The next day, Rhode gathered everyone in Anne's room to explain her current condition and inform them about the only available solution to save her. Although this was Anne's problem, Rhode insisted on telling everyone. No matter what, Anne was their comrade, so everyone had every right to understand her plight.
After hearing the situation from Rhode, Lize and Marlene were speechless. Although they'd expected severe side effects from using the potion, they still found out that they had gravely underestimated it. Of course, Rhode simply described the suggestion that he and Gillian had concluded before.
As Rhode had expected; Anne immediately made her decision without hesitation. She made her choice so quickly that others might've thought that she rehearsed this line before. Or perhaps the potion blocked certain blood vessels in her brain and affected the rational part of her mind...? In any case, her response was way too quick.
"I think it's best for you to consider it a bit more, Anne."
Lize's face was pale as she restrained the rash girl. Besides, she wasn't the only one ashen-faced. Lapis and Marlene were there too, and Marlene shuddered at the thought of Anne lying on the bed unable to move a muscle.
While they were of entirely different personalities, all of them were in the prime of their life right now and agreed that being confined to the bed for the rest of their life was something worse than death.
If this happened to any one of the other women, they'd probably toss and turn in their bed for a few nights before making a decision. Which was exactly why Anne's straightforward answer was seen as thoughtlessness to them.
"Lapis, are the effects of that potion that powerful?"
Calmer than Lize, Marlene pondered for a moment before turning to Lapis and under everyone's gaze, Lapis nodded in acknowledgment nervously.
"... Yes, it is... Miss Marlene. If it reaches Leader's requirements... then the dose will be much heavier. This way... If it fails, the side effect will be much stronger and it is possible to reach the extent which Leader had mentioned..."
"Don't do it, Anne."
Lize approached Anne and placed her hand on Anne's shoulder.
"What if you really end up... like that? Didn't Mr. Rhode say it too? The success rate of this method is less than 10%! Can't you just continue living on like now?"
"Thank you, Sister Lize. But..."
Anne displayed her usual resplendent smile as she gazed into the worried eyes of Lize. She stood up and extended her arm to grab Lize's dagger for self-protection hanging by her waist. Anne drew the dagger and tried to wave it around. However, the dagger slipped and fell to the floor as Anne's wrist loosened on the handle. The sound of the dagger hitting the floor echoed in the room.
Lize turned to the dagger that fell right beside her feet, and then back to Anne.
"This is the current Anne, Sister Lize. Anne can't even handle such a light dagger now. What can Anne do for everyone else? Anne wants to be with everyone, to protect everyone and to go on adventures with everyone... But what's the difference between Anne and a disabled person now?"
"That isn't the same, Anne." At this moment, Marlene walked over to Anne's side and consoled her. "I understand what you mean, but you have to understand that we are your friends. If you become... that state, our hearts would bleed. Indeed, you are right - you can't go on adventures with us right now, but at least you can still move freely, yes? If it fails, you will lay in bed for the rest of your life and can never be with us - not even during our leisure time. Maybe one day we will even forget about you, is that what you want?"
"Of course not, Sister Marlene."
After hearing Marlene's gentle yet stern advice, Anne shook her head calmly.
"Anne knows what she is about to do, but Anne still needs to try. Anne is very happy that everyone is concerned for Anne, but this is Anne's decision and won't give up. If it really fails... then..."
Anne shifted her eyes to Rhode.
"... Anne doesn't wish to continue living in such a tragic way. Besides, Sister Marlene is right. If Anne ends up in that state, Anne will only bring more grieve for everyone..."
"Anne! What are you saying?!"
Before Anne could finish her sentence, Lize interrupted her as she grabbed Anne's petite hands in hers.
"Do you think we will be happy if you leave us? Anne..."
Marlene placed her hand on Lize's shoulder before she could continue.
"Lize, this is Anne's decision. Everyone has the right to decide how they should live their lives. Since Anne had already made her decision, then we as friends and companions, shouldn't stop her."
"Sister Marlene understands me more," Anne chuckled and hopped backward before spinning around. "Don't worry too much, Sister Lize~ If it works then Anne will become even stronger, and by that time, Anne can protect everyone better, right?"
While Anne displayed a cheery outlook, Lize still couldn't convince herself to watch the disaster unfold. A success rate of less than 10% meant that the failure rate was at least 90%... that was way too risky!
Perhaps if Lize was an idealist, she might've agreed; but after joining the mercenary life and experiencing many life-threatening situations, Lize no longer naively relied on miracles. She learned to depend on her own strength to grasp any possibilities of success. This was no doubt an improvement in her mindset, but in exchange, she lost something precious.
Will Mr. Rhode really kill Anne if it fails?
A sharp pain throbbed in Lize's heart as she glanced at Rhode. She was caught in a dilemma. She understood what Anne wanted, but that meant that they might have to suffer the grief afterward. Never would she have thought that she would've to witness the death of a friend outside of a battle.
Lize shuddered, and probably due to fear, she turned her back and chose to avoid facing the truth.
"Since Anne has decided, then leader, let's start!"
Compared to the gloomy emotions of everyone, Anne behaved like she was in an amusement park. She pranced towards Rhode and stared at him with anticipation with her glistening green eyes.
"Right now? Are you sure that you're ready?"
Even Rhode felt slightly strange dealing with her odd sense of confidence. After all, even players also would hesitate before making such decisions, not to say an NPC whose life was at stake.
Anne acted as she wasn't pressured at all by this at all - which left Rhode feeling rather surreal. It was akin to a prisoner on the death row being excited to get executed.
"Of course," Anne nodded determinedly and placed her tiny hands on her chest while focusing her eyes on Rhode. "Although it had only been a day, Anne feels so dead with such a weak body. Anne really really wants to get rid of this and return to the usual Anne!"
Lize gazed at Rhode and mumbled. But Marlene tugged her arm and shook her head firmly.
This is Anne's choice, not theirs.
After exchanging glances with Gillian, Rhode turned to Lapis.
"Lapis, all set?" Rhode asked.
"All ready, Leader."
Lapis reached into the fold of her clothes and carefully retrieved a red, sparkling potion. Everyone shifted their attention towards the bottle in Lapis' hands. Marlene and Lize both held their breaths.
Meanwhile, as everybody was fearing for someone else's life, the person in question leaped towards Lapis and attempted to snatch the potion. However, Rhode was one step ahead.
"Are you ready, Anne?"
"Yes, I'm ready. Leader, don't worry. If this fails, at most I'll warm your bed for you in future."
... Just what is this girl made of?
Anne watched him eagerly like a puppy waiting for its food. The potion in his hands only brought unpleasant memories for her and could even cause her more misery. However, she had no signs of fear at all.
"Remember. Finish all at once."
Rhode gave up trying to understand her as he handed the potion to her. Anne nodded in agreement and downed the solution.