"Did he really say that?" A deep voice sounded from the crystal ball and Danny stood up and bowed hurriedly, even though it was to a lifeless crystal ball. "Yes, Sir. That young man seemed extremely confident and to be honest, I didn't expect that he actually dared to..."
"He's messing with fire," the voice interrupted Danny harshly. "Isn't he aware of the consequences of his actions? This is provoking the Country of Light! Forget it, there's no point talking about this now. What was Lydia's intention?"
"Royal Highness Lydia didn't make any decision. However, it was apparent that she was siding the young man."
"Hmph..." The voice from the crystal let out a cold sneer. After a few moments, the voice continued. "This is within our expectations too. But I didn't expect that little girl, Lydia, to be this determined... Great. MP Danny, you did well. But, since the other party has decided to go against us, we need to change our plans. MP Danny, you didn't contact the Parliament just to report the content of the hearing, right?"
"Yes, Sir. Just as I have mentioned, since that young man has made his move, I believe that Royal Highness Lydia will comply with his moves by heading into the Land of Atonement as soon as possible. However, to be frank, I don't think that the young man has the capability to defeat a presence like the Duke Fiend. But... After all, I'm not in a position to determine the truth, so I hope the Parliament will send a person to assist me in this matter."
"Oh? Who are you thinking of?"
"The Mist Sword Saint."
"..." This time, the voice from the crystal ball didn't respond immediately. Instead, it paused for a long while. "Is there a need to? MP Danny, you do know what this request means. To be honest, I think that apart from the little girl, there isn't anyone worth dispatching. You are aware of the consequences if there's a mistake in your judgment..."
"Please pardon my rudeness, Sir. I think that this young man isn't that simple at all. Since he had the courage to provoke the Country of Light in front of everyone fearlessly, the possibility of him bluffing wouldn't be high. Besides, it will be convenient to have the Mist Sword Saint around if there are any unprecedented situations..."
"... Alright then, I agree with you. After all, this plan is a must-succeed for the Parliament and that young man has given us too many troubles. No matter if he was doing it intentionally or not and now that he has become a huge obstacle, this time... No matter what, we must find an opportunity to get rid of him. Whereas for Lydia... I don't believe that the little girl will fall out with the Parliament entirely for his sake. Remember, if the little girl has decided to avenge the young man after we get our hands on him, report to us immediately and we will handle the situation in our usual way... You know it."
"Understood, Sir," The magical radiance on the crystal ball dimmed gradually. MP Danny wiped the sweat on his forehead and plopped onto the comfortable sofa. He squinted at the crystal ball before him while the corners of his mouth curled up. This pug-lookalike revealed a savage expression as though a hunter crouching to strike its prey.
He had to admit, this young man had played his cards right. But it was a pity that he wasn't aware of the limit of the King's Party. If not, why would the Country of Light's Parliament dare to stir trouble in the Munn Kingdom? Loyalty was a virtue, but foolishness wasn't. This young man seemed to have great ambitions and goals, but he chose the wrong partner for it, unfortunately.
Such a brave, decisive young man was rare in the Country of Light. If he was born in the Country of Light, perhaps he would have a dazzlingly bright future. But now, he could only fall... Because this young man would soon realize that reality wasn't as perfect as he had imagined.
Reality indeed wasn't as beautiful as you thought it was.
Rhode sipped the fragrant tea, however, he didn't have the mood to enjoy it fully. "Please pardon my rudeness, Your Highness Lydia. You should also be aware that the Country of Light's Parliament is coming in strong and it isn't as simple as stirring trouble for the Munn Kingdom."
"I'm very clear of this, Baron Rhode." Lydia sliced a small cut of cream cake delicately with a fine silver knife. "There usually aren't any indications of a storm and the peacefulness one feels signifies that there will be an upcoming storm. The Country of Light's Parliament has an ingenious scheme, but it's a pity that it isn't exactly perfect. It's as though when one is about to throw one's fist, one will gather strength unconsciously. This time, the Country of Light's Parliament was too sloppy and simple-minded for our hearing and investigations."
Lydia laughed softly before savoring the sliced cake. "I guess Baron Rhode hasn't seen the way the Country of Light's Parliament interrogates me, right? As long as those rats think that they've captured a trace of information that can be used against me, they would bring out a chunk of laws and clauses to interrogate me and seek my answers. Such interrogations would usually take a whole day and of course, those rats were also clear that they were being unreasonable. Yet they enjoyed it nonetheless. Do you know why?"
"Because Your Highness is the owner of the Munn Kingdom," Rhode naturally understood the nuance. "As a ruler of a country, such interrogations from the Country of Light's Parliament will destroy the King's Party and your dignity."
"And they will display their strength and authority to everyone," Lydia continued Rhode's words while Rhode shrugged in agreement. Comparing the strength and wealth of both nations, the Munn Kingdom was on par with the Country of Light. However, even though there were differences in the size of their territorial land, strictly speaking, the Country of Light was nowhere massive. This was because the Country of Light was initially a federal nation formed by various territories that were protected by the Light Dragon Soul. In the early stages, the entire territory of the Country of Light weren't even half as huge as the Munn Kingdom. But due to the influence of the Light Dragon, 13 federations combined and formed the initial Country of Light. Afterward, more and more territories joined the Country of Light and the total federations increased to a total of 25, which formed the final territorial land of the Country of Light. On the other side, the Munn Kingdom didn't join the Country of Light for unknown reasons even though they had always been worshipping the Light Dragon and they continued to exclude themselves until now.
The day when the Light Dragon delegated its authority to the Country of Light's Parliament and had its full authority snatched by them became the day when the 'friendly relationship' between the Munn Kingdom and Country of Light officially ruptured. As a country that didn't join the Country of Light and yet continued to worship the Light Dragon, the Munn Kingdom had always been a thorn in the eyes of the Country of Light's Parliament. They were constantly afraid that the Munn Kingdom would assist the Light Dragon in recapturing its authority and they had come up with several ideas to prevent that. They spent long periods of time to drag the Munn Kingdom into joining the Country of Light. This way, the Munn Kingdom would be in full control by the Parliament and by then, the Parliament wouldn't need to be afraid of external troubles.
However, the Munn Kingdom gave unknown reasons to reject their invitation continuously and this had proven to the Parliament that their guesses were right. It was apparent that the Munn Kingdom must be up to no good. Since that was the case, the Parliament was no longer obliged to be courteous towards the Munn Kingdom. Naturally, they had selectively chosen to forget their invitation to the Munn Kingdom that was also filled with bad intentions.
The Munn Kingdom and Country of Light fell into a strange rivalry. On the surface, both nations seemed to live together in harmony, but there were several conflicts privately. Every year, the Munn Kingdom would make known to everyone that they offered large sums of gold in the name of offering tribute to the Light Dragon. This infuriated the Parliament as they had always been thinking of ways to weaken the influence that the Dragon had with the people. Their efforts had as though gone down the drain when the Munn Kingdom offered the tribute every year.
Moreover, the Country of Light had no other choice other than to accept the gold. Even though the Country of Light seemed massive with 25 territories, their differentiation between the rich and poor was rather extreme. Many of the territories had chosen to join the Country of Light with hopes of seeking financial assistance from the Parliament. However, the wealth of the Country of Light had always been limited and there were many times when they needed this sum of gold from the Munn Kingdom to repay their huge debts. As a wealthy country, the amount of gold that the Munn Kingdom offered the Light Dragon could feed three to five poor territory!
Of course, the Country of Light did think of stopping their influences. In the beginning, the Parliament would receive the gold and tarnish the reputation of the Munn Kingdom simultaneously. But the Munn Kingdom wasn't dumb either. Shortly after, the Munn Kingdom reduced the sum of gold offered by a full two-thirds in the second year as a response.
As a result, the Parliament suffered badly. Initially, the Parliament thought that the Country of Light could handle this financial debt without the gold from the Munn Kingdom. But the officials realized that they weren't capable of filling this huge hole at all!
In that year, two territories faced calamity and natural disaster while the gold offered by the Munn Kingdom wasn't enough to relieve them. In the end, both territories broke out in large-scale riots which battered the Parliament badly. Even though the Parliament spent time and effort to appease them, they needed funds for the reconstructions and cleanups. Without further choices, the Country of Light could only express goodwill and seek assistance from the Munn Kingdom tactfully. In the following year, the Parliament held a grand ceremony in their own name and afterward, the Munn Kingdom recovered the gold that they had gifted the Light Dragon. In order to prevent this from happening again, the Parliament didn't comment much and they could only silently watch as the Munn Kingdom praised the existence of the Light Dragon every year.
However, their relationship turned out worse than before. The grand ceremony had been cited as a major humiliation by the Parliament as they had always been proud that they had snatched the authority to independence from the Creator Gods. Instead, the Munn Kingdom forced them to fawn a useless God which the Parliament couldn't tolerate. On the other hand, the Munn Kingdom didn't lessen their pressure on the Parliament. After this happened, the Munn Kingdom held their own grand ceremony every year to remind the people of the Country of Light that without this sum of gold offered to the Light Dragon, the Country of Light was so poor that they couldn't even feed themselves!
Their relationship had gotten worse subsequently and was on the verge of breaking into a war.
And it seemed that this day was nearing soon.
Rhode let out a sigh as he recalled the past that he had experienced and read on the forum. He lifted his head and gazed at Lydia with a solemn expression. "Your Highness, please pardon me. I have always wanted to seek an answer from you."
"Are you trying to ask why the Munn Kingdom, as a direct subordinate of the Light Dragon, just sits idly and watches the Light Dragon lose its authority?"
"..." Lydia answered Rhode's question with a question of her own and Rhode nodded simply. Even though many players on the forum had guessed plenty of possibilities, Rhode wished to hear the answer personally from the Duchess.
Lydia gazed at Rhode with a gentle smile while her eyes glittered like the bright summer sun. However, Rhode felt that her smile was rather sorrowful. "Baron Rhode, vines will climb up the tree that it grows on because it has the will and thirst for the warmth and brilliance from the sun. For the sun, the vine will strangle the tree at all costs. Whereas, for the flowers that landed on the ground, no matter how one tries, one will not be able to let it bloom on the top of the tree because the flowers lack the strength to climb upwards."
"What you mean is..." Even though Lydia's explanation was ambiguous, Rhode felt that he understood the meaning she was trying to convey.
"That's right." Lydia refilled Rhode's teacup before putting in two sugar cubes gracefully. "But the Munn Kingdom doesn't exist to be manipulated by others. The storm may perhaps overwhelm and sway the trees, but the trees will still be back towering again, right?"
"But, some trees may collapse from the storm, Your Highness."
"That's for sure, Baron Rhode," Rhode's retort didn't displease Lydia at all. Instead, she smiled and gazed at the young man as though she were a cheeky little girl that had gotten her way with her prank. "But, why would the storm destroy only one of the trees when the trees stood against it in unison?"
"... I think I understand your meaning now, Your Highness," Rhode let out a bitter laugh and lifted his teacup. His tea was overly sweetened by the two sugar cubes, but he drank it without batting an eyelid. He knew why Lydia put two sugar cubes into his teacup because, after all, it was somewhat rude of him to interrupt the Duchess as a lowly-ranked Baron. The tea could also be considered as a little punishment for Rhode.
"But, Your Highness, once one enters the forest to hew the trees, the storm will sweep by again before long."
"That is why I need a courageous forest protector to help me expel the unscrupulous intruders."
"Just to expel?"
"Well, if the intruders go overboard, I also wouldn't mind..." Lydia paused for a moment before strolling towards the window. Rhode gazed at the young lady's back and shortly after, her crisp voice sounded. "Baron Rhode, as a leader of a guild, I'm sure you have faced bandits that harassed the villages, right?"
"Yes, Your Highness."
"So then, what would you do if you wish to protect the entire village from the invasion of the bandits entirely? Would you just build a solid defensive line and fend off their attacks time and time again with hopes that they would back out on their own accord?"
"That's definitely impossible, Your Highness... I would capture and get rid of them once and for all."
"That's right," Lydia turned around and the glaring sun shone on her back which cast a shadow on her face. Rhode couldn't see her expression, but he heard her voice clearly. "One can bear with the sneaky mice, but it would be an entirely different story if the mice were vicious, ravenous dogs instead."