The Country of Law was politically neutral and also neutral in standpoint. Its territory wasn't massive and was even smaller than the Munn Kingdom. The Country of Law's territory was located in the center of the common boundary of the Country of Light and Country of Darkness. Using patterns as an analogy, the Country of Law would be like a 'V' cutting down from the middle of an oval formed by the Country of Light and Country of Darkness, dividing them into two.
However, the transportation environment in the Country of Law wasn't that convenient compared to the Munn Kingdom. The Elf Forest and the Slumber Mountain which divided the Country of Light and Country of Darkness weren't easy to get through. They were covered densely by forests and surrounded by mountains. Moreover, the Elves' passionate love and care for the forest made it extremely difficult for humans to open up commercial roads through the mountainous terrain. Furthermore, the Elves weren't easy to convince and interact with. This was why most merchants would rather use the Ocean Trade Route opened up by the Munn Kingdom to engage in commercial trade.
Although the traffic wasn't convenient, it wasn't a problem for residents of the Country of Law: the Half-Elves and Elves. They lived in the forest and the craggy surface of routes was no issues for them. Besides, most Elves were apathetic in their natural disposition, unlike humans who highly regarded money. This was why even though the commercial trade in the Country of Law wasn't prosperous, they could still lead carefree lives.
Even if the Country of Law wasn't the economic hub of the entire continent, none of the other nations dared to belittle its influence. As the largest sacred place for religion, the believers of the Church could be found throughout every corner of the continent. Besides, even if the Country of Law wasn't a financial hub, their Church played the dual role of the bank and the notary office. Due to their neutral standpoint and the influence of the Judgement & Ruling Twin Dragons, the Church's credibility and prestige was extraordinary. In the game, after the Munn Kingdom was attacked by the Country of Darkness, the Country of Darkness stopped giving chase to the players and refugees who had escaped into the Country of Law. They paced back and forth by the borders of the Country of Law and eventually left.
There were different sayings regarding the reasons why the Country of Law had such a high standing on the continent. Most of them believed that although the Country of Law wasn't comparable in strength to the Three Archangels and the Four Legendary Generals, it had two Creator Dragon Souls with them. Even if the Country of Light and Country of Darkness united, it would still be a two against two in Dragon Souls. Besides, the Country of Law had a great geographical advantage. Not only was it easily guarded and difficult to break through, but attacking it would also offend the two Creator Dragon Souls, which no one would be foolish enough to attempt. Moreover, the Country of Law's Church had always been advocating and protecting Order while destroying Chaos. When most overlords developed their territories and maintain Order, they had more or less received assistance from the Church and the Country of Law.
There were many routes that led to the Country of Law and Rhode chose the comparatively remote route along the border connecting the Munn Kingdom and Country of Law. Due to the unique territorial shape, most of the routes linked to the Country of Law had to go through the Country of Light. Rhode knew that he had become a thorn in the Light Parliament's side after Bubble had crippled the Mist Sword Saint. If he chose those routes, he might be spotted by the Light Parliament and he didn't wish for side issues to keep arising.
Blackberry Town was a remote town located along the way and the residents there were mainly Half-Elves. Due to their human bloodline, they couldn't withstand the harsh conditions of living in the deep mountains and forests like pure Elves. However, the Elf bloodline made them yearn for nature and as a result, the Half-Elves had compromised by building small towns and villages around the perimeter of the Elf Forest. Not only were they able to be surrounded by nature, but they could also get in touch with the bustling human lives of the outside world.
And it was the same here.
"Wow..." Anne exclaimed in admiration as soon as she witnessed the scenery of the small town.
Unlike human hamlets, Blackberry Town presented a harmonious, easy-going atmosphere and displayed the beauty of vitality and tranquility perfectly. The style of house was entirely different and even though they were also made of wood, they appeared more casual and wild with fine vines and broad foliage blending them into the surrounding trees as compared to the neatly builts houses for humans. If it weren't for the man-made staircases, doors, and the exquisitely crafted signs hanging on the tree branches, perhaps no one would believe that this was a town. One might even believe that one had stepped into a strange woodland.
Rhode's group attracted a lot of curious gazes. After all, seldom would there be a group of travelers who visited such a desolate place. A glance at Rhode's beautiful face and his pitch-black noble attire was enough to see his extraordinary imposing manner. Moreover, the little mermaid swimming in the water ball and Anne, who carried an eye-catching huge shield at her back, were equally eye-catching. This trio was capable of attracting the attention of the bustling city crowd, let alone this remote place.
Compared to the trio, Lize, who was clad in a Cleric robe, didn't seem as conspicuous. But this was what she wished for too.
Although the Half-Elves loved liveliness, they weren't as fond of joining in the fun as the humans usually did. This was why most of them simply laid down their work and gazed curiously at them while children followed them and chased the little mermaid playfully. The little mermaid appeared a little tense, but she didn't hide from them too much. After all, she had slowly gotten used to the life of being surrounded by everyone.
"Anne, it will be the territory of the Country of Law from here onward. You must be obedient and not stir trouble like just now, do you hear me? This isn't the Munn Kingdom anymore. I will not be able to rescue you if they capture you and you will need to be kept in the water jail forever."
"Anne knows, Leader. Don't worry, Anne will be fine."
"I hope so." Rhode twitched his brow and headed deeper into the small town.
The biggest difference between Blackberry Town and other human small towns was its serenity and peacefulness. The 'liveliness' of the Half-Elves equaled the tranquility that Anne and Lize who came from the human city had experienced. Although there were many shops in the small plaza under the shade-giving foliage, they couldn't hear bustling bargains and loud chattering as they did in human markets. The shop owners lined their merchandise neatly on their stall while the consumer picked their choices before asking the price and making payment. The entire process was engaged quietly where one couldn't hear any grumbles of unreasonable prices.
"This is your last chance if you want to buy anything." Rhode said to the group. "The money we have on us will be useless after we entered the Country of Law, so if you want to spend on something meaningful, it will be here."
"Eh?" Anne tilted her head. Although she had heard from Rhode about the social custom in the Country of Law, she didn't expect something as unimaginable as this. "Useless? Why?"
"Because the Elves aren't mindful about money. The gold coins in our possession aren't in circulation in the Elf Dominion. Elves don't like gold coins and commercial trades and they would rather barter instead. But even bartering is uncommon among them because they basically don't have many desires for anything."
"Eh-?" Anne puckered her brows instantly. "What if Anne wants to eat and sleep when we're there?"
"Seldom are there people allowed into the Elf Dominion. Even if one enters, the Elves have specialized stations to serve the guests, so you don't need to worry about that. But if you want to purchase anything inside, the Elves will see if you have anything interesting in exchange for it." Rhode paused for a second and swept a glance at Anne with a smirk. "By the way, the Elves are rather skilled in crafting accessories."
Indeed. No matter how different Anne's mentality was, she was still a girl nonetheless. Her eyes brightened instantly. "Really? Anne wants them if they are really good... By the way, Lize, what do you want to have?"
Anne turned around and asked Lize who was standing behind her. Lize lifted her head blankly and came to her senses abruptly. Then, she waved her hand. "Ah, there's nothing that I want, Anne..."
"Eh...? How boring," Anne pouted and skipped to Rhode's side to wrap her arms around his. "Leader, Anne thinks that Lize will suit some beautiful accessories, like..."
"There's no need!" Lize exploded in anger, shattering the serenity of the entire place, and startling everyone. The little mermaid widened her eyes in fear and leaned onto Rhode while Anne turned around in astonishment and gaped as she looked at Lize. Rhode puckered his brows slightly and faced the young lady.
Sensing everyone's gazes, Lize finally realized what she had just done. She hurriedly lifted her head and waved her hand. "S-Sorry, Anne. I didn't mean to... I... I'm just feeling tired from the traveling... Sorry... I didn't mean to..."
"Okay! It's nothing, Anne is in the wrong," Anne went up to Lize and held her hand. "Sorry, Lize, Anne shouldn't have disturbed you. Let's go find a place to rest for a while. Anne also wants to have a good sleep."
Lize lowered her head guiltily and a depressed glint flashed in her eyes, but no one realized it.
"... Okay... Sorry, Anne, I really didn't mean to..." Lize murmured.
The group had lost their interest in shopping after the incident and they entered the only inn in the small town. Then, Lize mentioned that she was feeling unwell and she locked herself in her room. Even though Lize didn't reveal the reason, the people around her knew that she had been behaving peculiarly.
"Leader... What's wrong with Lize?" Anne tossed an apple from hand to hand and displayed a worried expression. "Is she sick? If Anne knew she was sick, Anne would have been quieter..."
Rhode didn't answer. He sat by the table and gazed out the window with furrowed brows. It was evening and the sun had gradually sunk beneath the horizon. As nighttime arrived, the moonlight grass displayed its amazingness. The night-active plant lifted its head and its semicircular flower bud blossomed slowly to reveal a luminous radiance that illuminated the dark land. However, Rhode wasn't in the mood to admire the view now. Rhode felt that something was off ever since Lize tagged along in the journey. Lize wasn't one who would take initiatives or was unyielding. Besides, she had also behaved strangely during the journey. Although Lize was reserved and gentle, she wasn't one who had little to say. Ever since they left the Land of Atonement and headed into the Country of Law, Lize spoke little and responded absent-mindedly to Anne and Rhode as though something had been occupying her head.
Not only that, but Rhode also realized that Lize had been strangely engrossed in her performance during the battles on their way here. It was unlike her usual self at all. It almost felt as though she was rushing into battle with Bubble's reckless mentality.
Rhode had tried speaking to Lize a few times, but she kept finding excuses to avoid him. Rhode thought that this was the follow-up effect of that incident. However, it seemed that the situation wasn't as simple as he had thought. Lize wasn't petty and narrow-minded, so her sudden burst of anger left Rhode on high alert. He had had several relationships with young women and he knew an honest and submissive girl like Lize would turn out the scariest after she exploded in wrath because it usually meant that she couldn't tolerate something anymore. Moreover, she would be capable of doing anything cruel after losing her rationality and control over herself. On the contrary, a cheerful, outgoing young lady like Anne would only last no more than three days even if she flew into a terrible rage.
Rhode couldn't find a good counter-solution at the moment. "All in all, Lize doesn't seem to be in a good mood recently, so you'd better stay quiet."
"Okay," Anne nodded obediently. Then, she revealed a concerned look. "Leader, for some reason... Anne feels that Lize is a little scary... Anne is afraid of this Lize..."
She's indeed a Half-Beast. She must have sensed the danger emanating from Lize.
"Sorry to keep you waiting."
The inn owner moved his round body and approached them with a smile. He widened his eyes in astonishment at the little mermaid floating beside Rhode before shifting his attention to Rhode. "Would you like to have something? We have local, freshly made wine, grilled fish, and blackberry bread, which are our well-received specialties. I'm sure everyone will enjoy it."
"Bring us all your signature dishes. If they aren't enough, we will order some more," Rhode said after gazing at Anne's big, round puppy eyes.
The owner looked blankly before revealing an even more passionate smile. He turned around and instructed the waiter softly. The waiter scuttled away while the owner stood on the spot. He turned back and gazed at Rhode and Anne. "May I ask where are you heading to?"
"We have some matters to attend to in the Elf Forest," said Rhode.
Rhode wasn't mindful of the owner's bold enquire. He knew that most of the Half-Elves gathered here in the outer region of the Country of Law had contact with the Elf Dominion. As the Elf Dominion strictly limited entry of races other than Elves and Half-Elves, anyone who appeared in the border of the Country of Law and was heading into the Elf Dominion would be reported secretly to the internal department of the Elf Dominion and the Elf Dominion would decide if they would grant entry to the visitors. This location was a remote small town and their purpose for coming here was self-evident. Rhode's purpose wasn't to slaughter or set fire to their homeland, so there wasn't anything worth hiding since he wasn't a Druid.
"I see," the owner nodded firmly.
Shortly after, he revealed a hesitant expression and rubbed his hands together. "Hmm... Please pardon me if I sound rude. But I need to inform you that it will be better if you pick another route if you wish to enter via the Emerald Valley."
"Are there any problems?" Rhode laid down his wine glass and puckered his brows slightly. "Could it be that the Emerald Valley has been sealed off?"
"That isn't it, my dear guest," the owner smiled and shook his head hurriedly. "Recently, the Chaos near the Emerald Valley has been spreading and evil monsters are wreaking havoc. So, I suggest a change of route if you decided to pass through the Emerald Valley."
Rhode nodded and said. "Then..."
Suddenly, a familiar notification rang and a system prompt he hadn't seen for ages emerged before him.
[Triggered Special Mission - Perishment in the dark. Accept Mission?]