The entire banquet hall was in total silence.
It could be said that this was the shortest duel the crowd had ever seen. The duel ended in less than a minute and before some of the nobles clearly witnessed what exactly happened.
However, the main point was that the gazes projecting at Rhode became rather off.
Most of them were watching with curiosity and hostility before the start of the duel, but the result of this duel was enough to change their thoughts completely!
From Antonio's point of view, he didn't know how he lost the duel. However, there were formidable swordsmen among the crowd who had witnessed everything and their gazes were filled with unprecedented astonishment.
In fact, it was still considered a normal duel up until the point where Antonio escaped from Rhode aggressive attack. Then, when Antonio backed off and Rhode's blade ray struck forward, the duel had completely deviated from the scope of all common sense and developed toward an illogical direction.
The crowd had seen it clearly when Rhode drew a distance apart from Antonio, the specks of starlight transformed into white, dazzling blade image that struck at Antonio. Antonio brandished his sword and resisted the attack, at the same time counterattacking speedily. Then, the crowd witnessed the blade image shattered like a rock that had smashed into a piece of mirror and Rhode reemerging behind Antonio sneakily.
Many families had also passed on similar shadow cloning skills. Lower-level shadow cloning skills relied on speed to create afterimages to confuse the enemies while concealing one's true position. Higher-level shadow cloning skills could gather power and clones also possessed equal damage output as the main body. However, no matter which clone it was, their defenses were basically zero and fragile, like a beautiful bubble that would disappear forever once broken. Rhode had displayed this side of him in the Midsummer Festival and no one was surprised that he was capable of shadow cloning.
However, everything that had happened later made their jaws dropped.
Antonio heard the exclamations from the crowd and instantly dodged Rhode's attack. He had to turn his body around, so he didn't notice what the crowd had witnessed. Within two seconds as he turned, the fragments from the sword image that he had shattered were as though attracted by a mysterious force, gathering and coalescing into a brand new sword image instantly and pierced toward Antonio!
That scene left the crowd stupefied.
Even Lydia, who rarely stopped smiling, widened her eyes in astonishment and witnessed how the defenseless Antonio was struck by the sword image, flinging into the air and crashing to the ground into a bloody mess. This duel could be said to have embarrassed the Williams Family and from now onward, they had become enemies with Rhode.
But no one was actually concerned about the grudges between Antonio and Rhode. Even Grand Mage Amund puckered his brows slightly and caressed his white long beard, observing the situation meaningfully. Mages possessed some tricks that could create illusionary clones, but it was impossible to restore a shattered one no matter the swordsmanship or spell to launch another attack like it had self-conscious! What was even more frightening was that the strength of the sword image wasn't any weaker than the actual blade! This proved that Rhode had enhanced the strength of the sword image to an unprecedented height.
There were decent swordsmen among the nobles and they knew clearly how dangerous such a swordsmanship was. The Shadow Clone Technique was difficult to deal with and if the clone could restore itself and launch another attack, how could the enemy possibly defend against them?
However, this wasn't a problem for Rhode to be concerned about because even he didn't know the reasons behind it. He merely followed the system guide to design this swordsmanship and learned how to use it. As for the illogical reasoning, he didn't care about it at all. He pressed down the creases on his clothes and left without shooting another glance at Antonio, who was covered with wounds all over his body. Two Battle Angels stepped forward and treated to Antonio's bleeding before lifting him away. Shortly after, harmonious music once again filled the banquet hall and the crowd came to their senses and discussed the duel. However, this time, they didn't need to prepare any topic of idle conversations. Rhode's mysterious swordsmanship and his future with the Williams Family were enough to keep their conversation going for a long time.
"Huhuhu, how amusing."
Lydia chuckled and shifted her gaze to Lize who was standing among the crowd. Although Lize was here for the banquet too, she didn't dress up as gorgeously as others. She wore a plain, white dress and appeared seemingly like an inconspicuous servant.
It felt rather strange. The older sister loved to be in the limelight and the younger sister was modest and often stayed low-key. This was indeed interesting.
Lydia revealed a warm, gentle smile at this thought. She gestured and a female servant came to her side. Lydia spoke softly and the female servant nodded slightly before heading off.
"Welcome back, Rhode."
When Rhode returned to his position, he saw Marlene's lovely smile and Anne feasting on delicious food. Anne waved the roasted lamb leg and cheered loudly.
"Leader! Great job, you struck him off in a single attack! How useless was he!"
If Antonio were to hear Anne's remarks on him, perhaps he would vomit blood and faint once more.
"It was alright."
Rhode nodded and his gaze wandered. He realized that Lize was nowhere to be seen. She didn't love bustling crowds and she actually wasn't willing to join this banquet. She had also asked if she could return to the Fortress in the Land of Atonement on her own. However, Rhode rejected her request because he felt that she had done well in the internal battle and deserved some recognition. Moreover, she was slowly unleashing her potential as a qualified adjutant under Gillian's and his training. Although she wasn't an expert in laying her eyes on general situations like Marlene, her observation for details had indeed saved him a lot of extra effort. This was why Rhode decided to bring her along as a reward even though she wasn't too willing.
"Royal Highness Lydia sent someone to call for her."
Marlene revealed a trace of complication on her expression. Rhode looked forward strangely and discovered that Lydia was missing from the throne. This kind of suited her style, as always.
At this moment, Rhode felt a soft, warm hand touching his. He lowered his gaze and saw Marlene's adorable smile. She stole a glance at Anne, who was focusing all her attention on the huge plate of delicious hams, lamb legs, and fruits before looking up at Rhode.
"Rhode, let's go for a walk."
Lize appeared rather uncomfortable as she sat before Lydia. She lifted her head and gazed at her sister, but she didn't know what she should say. Lydia lifted the teapot with her usual smile and poured a cup of warm red tea for Lize.
"You did well, my sister. I heard from Gaya regarding everything that you've done. I've always believed that you can do it, but you just aren't too confident in yourself. In fact, this result has proven everything to me. I really need to say my thanks to Earl Rhode."
Lize said with an uncomfortable tone while Lydia interlocked her fingers and sat back, gazing at her younger sister. For some unknown reasons, Lize felt that Lydia's gaze was rather different from usual. Then, Lydia spoke.
"But, don't you think you have something important to report to me? Like your relationship with Earl Rhode?"
Lize blushed instantly.
The Golden City was a tranquil and peaceful as ever. The melodious music played from the banquet hall resounded in the bright, spacious corridor. The gentle breeze rippled on the nearby azure lake and invited the lush greenery and colorful flowers for a dance. However, this picturesque view wasn't attractive enough to steal their attention away from each other.
Marlene's back was against the door of the storage room as she hugged the man before her tightly. Deep breathing and the sound of their slippery tongues resounded in the narrow room. After a few moments, the two of them separated their lips from each other and a silver thread of saliva slipped to the floor.
"You are unusually active, Marlene. It seems like you can't hold it back any longer?"
Rhode perked up the corners of his mouth as he looked at the blushing young lady. After they hid from the crowd and left Anne behind in the banquet hall, they headed to the flowery garden for a stroll. However, Rhode quickly realized that Marlene's so-called 'stroll' had an ulterior motive and he smartly led her into a remote storage room. He was surprised that Marlene's enthusiasm was far more aggressive than he had ever imagined. Before he managed to lock the door, she had pounced into his arms and wrapped her arms around his neck for passionate kisses.
"Because we haven't met for a few months..."
Marlene pouted in dissatisfaction, which showed an adorable and irresistible side of her. Marlene spoke as she pushed her soft, ample bosom against his chest to feel his heartbeat.
Marlene had never understood how painful the feeling of separation was.
If it were in the past, she wouldn't feel this painful in separating from Rhode for a short period of time. Although she felt lonely at times, it was just loneliness, after all. After she had tasted the joys of being a woman, such separations were cruel and torturous. She felt empty every night and yearned for his consolations, but he was never around. This sense of emptiness and loneliness made it hard for her to fall asleep. During the day, she focused all her attention on the commanding matters and battle tactics. But she would miss him and his warm hugs as soon as she had the free time.
And now, the person who she had missed so dearly was standing right before her. She couldn't hold it in anymore.
"Rhode... Hug me..."
She shut her eyes and groaned softly. She sensed Rhode's hands roaming around her body and fondling her bosoms through the thin clothing. She even felt his hand entering deeply from underneath her skirt. Then, she was lifted off the ground.
Rhode responded with a deep voice. He looked at her delicate face with complex emotions. He wasn't aware why Marlene wasn't awarded with much more generous rewards from Lydia and from the fact that Marlene didn't answer Anne's question as to when she was returning to the Guild, he had guessed the answer. Even though he wasn't hopeful that Marlene would return to the Guild, he felt rather disappointed to receive this affirmation. However, he threw this thought to the back of his head. At least for now, it was enough that Marlene belonged to him. He lifted her skirt and spread her snowy legs apart. Marlene closed her eyes tightly and wrapped her arms around his shoulders to feel his fiery thrusts.
When the warm presence penetrated her body and filled the void, she let out a seductive moan.
The violent, yet thrilling sensation rushed to her head. The incomparable satisfaction had almost forced out the fervor that was hidden deep inside her. But a trace of rationale clamped onto her neck like stocks and chains, stifling her screams in her throat.
This is Golden City... If I'm discovered... in this place... My life will be ruined...
Such hesitations boggled Marlene's mind as Rhode dragged her into this storage room. However, the scorching love she had for him blocked out all reasoning and she eagerly sought blissfulness from him. She was clear of the consequences for doing such a thing in Golden City. But it was due to this that she felt even more tense and thrilled. She pushed against the door with her back and turned her head to the side to listen to signs of activity from the outside while withstanding Rhode's strong penetrations. If anyone were to see us doing such a thing...!
Marlene tensed up at this horrifying thought. However, this tension stimulated her unprecedentedly like melted steel flowing throughout her blood vessels, heating up every inch of her body. She shrunk and clamped her legs around his waist.
Rhode charged forward like a bull. His instinctive passion had repressed his emotions. He went in harder and the sound of slapping water grew increasingly louder. Marlene's breathings hastened, shaking her head left to right as though she wished to escape from him. Reddish pink smeared across her face and soft, fair chest. At the next moment, she widened her mouth and bit onto his shoulder.
A warm, burning sensation gushed deep into her body and Marlene felt as though her senses and body had melted completely to the heat.