This was considered an episode for Rhode. Meeting an unfortunate enemy in Casabianca was nothing more than a common thing. But the enemy indeed had a reason to detest him. Daviet was a legendary being who was hard to come by, but he was crippled by Rhode. Even though it wasn't Rhode who had done the deed, the culprit appeared the same for the Light Parliament. Rhode sighed at how amazing the world was. Two of the five legends in the Light Parliament had fallen under his hands. Other than the Mist Sword Saint, the Cyan Goshawk had also been messed with by him. Although his views didn't align with the Light Parliament's, they still stood on the same side while facing external threats.
Even though there were a few hiccups along the way, the group's following tour went rather smoothly. They had returned to the imperial residence safely and benefited a lot from this tour. On the other hand, Rhode had achieved what he wanted. It seemed that the group had begun considering and facing the precarious situation and the Country of Light itself...
The group could be said to have fulfilled their wishes after the day tour and everyone started preparing for the Dragon Soul Ceremony. They knew that this Dragon Soul Ceremony was exceptionally important, so,for the sake of safety, they were better off being better prepared, where even Lize and Anne were forced to take up etiquette training from Marlene. After all, this was an important ceremony to meet the Light Dragon Soul, so distinguished and complicated etiquette were essential. Who knew what a naturally foolish young lady like Anne would do during the ceremony...
Everyone was busy with their preparation while Rhode had nothing on his hands. In fact, he wasn't feeling thrilled or nervous meeting the Light Dragon Soul, so he didn't value the ceremony as highly as the others. But when one entered a village, one had to follow their local customs and the same went for Rhode. He wasn't that silly to remain idle before Lize and Marlene. He found an excuse to slip away and dodge Marlene's harsh etiquette training. I'll leave such things for Anne and Lize to suffer.
Lydia's imperial residence was situated halfway up the mountain of the Dragon Soul Temple. Even though she wasn't a permanent resident of this place, she had her own palace as one of the three Archangels. But the palace would only be occupied whenever she visited the Country of Light. But even so, the palace was comfortable and luxuriously decorated. Sleek floors. Soft, extravagant carpets. Beautiful and expensive murals. They appeared rather inharmonious with the temple emanating in a sacred aura, but who cared, as long as Lydia didn't mind?
Rhode laid back leisurely on a stone bench in the garden and enjoyed the picturesque scenery. He looked down to view the entire Casabianca presenting a gentle whiteness under the glaring sun as though it existed in pure, spotless radiance. Judging from this, the reputation of Casabianca was indeed well-deserved. But... that was a false sense of prosperity, after all.
The corners of Rhode's lips perked up as he once again recalled the memories he had of Casabianca in the game. It was a city that sunk entirely in the war. In the game, the Country of Darkness sliced through the Country of Light like a hot knife through butter, leaving them in an extremely miserable state. This was especially so after losing the Light Dragon Soul and its protection, where the Country of Light sank into turmoil from the envelope of Chaos. Back then, even if Rhode or Dark Dragon didn't infiltrate the Country of Light, it would still perish on its own. But Rhode was determined to do it himself. After all, he would be letting them off easy if he didn't personally destroy them with his own hands and allow them to head into a path of destruction themselves.
Suddenly, the bush beside him shook. He turned around curiously and spotted a petite figure emerging from it.
It was an adorable little girl who was about 10 years old. Her exquisite facial features and delicate face complemented one another perfectly. She wore a relatively plain white robe inlaid with a golden-stitched design and the glory of the sun set off her silver long hair as it draped over her shoulders, emanating a dazzling sight. She spotted Rhode and appeared seemingly surprised as she subconsciously came to a halt. Then, she asked in a timid manner.
"Who... are you? Why are you here?"
"This should be a question from me, Miss."
Rhode shrugged. He stood up and waved to the little girl.
"I'm a guest to this place. One of Royal Highness Lydia's subordinates. My name is Rhode Alander, and I am the overlord of Grenbell. You are..."
The little girl appeared seemingly to have understood the situation and nodded slowly. Then, she relaxed her tensed body like a tiny squirrel watching its natural predator walked away. She lifted her head and hesitated for a few moments.
"You... You... can call me... Lily. I'm the... the... Yes. Someone from here."
Rhode twitched his brows, but he didn't probe further. He nodded to the little girl and beckoned to her. "Alright then, Lily. Are you here to admire the view too?"
Lily nodded hesitantly as though she was Little Red Riding Hood who knew that the Big Bad Wolf had disguised as her Grandma and didn't know if she should step one foot closer. After a few moments, she approached Rhode step by step. She sized up his face before quietly sitting on the other end of the stone bench. Rhode rolled his eyes hopelessly and sat back on the stone bench with a shrug.
The little girl rested her chin on her hands and she was entranced in the awesome view before her. Then, she mumbled to herself.
"I like the view from here. I feel peaceful every time I sit here and look down at the scenery below. Everyone seems to be really happy living their blissful lives... No one in pain. No one is crying. A happy city. A blessed country..."
Rhode curled his lips and let out a subtle sneer. Although he didn't like to destroy a little kid's dream, he instinctively felt hilarious listening to the little girl's portrayal of this perfectly wonderful city. The little girl turned over in displeasure.
"What's wrong, Mister? Am I wrong?"
"No no no."
Rhode waved his hand without showing any emotions.
"I didn't say anything, Lily. You must've misheard me."
"No, I did hear something."
The little girl pouted and stared at Rhode in dissatisfaction.
"Don't treat me like a small child. I know what you're thinking about, Mister. You think that I'm a naive and silly little girl who loves to daydream, right?"
Rhode didn't refute and he had no intentions of denying her either. For unknown reasons, he felt rather strange as soon as he saw her as though somewhere in his body felt particularly close with her. It also felt as though he had met a familiar person in a foreign land, which gave him a kind and nostalgic feeling. But he couldn't explain why he had such emotions because, no matter what, he had never seen this little girl in the past. It would still be possible if she was born in the Eastern Plain like Gaya, where they might have familiar appearances. But this little girl... I have never seen her before and yet, I don't feel like I'm speaking to a stranger at all.
"Well, that's the truth, Lily. This world isn't as peaceful as you think."
Rhode curled his lips and gazed at Casabianca before him.
"Especially this city. I don't find it beautiful at all. Instead, I hate this place."
The little girl opened her eyes wide. She stared in shock as though she had heard something that toppled all the truth in her world.
"Why, Mister? This is Casabianca, the city under the Light Dragon Soul's protection. Under the sacred brilliance, isn't it normal that people lead blissful lives? Why do you hate this place?"
"Because all I see here are terrifying, meaningless battles."
Rhode shrugged and answered her doubts casually. Even though he knew that he shouldn't speak to a little child this way, he instinctively felt that it didn't matter even if he said it.
"On the surface, this place is indeed protected by the Light Dragon Soul. But what about the truth? The people holding on to authority fight against one another to secure their positions, berated one another to expand their strength, incited hatred and blinded everything with lies. These people are living in the false dreams of lies. They think that they are the center of the world, but they are nothing, in fact."
Rhode pointed to a place in Casabianca.
"Have you been there. Lily?"
"Yes. It's a beautiful and quiet place."
Even though she didn't know why Rhode asked her this question, she answered swiftly anyway. Rhode shrugged and pointed at another place.
"What about there?"
"It is... Ah. Freedom Square. Of course I've been there."
"Then, what about there?"
Rhode pointed at a white region in western Casabianca. This time, the little girl didn't answer instantly. She knitted her brows and tried to recall its name. Then, she shook her head helplessly.
"No... Mister. I've not been there before. Where is that place?"
"That place is called 'Dalkest'. It is the largest slum in Casabianca."
Judging from her vacant expression, it was apparent that she didn't understand the word at all.
"It is a place where the poor lives in. They are undressed, poor, and have never eaten a full meal before. People there kill for a piece of bread. No one dares to roam the streets with money because they will be robbed at the very next moment. The corners of the dark alleyways are filled with scrawny thugs with sharp weapons. They widen their eyes greedily while scanning for their next prey. They may even be lucky enough to drag a person into the dark alley and kill him to rob his assets. That is all that they can do to survive in this city."
Rhode shot a glance at the little girl beside him who had frozen to the spot. She widened her eyes unbelievably at the direction where Rhode was pointing to and mumbled to herself.
"That's impossible. How... Why are those people... Why are they so poor..."
"There are many reasons for poverty. Some who have lost their abilities to carry out labor were chased out by their employers. Their physical disabilities prevented them from searching for work and they could only resort to living this way. Some are born in that place and they don't know what else can help them with their lives. Those who are simply unlucky might have ended up in that state after losing their wealth and families. Of course, some people are just purely lazy. No matter what... such people are everywhere. But some places have more of them while some have much fewer."
Rhode reminded himself of Golden City. The Munn Kingdom strictly prohibited the free movement of population, which resulted in no slums in their region. But similar places still existed. The rich and poor were like a pair of brothers. The poor couldn't purchase their own houses and gain a foothold in the big cities, which was why they had to come together. This was unavoidable everywhere, where even the legends and beliefs reflected the same shadows of slums. Hell was meant to take in such people.
"I... I don't believe it..."
The little girl paled and covered her mouth tightly. Her eyes were filled with fear.
"I don't believe it... This isn't real..."
"Don't be that surprised, Lily. Don't let your imagination run wild. This is the world. With the existence of beauty, there will always be ugliness, which is extremely normal. Not everyone can lead a blissful, happy life. It's good enough if most people can lead such lives."
The little girl sunk into silence. After a few moments, she spoke with her trembling jaw.
"Mister... You mean we can ignore that one poor man as long as the other 100 people live well?"
"What I meant is to not forget their existence or purpose, that's all."
Rhode spread his arms apart.
"Many of them indeed require help, but manpower is often limited. However, this is much better than covering one's eyes and turning a blind eye to the situation. Lily, haven't you met with such similar situations whenever you headed out?"
This time, the little girl pondered in silence before lowering her head that was in complete chaos and contradiction as though what Rhode said had crushed her views on this world. She was worried, fearful, and dubious. On the other hand, Rhode wondered if he had gone overboard with his words. She was only a little girl and was still years from entering the society... But this was the only chance for him to say these words since he was only speaking to her.
"I don't believe this... Light should shine and protect everything equally. Everyone is living in bliss... But... I know... I..."
The little girl bit her lips and lifted her head as though she had made up her mind. She turned to Rhode determinedly.
"I-I don't believe your words. If you want to prove that what you said was true, then bring me there!"