Thump. Rhode's heart pounded fiercely as soon as he saw the name of the court musician on the name list. Although it seemed like this court musician was here to represent Royal Highness Lydia to reward the troops like Marilyn Monroe cheering up the soldiers, Rhode knew that Gaya wouldn't leave the palace without any specific purpose. Although she became the first publicly recognized musician on this continent at the age of six, Gaya had never left Golden City. Even though she was widely known as Lydia's trusted aide, many in the King's Party treated her solely as Lydia's playmate. None of them objected in her representing Lydia here and even Garcia joked to Rhode that they were extremely fortunate to be able to hear the performance of an unrivaled musician... Garcia wasn't in the least bit interested in Gaya at all. That was for sure.
Rhode knew that Gaya's strength lay in the Middle-Level Legendary Stage and she could defeat a legion by herself. What was the exact purpose of Lydia sending her here?
Rhode wasn't worried that Lydia would expose his identity even though through her behaviors; it seemed as though she understood more of Rhode's background and past more than he did. On the other hand, it was exactly due to Rhode's understanding of Lydia and Gaya that he was sure that Gaya was definitely not here to reward the soldiers. If not, why would Lydia send a being in the Legendary Stage here to perform for everyone here?
This would be too much of a joke.
Rhode hoped that he was being overly sensitive or perhaps Gaya would be here for another mission and wouldn't be focusing on him. But no matter what, he could only wait for her arrival because it was inevitable.
After a short three days, the reinforcements from Golden City had arrived at the Cloud Summit Fortress and Garcia and Rhode awed in their arrival.
Amongst these reinforcements, 1500 of them were the aristocratic private armies while the other 500 were official soldiers mobilized from around Golden City.
"What do you think, Mr. Rhode?" Garcia gave a hopeless bitter smile and eyed the nobility flag fluttering above the brigade of soldiers blankly. Rhode simply shrugged because the magnificent view before them had represented convincingly how Lydia chose to resolve this manpower issue.
The frontline troops distributed at the border couldn't be arbitrarily mobilized and there must be sufficient reasons. However, the nobles were different as they could gather their private soldiers in the shortest time and join the fight in the frontline. Of course, the private soldiers weren't perfect. For example, they wouldn't obey orders like the regular military and they might often resist or violate military regulations. The hatred between some hostile nobles would also be reflected upon their own private soldiers. For this reason, Garcia sighed helplessly as he could almost foresee that their willingness and disobedience in carrying out his orders would be a huge problem.
"Royal Highness is really... Forget it. It will always be better with more manpower anyway..." Garcia waved his hand in denial before commanding the soldiers. "Open the gates!"
The brigade was headed by a man clad in silver-whitish armor who had gotten down his warhorse swiftly. He saluted towards Garcia solemnly while Garcia saluted back sloppily.
"I am Mordor, the 15th Garrison Captain of Golden City. I came here in accordance to Royal Highness Lydia's command, leading the reinforcements for the Cloud Summit." Mordor passed a letter to Garcia. "This is Royal Highness Lydia's command. Please allow me to convey it to you, Sir Garcia. 'From now onward, all my troops would be under your command and those who are rebellious can be subjected to military laws.' Royal Highness Lydia has written the specific situation in the letter. May I know what should we do next?"
"Hmm..." Garcia had been uncomfortable with serious military personnel and he scratched his messy red hair awkwardly. "... Since that's the case... My men have been really busy these days and I hope that you can station troops around here and send about 500 of them to rotate and patrol around the Fortress."
"Yes, Sir Garcia," Mordor saluted once more before ordering the reinforcement and the soldiers set up their stations swiftly.
"Woah..." Garcia let out an exaggerating shriek before turning towards Rhode. "This is great. Oh, Lord. These guys appear to be reliable and it seems that there won't be many problems with the Fortress now... Mr. Rhode, how's the situation with the Southern Legion?"
"No movements yet," Rhode responded as he gazed at the myriad private soldiers.
After the previous Fortress defense battle, Rhode dispatched his Thieves and Rangers to patrol the area in order to capture any information about the movement of the Southern Legion. As beings in the peak Elite Stage, it wasn't difficult for the Thieves and Rangers to monitor and stand guard while concealing themselves. In conjunction with the magical transmission equipment made by Lapis, Rhode could attain information from Joey and Randolf promptly. Therefore, it was completely impossible for the Southern Legion to launch a raid as before.
However, the Southern Legion seemed to not have such plans because according to Joey, they had completely retreated from the front line and were nowhere to be seen. However, Rhode didn't believe that they would simply give up just like this and he continued to arrange for his men to patrol and guard by the front line.
On the other hand, Garcia appeared rather optimistic now because after the battle, he had a lack of manpower and it would make things worse if he divided his men for patrolling duties. Now that Rhode had helped him ease the burden, it was certainly a good thing for him.
"Ah... I hope those sons of bitches from the South have learned to not mess around in my turf. No no, I would rather they come again. Hehe. This time with so many people around, I will teach them a lesson and make them beg on their knees while licking our boots!" Garcia's words suddenly turned to a high-pitched, sharp whistle. He winked at Rhode before lifting his chin. "You see, Mr. Rhode. The 'VIP' is here."
Needless to say, Rhode had also spotted the 'VIP'.
A slender figure emerged from the crowd slowly. It was a young lady with long, silky black hair who wore an elegant white robe that contrasted with her surroundings entirely. She held a meter-long harp in her delicate hands while sitting sideways on a spotlessly white unicorn that approached them gracefully. Her dull, ice-cold complexion looked like a thousand-years iceberg and her dark pupils had an infinite depth to it that no one could read her thoughts.
This was the first time that he had seen someone similar to him in this world. In the Munn Kingdom, most of the peoples' appearances were inclined towards the Western countries and rarely would there be anyone with black hair and black pupils like him. Furthermore, his charming face had always made him the focus of attention and concern of everyone. On this continent, the only ones who had the same black hair and pupils was the race residing in the Eastern Plain. However, as the Eastern Plain was almost isolated from the world, Rhode had never really seen anyone from there.
On one hand, even though Rhode felt amiable to see a compatriot amongst a group of blondes with blue eyes, he couldn't help but feel slightly depressed after considering her identity. What made matters worse was that he wasn't too familiar with Gaya in the game because she had always hidden her identity very well. Players often treated her as a human-shaped music box and if it weren't for this young lady who suddenly took over the highest commanding position during the Munn Kingdom's near-collapse attack from the Country of Darkness and led the refugees' retreat under Lydia's command, perhaps no one would know that this girl possessed such formidable powers.
There were many controversies surrounding Gaya as a character especially after she had displayed her formidable strength in the end. Many players were dubious because Gaya hadn't participated in battles and only displayed her true abilities until the final moments. Some players felt that this young lady might be Lydia's final insurance while some argued that perhaps Gaya had other thoughts. If not, she wouldn't stand by and watch her own country collapse before her.
However, Rhode didn't care about all these controversies. Even though he had various guesses of his own, he eventually remained calm as he gazed at the young lady's arrival.
Gaya faced both Rhode and Garcia quietly on her unicorn. When she gazed at Garcia, her black pupils didn't have the slightest undulation as though they were a limpid, tranquil pond. However, as she turned her gaze towards Rhode, it was as though someone had thrown a pebble into the pond. In an instant, her black pupils began to surge for a split second. But soon, her eyes returned to their initial dull state.
She nodded slightly and handed her harp over to a female servant before hopping off the unicorn.
"Greetings to both of you." Gaya's voice was as crisp and melodious as a bell moving in a breeze. "I'm the court musician, Gaya. I've arrived at your Fortress following Royal Highness Lydia's order..." Gaya paused for a moment. As she spoke, her eyes were fixated at Rhode's and Rhode looked back without the slightest degree of fear. Even though Rhode was indeed somewhat worried before Gaya arrived here, it would be useless to worry about anything now since she was here already, right?
Although Gaya was speaking to both Garcia and Rhode, she was actually looking face to face with Rhode and disregarded Garcia entirely. Garcia felt somewhat awkward while he scratched his head in puzzlement. As he was about to speak, Gaya turned her gaze towards him abruptly. "... I hope that you can prepare a resting room for me."
"Sure. No issues with that." Garcia smiled and bowed towards Gaya before inviting her forward. "We've already prepared a room for you knowing that you'll be here, Miss Gaya. Of course, even though the room seems rather simple, I guarantee that the room is sparkling clean. Don't worry about..."
"Please bring me there."
"Alright, please follow me." Garcia displayed a bitter smile while Rhode made way for Gaya to pass through and nodded towards Garcia.
"So then, Mr. Garcia, I shall make my move first." Before Rhode turned around fully, Gaya grabbed onto his wrist and Rhode's expressionless face appeared in the young lady's black pupils silently. "... Do you need anything else, Miss Gaya?"
"Follow me, Mr. Rhode. I have something to ask you."
It seems like I can't avoid what's sure to come.
Garcia prepared a guest room for Gaya within the Fortress and even though this Fortress Commander was usually a scatterbrain, he was really respectful towards Lydia's direct court musician. He made sure that the room was squeaky clean and the bed, table, and chairs were all brand new. I wonder where that Red Fox dug out all this from... The only flaw was that this soldier's room wasn't too luxurious and comfortable with the other basic furniture.
However, it seemed that Gaya didn't mind at all. She placed her harp by the wall that had been swept off dust and cleaned with water before turning towards Rhode.
There was only the two of them in the room. Obviously, Garcia wasn't too interested in the court musician and he came up with an excuse to leave after leading Gaya and Rhode to her room. Without a doubt, Garcia shot Rhode a strange look before he left. Perhaps he has a bizarre misunderstanding... But who knew?
"Is anything the matter, Miss Gaya?" Rhode took the initiative while the young lady's mouth curved into a smile. This was the first time that she smiled, but Rhode knew nothing about what was hidden behind it.
"Honestly, you're quite a successful liar, Mr. Rhode." Gaya stared into Rhode's eyes.
"... I don't understand what you mean, Miss Gaya," Rhode twitched his brows.
"I think you do understand, Mister... I don't know who you are, but I do know that you're definitely not from the Eastern Plains because there isn't an outstanding talent like you from there. Besides, I have never heard of the surname 'Alander'." Gaya paused for a brief moment and the room temperature seemed to have dropped at that instant. "Surely you wouldn't tell me that you climbed out of a cave?"
"Of course I wouldn't say that, Miss Gaya," Rhode squinted, but his expression remained unchanged. "I'm just an ordinary human, that's all."
"Ordinary human?" Gaya's eyebrows rose as though she had just heard an interesting joke. "I don't think a liar that Royal Highness regarded highly of will be just an ordinary human, Mr. Rhode. Sure, if you are determined to say that, I don't have any other choices. But..."
Rhode noticed Gaya's finger moved slightly.
"-!" Rhode felt a faint sound wave erupt on his body. Shortly after, his body muscles tightened and he couldn't even budge at all.
This was Gaya's talent attribute - Sound Force.
What is she trying to do?!
Gaya extended her right hand forward. "You'll die if you don't concentrate, Mr. Rhode."