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12 The Lingering Shadow

 Rhode's initial plan was to take a break in the vicinity of the Moonlight Lake before continuing their journey. But after encountering the Silver Wolf, he had to change his plan since the smell of blood from the Silver Wolf's corpse was likely to lead to more unnecessary trouble.

Rhode picked a relatively flat high ground near Moonlight Lake to set up camp before the sun went down.

After dinner, Rhode once again stood guard. Though it was straining its body, there was no other choice as he was the most familiar with Silver Moon Forest.

The fat merchant Matt volunteered to help, but when he saw how Rhode and Lize stared at his rotund body, he could already guess their answer. Thus, he could only sit by the side and grieve over his body in boredom.

Meanwhile, Lize didn't remain idle. She knelt beside Rhode, resting both her hands on his left shoulder.

Of course, Lize was not idle. Right now, she was kneeling beside Rhode, putting her hands on his left shoulder.

"Aliy-Mia." (Dragon Language: Heal)

As she chanted, streams of light emerged from her palms, which slowly and gently wrapped around Rhode's body.

In the Dragon Soul Continent, magic casters generally adopted dragon tongue to cast spells since 70% of the spells known to humans came from the dragons. As for the other 30%, they were from the angels, elves, demons, and undead.

The oldest ancestors in Dragon Soul Continent were conceived from the Five Creator Dragons, so they naturally inherited the dragon's talent in magic and longevity. To show their respect, the oldest ancestors classified the various regions in the continent as three different countries named after the dragons: The Country of Darkness (Dark Dragon), Country of Light (Light Dragon), and the Country of Law (Trial Dragon). As time passed, no matter what political system the country took, the highest position would always be the person who inherited the Dragon Soul. Angels were in second place, followed by elves, demons undead, non-humans, and the last were humans.

Of course, as the political system in every country was different, the race composition of each country wasn't the same. As a monarchy, the Country of Darkness had a relatively strict caste system; there was no place for humanity to be among the upper caste. Meanwhile, the Country of Light practiced constitutional democracy-half of the high-level members of the parliament were all humans.

Country of Law was ruled by angels, elves, and human beings equally; their numbers were quite balanced since each race occupied one third. This is because of the religious centralism system in the country; they believed in the Way of Balance. For them, equality is perfect.

Rhode was well aware of the situation on the continent. He knew what would happen next, which made him quite worried. In the game, players were just players. If they did not want to play, they could just log out by taking off their VR helmet. However, his current situation was different. He had become a part of the continent. Then what should he do when facing the inevitable disaster?

"

Mr. Rhode..."

"Mr. Rhode!?"

"What's up?"

Lize's voice roused Rhode from his deep thought. He looked up and saw the girl in front of him. After that time, Lize had finally regained her usual demeanor. Though her brows occasionally revealed a trace of anxiety, compared to the 'end of the world, going to suicide anytime' gloomy expression from before, it was much better.

"It's just that..."

Lize shook her head, carefully looking at Matt who was sitting beside the bonfire while counting something from his pocket with a pained expression as if being bitten by a snake. She lowered her voice, and said with a serious look:

"Before...during the fight with the Wind Serpent, I felt something."

"Oh?"

Hearing her, Rhode creased his brow.

"What?"

"I felt a tiny dark element aura from the Wind Serpent Lord's body"

Lize bit her lower lip.

"But the aura was very weak, unlike something that the dark monsters usually had... Mr. Rhode, the Wind Serpent should not be a dark creature, right?"

"Of course not, the Wind Serpent belongs to the wind element, and definitely has nothing to do with the dark element, but...

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure."

On hearing Lize's confident answer, he could not help but fall into deep thought. Of course, he knew what had happened in the history of the Dragon Soul Continent: the Wind Serpents would continuously attack the merchant ships, leaving them with a massive loss. When the Country of Light investigated this matter, they discovered that it was actually manipulated and instructed by the nomads from the disputed areas in the border of Southern Paphield that was under the Country of Darkness. Not too long after, the Country of Light sent their troops to attack the area and they carried out the expulsion by massacring the inhabitants. In response to this action, the Country of Darkness sent troops to attack the Country of Light's garrison and recovered the piece of land that they had claimed as their own. This event set off the spark between the two countries.

These series of events occurred during the beta period when Rhode and other players were busy familiarizing themselves with the new environment, system, and upgrades, so he did not really dig too much in-depth of what had happened. After the end of the beta period, when the game had officially launched, the war between the Country of Light and the Country of Darkness was already in motion. As for what actually happened, the players could only speculate.

There were some conspiracy theories, though. Some people thought that the Country of Light was trying to recover its territory but it turned into a tragedy, some people also thought that the Country of Darkness was deliberately provoking the Country of Light and initiated a war to expand its territory. Many people had also thought that the Country of Darkness had been eyeing the Country of Light for some time and it was their problem since they did not take care of the matter properly. Of course, the players had no position to say anything; it was just their own personal speculation to try and figure it out what had happened.

Rhode believed that some of them were right. The border of the Southern Paphield was rich in crystal mines. To any country, that was an important resource. There was no reason for the Country of Light to let go of that territory. And the Country of Darkness had a very powerful ruler in that era. In the midst of the war, even famous players were still unable to gain an advantage over him. There was even a rumor that he was not an NPC, but a player that was part of the game company.

Still, many players were disappointed with the Country of Light's parliament decisions. There were many idiotic orders that led to many complaints from the players. In the end, the Country of Light had provoked some to use the Country of Darkness as an excuse to go against the Country of Light.

Lize's hunch was quite reliable. As a creature of the light, an angel was very sensitive to dark elemental auras. Since she inherited half of its blood, her perception shouldn't be far off. This meant that the Wind Serpent attack on the merchant ship was indeed premeditated by the Country of Darkness. Were they trying to provoke the Country of Light to launch an all-out attack?

Things don't seem to be that simple.

"Lize, do not tell anyone what you just told me."

"Yes, Mr. Rhode."

Hearing Rhode's answer, she nodded. Then placed her hand on his back, carefully checking on his injury as her pale face revealed a trace of a smile.

"Your injury is almost healed. If nothing bad happens, you will be fully recovered in about five to six days."

"Thank you."

Rhode nodded his head a little, showing his gratitude, then he bowed his head to look at his own system information.

His HP gradually turned green. If he were to lie still for a few days, he would be fully recovered. But there were still a lot of things he needed to do.

What should I do first?

Rhode frowned and fell deep into thought...

Meanwhile, the location where the floating ship had crashed, two shadows could be seen slowly walking into the forest.

"Is that the ship?"

The first man asked coldly. He was donned in full white, with a beautifully streamlined armor. There was a glittering gold pattern carved above it. If Rhode was here, he would be able to recognize the symbol on it. It was the emblem of the Border Defence Force from the Country of Light.

The other man behind was wrapped in a black cloak all over his body. His appearance could not be seen. Facing the man's inquiry, he could only nod.

"They killed my messenger."

The hoarse voice echoed through the forest night, giving a very cold feeling.

"To be killed by such a group of dirty and incapable mercenaries, it seems like your pet really is incompetent."

"Isn't this also because of you?!"

The black-cloaked man's suddenly shouted.

"If you gave me higher leveled creatures such as Commander level... or a Master level lords, I will not use these low-level creatures!"

"What a joke, Commander level?"

The man snorted coldly.

"Who do you think we are? We are only responsible for providing resources. If we do everything ourselves, why should we even need you?"

Then the man paused and reduced his tone.

"How long will it take to recoup the losses?"

"At least half a month. Do you think it's easy to find a Wind Serpent that can be manipulated?"

"Ten days, we will double the reward."

Noticing that the other party was apparently dissatisfied, his face darkened. He reached his hand and took out a purse, then threw it over.

The purse fell to the ground, and a sound of gold could be heard. The black-cloaked man lowered his body, stretched out his hand, and opened the purse, then immediately closed it.

"Well, ten days. It is a deal."

"I hope you understand that this matter cannot be known by others."

"Of course I understand... Right, judging by the situation of the ship, it seems that three mice have run away. Do you want me to help to clean them up?"

"No need."

The man waved his hand.

"I have my own way."

Hearing his answer, the black-cloaked man coldly laughed.

"Well, then I'll see what you have."

A thick fog appeared and wrapped around the black-cloaked man. After that, he disappeared. Looking at this, the other man's face revealed a trace of disgust.

"That greedy undead! One day, even your bones will turn into ash!"

After snorting once more, the man turned around. With a thoughtful look, he swept around the surrounding forest. He put one of his hand on the hilt and another one on his mouth and blew a loud whistle.

Soon, a Griffin hovered down from the sky and landed on the ground. At the same time, three silhouettes from the depths of the forest quietly surfaced. The man looked at them, but soon turned his body around to mount the Griffin.

"Go look for the other three mice and kill them."

He ordered in an indifferent tone.