"Woah... I'm so full."
Anne stretched her arms and said with a satisfied grin.
"You ate too much, Anne."
Lize shook her head beside her.
"I don't know how you managed to eat a portion for three. If it's me, I would never be able to eat that much... and you spent so much unnecessary money too. Have you thought of an explanation to Marlene yet?"
Anne's expression changed slightly. She held her palms together and leaned toward Lize.
"Sister Lize, we don't have to report such small matters to Sister Marlene, right? It's only a small meal and Anne used all her heart to finish it~ I didn't waste a single bit at all!"
"You are really..."
Lize let out a sigh. Then, she shifted her gaze to the quiet little girl beside them.
"Christie, what's wrong? Are you in a bad mood? Or do you have something you want to buy?"
Christie seemed to have been disrupted from her daze. She hugged the package in her arms tightly and revealed a shy, gentle smile to Anne and Lize. Then, she shook her head.
"... I'm not in a bad mood, Lize... I'm only thinking of when will Rhode come back..."
Christie sulked slightly.
"I painted so many beautiful paintings... I hope Rhode can see them..."
"Don't worry, Christie. Leader will definitely be back in no time."
Anne let out a chuckle and gently fondled the little girl's hair, at the same time confidently making a prediction.
"Didn't Sister Marlene say that before? Leader will definitely return soon. This time, they aren't doing any special missions, so you don't have to worry too much..."
Although Lize was also worried about Rhode and the others, she couldn't possibly reveal her true emotions to Christie. Therefore, Lize hurriedly squatted down in front of Christie and held her shoulders. She looked deeply into her eyes.
"There's nothing to worry about, Christie. Mr. Rhode is a smart, brave, and strong person. He will not be in any trouble. Who knows; maybe Mr. Rhode is already waiting for you back home. Cheer up, okay?"
Christie appeared a little more relieved. She nodded gently and displayed an adorable smile. Lize responded with a smile of her own and stroked the little girl's beautiful, long hair.
"It's already late; we should get..."
At this moment, a clatter of hoofs interrupted her words. She lifted her head and spotted a group of fully-armored knights on their horses. The crowd on the streets avoided them hurriedly. Lize stood up attentively and pulled Christie to her side. As for Anne, she pouted and gave a dismissive look.
However, what the three of them didn't expect was that the group of knights was actually coming for them. They slowed down to a halt as they surrounded the trio.
"Who are you people? What do you want?!"
Anne had the quickest reactions. As the knights surrounded them, she retrieved the heavy shield from her back and used it to protect Lize and Christie.
"Are you members of the Starlight mercenary group?"
The knights didn't answer Anne. Instead, it was their leader who spoke.
Anne and Lize knitted their brows simultaneously. Clearly, both of them realised that things weren't that simple. They didn't answer the person instantly and scanned the surrounding. Lize hugged Christie in her arms while Anne shifted her position carefully toward the left to close off the opening.
"That's right, we are members of the Starlight mercenary group. Who are you people anyway?"
"We are the garrisons of Deep Stone City!"
The leader waved his arm strongly, pulled out his sword, and pointed at the trio.
"Now, under the name of the Garrisons, I demand you to drop your weapon and come with us!"
Anne was dumbfounded. Lize elbowed Anne from the back and hinted at her to catch a glimpse of their saddles. There was an engraving of a complicated, yet gorgeous design which ordinary Garrisons wouldn't have. Moreover, identical saddles would only appear on one kind of people.
And that was the nobles' private soldiers!
"Drop your weapon now!"
The leader ordered upon Anne's noncompliance. At this moment, the crowd had gathered to check on the situation. Anne appeared seemingly like she had the intentions to surrender. She stooped over and placed the heavy shield on the ground, but then, she brandished it abruptly.
The immense impact sent one of the knight and his warhorse flying, and they crashed right into their companions, who were caught off guard. In an instant, the whole group of knights crumbled into a complete mess. The knights drew their weapons furiously and charged forward.
Anne raised her shield and struck off another knight's attack. Lize dashed into the crowd while holding hands with Christie. She was determined to get away as far as possible.
"What did you say?!"
Marlene widened her eyes in disbelief while Rhode said with a frown.
"What exactly happened? Explain!"
"It's like this..."
Perhaps due to the influence of Rhode's calm attitude, Joey explained steadily.
"I was at the Mercenary Association on some errands and overheard that our people broke into a fight with the city guards in the marketplace and many of them were injured. I made a trip to the place, but it was completely sealed off. From what I heard, it was actually Miss Lize and Anne who fought with the city guards!"
"... How did this happen?"
Marlene was stunned. It was possible for Anne to act rashly, but Lize too?
"When did all this happen?" Rhode said.
"Around an hour ago. Leader, what should we do? I sent Randolf to gather our men; should we go search for them?"
"That's not necessary."
Rhode gave an unexpected answer.
"Joey, get Old Walker here and check on the situation to gather information immediately. Remember, gather information on the causes, reasons, and results. Then, I need you to inform Shauna and Kavos to get their men ready to move out. Marlene, you will follow Gillian and me. We will go check it out!"
A putrid stench came from within the pitch-black underground tunnel.
Anne stooped over and peeked at the situation outside.
"Why aren't they giving up yet? It's so annoying! Who exactly are they?!"
"They shouldn't be the city guards."
Lize said softly as she hid behind Anne and hugged Christie in her arms.
"And I don't think they are ordinary private soldiers. Usually, they wouldn't have such emblems and no matter what, it's all too strange. Besides..." she paused.
Anne punched the ground heavily. She gritted her teeth, yet was unable to say anything. Originally, the trio had decided to escape to the stronghold, but they didn't expect that the whole marketplace would be completely sealed off without any way for them to retreat. It was due to this that they had no choice but to hide in an abandoned, empty house.
"If Sister Marlene realises that we're not back yet, she will probably come for us."
Lize shook her head as she felt that things weren't as simple as they seemed. She was sure that those knights were definitely not real garrisons. One reason was because Lize and Anne had lived here for years and were familiar with the garrisons here. It raised Lize's doubts that there were actually people who didn't know who they were and they even dared to pass themselves off as the garrisons and brazenly seal off the entire marketplace. Weren't they afraid of getting in trouble?