The sun had set when Rhode and Emily returned to the town of Fiat, which was in complete chaos. The Edward Trade Association had temporarily stopped their operations as they disputed over rescuing Emily and 'Miss Seren' or not. Before they reached a decision, the people involved had returned and since that was the case... their disputes naturally ceased.
Emily dragged every member into the conference hall straightaway and they discussed the future of the Trade Association's operations. After all, she was the Chairman's daughter and held the right of inheritance. The others were eyeing her position when she wasn't around, but the situation had developed in another direction before they had an opportunity.
This was a new beginning for Emily, but everything had ended for Rhode. After the Earth Elemental Spirit had been awakened, there was nothing else left for Rhode to accomplish in Fiat. It didn't matter if these people were capable of defeating the Earth Elemental Spirit because the ore productions in the Fiat region had been shut down completely. The next goal for Rhode was to return to the front line and lead his men against the Reformist Party. After losing Grosso and Fiat in a row, the Reformist Party would surely be desperate to replenish their losses by invading Paphield. If they missed this chance to strengthen their forces and deal a final blow, they knew that their logistic reinforcements would be doomed after the foodstuff reserves ran out.
Currently, the troops that the Reformist Party could mobilize were truly devoted to them. Once Rhode wiped out their troops completely, the Reformist Party would be nothing more than a bunch of old farts. Did they really think that they could still sit around a round table comfortably and defeat their enemies without doing anything?
Rhode had no doubt about the degree of violence to the Reformist Party's counterattack. The last time when the Reformist Party 'plotted a rebellion', they were suppressed by Lydia in a bloodbath, and this time, they were openly rebellious. According to the consistent behavior of the Archangel, Rhode could imagine a scene of thousand corpses hanging on rows of street lamps if their army was annihilated. With that many people setting up sky lanterns... it would surely be a spectacular view. This was why the Reformist Party had to strive for their own lives to avoid landing in such a miserable ending.
Of course. Rhode refused to believe that they hadn't prepared a way of escape. The Southern Port's commercial trading network wasn't simply for transporting wealth. Instead, it could be used as a means to escape. Those mice who stood before their people and to reform, rebel against despotic rule, and overthrow the dictator would definitely slip away faster than rabbits. They would board the ships and leave the Munn Kingdom directly from the Southern Port, entering the Country of Light through the 'Golden Coast' and continue to live their lives there. Anyway, once they were protected by the Country of Light Parliament, Lydia naturally couldn't deal with them anymore.
This was the problem Rhode needed to consider after returning to the front lines in Paphield. Currently, there weren't any missions that required him to personally take up. Gillian occasionally reported to him regarding Lize's progress and it was apparent that Lize worked hard, but she was yielding minimal results. After all, her capabilities and attitude couldn't match up to Marlene's. However, Rhode had no intentions of making Lize into a second Marlene because Lize was Lize and just like in the game, every player had their own unique PVP style. Some styles were indecent while some were ferocious. Some chose to battle head-on while others chose to ambush. Even the same kind of tactics could be performed differently by players. Rhode didn't wish for Lize to become another Marlene. However, he couldn't allow her to drift aimlessly. The battles ahead would become tougher and more challenging. He hoped that his men would be able to unleash their true potential. This wasn't solely for him. It was more for themselves. Rhode wouldn't impose this onLize if she lacked the capability. But the young lady clearly had sharp observation skills and was thoroughly meticulous. The only issue she had now was her timid and hesitant attitude. Although these factors didn't seem necessary in battle, Rhode knew that if she didn't overcome her weakness, it would most probably cause her death in the future.
Coincidentally, Rhode was informed by Gillian that the enemies were about to launch their attacks. This would be a great opportunity for her to learn through experience. I shall see what Lize is capable of...
Rhode thought to himself and came to a stop. He opened his room door and spotted a person whom he was surprised to meet.
"Master, are you okay?"
Celia, who had been waiting anxiously by the window, approached him and asked softly. Instead of answering her questions immediately, he turned curiously to the black-haired young lady folding her arms and leaning against the wall. She was glaring at him furiously.
"You see, Celia. I told you that a person like him wouldn't die that easily because only good Samaritans die early in this world... Hmph. Does he look like a fella who has a short life? How boring. You're satisfied now, aren't ya? Hmph!" Celestina let out a snort of disgust and walked toward the door. When she was about to step out of the room, Rhode extended his arm and stopped her, to which Celestina revealed a rare, panicky look. She glanced at Celia swiftly and calmed herself down. Then, she knitted her brows and lifted her chin proudly. "Why? Is anything the matter, Master?"
"Of course, Celestina," Rhode revealed a delightful smile. He sensed Celestina's stiff body and her stubborn, yet unusual tone. It was obvious that the memories from last night were still clouding her mind. After being 'tormented' for the whole night, Rhode would be too useless as a man if he didn't leave a single impression in her mind.
Rhode lifted his head and gazed at Celestina fearlessly. "My clothes are ruined from struggling in the damn unlucky mine. Celestina, as my maid, aren't you supposed to change my clothes for me?"
"Huh?!" Celestina widened her eyes in bewilderment and glared at Rhode. "What are you talking about. Why must I..."
Before Celestina completed her sentence, Rhode casually extended his right hand and made a rubbing gesture. Celestina's words got stuck at her throat abruptly as though an invisible hand grabbed onto her neck. She narrowed her gleaming scarlet eyes and gritted her teeth tightly.
Celia shifted her attention between the two of them curiously. She detected that Celestina was feeling inferior before Rhode, but she couldn't understand how Rhode did that. Her elder sister had always been a proud person who never lowered her head to anyone. Why would she react this way before Master? Besides... For unknown reasons, Celia sensed that Celestina was rather frightened of Rhode.
"Celia," Rhode's voice interrupted her thoughts.
The Battle Angel looked over hurriedly. "Yes, Master. What's the matter?"
"Can I trouble you to bring me some food and water? I'm starving to death."
"Ah. Sure, no problem."
Celia was much more obedient than her elder sister. She didn't raise a single doubt at Rhode's intentions and she left the room after nodding in agreement. The room door closed and Rhode looked playfully at Celestina. The Demon young lady took a step back subconsciously and folded her arms around her chest. She bit her lips and looked at him like a frightened kitten.
"What are you trying to do?"
"What? I've said it clear enough, Celestina. Change my clothes. Get my clean clothes here. That black set."
Perhaps sensing that her behavior appeared somewhat cowardly, Celestina stamped her foot and stormed off. Rhode twitched his brows. This is interesting. So, so interesting... Although Celestina said nothing, Rhode had gotten his answer entirely based on her behavior. It seemed that his 'operation' last night was really successful.
The changing of clothes was a painful matter for Rhode. There were two meanings to this pain. Firstly, the pain from the clothes themselves. Since Rhode's disguise was a business family's daughter, he couldn't possibly wear plain-looking clothes on the streets. But those luxurious costumes weren't easy to put on either. It would be a torturous session every time he changed his clothes. Not only did he need to keep the troublesome apparel neat, but he also needed to ensure that he didn't expose himself. Even though he had a female face and 'slender' body, it didn't mean that Rhode could disguise himself completely as a woman. He didn't have breasts...
Secondly, it was the psychological pain. Although he behaved exactly like a gentle and cultivated young lady, it didn't mean that he would be willing to wear a dress. In fact, he felt as though he was personally putting scalding iron plates on himself every time he wore a dress. It was as uncomfortable as it could get.
However, these were small issues compared to the bigger picture. Although the mission had been accomplished and he couldn't wait to leave this place, he had decided to stick around for a while more. After all, he had to see for himself how the situation would come to a full close.
When Rhode changed his clothes, Celestina stared silently and she didn't mock him like she usually did. This was really rare to see in Celestina. Her sulking expression was as though someone owed her a huge sum of money. Rhode couldn't read her mind, but at least this young lady was much more obedient than before... Yes, at least this is how it seems on the surface.
At this moment, Celestina's expression changed slightly. Her scarlet pupils focused their attention on Rhode's body. Rhode had changed into his clothes. Although he wished that he could take a warm shower first, he didn't have the chance with the current situation.
Knock knock knock.
Celia entered the room with a tray of food and drinks. But this time, she presented a stern expression. "Master, we have trouble."
"Oh? What is it?" Rhode pressed the creases around the collar and adjusted the bow tie neatly.
"I heard some commotion by the entrance. The visitors were insisting that the Edward Trade Association has to be responsible for the accident in the underground mine."
"Oh?" Rhode paused his movements. "What about now?"
"I saw Miss Emily lead a few men to handle the situation," said Celia.
"Sounds fun," Rhode narrowed his eyes. Celia and Celestina witnessed the smile that they were most familiar with: the brilliant, chilly, yet dangerous smile. "Let's go check it out, Celia."
Emily stood fumingly on the plaza outside the Edward Trade Association, clenching her fists and glaring at the group of people before her. They were the members of the Howard Trade Association.
"Mr. Howard. You claimed that our Edward Trade Association was behind all this? You are slandering us! We have never done such a thing and we would never do it. Instead, isn't the Howard Trade Association the ones behind it? I've seen it for myself that you've hired mercenaries into the underground mine... How is it possible that your Trade Association would send mercenaries to mine ores?"
"This is only your one-sided statement, Miss Emily," the elderly man said without any signs of anger. "Your accusations aren't enough to explain that this is the doing of our Howard Trade Association. Besides, the underground is full of monsters now and our mining work has been hindered..."
"That goes for us too, old bastard. Our Edward Trade Association's mine has been completely shut down due to the earthquake and we can't continue our mining operations. Isn't this the doing of you bastards?"
Both sides were accusing each other at this point and the Howard Trade Association members burst out in anger.
"What a load of crap. Why would we do such a despicable thing? It must be you! You joined up with that fella from the Country of Light to conquer the entire mine and wipe us out entirely. Do you really think that we're not aware of it?!"
Emily was enraged. She had finally returned home and even before she could tidy up her mood, she was swept into this dispute. The merchants who were longing for the chairman position tried to gain benefits through her. Her father had just passed on and his death didn't seem important to them at all. And now, she had to stand here and wrangle with people of the Howard Trade Association about whose fault it was?
Emily had the urge to rave and rip apart her facade because she had had enough of such a miserable life. Father has died in the mine accident and these culprits actually have the cheek to point their fingers at me? They even tried to kill me?! She couldn't hold it in anymore. She took big strides forward, but, before she said anything, a crisp, gentle voice sounded and muted the rowdy crowd instantly.
"What an interesting accusation. You said that the Edward Trade Association and I have awakened the underground monster and even tried to capture the entire mine. Is there any evidence to your claims?"