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 Even though the Howard Family and Edward Family had conflicts, it didn't mean that they had been generations of enemies and they had to drive each other to death. After all, both families were weak forces that were simply fighting over the controlling rights in a small region, Fiat. Compared to large-scale families, trade associations, and other forces, their standoffs were more 'unsophisticated'.

Judging from the pleasantly surprised look of the Howard Family member, it was apparent that both parties hadn't reached the stage where they couldn't coexist together. The large-scale families would rather be devoured by monsters than to accept such humiliation, and those who were more inhumane might even bait some monsters into attacking the opposition to create an opportunity.

The 'Uncle Carter' that Emily addressed seemed somewhat rigid. He gazed at Rhode curiously before nodding and waving for his men to back off. "Monster? Emily, you're saying that monsters emerged in Edward's mine?"

"Yes, Uncle Carter. They were terrifying... and ferocious. They have killed many people, and..." Emily paused and came to a stop.

Although Emily had longed for the Travel Merchant lifestyle and she appeared ethical and cheerful, she was born into a merchant family and she wouldn't be that foolish to notify their competitor about her father's death. Besides, she realized that this 'Uncle Carter' appeared a little off with his dressing. Why were there no miners of the Howard Family? And why was a group of fully-armed mercenaries present instead? She had never heard that the Howard Family dispatched mercenaries to extract ores.

Emily felt a little uncertain at this thought, but she calmed down instantly after sensing 'Miss Seren' by her side. "... We had no choice but to escape into the deep mines to avoid the relentless monsters. We followed the voices that we heard and entered your territory unknowingly, Uncle Carter... Ah. By the way, she is Miss Miranda Seren of the Seren Trade Association from the Country of Light. She was here to negotiate business about ore trading with our Edward Trade Association."

"Country of Light?!"

Carter and the mercenaries were astonished to hear this name. Rhode lifted his skirt and bowed politely, revealing a graceful smile. The blushed group of men stared blankly and they didn't know how to respond appropriately. On the other hand, Carter felt that this young lady was a thorny problem. No matter how beautiful she looked, the fact that she had come from the Country of Light made him fearful. The King's Party knew how powerful the influence that the Country of Light had and if this young lady got into any form of trouble while she was with them...

But why would some Chairman of the Trade Association from the Country of Light come here at this crucial moment?

Carter let out a cough and approached Emily with a smile.

"... Uh... Emily. We were also aware of the unrest in the mine these few days. I've brought along these mercenaries for safety's sake and I didn't expect that you would be attacked by the monsters. But it's great that both of you are fine... There's still a distance away from the surface. Since you're not familiar with the terrain of our Howard mine, I suggest that both of you rest for a moment while I arrange for someone to escort you out. How about that?"

"Sure, Uncle Carter," Emily nodded happily, but she quickly blinked her eyes in curiosity. "But Uncle Carter, do you intend to linger around here? The monsters are really powerful. If they come..."

One of the mercenaries let out mischievous laughter and interrupted. "Hey, Miss, what are you talking about? We're not like you. We, mercenaries, are born to do this. Those monsters may be scary in your eyes, but..." he swung his fist mightily. "They mean nothing to us!"

Emily didn't know how powerful this group of mercenaries could be. But she refused to believe that they were stronger than 'Miss Seren' after she had witnessed her performance. Emily stopped talking and rolled her eyes slightly.

Sensing the awkward atmosphere, Carter stepped out. "Emily, I think you must be tired. But... as you can see, we're here to search for those monsters. If the monsters are really that strong, it will be troublesome for us too. I know this isn't a good suggestion, but... can you describe to us what exactly you encountered? How do the monsters look like? I hope we can discuss this privately if possible..."

Carter swept a glance at 'Miss Seren'. This calm young lady was indeed gorgeous. However, her identity was somewhat troublesome in this situation. Perhaps... I need to find a solution to resolve this problem.

"... Alright," Emily turned toward 'Miss Seren' and Rhode nodded with a smile of approval. Emily hesitated for a while before eventually agreeing. Shortly after, Carter and Emily headed toward the other side of the crystal mine and disappeared around the corner.

Interesting.

Rhode narrowed his eyes at both of them. Rhode had been observing the surroundings while they were speaking. In fact, the soil that they were stepping on was the ground for the Earth Elemental Spirit. Even though the Spirit was sealed up, it would unknowingly reveal its elemental strength and the crystal resources around was the best evidence. Rhode was sure that these people didn't awaken the Earth Elemental Spirit because he wouldn't have missed such a massive presence. But he didn't believe Carter's words either because he had sharply detected a faint, orderly Earth Elemental strength surging in this place. This meant that these people had controlled the Spirit's powers using some secret means and they might even exploit it. But how did the mercenaries manage to do it?

It wasn't an easy task to manipulate the Earth Element Spirit's powers. No matter what method they used, it would be extremely dangerous even if the Spirit was sealed. Without the help of impressive presences like Lapis or Marlene who had mastered Alchemy and Spells, even Rhode wouldn't dare to carry out such a difficult experiment. But now, a small Trade Association actually did it. Could it be that they were just lucky?

It's impossible.

Not only that, Rhode sensed that someone was secretly observing his every movement.

Who is that person?

"I see..." Carter let out a helpless sigh. He pondered for a moment before patting on Emily's shoulder. "Emily, I know you must be afraid to have encountered such a dangerous problem. But don't worry, we won't let the monsters put your life at danger. By the way, would you like something to eat and rest for awhile? I will get someone to invite Miss Seren over too."

"But..." Emily knitted her brows dubiously, but she changed her tone of speech after observing Carter's expression and the mercenaries on the other side. "Alright then, Uncle Carter. I will wait here..."

"Good girl. Don't worry, everything will be fine," Carter smiled and left for another pitch-black, narrow tunnel. Then, the man at the other end of the empty tunnel spoke with a stern tone. "Sir, there are some problems with our plans."

"I saw it." A mysterious, dark figure emerged before Carter and responded with a deep voice. "But isn't this our plan? Mr. Carter? The Edward Trade Association's mine has collapsed entirely and you've successfully controlled the resources here. You just need to take down the Edward Trade Association and becoming the number one in Fiat won't be wishful thinking anymore. Wasn't this your wish too when we first worked together?"

"But... I didn't expect that things would end up like this. Besides, someone from the Country of Light is present too... This is a very troublesome matter for us, Sir," Carter said eagerly.

The dark figure remained silent for a brief moment before responding. "Don't mind them. If they know nothing about here, we can find an excuse to send them away."

"... Okay, Sir." Carter sighed helplessly and nodded before leaving the tunnel.

The dark figure let out a soft snort and, at this moment, a crisp, pleasant voice sounded. "Do you really intend to do that, Master?"

"Of course, Cheryl." The dark figure nodded slightly. "This is a great chance. The Howard Trade Association has lost their rationale and they are urgently hoping to gain the controlling rights here. According to the method that we've provided, they can temporarily manipulate the Earth Elemental Spirit here. But this would only be temporary and, frankly speaking, I'm quite surprised that the Edward Trade Association Chairman's daughter is here. This might not be a bad thing for our plans. But..." the dark figure hesitated. "Why would a Trade Association from the Country of Light dispatch someone here to negotiate in business? Aren't they aware of the current situation? These meddlesome people!"

"Relax. You are also aware that these greedy and corrupt merchants are willing to do anything for profit. They obviously knew about the war between the South and North and have decided to seize this opportunity to a fortune. This isn't anything new, is it?"

"I'm aware of that, Cheryl. This is what I wish to change. They are walking on the path toward destruction and they're not aware of it. I need more power and this was why I accepted this mission and came here." The dark figure's voice sounded much more forceful. "This time, I will not allow a future like that happen."

It's here...

Rhode gazed at the gigantic stalactite pillar located in the middle of the crystal mine. He had figured out their purpose and deployment, and it was time for him to move out. Rhode didn't know how the Howard Trade Association gathered such a technique, but this had proven that someone else was also interested in obtaining the resources here. It wasn't to Rhode's liking that the Earth Elemental Spirit was under their control. Therefore, he had decided to change his target. Unlock the seal entirely to summon the Earth Elemental Spirit and destroy this mine.

The life or death of the Howard Family wasn't within his considerations. Since they were also supporters of the King's Party, they would only need to suffer little grievance in sacrificing their profits to accomplish the King's Party's plan.

Rhode strode toward the towering stalactite pillar without gaining the mercenaries' attention. The mercenaries seemed focused on standing guard for monsters by the entrance that Rhode and Emily had entered from. When Rhode got really close to the pillar, they finally responded. "What are you doing!"

A fully-armed mercenary rushed over and stopped Rhode from heading any farther with his body. His bell-sized large eyes glared at Rhode while Rhode twitched his brow calmly. "Nothing. I'm just looking around. The stalactite pillar seems interesting."

"This is the Howard Family's mine, Miss."

At this moment, a man who seemed to be their leader stepped forward. He stared at Rhode with a stern expression, holding onto his sword hilt and blocking Rhode with the side of his body. "I hope you won't wander off everywhere. It is very dangerous here. I hope you can just wait here."

"And what if I don't?" Rhode let out a snort and lifted his chin proudly.

He gazed at the two mercenaries in disdain as though they were nothing more than maggots and trash. This was the usual attitude that people of the Country of Light showed against the people of the Munn Kingdom. Slaves who succumbed to a dictator weren't worthy of speaking to them.

"I won't allow you!"

Indeed, Rhode's attitude had aggravated the mercenary and he gritted his teeth fumingly. The mercenary had imagined himself grabbing the 'beautiful young lady' by her arm and locking her up in his strong arms. Hmph, let's see if this delicate little chick will still dare to reveal such a proud expression!

However, the mercenary launched forward and he failed to grab the young lady's slim, fragile arm as he had expected. Instead, he felt a sudden breeze and he caught a handful of air. The 'beautiful young lady' had darted through the opening between them and arrived before them!

How did she do it?

The two mercenaries were dumbstruck. Shortly after, the other mercenaries rushed over and surrounded Rhode completely. "There's nothing interesting to see there, Miss. I think you'd better stay put and Carter will send you two off soon, understand?"

"Oh?" Rhode's expression was still as calm as ever. He rolled his eyes and revealed a mocking smile. "I didn't expect everyone to be this nervous. It seems that you're all afraid that someone else will know that you've unlocked the seal here..."

"You...!" The mercenaries glared at Rhode anxiously.

How did this woman know about it... Damn it. Did she realize? How is this possible? Shouldn't we be the only ones who know about it?

What should we do?

The mercenaries turned to their leader in unison and their leader gazed at Rhode silently, grinding his teeth. They hated to slaughter the innocent. But since this woman apparently knew their secret... No matter what, they had to capture her!

A trace of murderous intent glinted in his eyes. Then, he ambiguously gestured to his men.

Attack!

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