None of the participants of the Dragon Soul Ceremony expected that the representatives of the Munn Kingdom and Light Parliament would be this hostile to each other. From the thousands in the parade in the Light Capital to the arrival of the massive magic warship from the Munn Kingdom and the clash between Lydia and the elderly chairman, this series of unusual movements made many people aware that the situation was abnormally strange. Although the Light Parliament and Munn Kingdom always clashed heads in the Dragon Soul Ceremony, such an acrimonious falling-out had never happened before. In an instant, the participants of the Dragon Soul Ceremony turned panicky. Even though they mostly had clear standpoints, that was during a period when the Munn Kingdom and the Light Parliament hadn't torn into each other yet. Although they backstabbed each other, they appeared warm and affable on the surface. But this time, the Munn Kingdom obviously displayed a side that was tougher than ever. It was totally possible for both sides to fall out in this Dragon Soul Ceremony.
After all, the news of the Reformist Party's rebellion in the Munn Kingdom had spread throughout the entire continent. The various representatives clearly knew that the Reformist Party was secretly supported by the Light Parliament. However, Lydia was merciless and could even be considered cruel in taking them down in a pool of blood. The Light Parliament seized the chance to make a fuss and sniped at the Munn Kingdom, leading to an unprecedented deadlock on both sides. This time, the Light Parliament used the people's protest to display their strength. But Lydia retaliated with the 'kiss on the hand' without showing any mercy. In a formal diplomatic event, this was basically considered thoroughly breaking off their relations with each other. Even though both sides were enemy countries, it was impossible to be this cruel.
It was due to this that the overlords and representatives re-evaluated their standpoints and attitudes. Previously, they were able to express their views because there weren't too many critical conflicts between the Light Parliament and Anti-Light Parliament forces, where it was more beneficial for them to make clear their position. Some territories that leaned toward the Light Parliament's side wasn't because they recognized their authority. Instead, they had simply taken a fancy to the huge and generous welfare policies of the Light Parliament. Those who relied on the Munn Kingdom were the same. Although not everyone agreed with Lydia that the Light Dragon Soul should regain its power and status, the Munn Kingdom was rich in natural resources, well-developed in commerce, and had high-end magical technology, after all. Moreover, the existence of floating boats had expanded the Munn Kingdom's influence over them.
But everything was different now.
The Munn Kingdom and Light Parliament. It would definitely be a courageous fight at bayonet-point if both sides tore into each other. With the opposing ideas and accumulated grievances of over hundreds of years, it would surely result in a bloodbath if the bucket of gunpowder were to explode. Perhaps the entire Country of Light would sink into an unprecedented chaos of war. Facing such a possible circumstance, the duchies and territories representatives leaning towards the Country of Light were forced to make a choice-their final choice. If they chose the wrong side, it wouldn't be as simple as being blocked off to receive punishment. They might face the crisis of having their nation perish to the ground.
Some of them were considering how to survive between the conflicts from both sides, while others were thinking of obtaining generous profits from it and some were looking to persuade and convince Lydia and the Light Parliament, with hopes that their hostility wouldn't brim so vivaciously. After all, the Country of Darkness had always been eyeing territory covetously. The Munn Kingdom would be the first barrier for the Light Mainland to defend against the Country of Darkness and consequences would be devastating if the Country of Darkness started a war with the Country of Light. The 'people' of the Country of Darkness weren't modest gentlemen. There were no two ways about it that their Undead Army would infiltrate the Country of Light. For the sake of the entire Light Mainland, representatives prayed that they would calm down and compromise with each other by making some sacrifices.
What assured most of them was that the situation barely came to an end after the elderly chairman greeted Lydia in humiliation. The satisfied Lydia let the Light Parliament off thereafter and even though the Light Parliament was extremely resentful, the elderly chairman seemed to have transformed into a totally different person. He was no longer as stubborn and overbearing as he usually was. Even though several Light Parliament members had blown their tops at the elderly chairman's actions, they were still rational, after all. They knew that it wouldn't be smart of them to interrogate the elderly chairman in public. Although the support that this elderly chairman received in the Country of Light had reached its all time low, he was still the chairman of Light Parliament before the end of the election. If the parliament members objected in the public's view, it would sweep the Light Parliament's dignity to the ground.
But this didn't mean that the folks in the Light Parliament were clueless on what they should do next. After the greeting ceremony, they shut their doors and left the dotard to suffer alone!
No matter what was going on in the elderly man's head, there would still be room to maneuver since the Light Parliament hadn't fallen out with the Munn Kingdom yet. Currently, the parliament members were also in a precarious situation themselves, so who would be concerned about a dotard who had one foot in his grave?
The representative team of the Munn Kingdom headed to the imperial residence in the Light Dragon Temple for their rest. This was their only privilege in the Country of Light. As one of the three Archangels, even though Lydia wasn't by the Light Dragon Soul's side all year round, she still held the authority to have her own imperial residence in the Light Dragon Temple. Of course, her room wasn't as huge as the two other Archangels.
On the other hand, the other representatives came up with random excuses to swiftly take their leave. This was the first time that they had joined such a dangerous welcome ceremony. It was as though they were walking on thin ice. Even though the Light Parliament organized the welcome ceremony rather grandly, their minds weren't on the gorgeous female dancers or delicious food. They widened their eyes and held their breath while watching the back and forth between the Light Parliament and Munn Kingdom's representative team, afraid that a foolish person would ignite the huge bucket of gunpowder.
Fortunately, both sides were rather calm about it.
Many of them left the venue and felt their backs were filled with cold sweat when they stepped up onto their chariots, as though they weren't here to participate in a banquet, but a trip around the gallow in the execution ground. Fortunately, none of them kicked the stool beneath their feet. At this moment, the crowd that finally escaped the gallows retreated hurriedly and considered their rightful choice. There were two more days left before the start of the Dragon Soul Ceremony. This was their only chance to reflect on their choices clearly. To follow the Light Parliament or Munn Kingdom? Or to look on with cold indifference? No matter what, they had to make a choice.
It wasn't only them who had such doubts.
"I didn't expect Royal Highness Lydia to do that."
Marlene held the teacup in her hands and puckered her brows as she gazed out the window. It was pitch-black outside, but the fluttering goose feather snow could be vaguely seen under the radiance of the torches, which brought about a dreamy view to the night. On the other side, Anne laid on her stomach by the window and drew on the misty glass with her finger. Lize sat by the side and listened to Rhode and Marlene's conversation.
Rhode knew that Marlene's suspicions weren't unreasonable. Although Lydia's actions had made the Munn Kingdom proud in the face of the Light Parliament... This wasn't normal at all. Ultimately, it was due to the system of the Munn Kingdom. The reason why the Munn Kingdom and Light Parliament had never fallen out with each other all these years wasn't because their strength, wealth, and allies were weaker than the Country of Light's. There was a fairly simple reason. The Munn Kingdom's ruler was one of the three Archangels under the Light Dragon Soul, so it was only right that she abided by the Light Dragon Soul's orders. On the contrary, it was due to this that the basis of the Munn Kingdom falling out with the Country of Light never existed as the Light Dragon Soul was the owner of the Country of Light in name. Moreover, it would mean that the Archangel had rejected the Creator Dragon Soul if the Munn Kingdom were to fall out with the Country of Light.
This was definitely, definitely impossible.
This was why the Light Parliament dared to go so brazenly against Munn Kingdom, as though a hooligan who had kidnapped a beautiful pair of mother and daughter wasn't worried that they would retaliate. Thereafter, the Munn Kingdom gradually grasped the Country of Light's lifeline through economics, which led to changes in their forces. When it reached the era of Lydia's rule, she swept out the past Archangels' meekness and gentleness and brought about unyielding resistance.
But she was still an Archangel, after all.
Rhode regarded the scene today heavily because a wrong step would lead to a full-scale war. Even though the eventual results were decent, he knew that they were just being fortunate. If luck wasn't on their side, perhaps the Munn Kingdom and Country of Light would announce war in the Dragon Soul Ceremony.
But why did Lydia dare to do that?
In an instant, Rhode's thoughts developed into a whole new direction.
"Could it be that Royal Highness Lydia wanted to show the Light Parliament our strong side? And warn them that we're no pushovers?"
Lize knitted her brows and said. Marlene shook her head slightly and disagreed.
"Royal Highness Lydia isn't a reckless person. That spectacle was dangerous and everyone present knows it. Perhaps we would be discussing about tactics against the Country of Light now if the Light Parliament Chairman acted tough back then."
"Rhode, what do you think about the whole thing?"
Marlene lifted her head and turned to Rhode. The latter knitted his brows slightly.
"I have a thought. But I shall put it up front first. I will not admit that I've said these words once I step out of this room."
Perhaps due to Rhode's overly stern tone, Lize tensed up a little. She placed her hands on her chest and watched worriedly at the black-haired young man. On the other hand, Marlene opened her eyes wide as though she had thought of something. At this moment, Rhode said in a calm tone.
"... I suspect that Royal Highness Lydia is forcing the Light Dragon Soul to make a decision."
This statement came out like a rolling thunder. Lize and Marlene jumped to their feet. The former looked on palely while the latter had as though made a sudden realization. They knew why Rhode said that-this statement definitely shouldn't be heard by others.
The Light Dragon Soul was a mysterious presence on this continent. Almost 90% of the people living under the Light Dragon Soul's protection had only heard its name and never seen it before. But no matter what, as the Dragon Soul Heir, the Light Dragon Soul had a certain reputation on this continent, where it was a taboo that no one could mention the name of the Light Dragon Soul as it would be deemed as a major disrespect. Even in the Country of Light, the Dragon Soul Heir itself was a taboo. Seldom would there be people mentioning it in public. As to the Light Parliament, they naturally wouldn't wish for the Dragon Soul Heir to be a huge existence in the people's hearts. Therefore, they disregarded its presence completely.
And now, this statement from Rhode equalled an 'insult' to two of supreme presences.
But Rhode didn't care, as he really thought so. His judgment came from his experiences in the game. Back then, even though no players had seen the Light Dragon Soul personally, Rhode had concluded that the Light Dragon Soul lacked self-awareness and thoughts judging from its behavior or perhaps, it found it hard to persevere with its own views. Even after Lydia died in the war, the Light Dragon Soul didn't display the grandeur the master of the three Archangels should have. Not only that, but it actually also obediently allowed the Light Parliament to offer it to the Dark Dragon.
This Dragon Soul Heir was as though an extraordinarily weak presence who couldn't express itself. Reserved personality. Timid. A yes-man. Lacked one's own view. Followed the crowd blindly. Left its fate in the hands of others. It would be acceptable if it were an ordinary mortal who lived this way. But considering the formidable strength of the Dragon Soul Heir, its personality was the only reason for it to live like a coward!
Lydia's actions were literally the same as telling the Light Dragon Soul that her relationship with the Light Parliament couldn't be resolved, where even maintaining peace on the surface was absolutely impossible!
So how would the Light Dragon Soul make its choice?
Rhode didn't know if his guess was accurate and all he could do was to wait and see. If this was Lydia's intention, the clues would reveal themselves during the Dragon Soul Ceremony!
Rhode shifted his gaze out of the window.
The deep night had devoured the entire sky.
Warm flames burned in the fireplace, setting off the crackling firewood and driving away the chilliness. But that was only the chill on his body.
The elderly chairman curled up on his chair and looked at the furious group of colleagues before him. They clenched their fists as though they couldn't wait to shred him to strips. How ridiculous.
The elderly chairman felt like bursting out into laughter. He felt like he was part of a mime show. He looked at his companions and wasn't afraid for the first time. In the past, he had beat his brains out to pull them together in order to receive more authority. But now, he realized that everything was senseless. He was like a clown, while they were a group of clowns.
"We're waiting for your explanation, Thomas Kryan."
Finally, one of the men broke the silence. He took half a step forward with clenched fists, staring at the elderly man with wide-opened eyes and omitting his title as the 'chairman'.
"You've brought about shame and humiliation to our predecessors who struggled for us and the Light Parliament! For generations, we've stood up and fought hard to be independent! But now! The blood and sweat of our ancestors were destroyed in your hands! You, alone, have destroyed the entire glory of the Country of Light! Don't you have anything to say for yourself? Why?! Why did you make such a humiliating move in front of that woman!"
The elderly chairman didn't panic or fly into a rage at all. Instead, he burst into laughter.
The elderly man curled up on his chair and this was the first time he felt this carefree.
"Explanation? All of you should be clear of that, isn't it? Are there any other choices left for us?"
"But why must you choose such a foolish method? We still have..."
"We still have other choices?"
The elderly man interrupted. He lifted his head and squinted at his raging colleagues calmly.
"Do you really think that we have other choices? We need money and that woman can give us what we need. You think we should give up on that huge sum of money for the sake of a false reputation? Tell me, then. How do you intend to fill the financial deficits for the upcoming year?"
"We can increase taxes! We can even increase commercial tariffs!"
"From who? Do you think we have the right to do that?"
The elderly chairman scanned his colleagues from left to right and right to left.
"Now, you're furious. You're outraged. You're roaring at me like I have abandoned the glory of the Light Parliament all by myself. Stop feigning innocence. You've seen that woman's actions, but who stepped out back then? And now, you're berating me for not protecting the honor of the Light Parliament. Why didn't any one of you step out alongside me back then?"
The elderly man stood to his feet and glared fiercely. The group of men subconsciously took a few steps back.
"I know you're only waiting to see my decision and you'll criticize me no matter which choice I take. Just like now. You claim that I've abandoned the Light Parliament's honor since I knelt before that woman. But what if I rejected?" The elderly chairman spread his arms apart and displayed an ironic smile.
"Wouldn't you accuse me of failing to grasp the bigger picture and making a dangerous move in order to save my reputation?"
The group of men was at a loss for words because that was indeed what they would do.
"You said that I've insulted the Light Parliament's honor, but I know that many of you hoped to see me embarrass myself by kneeling before that woman! You must be feeling great inside! Not only would you have an excuse to kick me off my position, but you also get to see my desperate side! Have you considered the honor of the Light Parliament just now? Have you considered everything that our ancestors have done for us?!"
The elderly chairman raised his voice while the others remained silent. However, the elderly chairman wasn't expecting a response from them.
"I'm different. I still love this country. I can forgo my reputation. You see, just like now, at least we aren't worried that the woman will cut down on the sum of money that'll be given to us. She might even increase the amount if she's in a good mood. If that's the case, our financial deficit can be fully covered and there may even be surplus. Isn't that great?"
"Sir Chairman, please conduct yourself with dignity!"
Finally, someone couldn't hold it in any longer.
"What you're saying now is totally..."
"I don't care."
The elderly man waved his hand and interrupted.
"I know more than anyone that I can't serve for another term of office anymore. So, if there is still some value in this old pile of bones in me to allow the people of the Country of Light to lead a comfortable, peaceful life, what's there not to do? Besides, didn't you wish that I do the same?"
The elderly man straightened his back. The group surprisingly discovered that this cautious yes-man who always carried a smile on his face was actually this tall.
"But I'm still the chairman of the Light Parliament. As long as I'm still in position, I will ensure that you follow my orders."
The elderly man had never revealed such unswerving determination in his eyes until today.
"I will give my all for the sake of the Country of Light."