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 Of course, Rhode couldn't care less about the treatment that the pathetic man had received in the dark cell. On the second morning, Dasos left the Land of Atonement with his team hurriedly and returned to the Alchemist Association. Rhode knew clearly that the pitiful senior would have a hard time convincing the association to hand over that much material. However, he wasn't worried at all. Their agreement had been reviewed and confirmed by the Church and if the Alchemist Association breached the contract, their reputation on the entire content would reach rock bottom.

Although it was an 'unexpected calamity' for Rhode that the Alchemist Association had come to his doorstep, this served as a reminder to him that his care for the fortress wasn't enough. The matters regarding Lapis especially made him realize what he wasn't doing enough. He was considering appointing an assistant for Lapis, which would be essential for her. Lapis had a reserved and bashful personality which not only reflected in her daily life but also on her job. Lapis required a lot of material to create alchemy equipment, but she was always too embarrassed to request from Rhode and would rather think of other solutions. It was also due to this reason that Lapis was won over by that bunch of idiots from the Alchemist Association. If there was someone by her side to guide her and communicate with Rhode during times of necessity, it could prevent similar incidents from happening.

Things were easier said than done and it wasn't easy to find someone suitable. Firstly, the person must be trustworthy and would be best a female. Apart from that, she must possess great communication skills and could sharply detect Lapis' true thoughts. At the same time, she must have a certain level of battle strength to protect Lapis in times of dangers. Finally, the most important point-Lapis must accept her. And it definitely wouldn't be easy for her to open up her heart to trust someone.

After listing out the conditions, Rhode realized that there were no members who fitted the requirements. Starlight was still in its early stages and everyone had their own position. Although Canary and Bubble were around in the fortress, they weren't suitable to stick around in the alchemy workshop the whole day. Besides, Bubble had to train the mercenaries and also lecture the Clerics on PVP battle techniques. Canary had to stand in for Marlene to ensure smooth operations within the fortress. As for Anne and Lize, they had to follow Rhode for missions and couldn't possibly remain in the fortress. Gillian might be idling around, but considering her personality, perhaps she would treat Lapis as her puppet rather than be her assistant.

Although Christie and Lapis were close, she wasn't well physically and she didn't have the capability to protect Lapis and herself. Although Celia met the requirements, it was a pity that she wasn't a Core Card. As a high-level summoning card, Celia would drain a high amount of spiritual energy from Rhode. It was still possible for Rhode to maintain her presence like in Fiat for up to five days, but if he had to do it 24/7, it would apply a lot of pressure to his body. The Holy Sword Card Deck didn't contain created spirits like Snow and they consumed a large amount of spiritual energy for their summons. For safety's sake, Rhode couldn't possibly diminish one-fifth of his spiritual energy every day to maintain Celia's presence. Moreover, the amount of spiritual energy consumed had a direct relation to their physical distances. If Rhode had headed into the Golden City and left Celia in the fortress, the amount of spiritual energy that he needed to consume would perhaps leave him insufficient for other purposes.

Rhode couldn't help but think of Marlene.

Although Rhode had been spending most of his time on the reorganization of the Guild after he returned to the fortress, he didn't block himself out from the happenings in the outside world. The reports from the intelligence net of Old Walker and the 'Silent Blade' had been delivered to Rhode's desk daily.

The internal war between the North and South hadn't ended. The Reformist Party's army arrived at Callenbach 'peacefully', so the members were elated. On the other hand, the Northern King's Party allied army didn't have any large-scale movements after forming a half encirclement apart from carrying out besieging exercises. Outsiders might even misunderstand that they were there for military drills.

Rhode was sure that the fish had taken the bait.

Although there were 70,000 defending troops in Callenbach to face the King's Party 60,000, the number of foodstuff supplies that the 70,000 troops had to consume was also massive. The foodstuff reserves in the South had been burned to ashes by Rhode. Previously, the Southern Parliament opened up the granaries to the public and the remaining foodstuff was almost to the bottom of its bucket. Rhode was curious to see how the Southern Parliament could come up with foodstuff for the 70,000 troops. Callenbach was a remote city and didn't have that many reserves.

According to Old Walker's report, the emissaries of the Light Parliament had arrived in Golden City, but Lydia was nowhere to be found. It was said that Lydia had heard about the strange rumors that the Frozen Lake had melted and went for a tour in the Cranmore region... Perhaps only God knew when she would be back.

Although both sides didn't have such a large-scale war before, there were a lot of small-scale conflicts. Rhode had also heard about a lot of rumors regarding Marlene leading the Senia Family's Magician Guards and driving off the Southern Legion. Not only her, but many families in the Munn Kingdom had also sent out their heirs and trusted aides to gain frontline experiences and express their attitude to the King's Party. As the largest family in the Munn Kingdom, the Senia Family was naturally the most eye-catching of them all.

Rhode had mixed feelings whenever he heard about Marlene. He was delighted that Marlene could walk on the right path and as long as Marlene could perform outstandingly in this battle, her position in the King's Party would rise and stabilize. Marlene could then use this opportunity to rise in the King's Party's ranks officially.

Although Marlene's future would be bright and hopeful, Rhode didn't feel great about parting ways with her. They had an intimate relationship and Marlene's abilities were a huge help for Rhode. As a talent born in the political world, not only did Marlene have exceptionally gift, but she also stuck out like a sore thumb politically. For Starlight to grow from a team of fewer than 10 members to a powerful presence now, a lot of the credit belonged to Marlene. If it was possible, Rhode wished to make Marlene his adjutant forever... He could get her to handle some matters while he could handle her if there was nothing else going on... Argh. Sidetracked.

However, it was a pity that Rhode could only think about such blissful days in his head. Although Marlene liked Rhode and they had a relationship closer than friends, Rhode didn't believe that Marlene was a woman who would be bound by such emotions. She was born in the powerful Senia Family and brought up as an heir to their family. She couldn't possibly be those women in novels where they go: "As long as I can be with you, I will give up everything. As long as you love me, I will live without any regrets..."

Such words were to trick children and a mature person would understand her own responsibilities. Marlene would be too childish if she behaved that way. Rhode was sure that Marlene wouldn't behave that way based on his observations.

But it would be difficult to determine if it were Anne or Lize.

"Haa..." Rhode laid down the feather pen and let out a long sigh. He shook his head helplessly at the pile of documents on his desk. Things had gotten troublesome after Marlene's departure. Although she had set up a perfect workflow and set of rules for the Guild before she left and everything would operate perfectly, it would still be useless no matter how great the motherboard was if the CPU wasn't up for the task. Without Marlene around, Rhode and Canary were rather flustered in the final few management steps. In the game, neither of them needed to be concerned with lodging and food for the players.

Forget it, it's useless thinking about it now.

Rhode shook his head and threw the image of Marlene to the back of his head. Then, he lifted a bell on his desk.

Ding-a-ling. The study room door opened and Agatha entered with two tentacles extended below as though she was lifting the hem of her skirt like a human servant. She bowed politely and asked with a monotonous voice. "Master, may I help you with anything?"

"How is the fortress currently doing?" Rhode pondered for a moment and said.

As elemental creatures, the Ocean Elves were able to communicate spiritually with one another. Agatha had the highest level among them and she could easily lay her 'tentacles' on the fortress situation through the other Ocean Elves. Agatha closed her eyes for a few moments. Then, she opened her eyes and said, "The operations of the fortress are normal. But the Constructs that you've designed are going through official trials today."

"Oh?" Rhode twitched his brow. "Bring me there."

The sun shone brightly on the vast, serene prairie and the grass rippled to the gentle breeze. Dozen Calvarymen formed an offensive formation swiftly and darted across the prairie with raised pikes, shattering the tranquility. Countless grass clippings were engulfed in their darting gust.

When Rhode arrived at the prairie, a group of Calvarymen reorganized from an offensive triangle formation to a right side attack in mere seconds. At this moment, the leading Cavalryman blew a whistle abruptly as though he had sensed Rhode's presence. The group of Calvarymen changed their direction and charged toward Rhode magnificently. The loud clip-clops of the horseshoes were as though the sound of deep, rolling thunder. However, Rhode stood still with his hands behind his back and gazed calmly at them.

As the group of Cavalrymen charged closer, they slowed down their speed abruptly and regrouped uniformly, coming to a halt within three steps like a controlled robot. At this moment, the leading Cavalryman approached Rhode and dismounted his horse. He lifted open his black armor mask and revealed a youthful grin. "Good day, Sir Rhode."

"Seems like you're doing well, John. How does it feel?" Rhode nodded slightly.

This young man was John Grayer, who Rhode had recruited to Paphield. After the mercenaries left the Paphield frontline, John abided to Rhode's orders and led over 60 of his Cavalrymen to the fortress. However, instead of being Rhode's mercenaries, they were his private soldiers and henchmen.

Frankly speaking, John was still doubtful about Rhode before he came to this place because there must still be a limit to a young noble's strength. If not, Rhode wouldn't have stooped so low as to lead mercenaries into the battle himself. However, this massive fortress left John dumbfounded. Moreover, Canary and Bubble's presence in the Legendary Stage had convinced the young man to give his all to work for Rhode. A noble who owned such a massive fortress and had that many powerful subordinates must have a bright future ahead.

At this moment, John had also experienced the benefits of being Rhode's henchman.

"It's great, Sir." John revealed an excited smile and he knocked on his body armor proudly. Unlike the light-weight, half body armor Cavalrymen were usually clad in, this full body armor was incomparably sturdy and every inch of their bodies was completely protected. Not only was there a prismatic shield on their arm which allowed for the tip of a pike to poke through the front, the back of the shield also had two cone-shaped tips like razor-sharp teeth extending out. This design made the Cavalrymen look like monsters with teeth all over their bodies.

"Frankly speaking, I thought this armor would be really heavy, but I didn't expect it to be almost as light as the leather armor. I don't feel burdened by it at all! Not only that, but this strange weapon is also extraordinarily great to use. Sir, I didn't know you could create such equipment!"

It wasn't without reason for John's excitement. He grew up in a noble family so he wouldn't be as naive as ordinary soldiers. After putting on the equipment, he immediately realized that they weren't ordinary at all. They were alchemy equipment-extremely rare in the market and almost impossible to provide in batches to the soldiers. John remembered that even the top elites of the Southern Legion didn't have such a great treatment!

But now, he had just arrived and this generous young man had given him such a precious gift, which further assured him that his choice wasn't a mistake.

Rhode nodded slightly as he observed John's blissful expression. He knew why John was that excited. This set of alchemy equipment wasn't imagined by Rhode. Instead, it was invented by the future Country of Darkness. Not only were they light, but the weapon also had strong damage output, which had a relation to why the Country of Darkness was able to breeze their way through all the enemies on the continent during the war. During the creation of the equipment, Rhode and Lapis had considered the differences between the Undead Spirits and Humans and modified them to be more suitable for human usage.

"This set of equipment is still under modification. If you feel there's anything wrong when using it, feel free to let me know and I will get Lapis to fix it... By the way, I told you to think of a name for this team. Have you done so?" said Rhode.

"Of course, Sir Rhode." John pushed out his chest proudly. "I've decided to call us the 'Black Rose'. What do you think?"

"..."

was surprised to see the corner of Rhode's mouth twitch and his expression seemed to have become somewhat complicated.

"Black Rose?" Rhode lifted his head and shot a strange look at John. He sized up John and the group of Cavalrymen in full black armor behind him. Argh. I understand why the word 'black' was used. But... Why do I feel this uncomfortable with the word 'rose'?

The thought of going into battles with this 'Black Rose' made him shudder. He scanned John from head to toe peculiarly and muttered inwardly.

Could it be that this young man is also gay like Garcia? If not, why did he choose the word 'rose' out of so many possible names in this world?

Rhode was suddenly reminded of some impure memories... What a shocking discovery. If I knew he was a gay, I wouldn't have brought him back from Paphield. I should've just left him with Garcia and let them rub out some sparks with each other.

"... Sir Rhode? Is anything wrong?" John asked with some doubts.

He felt that the name was actually decent. Or perhaps, this was the only name that he came up with after so many days of racking his brain. Although John had gathered his men to brainstorm for, the suggestions he received weren't all that favorable with names like 'Black Whirlwind' or something... John didn't dare to mention such names to Rhode.

"Uh..." Rhode let out an awkward cough. Then, he calmed himself down and looked at the group of Cavalrymen. "I think this name feels rather weak. In future, you are going to be the first line of attack to charge and break through the enemy lines. 'Rose' is a little too... Alright. Let's name you guys 'Blackblade Guards', how about that?"

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