Falcon Peak was located in a corner of the Eastern Plains. It used to be peaceful, but everything had changed.
When Rhode's group arrived at the bottom of the Falcon Peak, the picturesque scenery that they saw elsewhere was nowhere to be found as all of it was replaced with the burning flames, clashes, smoke, and bones. One could clearly see that the buildings on the Falcon Peak had all turned into charred ruins. The Undead Creatures turned this place around entirely and was building a new base of operations. Sovann sulked and lowered his gaze to the ground, unable to witness the cruel reality of the Undead Creatures trampling on his home.
On the contrary, Rhode wasn't as emotional as Sovann. The former scanned the Falcon Peak with knitted brows. He had to admit that this was indeed rather challenging to take down. The Battle Mage Group's base of operations was located on a relatively flat hillside on the Falcon Peak, where it was easy to defend and hard to take down. Perhaps ordinary soldiers couldn't successfully take it down without a couple of weeks, but they weren't like the Undead Creatures, after all... The Falcon Peak served as a rear channel to the inner Eastern Plains, which explained why the road was much flatter and more convenient for transportation. Perhaps this was the only advantage that the alliance of the Eastern Plains had.
However, Rhode had no intention of joining the fight. That wasn't his plan for coming to this place.
He looked ahead at the relatively huge army camp with densely packed tents laid out neatly below the hill. There were all kinds of flags fluttering in the wind. Rhode shrugged. In fact, this was also a symbol of the Eastern Plains.
The Eastern Plains was unique in many aspects, unlike the outside world. The organizational structure was one such aspect. Normally, apart from the local bullies like bandits in various regions, most of the organizations showed up in branches in the Light Mainland, just like the official organizations of the Mercenary Association, Mage Association, and Alchemist Association. However, the organizational composition in the Eastern Plains was entirely different. Apart from the largest ruling organization, namely the Elder Regime in the Eastern Plains, the remaining smaller forces were basically independent and distributed like the Battle Mage Group where they occupied a mountain peak. Even though the Elder Regime held the rights on paper, the Battle Mage Group was basically the ones who made the decisions and served as the core to their own group.
All in all, the various forces in the Eastern Plains resembled the factions in martial arts novels where they each ran their own base of operations. One would never see the Shaolins build their temples on the Ermei Mountain or flirt with the nuns... This was all due to the terrain of this territory. The Eastern Plains was basically steep mountain ranges filled with dangerous paths. Although floating boats also existed to overcome such purposes, not everyone could afford them. Therefore, due to the terrain restrictions, no faction could strengthen their forces even if they wanted to as there wasn't enough manpower to climb over the mountain ridges. Moreover, the Eastern Plains was under the constant threat of the Undead Creatures. Everyone was busy enough dealing with them, so no one had the effort to start an internal strife.
With such a background, it wasn't hard to understand why so many forces responded to the Elder Regime's offer because they lacked the time and energy to expand their territories. Right now, since the Elder Regime announced that whoever could drive the Undead Creatures out of the Falcon Peak would gain the rights to it, they wouldn't waste this rare chance. It could also be seen from the patterns and colors of the flags. Most of the forces that had arrived were equally as strong as the Battle Mage Group. Of course, some of the smaller forces were also present. However, no one but themselves knew if they were here to curry favor with the stronger forces.
When Rhode's group arrived at the camp, the alliance's attack on the Falcon Peak had also come to an end. There were injured soldiers being lifted down and the camp was filled with sounds of painful groans. Lize couldn't bear the sight while Sovann gazed with a complicated expression. Even though these people were here to eradicate the Undead Creatures and seek revenge for the Battle Mage Group, Sovann felt perplexed at the thought of them claiming the Falcon Peak in mind...
Shortly after, a group of soldiers came up to Rhode's group and greeted them politely.
One of the men bowed respectfully. Gaya remained unmoved as she hugged the harp in her arms and knitted her brows slightly.
"You guys started attacking?"
The man revealed an uncomfortable look, but summoned up courage and answered. Even though Gaya didn't say much, everyone around her instantly felt the temperature of the air drastically drop...
"Who gave the command?"
"It's me, Gaya."
At this moment, a high-spirited man clad in lightweight leather armor and equipped with two swords around his waist approached. He appeared to be around 30 years old. In fact, he was beaming in confidence as he strode forward in large strides and waved his hand. The subordinate who was scared witless by Gaya quickly retreated. Although Gaya's expression didn't change, Rhode saw the glint of disdain in her eyes.
"If I recall correctly, the elders have handed the commanding rights for this battle to me, right?"
"Of course I know about that, Gaya."
The man smiled, but it seemed as though he ertr consoling a disobedient younger sister.
"But I'm the battlefront commander and need to probe the enemies' strength from time to time. After all, the Undead Creatures are behaving strangely up there. We have to be prepared for them as quickly as possible, Gaya. I don't know how you're doing out there, but this is the Eastern Plains and we have our own solutions."
"... Is this your only excuse?"
Even though no one else noticed, Rhode had detected the dense murderous intention exuding from Gaya. He had no doubt that this idiot would be in huge trouble if he continued to spout nonsense. Rhode took a step forward and stood before Christie. No matter what, Christie shouldn't witness a bloody scene.
The man looked curiously at Rhode while Gaya swept a glance at the latter. Gaya's dark pupils glinted in complex emotions when she witnessed Rhode hiding Christie behind him. However, she remained calm and introduced.
"He is the overlord of Grenbell, Mr. Rhode."
The man appeared to be surprised. He widened his eyes in astonishment. Then, he restored his passionate smile and bowed respectfully to Rhode.
"Greetings, Sir Overlord. My name is Don. I didn't expect to meet you here, so I'm rather surprised. The Holy Maiden Statues that you've given us worked so perfectly that I've never seen the Undead Creatures so miserable..."
This man named Don didn't possess the conservativeness that the people of the Eastern Plains had. Instead, he was somewhat passionate and good with his words. Not only did he compliment Rhode, but he also flattered Lize, Anne, and the others after learning their names and said something like "You young ladies are beauties, lovely as fully-bloomed flowers. I have never seen any women who are as devastatingly beautiful as all of you in the Eastern Plains..."
Lize felt rather shy while Anne joyously accepted his compliments. After beating about the bush, Don finally got into the main subject.
"... May I know what matters you have on hand to come all the way to the Eastern Plains?"
"It's for some private matters, that's all."
Rhode gave a perfunctory response, to which Don's passionate smile stiffened for a few moments. Then, he nodded.
"I see. Alright then, please let me know if you need any help. We will do our best as long as we can be of help to you."
Don shifted his gaze to Gaya.
"Gaya, we're about to start a meeting for the upcoming battle. Many have joined the alliance while you were away. I think there are some adjustments to be made."
"I got it."
Gaya nodded slightly and looked at Rhode.
"Alright then, Mr. Rhode. Please follow Bryan to my residence for now. I will handle your problems after I'm done."
Gaya turned around and left the place. Thereafter, Rhode's group followed Bryan to a small manor located in the uphill corner of the camp. This camp was originally a town by the foot of the hill. After escorting Rhode's group into the manor, Bryan took his leave and got a maid to receive them instead. Even though this wasn't too polite of him, it was a great opportunity for Rhode to clear the doubts in his head.
"About Madam Gaya?"
Sovann gazed in astonishment. Rhode nodded slightly and put away the cup of tea in his hand.
"That's right, I feel that Miss Gaya isn't... really popular in the Eastern Plains. What's going on? I guess you must have heard of something regarding this."
Rhode had already felt rather strange when they first met Don. Logically speaking, even though Gaya wasn't an overlord of a territory, she should almost be on equal footing with the 12 elders of the Elder Regime with her identity and strength. On the other hand, Don was merely in the Peak Master Stage, so what gave him the rights to behave this rudely? It also wasn't right to say that they were childhood friends because the murderous intent from Gaya was obvious. However, why wasn't the man afraid?
Not only that, but Rhode also discovered that Gaya's situation in the Eastern Plains seemed to be in a rough spot and this was apparent from the state of this manor. Logically speaking, she should be viewed as a core figure within the camp as the commander, unlike now where she was only called upon for a meeting and living in this remote place. They wouldn't be able to find her in times of emergency, wouldn't they...?
Gaya had always been a mysterious figure and was a target to the players' research. Now that Rhode had the chance to uncover some truth, he wouldn't let this chance slip. He believed that Sovann would have additional information about her that the players couldn't discover.
"... I've indeed heard some rumors."
Sovann revealed a difficult expression. Just as Rhode expected, Sovann did know something about Gaya, which wasn't convenient for them to talk about in public. But now, since it was Rhode who asked, he didn't have any reason to hide the truth.
"Miss Gaya is smart and has an innate talent. She was the heir of one of the 12 elders when she was a little girl. She possessed skills of her father's potential and musical talent in playing the harp from her mother. Back then, everyone believed that Miss Gaya would join the prestigious Elder Regime in future and become one of the leaders..."
"She was the heir?"
Rhode emphasized while Sovann nodded firmly.
"Yes... Something happened in her family thereafter. I'm not too sure about the specific situation, but according to the rumors it seems that their family was too powerful and reputable, so they came up with thoughts of leaving the Munn Kingdom..."
This piqued Rhode's curiosity. The Eastern Plains was a mysterious place for the players and there were so many rumors that they couldn't possibly hear them all. But even so, Rhode knew that the Eastern Plains had always been a King's Party's supporter. However, he didn't expect them to have the intention of breaking away from the Munn Kingdom.
"This... is just a rumor that I've heard because many people were spreading this back then. However, most of them didn't think that it was possible until later on when there was news about her family attempting to assassinate Her Royal Highness Lydia. Everyone was stunned and... Of course they failed and were basically put to an end. Rumor has it that Gaya wasn't even 6 years old when that happened. She survived as Her Royal Highness Lydia brought her out of the Eastern Plains. In the end, the Elder Regime re-elected the candidates to replace the family, which is why no one talked about this matter since it isn't something honorable."
Rhode finally understood the situation. He knew that the people of the Eastern Plains had always been proud of their loyalty to the Munn Kingdom. Now that there was a traitor amongst them who had tried to assassinate the duchess, this was a great hit to their pride. Gaya was the only survivor and heir of that family, so she naturally suffered the sins for her elders. Besides, she was taken away by Lydia from a very young age, so this perhaps made her the same as himself-outsiders.
Rhode let out a sigh. He didn't have much to comment about Gaya's plight. Moreover, based on his understanding about her, he knew that she didn't need any sympathy.
It was already dusk when the meeting ended and Gaya brought a piece of news after returning to the manor.
"Tomorrow morning, we shall be launching an all-out attack on the Falcon Peak. If you have any personal matters to attend to, feel free to do so."