Marlene coldly retrieved her hands from his grasp.
"We're not that familiar with each other. Please uphold your dignity."
"Tsk, tsk," the young man curled his lips and clicked his tongue, then he replied, "that's where you're wrong, Marlene."
Despite receiving a direct refusal, the young man did not retreat; rather, he became increasingly bold.
"Our family are close friends, am I right? When we were kids, our parents have been-"
"That was a long time ago."
Marlene interrupted him coldly.
"Since your family migrated to the Country of Light, any sort of relationship we had is now void. Please mind your conduct. Don't act like a ruffian who likes to chase after skirts. It is very much impolite."
"Marlene..." Billy sighed, "it was just a few years since we last met, when did you become so stubborn?"
Even though he spoke these words, his proud smile on his face didn't fade one bit.
"As they say, men struggle upwards, and water flows downwards. The reason why our Clinton family did what we did was so we could live a better life. Now, we are in a free land, enjoying unprecedented peace and tranquility. We never have to worry about encountering any disturbances... don't you think that's wonderful, Marlene? The elders' era has already passed, we now live in the present, and we are the ones who will craft the future. Aren't you curious about the world, the TRUE reality of it...? You are still young, do not be bound by tradition or lies. If you wish so, I can give you a tour around the Country of Light, perhaps you would change your point of view then."
"...Traitor." Marlene glared at the man with disgust in her eyes. She no longer hid her repulsion towards this proud man and said, "I'm not interested in someone who abandoned their dignity to become a watchdog. You can leave now, Mr. Clinton. I hope that we will never meet again."
"You're wrong again, Marlene."
However, it was clear that Billy's face was thicker than Marlene had imagined. Even though many people were looking at him with strange expressions, he spoke to Marlene as if they were the only two people in the hall.
He revealed a brilliant smile and continued, "How can it count as abandoning my dignity? Don't we all live under the protection of the Light Dragon? Moreover, don't we have a common enemy? Why are you hostile towards the Country of Light? We are fighting for the sake of all of us... we shouldn't be treated like traitors. It's unfair to us."
The young man eloquently projected emotional words effortlessly. However, Marlene wasn't moved at all. She maintained her cold expression and glared at him in disdain, as though watching a clown.
"This place doesn't welcome the likes of you, Mr. Clinton. If you choose to ignore the words that I've said, then..."
The young genius mage suddenly raised her wand and pointed towards him.
"Then I will have to make you leave with a more direct method."
Billy's face finally revealed a stiff expression with the appearance of her wand. His mouth twitched slightly, but soon he recovered his usual composure.
"Ah..." he shook his head in dismay, "you've really changed. Marlene. You weren't like this when we were younger. What made you change this drastically? Oh, right... I heard that you're together with a man. Where is he? Did he run away after seeing me?"
Marlene was extremely furious. She clenched her teeth and prepared to curse him. As she was about to do so, suddenly, a calm voice sounded from within the crowd.
"I've heard that people from the Country of Light are well-versed at speaking nonsense. Today, I've managed to grace myself with the presence of the real deal, truly, as they say, knowing a man by reputation is not as good as meeting face-to-face."
Rhode emerged from the crowd and walked towards Billy.
"Esteemed young sir, you are wrong."
Even when faced with Rhode's ridicule, Billy's elegant demeanor didn't change at all.
"Is that so?"
Rhode studied the man in front of him and nodded his head with satisfaction.
"Hmm... it does appear that you are indeed a patriotic person. I apologize for my rude behavior."
Marlene was displeased with Rhode's stance and opened her mouth to voice her complaints, but she was interrupted by Billy.
"Oh ho... it looks like you're a sharp one to be able to understand my underlying reason. I've done everything for the sake of my country, but unfortunately..." Billy paused for a moment and turned his head, glancing at Marlene, "unfortunately not everyone can understand that."
"Well, I can understand you."
Rhode expressed himself as though he could sympathize with Billy's situation which made his impression of Rhode improve. Frankly, when he heard that Marlene attended a banquet with a man, he was quite mad and even intended to make things difficult for him. But now that he realized that this man was intelligent enough to understand him, his anger dissipated slightly. Since his opponent was willing to play nice, he would give him some face. However, unfortunately, Rhode's next sentence immediately caused his face to turn pale.
"This is the so-called survival of the fittest, eh? Keep the good and take out the trash. To help the Munn Kingdom prosper, you took the initiative to leave by your own accord. Not everyone can make these kinds of patriotic sacrifices for the country. I really do admire your selfless mindset."
The nobles weren't fools. Naturally, they understood what Rhode meant. Right after Rhode finished, a few of them were already on the verge of laughter. Many nobles present at the banquet secretly loathed that man from the Country of Light, but since he was a special envoy, they did not dare to speak out their complaints. Now that Rhode spoke their mind, it made them somewhat happy. Even Marlene's tense expression relaxed slightly. She looked at Rhode and smiled to herself. With her identity, she had interacted with many people with high statuses of the same age, but none of them were as smart or as calm as Rhode. Furthermore, Rhode looked attractive, and he was also powerful; in other words - a perfect man, only if he would smile more often.
As much as she tried to hide it, Billy still noticed Marlene's subtle giggle. And when he recalled that ever since he arrived, she had never given him as much as a smile, he boiled on the inside.
Furthermore, this man simply said a few words, and she smiled just like that?
"Good, good! Since that's the case...!"
Billy raised his voice and pointed his cane towards Rhode. A hint of anger was apparent in his tone.
"I hereby challenge you to a duel!"
When that word left Billy's mouth, everyone was surprised. Keller who was watching from the side also began to grow anxious; he did not want to have any disputes in a banquet that he hosted. Before he could say anything, Rhode already spoke up.
"Duel? A duel should always have a wager, am I right?"
Billy stretched out his hand and pointed at Marlene.
"If I win, then I want you to leave her. From then on, she is mine. If you win, then I will give up on her. What do you think of this condition?"
"Is that so... I understand," Rhode nodded his head and continued, "then I refuse."
"Very good... since you've accepted, then... WHAT? Y-you refuse?"
Not only was Billy stunned speechless, but even the other nobles gasped in shock when they heard Rhode's reply. Refusing a duel was akin to throwing away a noble's honor!
"Why do you refuse?! Are you afraid of me?"
"As expected. Possessing low IQ is the worst."
Rhode gave a long sigh as he looked 'endearingly' towards Billy like how a teacher looks an underperforming student.
"I want to remind you that Ms. Marlene is not an item. She neither belongs to me, nor to you. So even if you win, will Ms. Marlene follow you obediently?" Rhode sneered, "I'll repeat myself once more; she's not an item that belongs to anyone, so I don't have the power to make that decision for her. If she desires to go with you, then I won't stop her."
Rhode glanced at Marlene and saw her proudly raising her head. Then, she walked towards Rhode's side and lifted her wand at Billy.
"That's right, Mr. Clinton. I, Marlene Sena, don't belong to anyone but myself. No one can order me to stay or leave. If you want to take me, then you can come try and get me."
At this moment, Marlene was obviously extremely angry. Her magic robe emitted a magical light, even the ruby on her wand grew increasingly brighter.
He saw that Marlene was actually getting serious. He could sense an immeasurable amount of magic power flowing in that petite-looking body. If he forced her, then there's no doubt that she'd really try to kill him.
"Using force against a lady isn't gentlemanly, Mr. Clinton."
Although Billy looked rather pitiful, Rhode wasn't going to let him off that easily. In his opinion, anyone from the Country of Light was to be beaten to death.
"Well, if you truly intend to fight, then I don't mind accompanying you."
"Count me in, kid."
This time, Sereck walked out from the crowd.
"You must remember that you're in Deep Stone City, a direct territory under the Munn Kingdom. If you want to fight here, I do hope you consider the consequences."
Once Sereck became involved in this matter, Billy realized that the situation was beginning to spiral out of control. He wasn't stupid. The people here refrained from causing a scene because of his special identity as an envoy. But if he blatantly disrespected the people further, perhaps he might be thrown out. There were many envoys, losing one of them wasn't much of a problem...
"It seems that I've gone too far. I will take my leave then."
Billy said as he clenched his teeth in anger. Then, he turned around and left.
Once Billy was gone, Marlene finally put down her wand and smiled at Rhode.
"Thank you, Mr. Rhode. Because of you, we got rid of that nasty guy."
"No problem, I'm also not fond of those group of idiots."
Rhode waved his hand, causing Marlene to chuckle. Then both of them raised the wine glass in their hands.
"So, to celebrate our victory, you won't mind if I offer you a toast, hm?
"Of course I don't mind."
The banquet went on as usual. Just outside the building, Billy got onto a carriage, his face was all red and was extremely upset.
"I'm sorry, Sir."
At this moment, the arrogant man had turned meek as he lowered his head towards the other person inside the carriage.
"I failed to complete your request to make that man move."
"Not an issue, Mr. Clinton."
On the other side of the carriage, the person who was hiding in the darkness chuckled.
"We still have a chance; whether it is you, or me."
Then he raised his head and stared at the night sky.
"We will achieve our goal."