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 Gaya gazed silently at Gillian swinging her huge, fluffy tail before her. "Interesting, Miss Gillian. But I don't think that I'm obliged to help you."

"I didn't insist on having you help us, Little Gaya," Gillian chuckled. She stuck out a finger and swayed it to the left and right delightfully. "I'm only informing you of this matter and I hope that you can provide us some assistance. Isn't this effortless for you? Come on, don't be this petty. Since you have the strength to resolve this problem, no one would know about it if you don't show off, right?"

"What about you, Fire Elemental Lord?" Gaya's pitch-black pupils continued to scrutinize the fox-eared young lady before her. Gillian giggled and leaned back to her seat leisurely. She interlocked her fingers and twitched her ear complacently. "My situation is a little special, Little Gaya. But I'm still trying my best, okay? Look at you. You've been hiding in this ice-cold, damp room all this while. Wouldn't it be more fun if you take a walk under the sun and kill some people or something?"

"Please don't compare me with you, Miss Gillian."

Gaya looked down and gently caressed the harp in her hands. "You have your own thoughts and I have my considerations. I'm not here because I want to. These are Royal Highness Lydia's orders. I don't know who thought of this battle plan, but this is your problem and not mine. If they wish to be victorious, they'd better rely on their own hands and not expect others to assist them. I hate the weak, especially those who constantly hope to rely on the strength of the strong. The weak are nothing more than ants, and I have no interest to the ants' request. I guess you understand what I mean, Miss Gillian."

"Of course, of course. I understand, Little Gaya. But the way you rejected me breaks my heart, even though I shouldn't be the one who should be sad. What a pity. Little Lize finally bucked up her courage for this, but it seems that she has to think of some other solutions now."

Gillian jumped to her feet and showed off a smile to Gaya. She approached the door and reached out to the door handle. At this moment, she came to a halt abruptly and turned around with a passionate smile. "Ah, by the way, Master wanted me to pass a message. He hopes that Royal Highness Lydia will reward him generously for accomplishing his mission, okay?"

"..." Gaya looked on without any change in her expression.

Gillian waved goodbye cordially and left the room. The black-haired young lady held onto the heavy harp and her right hand stroked lightly on its strings. She closed her eyes slowly.

A melodious tune filled her enclosed, chilly room.

A gentle breeze from the window freshened the depressing room. Lydia picked up the intelligence report and scanned it thoroughly. The corner of her mouth curled up. "It seems that the nest of mice is finally moving out... A wildcat is indeed the correct choice for chasing away the mice. Housecats are meek, but they must be tired of hiding their claws, I suppose..."

The young lady laid on the red, soft velvety sofa, smiling at the report in her hand in satisfaction. She flipped to the next page and her long, slender fingers came to a stop abruptly. She read the report curiously and after a few moments, she chuckled and stood to her feet, tossing the report to the side.

"This is interesting..." Lydia turned to the picturesque view outside the window and mumbled to herself.

Golden radiance flickered on her back and a silhouette of light wings emerged gracefully. She paused for a while before reaching out for a little bell on the side table. Ding-a-ling. A female servant entered her room shortly after.

"Your Highness, what can I do for you?"

"Get Grand Mage Amund here and pass on the word that I will be holding a roundtable conference in the evening. Also, get General Lannick of the 7th Fleet here. It's about time to deal the final blow to the mice scattering in my territory."

A glittering, lightning-like radiance glinted in her eyes for the first time.

"Phew..."

Lize placed the feather pen down and let out a bitter smile as she looked at the messy map that she had drawn. This battle plan was prepared solely by her and the following would be her most important challenge. She had to explain her battle plan perfectly to the others and gain their understanding and cooperation.

It's almost time.

Lize stood up and clenched her tiny fists. She swung a punch with all her might as though to boost her morale. Then, she picked up the map and exited the room.

When Lize arrived at the meeting room, everyone was fully prepared. Although they had plenty of such meetings, this time, they appeared much more curious and surprised. After all, they had been gathering according to the rules to follow up on the situation. But this time was different. This was the first time that Lize had taken the initiative to gather them together.

Everyone including Joey and Randolf was surprised. To be honest, it wasn't that they looked down upon Lize and went hard at her purposely. After all, Lize was the most senior member in Starlight. She had a gentle personality and was a life-saving Cleric, so no one would find trouble with this young lady for no particular reason. However, one shouldn't allow emotions to affect one's work. In the previous few meetings, Lize was as though a puppet who would agree to anything that anyone said.

After all, mercenaries moved out as groups and they needed a pillar to command them. They weren't worried about this problem with Rhode back then and there were multiple occasions when Lize had behaved like an uncommunicative clerk instead of an Adjutant who stepped up in place of the Leader. Fortunately, there weren't too many incidents that required Lize to make decisions and no one objected to her presence.

But now, there were finally some changes to the situation.

The Reformist Party's army was arriving at their doorstep and they could see that they were determined to win this battle. This was finally the time to put the mercenaries to the test. Even when there were ten thousand enemies, the mercenaries would fight fearlessly with Rhode commanding. But the mercenaries were worried now that Rhode wasn't around and Lize had been hesitant about her decisions.

Attack? Defend? Or retreat?

Everyone had had this conflict several times and they were thankful for Rhode in leaving Gillian behind to guide Lize. Although they were rather worried about the upcoming battle, at least they had this wily, formidable fox-eared young lady by their side. Besides, Rhode had told them that Gillian would be supporting Lize and with her around, they wouldn't be flustered out of their wits.

They thought that Gillian would be guiding Lize along when they heard that Lize had gathered them for a meeting. After all, there wasn't much time left and they would have a tough fight if they couldn't come up with any great strategies.

Due to this reason, almost everyone revealed a surprised expression when they saw Lize enter the meeting room alone. Joey stretched his neck to see if there was anyone behind her. However, Lize turned around and closed the door firmly.

What's this about? Joey thought.

As expected...

Lize felt a little down after noticing their expressions. She was a great observer and a meticulous person, and she understood their reactions. After all, even though the meetings had been organized in her name, Gillian was always the one with the leadership role. Will I be able to perform since Gillian isn't around?

Lize clenched her fists tightly.

No matter what, I must do my best this time!

Lize encouraged herself inwardly and looked at everyone before her. "I think everyone must be clear by now that the Southern army will be arriving here soon. Before that happens, we must come up with a strategy. I don't have the talents that Mr. Rhode has, so I hope to listen to your opinions..."

Lize unrolled the map on the table and everyone crowded around it with knitted brows.

What's this? Graffiti?

Lize disregarded their confused expressions. In fact, she was also aware of her own bad habits. Lize lacked the confidence to summon her courage when everyone was doubting her. She was worried that she would doubt herself when she was explaining halfway when she witnessed their uncertain faces. Therefore, to prevent this situation from happening, Lize had decided to not lift her head when she went through the strategy and focus solely on the map before her.

"According to Joey and Randolf's intelligence report, Miss Gillian and I have analyzed and thought that the Southern Legion have no intentions of attacking the Cloud Summit Fortress because the Fortress has no true military value for them. I think that they will use minimal soldiers to pin down the Fortress while the remaining forces will penetrate the Paphield Plain from the sides. This way, the Fortress will no longer serve any purpose. They could even cut off our retreat from the rear and encircle the Fortress instead. Mr. Rhode informed me that the Reformist Party was aware that their strength wasn't enough against the King's Party and they would be pinning their hopes on the Country of Light. According to Mr. Rhode, the Country of Light's Parliament may possibly go through diplomatic channels to protest and oppose the King's Party after conquering Paphield and eventually turn the territory into their own."

"What?!"

Joey shrieked in horror and the others exchanged worried looks. After all, the mercenaries rarely planned ahead and gaining victory in the battle before them was the most important, wasn't it? But now...

"Miss Lize, what you meant was that if those bastards avoided us and conquer the territory behind us, we will be considered to be standing in the 'enemy's' territory if the Light Parliament acknowledged it?"

"That sounds about right." Lize fixed her gaze at the map before her and nodded with might.

"In order to prevent this from happening, we have to stop their attacks first and foremost. I have studied the terrains of Paphield and discovered a few possible routes that they could take..." Lize pointed to the map. "After studying the map and consulting Commander Garcia, I learned that even though Paphield has a plain terrain, the defensive line by the Fortress isn't a flat vast of land. There are two long stretches of forests behind the Fortress defense and rear and the enemies will surely choose to penetrate the flat land between them. I think we can set a trap here to stop them."

"Did you mean to ambush them?" Marfa asked.

"Yes, Mr. Marfa. We don't have the advantage in manpower, but we have plenty of Thieves and Rangers who can guarantee our dominance in an ambush. Besides, I have investigated in detail. My team of Clerics is confident in casting spells to shroud the entire region to slow the enemies' movements. I think we can take down the enemies with Mr. Randolf's Ranger team, Mr. Marfa's Swordsman team, and Miss Gillian's cover."

"How many of them are we going to face exactly? Will they all be Cavalrymen?"

"In order to contain the forces of the Fortress, the enemies should be sending around 3,000 soldiers to deal with Commander Garcia. The total number of enemies is close to 8,500. For the sake of security, they will not focus all their forces to break through a specific area. This way, we're looking at facing 2000 to 3000 enemies."

"This is only your guess, Miss Lize?" Randolf knitted his brows. "We have less than 200 people and we will have a hard time against them. If the enemy doesn't divide their forces to surround the Fortress and attacks the Fortress altogether instead, we will be in huge trouble. Have you considered this? Also, what if they gather their forces for the breakthrough? 5,000 of them... If Mr. Rhode were here, I wouldn't be this hesitant. But..."

Randolf didn't complete his sentence, but everyone knew what he meant. Lize continued to stare at the map before her.

"They probably wouldn't do that. I've heard from Commander Garcia that the General Dade of the Southern legion leading the command is a cautious person and he will definitely not place all his eggs in a single basket. If I were him, I would rather choose to divide my troops into different attacking teams to break through the defensive line and regather thereafter. Besides, a team of 5,000 is too huge and difficult to conceal and it will be much easier for us to guess their movements and goals." Lize paused nervously as this was the first time she had spoken so much before them. She sucked in a deep breath of air. "I think they should be mainly Cavalrymen while the Infantry will be containing the Fortress. After all, the speed of Infantries will be much slower than Cavalrymen and since they're rushing for time, the Infantry wouldn't be suitable."

"So you've decided to do this? This sounds like a good idea..." Marfa nodded and swept a gaze at Lize.

He was astonished that this always obedient young lady had actually understood the big picture. But this plan didn't seem perfect enough in his eyes...

"Lize, I remember that the Clerics' spell range is limited, right? Aren't they supposed to stand outside the forest in order to cast a spell over the entire region? If that's the case, the enemies will surely attack the Clerics first. Are you sure that will be fine?"

"Please don't worry, Mr. Marfa. We're Clerics, and we have ways to protect ourselves. Besides... Anne is around too."

"I see..."

Marfa nodded in agreement. After all, he was a Swordsman and he didn't have the qualifications to bicker with Lize over spell-casting. At this moment, Joey leaned forward and scanned the map before him. He called out strangely and turned to Lize.

"Wait, Miss Lize. What's the purpose of us if the Southern General divides his forces? Even if we can block off the shortfall, isn't it the same if the other areas were broken through? Besides, if the enemies are alerted and attack us from the front and rear... Aren't we all dead too?"

"Don't worry about that, Joey. Miss Gillian said that there's a trustworthy person to handle this problem..."

The door opened and Gillian stood there with her usual cheeky smile. "Ah, seems like Little Lize happens to be talking about me now. I hope I haven't missed anything?"

"Miss Gillian!"

Lize lifted her head and gazed at the fox-eared young lady with trembling hands. Got to say, the problem that Joey raised had been worrying Lize for a long time. Although she did have a backup plan for emergencies, it wasn't exactly ideal. Lize could only put her mind at ease after hearing from Gillian that someone would be around to resolve the problem. But now...

"Miss Gillian, regarding this matter..."

"Ah, about that," Gillian rolled her widened eyes and kept her at suspense. Then, she winked playfully. "Don't worry, everything will be fine. It's settled!"

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