Lydia's summon clearly proved that Rhode's mission in the Cloud Summit Fortress had ended and he could get ready to return anytime. After receiving this news from Gaya, Rhode gathered his forces in preparation for their next move. But before that, he had to manage the matters regarding John.
According to John's request, Rhode had released the Cavalrymen that were kept captive in the battle with Lize. Most of the Cavalrymen had chosen to return home, but those who chose to stay were John's men and they hoped to stay by his side. Rhode received affirmations from John about their loyalty and their non-extreme views on the North and he eventually agreed. After all, Rhode must also have private soldiers under him since he was a noble. Rhode could train up potential Infantries and Archers from the mercenaries, but Cavalrymen was a military class. Most mercenaries didn't possess horsemanship and cavalry tactics. Firstly, it was expensive and mentally-exhausting to raise and maintain a horse. Secondly, the mercenaries didn't even have enough to spend on themselves, let alone a horse. Although the Cavalrymen were born in the South and Rhode didn't know about their sincerity due to the tense relationship between the South and the North, he would eventually find a way to blend them in with his mercenaries.
In the end, 63 Cavalrymen stayed behind which was a satisfactory result for Rhode and John. John could take root by Rhode's side by having the 63 Cavalrymen under him and he could respond with their strength if Rhode fell out with him. To Rhode, the 63 Cavalrymen were within his control. Although the total number of Cavalrymen was nearly a quarter of the number of mercenaries in his guild, the Cavalrymen' individual strength was between level 20 to 25. Therefore, Rhode would still be capable to wipe them out if they were up to no good.
Both sides were still on guard against each other. Rhode trusted John, but not his men. Rhode hoped that the Cavalrymen wouldn't cause an uproar in his Fortress. John was equally wary about Rhode's promise. But even so, he promised that he would manage his men stricter. As an outsider who had surrendered, he understood that his position in the Guild would be shaky because he hadn't build trust with Rhode. However, this didn't mean that they wouldn't trust each other in the future. Both John and Rhode had to take the initiative in order to have a stronger connection between them. Therefore, John promised Rhode that his men would definitely obey his orders, never betray him, and wouldn't cause trouble. If any of them caused trouble, Rhode held all the authority to drag them out and behead them!
In response to John's promise, Rhode assured that he would restrain his men and treat everyone equally to the best of his abilities. However, Rhode, after all, was the victor and he didn't need to stoop down to John's level, that is. John accepted because, after all, he was aware of his identity and position.
Rhode didn't keep General Garcia in the dark about the release of the Cavalrymen and interestingly, the slipshod general turned a blind eye to it. He had no problems releasing the Cavalrymen since the captured 'big fish', General Dade, was still in his hands. But the released Cavalrymen were only limited to the ones that Lize had captured. As for the Infantries that General Dade had led, Garcia would never let them go.
This wasn't unreasonable of Garcia because most of the Cavalrymen that John had led were injured severely in Lize's ambush; They were merely wounded soldiers who wouldn't pose much threat even after they were released. However, the 3000 Infantries had surrendered under their Commander's order and it would be as though be a gift of a brand new Infantry army to the Reformist Party if Rhode had released them... John wouldn't bring up such an idiotic suggestion and Garcia naturally wouldn't let them go.
Rhode ordered Lize to lead some of the mercenaries into Frozen Lake to complete the preparations for the second 5 Stars Mission while the other mercenaries were responsible for sending the injured soldiers back to the Fortress to recuperate. As for John, Rhode had allowed him to follow the rest to the Frozen Lake. After all, Rhode could use this upcoming mission to make John understand his battle style better.
After reorganizing everything, Rhode headed up north to the Golden City.
To Rhode, the situation by the Northern frontline had come to an end.
However, this was just the start for the others.
Baker looked over the wilderness triumphantly from the top towering wall. His mind was bursting with excitement and glory. He lowered his head and grinned from ear to ear as he gazed at the Medal of Honor and letter once more. In fact, he didn't expect that his battle plan would turn out this successful. He made full use of the military forces by the two sides that had contained the forces of the Flourishing Blossom and the Cloud Summit Fortress and personally led 20,000 Cavalrymen into breaking through the Thistle Wreath Fortress directly. He admitted that this plan was risky, but he still succeeded!
The Thistle Wreath Fortress containing merely 500 soldiers collapsed before they even reacted and the land of Callenbach had fallen into their hands. Baker had never felt this satisfied and proud. He relied on his own strength and plans entirely to conquer this piece of land! The Northern country bumpkins were defenseless in the face of his thunderous aggression!
Baker's hand trembled as he held the letter in his hands excitedly. The Southern Parliament had commended him highly and conferred him a medal. In the letter, the Southern Parliament had requested for Baker to guard Callenbach at all cost while they would seize this opportunity to seek assistance from the Country of Light's Parliament. If everything went well, they would fulfill their dreams and escape from the hands of the vicious dictator and build a brand new nation!
By then, I may become an overlord or even a hero of the entire nation! Perhaps I may even have the chance to become a Marshal!
The sky was in a rare, lively shade of blue while the grassland was never this green. Everything was dazzling and vibrant before his eyes as the big, bright sun shone a long path of hope for him. He imagined the scene when he returned to the South where countless petals fluttered in the air, civilians shouting his name loudly, beautiful young ladies outdoing one another to present flowers and kisses, and he stood proudly on the chariot, accepting their cheers and respect. The nobles of the Southern Parliament lined up in welcoming his return, at the same time offering him the badge and sword of the Marshal... Baker trembled in excitement and bit his lips subconsciously.
If everything came true, that would be perfect!
At this moment, loud, hurried footsteps interrupted Baker's reverie and he turned around to glare fiercely at the troublemaker. It was a pale-faced, panting orderly with indescribable fears lingering in his eyes. \"Reporting, Sir! We discovered enemy troops in the wilderness of Feralas!\"
\"Enemy troops?\" Baker's heart sank. \"How many of them? Whose flag are they waving?\"
\"It's the flag of the Northern 5th Legion [Sword Lion]. There's about 25,000 of them!\"
\"25,000?\" Baker looked at the orderly in disbelief.
It isn't too far away between the wilderness of Feralas and the city of Callenbach, so how is it possible that I'm not aware of the existence of the 25,000 soldiers? What is the Reformist Party doing?! Didn't they confidently say that the King's Party hasn't even decided on mobilizing which of their troops? Can anyone tell me where 25,000 soldiers came from?!
Those incompetent good-for-nothings!
Baker calmed down quickly after cursing the Southern Parliament. There was no purpose in arguing about this now. The enemy had 25,000 soldiers, but they only had 20,000. Although Callenbach City seemed run down, it was still possible for them to defend after the necessary repairs. As long as the Country of Light's Parliament could stop the King's Party from continuing their operations...
Clomp clomp clomp!
Another burst of quick footsteps sounded and an orderly who appeared even more miserable than the first orderly rushed up the city wall. He was drenched in sweat and panted hard. But, even so, he saluted to Baker swiftly. \"Reporting, Sir! Our scouts have discovered 20,000 enemy troops gathering in the Dagger Valley! Please give us your orders!\"
Clang. Baker dropped the medal on the stone ground and gaped at the orderly blankly. The fantasy that he had imagined minutes ago was drifting away from him and it was replaced by an unstoppable dark storm...
Why didn't I receive any news if the King's Party has such a huge movement?
Why were they able to move out so quickly?
How is it possible for them to mobilize that many troops in such a short period of time without getting discovered?
Why did this happen?!
The warm breeze blowing against the city wall sent a chill down Baker's spine. He sucked in a deep breath to calm himself down before commanding the orderlies. \"Quick! Send someone to seek assistance from the Parliament! Tell them that Callenbach has been surrounded by the King's Party and we need more manpower! Quick!\"
The orderlies bolted off hurriedly and Baker took in another deep breath as he gazed toward the vast land before him.
The land in his worried eyes had darkened as though the prelude of an incoming storm was choking him breathless.