rhode appeared in Marlene's mind yet again, repeating the scene of that wild and shameless night. At this moment, her fingers seemed to coincide with Rhode's image as she brazenly caressed herself. It was a mixture of rough and wild actions, yet it was an incredibly comfortable sensation as if she presented all of herself to him.
As Marlene reminisced the memories of that night, she twisted and turned under the intense sensation. Although she had never done this before, she inconceivably knew her way around it. Her slender fingers rubbed instinctively, caressing her beautiful and slim curves. As her actions became increasingly intense, her ragged breaths became shorter and faster. In the end, Marlene let out an alluring moan as her right hand entered deep between her legs while her left hand gripped onto her soft, ample chest. The maiden's body convulsed for a few seconds before finally relaxing.
As her short breaths slowly stabilized, Marlene's bewildered eyes gradually regained its sharpness.
"W-What... What am I doing!"
The maiden blushed yet again and screamed before pulling the quilt over her head.
That's just a dream!
That's right... it's just a dream...
The maiden murmured to herself repeatedly like a mantra and shut her eyes, gradually falling into a deep sleep.