Rhode felt an invisible strength grabbing his body vanish and he leaped back to dodge Gaya's blast attack. The blast sunk a wide, round hole on the solid wall and to his surprise, ripples emerged and spread from its center.
Rhode noticed that the walls around him were emanating faint, ice-blue radiance as if the room were wrapped in a membrane-like substance. Not only the walls, but even the windows and door were also sealed.
In an instant, Rhode realized where he physically was.
This is Gaya's Order Dimension.
She had trapped him within it and she had no intentions of killing him. If Gaya truly had this thought, Rhode could never ever escape. After losing his Composition Adornment, he couldn't use Self-breakthrough anymore and he prayed hard that he wouldn't be hit by Gaya's attack.
A middle-level Legendary Stage being and a Holy Sage definitely wouldn't miss her attack. This only left the possibility that Gaya only wanted to evaluate his strength... Rhode's eyes brightened with hope as this also posed as a great opportunity for him.
Rhode had never exchanged blows with Gaya in the game but he had seen videos of her in battle. She just needed to stroke her harp gently and the overwhelming undead creatures would be smashed into powder completely.
That was the first time that the players discovered how powerful she was and there was an existence of a talent attribute called 'Sound Force'.
However, the special quality of the Sound Force was still a mystery to the players and Gaya had disappeared after escorting the refugees into the Country of Law. Even though the players went to search for her whereabouts after viewing the influential video, they eventually gave up with no results and nobody knew where this mysterious court musician had gone.
And now, Rhode actually had this chance to see her powers for himself.
Interesting. You want to test me? Great. Show me how powerful your legendary 'Sound' attribute is then.
Rhode drew Madaras and Gracier swiftly and two trails of ice-cold blade rays shimmered from his waist. The black-haired young lady extended her right arm and snapped her fingers lightly.
\"-!\" Even though the snap was soft, Rhode felt as though someone had struck his eardrums with a gigantic hammer. Rhode's vision blurred and his head was in chaos.
This is the 'Sound' attribute?!
Gaya's effective attack caught Rhode off guard and he quickly blended into the shadows of the room. In a matter of life or death, Rhode used his [Dark Wield] and managed to save his life.
What a terrifying talent attribute.
Everything turned into black and white in the Shadow Plane of Existence. Rhode couldn't feel his body. The whizzing wind brushed his ears and the sense of rejection from the bone-chilling Plane of Existence cleared his fuzzy mind. Just a single blow and he had seen through the horrifying powers of the Sound attribute.
Rhode detected that Gaya's attack was divided into two kinds. The sound was used as the medium to disseminate. Even though Rhode cupped his ears to block out her Sound attack, he would still be paralyzed on the outside. If he didn't cup his ears, then Gaya's attack would affect Rhode's body in both internally and externally. This was also based on her being lenient. If she truly wished to kill Rhode, perhaps the very instant when Rhode heard the Sound, he would have been smashed into powder like the undead creatures that he pitied in the video.
The 'Sound' was an omnidirectional attack and it was extremely tough to evade. Fortunately for him, he hid in the Shadow Plane of Existence and isolated himself from the main Plane of Existence which protected him. However...
This was only temporary.
In a few seconds, Rhode had a first taste of the Sound attribute. He couldn't hide in the Shadow Plane of Existence any longer. The effects of the [Dark Wield] disappeared gradually and his vision distorted. The original world of black and white had once again bloomed with vibrant colors.
Rhode darted out of the shadow with a card in his hand and he threw it forward. The Centaur Knight emerged out of thin air and it dashed towards Gaya with its pike!
\"Oh?\" A glint of surprise flashed in the black-haired young lady's eyes. She raised her right hand and swept across to the side. The Centaur Knight flung back and shattered instantly as though an invisible palm had struck it heavily.
Now's the chance!
The shadow under the young lady suddenly twisted and Rhode emerged from within. He struck his shimmering twin daggers towards Gaya's neck and back while she stood still, or perhaps, she couldn't respond in time.
But Rhode could only reach this far.
He heard a faint sound of the wind and he felt as though his daggers had been gripped tightly. Moreover, Rhode sensed a powerful vibration against his daggers and he tossed his daggers before shrinking back into the Shadow Plane of Existence immediately.
Damn it, I actually forgot that this isn't just an ordinary space. This is Gaya's Order Dimension and the domain for 'Sound'. I didn't expect the powers in this space would be this strong and any sound that I make can be totally taken advantage of by her.
Rhode assessed the situation with gritted teeth. This attribute of Gaya's was truly deadly. In Gaya's Order Dimension, every single bit of sound had become her ally and even Rhode's words could be manipulated by her entirely. If Rhode had his maximum attribute just like in the game, maybe he would have a chance against her. Even though she had held back her attacks, it was still too difficult for Rhode to attack her at all.
What made matters worse was that Rhode had discovered that Gaya's 'Sound' wasn't typically at least physical or magical. If not, the [Sisko's Fantasy], [Historical Wing], and his twin daggers would surely have responded and negated her attacks.
This proved that her attack didn't coalesce from spiritual energy. It was instead the powers within the Order itself-she possessed the Order of 'Sound'.
Since ordinary attacks aren't effective against her...
From the start, Rhode had no hopes of beating her because he knew that the differences in strength between them were too huge. If he set his target at simply just dealing damage to her, this battle would be totally meaningless. But... since Rhode couldn't deal any physical damage on her, at least he could upset her mentally.
No matter what, she's still a lady. So then, I shall do something fun.
The world flipped and changed once again.
\"Above?\" The black-haired young lady lifted her head and leered disdainfully at Rhode landing from above. \"You will make me feel so disappointed if that's all that you've got, Mr. Rhode.\"
Gaya groaned and swung her right arm.
An impactful blast rose from the ground and struck Rhode heavily. However, Gaya was surprised that the man shattered instantly and his humanly-shaped figure was replaced with dozen pitch-black tentacles that whizzed and wrapped towards her.
\"What's this creepy-looking thing?\" Gaya said in a startled tone. However, the young lady kept her cool and stamped her feet. Shortly after, the black tentacles struck an invisible wall.
At the same time, a shadow sped and struck towards Gaya's neck.
\"Stop!\" The tip of the dagger halted centimeters away from her neck and Gaya turned towards Rhode. Rhode maintained his stance while the black viper-like sword that formed into an 'S' shape lingered quietly in midair.
\"Interesting, Mr. Rhode,\" Gaya turned a blind eye to the razor-sharp blade that was within reach of her neck and revealed a plain smile. \"Is this all that you can do? It seems that Royal Highness Lydia's evaluation of you is rather exaggerated...\"
Perhaps? But I do have another surprise for you.
Even though Rhode couldn't budge as his strength had been restricted by Gaya's powers, he smiled and let loose of his right hand. At the same time, a frantic voice erupted in Rhode's spiritual communications. \"Wait, Master. What are you trying to...!\"
Puff! Rhode released his grip and the black viper-like sword burst into a puff of smoke. Celestina appeared and her face stuck to Gaya's almost intimately. The black-haired young lady was astounded that a person would emerge beside her without any warning. Moreover, she immediately felt Celestina's body heat and smelled her fragrant scent. This surprise caught them unprepared and they fell on their bums after bumping into each other. Rhode extended his right arm leisurely and Celestina returned to his hand in a bolt of dark lightning before transforming into the strange, black, viper-like sword.
\"Are you satisfied with this ending, Miss Gaya?\" Rhode said with a smile even though he knew that Gaya wasn't treating this duel seriously. She didn't even reveal her true strength and use the harp that accompanied her always. Even so, Rhode had a hard time catching an opening. If Gaya knew that Rhode had the ability to summon spirits, she wouldn't have fallen for his tricks.
\"... I withdraw the aforementioned.\" The young lady patted the filthy dust off her body before gesturing her hands to cancel her Order Dimension. The room returned to its original state in the blink of an eye.
\"It seems that Royal Highness Lydia was right about you being hard to deal with. But...\" Gaya paused and muttered under her breath softly. \"I wasn't aware that such interesting things existed... Besides...\"
\"Nothing.\" The black-haired young lady revealed her usual expression. \"Although I don't particularly favor your battle style, I have to admit that I was too careless... You aren't as useless as I imagined you to be and since you were able to catch me off guard, it looks like I can hand Royal Highness's mission to you gladly.\"
\"Mission?\" Rhode thought that Gaya got carried away and wanted to test his abilities on a whim. What mission does Royal Highness Lydia want me to complete for her? Is there something more urgent than this battle that needs me for it? Or perhaps, this matter is related to Paphield?
\"This mission has nothing to do with the Southern Legion,\" Gaya guessed it right. \"Mr. Rhode, I'm sure that you're aware that the Reformist Party is currently mobilizing their troops to Paphield. Although you have defeated their first wave of attack, Royal Highness Lydia judged that these renegades won't give up that easily. She hopes that you can sneak into Grosso and Fiat and destroy everything from there.\"
\"...\" Rhode pondered for a while.
So this is what Royal Highness Lydia was planning for all along!
Grosso and Fiat were two small towns located in the South that appeared ordinary, but Rhode knew that they were known for their large-scale foodstuff and mineral stockpiles.
The South relied on their prosperous commercial trades for a living due to their perfect strategic location. But it was also due to the geographical location and environment that they lacked minerals and was unable to plant crops. The South usually purchased foodstuff and minerals from the North and now that they had declared independence, the commercial route connecting the North had been cut off. Even though the Southerners could purchase foodstuff to get through tough times using gold, everyone knew that simply purchasing wouldn't resolve the problem at its source.
This was one of the reasons why the Reformist Party was so desperate to attack the Paphield. Paphield was a region full of foodstuff and minerals and if the Reformist Party could occupy half the land, they would meet the Southerners' needs.
Grosso and Fiat produced the most foodstuff and minerals in the South.
Once both towns were destroyed, there would only be one solution left for the Reformist Party.
And that was to attack, attack, attack. They had to take down Paphield; if not, their people would rebel once their stockpile had been fully diminished.