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288 An Unpleasant Journey

 The chariot was smooth sailing on the flat road. Rhode lifted his head and gazed out of the window. The warm, orange rays from the sunset seeped through the dense forest, bringing an indolent and cozy sensation. Christie sat beside him, let off a gentle hum, and continued her sweet dreams after adjusting her position slightly.

"We're almost there, Mr. Rhode," Marlene said.

Although the journey from Deep Stone City to Golden City wasn't too arduous, it wasn't too comfortable too either as Golden City wasn't in the path of the strong gales, which was why Rhode couldn't board the floating boats. He could only board the chariot and go through deep hill roads before reaching Silver Town. From there, he would board a ship through Emerald River and if everything went well, it would take around five days for him to reach Golden City.

Although such long distance trips were already a norm to Rhode and the rest, this experience wasn't any different from hell for those who were physically less fit like Lapis and Christie. It was especially so for Christie as she couldn't endure the harsh journey. Due to this reason, Rhode had specially spent a large amount of money to hire two grand, comfortable six-wheeled chariots, which were stable and had much space within. They could hold up to eight passengers with soft sofas for travellers to forget about their fatigue and could allow the passengers to lean back and take short naps. These chariots were most commonly used by nobles whenever they needed to go on a trip. The chariots that Rhode had boarded were given to him by the Keller Family's Chief and also the city owner, Klautz. Not only were the chariots brand new, but the logos were also imprinted with Starlight's emblem. Even though Starlight might not be comparable with the guilds, they had to uphold their honor as a representative of Paphield.

Rhode had actually decided not to bring Christie along as he knew that this journey wouldn't be as casual as most people thought. Many members of Starlight felt that this journey was only for an ordinary festival and they would just be there as the crowd. However, Rhode knew that it wasn't that simple as they might meet unforeseen obstacles and troubles.

But in the end, Rhode decided to bring her along because it was also a good opportunity for Christie. The winner could get one of his wishes granted by Lydia, and this was a good chance to cure Christie's conditions. Initially, Rhode thought that he would be able to gain Lydia's attention by performing outstandingly at the Midsummer Festival. From there on, he would work on getting Lydia's grace and request such wishes.

But since Lydia had directly laid out such alluring conditions, Rhode would surely take it.

This was why he kept Christie at his side and this time, he personally found two chariots for the purpose of letting Christie have a good rest in order to prevent any situations before they even reached Golden City.

Now it seemed that perhaps due to the peaceful journey or the long separation from Rhode, Christie was obedient and cheerful. However, this long journey had indeed fatigued her as she stopped drawing three hours ago and instantly fell into deep sleep while leaning on him.

"We're almost there."

Rhode looked out of the window and nodded. Marlene extended her hand and knocked lightly on the window. Soon enough, the sprinting chariot gradually slowed down and they searched for a suitable camping venue.

In the end, the chariot stopped at a piece of empty land beside the forest. After sitting for a whole day in the chariot, Anne quickly jumped off the vehicle and cleaned up the camping venue and set up tents. On the other chariot, Randolf, Joey, and the rest alighted and assisted Anne with the chores. They parked the chariots at opposite ends with the camp in the middle and the horses tied to the tree trunks. Marlene chanted and formed a gorge around the camp to prevent any attacks from wild beasts or other dangers. Anne, on the other hand, leaped around within the forests and vented her pent up energy while looking for prey for dinner. Lize wasn't lazing around either as she searched for firewood to start a bonfire.

On the outside, this wasn't any different from an ordinary journey.

But Rhode knew that this was the only time for them to remain carefree.

Once they stepped into Golden City, it would mean the start of their battles.

Suddenly, Gillian emerged beside Rhode.

"What's your intention, Master?"

"Intention?"

Rhode twitched his brows. Gillian let out a chuckle and glanced at everyone who was busy preparing the site. She put her finger by her lips.

"Of course, I'm referring to the intention that they don't know. Master, what do you think of their chances in the Midsummer Festival?"

"I am 100% confident." Rhode replied without even the slightest pause.

"Winning is everything. In order to attain that goal, I will not let loose... Why? Could it be that you can't wait any longer?"

"Slightly."

Gillian cheerily jumped off the chariot, stretched her hands, and spun around lithely.

"Although I'm sure Master isn't such a person, it seems like you never changed. But, it's fine since I'm most familiar with you, Master... So then, is there anything you need my help for?"

"I don't need your help this time around."

Rhode gave her a shocking answer. She stared at Rhode dubiously before sneakily turning around to gaze at everyone who was busy sweeping and setting up tents. The young lady knitted her brows.

"So... Master, you are intending to do that? Is that why you made Old Walker bring his men over to Golden City first?"

"That's right."

Rhode's eyes glinted with smiles. Although there weren't any changes in his expression, it was as though a hungry pack of wolves lurked in his eyes.

"We can never fight the four guilds up front. Especially considering Lydia's announcement, as they would never let this chance go. But that's alright because they won't be too mindful of small fries like us, which presents an opportunity. However, an opportunity won't be enough, so we have to create our own victory... Since we can't defeat them up front, we can only do it another way."

"Is there anything I can help with, Master?"

Gillian guessed his thoughts on this matter. At this moment, her eyes glinted while her tail wagged anxiously.

"Of course, by then..."

Suddenly, a burst of footsteps sounded from nearby, which forced Rhode and Gillian to exchange a look of suspicion.

What happened?

Lapis scuttled over in panic.

"L-Leader! Trouble! Trouble! Sister Lize is about to battle someone!"

"What?"

Rhode frowned and lifted his hand to get Lapis to calm down. At this moment, Christie, who was in Rhode's arms, woke up and opened her eyes. She shook off her daze and puzzledly looked at Lapis, totally unaware of the situation. Rhode gently caressed her hair and after the little girl calmed down, he asked.

"What happened exactly?"

"I-It's like this... Just as we were tidying the site, suddenly there were a bunch of guards... They insisted of having our campsite and turned aggressive. They refused to hear Sister Lize's words and even tried to chase us away. Sister Marlene is also heading there now..."

Bam!

Before Lapis finished her sentence, an explosion erupted and dark smoke billowed.