Rhode stipulated that he would bring 5000 soldiers to the Winter Castle, but where could he find that many of them?
Not only Marlene, but other members such as Marfa, Joey, Randolf, and Sol also had this doubt as team leaders of this fortress. However, all four of them held vastly different duties. Marfa was responsible for frontal attacks and maintaining order in the fortress. Joey led the Thieves and was mainly in charge of investigation and observation. Randolf's team of Rangers was responsible for scouting and defensive duties outside the fortress. As for Sol, his subordinates of half-demons were mostly in an elite squad who followed Rhode closely and only helped Marfa maintain order in needed times.
In the previous battle with the Undead Army, they suffered huge losses. Fortunately, Randolf and Sol did much better because Rangers mainly used far-range attacks while half-demons were typically stronger than humans. Marfa's mercenaries suffered the most and he lost one-third of his men, which became a huge problem.
Even though it was only right to recruit soldiers to make up for the numbers, their recruitment methods were widely different. Marfa had the simplest method because mercenaries who were experienced in close-combat were the most common, which was why he could easily transfer more mercenaries from Starlight or train up newly recruited mercenaries. On the other hand, Joey and Randolf needed to be more picky because they required the Rangers and Thieves to be experienced. After all, their duties weren't training Rangers and Thieves. Sol's half-demons were the hardest to replenish because just as the name suggested, half-demons had difficulties fighting alongside humans. However, this wasn't due to discrimination. Instead, it was because the half-demons held many unique abilities such as immunity against flames. What could humans do apart from staring blankly after the half-demons leaped over the flames in battle?
It was due to this reason that Sol knew the number of half-demons he could recruit was limited. Rhode had suggested Sol to not focus his attention only on the half-demons because beings like the half-beasts and half-elves weren't treated well in the Country of Light. Due to the racial discrimination policy in the Country of Light, the treatment that they received in the Country of Light wasn't great. Rhode suggested that if it was possible, Sol could recruit them from the Country of Light. After all, the range would be too narrow if he were to search for half-demons only while humans couldn't keep up the pace with them. Even though half-beasts and half-elves lacked certain abilities of the half-demons, they held unique strength, after all, and could make up for the half-demons' shortcomings, which wasn't a bad choice.
But even if this was the case, they didn't replenish too many forces successfully. A few days had gone and the number of soldiers gathered, including the mercenaries transferred from Starlight, was still less than 2000. Rhode said that he would bring 5000 soldiers, so where could he possibly find them?
Marfa asked Rhode about it despite his ice-cold expression. Marfa had spent a long time with him and realized that his expressionless face was only a habit and he wasn't a man of little words. This was why his men weren't terrified of Rhode and they recommended Marfa to ask Rhode if the latter would be bringing them to the Winter Castle. If yes, they would surely need more soldiers...
However, Rhode's answer surprised everyone. He stated that this time, he wouldn't be leading his usual elite squad to the Winter Castle because they had suffered gravely and were still regrouping. Moreover, the fortress needed forces to stabilize any situation. This was why he wouldn't lead Marfa and his team and not even John. There were only three confirmed members who he would bring-Orchid Heart, Anne, and Gillian. Rhode intended to bring Orchid Heart to gather some EXP. Besides, her abilities as the Spellcaster Scholar might turn out handy against the Undead Creatures. As for Anne, it was just out of his habit. After all, he knew that even if he didn't bring her along, she would sneakily follow him. As for Gillian, she slowly recovered her strength as Rhode's abilities rose, and she had also reached the Legendary Stage like him. When Rhode reached the maximum level of 85, Gillian would also restore her strength as the fire elemental lord, so there weren't any issues bringing her along.
As for the others, Rhode made them stay in the fortress. He needed Marlene and the others to maintain order in the fortress, at the same time negotiate the transactions with the other regional representatives about the Holy Maiden Statues.
Days passed and Marlene and Lize didn't receive any news from Rhode at all. The Light Parliament had guessed right that the fortress in the Land of Atonement lacked manpower. Of course, there were more than 5000 residents in the Land of Atonement, but Rhode couldn't possibly bring a bunch of kids and elderly women into battle.
Rhode remained silent to their doubts. The only preparation that he had done was to make Marlene prepare two Floating Boats. The rear of the Winter Castle was yet another border junction between the Munn Kingdom and Country of Light, where Limestone City resided. According to Lydia's orders, Limestone City would dispatch 2000 soldiers to join Rhode and his team before heading into the Winter Castle. Of course, along the way, Rhode could negotiate the transaction of the Holy Maiden Statues with Limestone City's owner.
However, the most important soldiers were nowhere to be found.
Everyone had different views as to where Rhode had gotten the 5000 soldiers especially after he told Marlene that he wouldn't mobilize the forces from the Land of Atonement. Some believed that he might be waiting for the arrival of the Battle Angel Army because Lydia had once dispatched the Battle Angel Army to support the Land of Atonement. Some thought that he might mobilize some garrisons from Paphield and the Deep Stone City. But this wasn't practical because 5000 was a huge number and there were considerations of replenishments and reinforcements. This wasn't a strategy game where one swiped one's mouse around before heading into battle. Previously, Bayer brought 2000 troops to support the Land of Atonement and already needed two months of preparations.
An army marched on its stomach and this was the top priority. However, apart from informing Marlene to get the two Floating Boats ready, Rhode had been spending time with Christie all day-he didn't have the time to accompany her due to his busy schedule and now that he was finally free, he spent them having tea and chit-chats with her.
Finally, the time to move out had arrived.
"Rhode, what exactly do you intend to do?"
Marlene knitted her brows as she stood on the platform of the empty Floating Boat. Gillian let out a chuckle beside her and seemed as though she was enjoying the show. On the other hand, Anne wasn't concerned about this problem at all. She hopped around the platform curiously and nothing was important to her as long as she was with Rhode. As for Orchid Heart, she stood beside Rhode sleepily and no one knew what was going on in her head.
Not only Marlene, but Lize and the others also gazed curiously at the empty platform of the Floating Boats.
"I have my ways."
Rhode caressed Christie's hair and shrugged to Marlene. Then, he shifted his gaze to behind Marlene and said.
"All ready, Agatha?"
"Yes, Master, everything is ready."
Agatha emerged from behind the crowd and this time, she wasn't alone. Shortly after, a sea of about 500 Ocean Elves emerged from behind her and came up to Rhode. However, unlike in the past, the Ocean Elves appeared different now. The shape of human limbs could be seen from their soft tentacle limbs. Even though the tentacles on their hair and skirt didn't change, the structure of arms and legs were apparent on their bodies, which made them look as though they were Elves wearing clothes weaved from tentacles. In the previous battle with the Undead Army, the Ocean Elves had gained much EXP and as battle units, they naturally held the rights to level up and were above level 30 now.
Marlene gazed at Agatha in astonishment.
"Rhode, could it be that you intend to..."
Rhode nodded. He narrowed his eyes and gazed at the city wall beside him-five enormous torches burned in scarlet flames above the roof of the towers.
Then, the system interface emerged before his eyes.
[Activate Fantasy Channel-Fiery Plains]