Rhode furrowed his brows and shook his head slightly at Lize's disappearance. Then, he landed back on the ground and realized that Anne was looking at him with a pale complexion.
"L-Leader, did Anne... Anne do something that Lize dislike? Why..."
The innocent and cheerful young lady appeared really depressed. Her body was trembling slightly as she clasped her shield as though she would fall without this support. Rhode had rarely seen Anne behaving in this manner. However, Rhode understood why she felt this way. After joining Starlight, Anne had the closest relationship with Lize. Their relationship had always been great and Anne was always the one responsible for protecting Lize and her subordinates. They had never quarreled. But now, it was no wonder that Anne suffered such a huge blow after Lize had berated her. Anne was innocent but wasn't a dummy, after all. It was apparent that Lize had some opinions about her.
And this was where it hurt Anne the most. A close friend who had always been with her suddenly fell out with her and treated her as worthless. Such humiliation and insult far exceeded the abuse from strangers.
"No, Anne. This isn't your fault."
Rhode had to diminish the thought of chasing after Lize after looking at Anne who was as though a puppy abandoned by its owner. Anne was in an unstable condition and Rhode didn't expect this to happen. If he didn't resolve the bewilderment in her heart, the Mind Devil would capture her weaknesses and worsen the situation.
Fortunately, it was much easier for Rhode to console Anne than Lize.
"Although that person you saw was Lize, she actually wasn't Lize at all."
"Anne doesn't understand..."
Anne lifted her head and gazed at Rhode with tears welling in her eyes.
"You do remember that the Mind Devil doesn't have powerful strength, which is why it will manipulate the willpower of others and use their mental world as a battle weapon, right? I told you about it plenty of times along the way."
Anne nodded and wiped her tears to listen attentively. Rhode heaved a sigh of relief. Then, he positioned in front of her and continued.
"But, if that monster traps us by materializing other's mental world into physical form, how is it possible for it to manipulate the person to attack us? For example, let's say you've been affected by the Mind Devil's attack and I'm trapped in your mental world. Will you still attack after you realized it's me?"
"Of course not!"
Anne shook her head with all her might.
"Anne will never, ever lay hands on Leader. No matter what the monster does, Anne will never do it!"
"That's right, you wouldn't. But that monster naturally wouldn't act in accordance with your intentions. It will cast a series of illusions before you and in the illusions, I will betray, hurt, or abandon you. In other words, you will see every scenario that will make you hate me. As long as your mind is swayed by it, the monster will take advantage to control your mind to reach its goals."
Rhode lifted his head and gazed at the oval-shaped hall.
"Just as you've thought. If Lize knows that we've entered her inner world, she will not destroy us. But before that, the Mind Devil must have shown her something to sway her mind and it seized the chance to enter her mind and magnify her negative emotions. It is as though a simple, harmless joke turning into a humiliating, shaming, or even vengeful insult under the Mind Devil's instigation. Her subconscious will instinctively drive out or eliminate the things that make her feel painful and unbearable. And we..."
Rhode pointed at himself and to Anne.
"Have become the subject of her anger. This is why the Lize that you saw wasn't the real Lize. She was just a phantom created by the Mind Devil. Besides, didn't you realize...?"
Rhode shrugged and spread his arms apart.
"If that was the real Lize, do you think she would be able to dodge my attack?"
Anne widened her mouth in enlightenment. She gazed at Rhode with glinting eyes. Indeed. Anne also knew the strength of her companions. If that were the real Lize, she surely wouldn't be able to dodge Rhode's attack and retreat swiftly without casting any spells.
"So, the phantom is simply a puppet who resembles Lize only in appearance. You have to remember that we are currently in Lize's mental world controlled by the Mind Devil, so the Lize who appears here isn't real. She will think of all ways to make you suffer in pain and the Mind Devil will manipulate you if you take her words for real. You should trust your friend, Anne. You know how Lize is. Do you think she is a shrew who would hurl abuse at her friends?"
"Of course not!"
The uncertainty and sorrows showing on Anne's face had faded completely. She shook her head firmly and raised her right fist, displaying a brilliant smile at Rhode.
"Anne believes Lize. Lize isn't someone like that!"
Rhode nodded in satisfaction and patted her shoulder.
In fact, Rhode had only told her half of the truth.
That Lize was indeed extracted from deep inside her heart by the Mind Devil. However, the Mind Devil could only manipulate her mind and couldn't create something from nothing. As a matter of fact, the phantom wasn't as simple as a puppet controlled by the Mind Devil. It was born from the deepest parts of Lize's spirit and mind and its performance was the manifestation of Lize's will. In other words, Lize actually detested Anne deep down. However, Rhode felt that this was ridiculous since Anne and Lize always had a close relationship together. Besides, even though Anne might be lively and playful, she was never disruptive. This shouldn't have caused Lize to have such thoughts about Anne at all. Also, the phantom's last sentence...
I didn't expect Lize to be a hidden sadist...
At this moment, Rhode finally understood the saying that was passed down from the ancestors. One may know another for a long time without understanding their true nature.
If this was a game, Rhode and Anne would be facing a never-ending maze filled with side-roads and dead ends. They might need to eliminate many monsters and increase their levels before facing the BOSS. Fortunately, Lize's mental world wasn't that complicated. Her mind was like a magnificent, massive church without several perplex pathways and confusing maze. However, this didn't mean that their road ahead would be easy.
Rhode dodged the slashing blade from the statue. At the same time, Anne leaped forward with her shield. She struck the statue and crushed it into exploding bits. The statue flew off and shattered into fragments on the ground, damaging the flawless marble ground. Another Angel Statue leaped down from the stela and slashed her sword. However, a thick, ice wall prevented it from hacking further. The little mermaid had spread her tiny arms apart and the water ball rippled to the surrounding. Then, ice blades shot out from the water ball and struck the statue, sending the Angel Statue to the ground. As it crawled to its feet, Rhode emerged sneakily and slashed it into chunks.
The decorative statues had become their only enemies along the way. Besides, perhaps due to the words that 'Lize' had said earlier, the statues were mainly headed for Anne. Fortunately, the statues weren't powerful in strength and Anne was capable enough to deal with them. Moreover, with Rhode and the little mermaid around her, she wasn't in any form of danger.
"In front of you!"
Rhode gazed at the gorgeous, dignified door ahead after eliminating another statue. Anne and the little mermaid nodded with might. The little mermaid extended its arms and chilly aura emanated from her water ball to form a halo which extended in all directions. Shortly after, the ground beneath their feet froze and formed specks of hoar frost. The statues that had entered the halo slowed down slightly. Even though the little mermaid's containment of the statues was next to nothing with her current level, this instant was more than enough for Anne.
Anne took half a step forward and swung out her shield which swept forward like a gigantic boulder. At the same time, she stepped back and pulled back the handle and steel chain in her hand abruptly. Then, dazzling green elemental radiance glowed on her body.
The large shield roared a violent whirlwind from the ground and engulfed everything in its path. The statues were drawn into it like filthy dust and their shattered fragments launched out of the whirlwind and smashed into the stelae and walls. Anne laid her hand down and the devastating whirlwind came to an abrupt end.
Rhode twitched his brows as he gazed at the destroyed place. Then, he turned around and headed for the white door.
He opened the white door slowly and shortly after, a new location revealed before Rhode and Anne.
But after taking a closer look, both of them were stunned.
Rhode thought that he had seen enough things that had overturned his impressions after entering Lize's mental world. But now, he was left speechless.
"It's truly Mr. Rhode, indeed. It seems that the worthless crap out there was totally useless."
In the sacred hall filled with warm sunlight that had spilled through the roof, Lize crossed her legs and sat on the throne in the middle of the hall, wearing pitch-black leather clothes. She lifted her chin proudly and looked at her guests in disdain. Her dress wasn't too different from when they met previously. The only difference was this time, Lize held a steel chain in her hands.
The pitch-black steel chain drooped beside her and the other end of the steel chain was locked onto a scarlet collar that was attached on a young lady's neck. The fully naked young lady was kneeling beside her with her arms bound behind her back and she could only lift her upper body upward. Her eyes were concealed by a black eye mask.
"I shall give you one more chance, Mr. Rhode."
Lize stood up and rested her arms on her waist.
"Surrender now and kiss my toes. Swear that you'll become my possession. Obey me forever and I shall bestow you the supreme happiness in this world. I shall make you indulge in unforgettable happiness. Now! Get down on your knees!"
Lize raised her voice and lashed the whip in her hands.
"Whereas for that slut beside you... She has to leave. I've had enough of her. I feel disgusted every time I see her spinning around you like an oestrus bitch. You belong to me and not to that slut!"
"Sorry, I'm not interested."
Rhode gave a snort of contempt and chuckled.
"I've always loved to dominate women and have never preferred being dominated by them, especially when I'm unwilling."
Lize sulked. But, shortly after, the cunning smile returned.
"That's fine too, Mr. Rhode. I shall satisfy you since you defy me... Huhuhu. I feel so excited just imagining your groans and yells to my whips. That's right. I love those eyes of yours. Those eyes that show rejection and disdain shall be conquered by me completely. Ah... Just this thought makes me..."
Lize placed the whip between her legs and rubbed her upper thighs together. Then, she lifted her head with a little flush across her fair face. She drew out the whip between her legs slowly and translucent, thick liquid trickled down from its surface.
"Did you see it? Mr. Rhode, I've become like this just by looking at you. Would you like to have a taste of it? It is surely a kind of blissfulness which other females can't give you, you know?"
Lize shuddered and let out a chuckle. She lashed the whip in her hands heavily on the young lady kneeling beside her. The resounding sound of the whip echoed and left a ghastly scar on her fair delicate skin.
The young lady let out a blood-curdling screech.
"Ah... That's right. It's this voice. The kind of pleasure that creates a sense of supreme conquest! Mr. Rhode, I can't wait to hear this voice of yours!"
Rhode and Anne laid eyes on the young lady because they recognized her voice.
Anne stared unbelievably at the young lady. The kneeling young lady curled up after hearing Anne's voice and struggled to cover up her naked body.
"Ahhh! Please don't look! Mr. Rhode! Anne! Please, don't look at me!
"Shut up, you whore!"
the phantom grabbed 'Lize's' hair and pulled her up furiously.
"A whore like you likes it, isn't it? Bare naked before others and eager for them to rape you! Look at your slutty self! How about it? Mr. Rhode is standing right there and looking at you. It seems that he is looking down upon you. Hmph, I guess Mr. Rhode isn't aware that this adorable-looking young lady is actually such a filthy slut!"
"No... Don't say that... Don't say that..."
Tears flowed down Lize's face and she shook her head in denial. However, she didn't dare to resist.
"Was I wrong? You relied on your innocent appearance and tricked so many people. Actually, you wish that others would ridicule you, mock you, beat you up, and enjoy themselves by treating you like a toy. You derive thrills from these sufferings, am I right?"
"You're wrong... You're wrong..."
"Shut your mouth!"
The phantom lashed out on Lize's chest. Lize shuddered, but this time, her groans were somewhat flirty. The phantom let out a snort and threw her to the ground heavily. Lize gasped for air and trembled all over. At this moment, the phantom raised its right boot and stamped on her body.
"You see, Mr. Rhode."
The phantom spread her arms apart.
"This is Lize. She carves to be your pet and plaything. She's a psychopath who enjoys a good beating and humiliation. Her pure, innocent looks are all fake. This is her true self. But I'm different. I don't wish to be your pet. Instead, you should become mine! Only I have the rights!"
The phantom lashed her whip once again and pointed to Anne.
"You, and that Canary, and the Half-Elf. All of you met Mr. Rhode later than me, so he belongs to me. You cheating bitches keep trying to touch my possession again and again. I will make all of you pay. Not only you bitches, but also the women who touched Mr. Rhode. I will punish them myself and make them suffer in pain forever and ever!"
Rhode let out a sigh and drew out his dagger.
"Are you ready, Anne?"
"Anne is ready, Leader!"
Anne nodded immediately.
"Anne will not forgive the Mind Devil for treating Lize this way!"
Rhode glanced at Anne before shifting his attention back to the front.
Not sure if she's easy to convince... or easy to trick...
"You're asking for death."
The phantom sulked and the bright sacred hall darkened instantly.
"Mr. Rhode. I will make you my only plaything and you will stay with me forever... As for you, cheating bitch... I will turn you into fodder!"