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351 Capricious

 Just as Rhode expected, merely within three hours after the end of the midsummer festival individual tournament, various rumors with similar content spread across the entire Golden City. Most of the people criticized Starlight mercenary group as shameless and despicable for defeating Rosen using the vile 'time-dragging' tactic and even showed no mercy in killing him afterward. It was a humiliation for the midsummer festival and Sacred Arena to have such a ruthless winner; it could even be considered the most shameless victory in the midsummer festival history!

Some radical members even called for a joint alliance to present a petition to Royal Highness Lydia in hope to remove the qualifications of Starlight. Many of them grudgingly denounced Starlight's bold actions, screaming for the Mercenary Association and Lydia to step out to uphold a fair and justified battle environment. If a mercenary group like Starlight managed to win the championship with such a despicable method, it would eventually set a bad example for other mercenary groups in the future!

Shortly after the event, Starlight became a 'rat' with Rhode being regarded as what others referred to as a sinner. Only after pinning him to the Hall of Shame would it bring satisfaction to everyone.

But amidst the intense storm of criticisms, some new viewpoints quietly arose.

Unlike those who condemned Rhode and his Starlight group, the 'new viewpoints' were from people who took a neutral stand. They believed Rhode and Starlight didn't commit any serious crimes and were gravely misunderstood.

Their rationale went like this, "You said they dragged the time in order to defeat Rosen, but you also have to think from another perspective. After Rosen was defeated, Starlight only had Rhode left, right?"

"Rosen faced four opponents, and so did Rhode. The participants of Liberty Wings Guild were much tougher than Starlight members. Other than Rhode, the rest weren't even at the Advanced Stage. Since Starlight could maintain their advantage and defeat Rosen, why couldn't Liberty Wings do the same?"

"Isn't it perfectly normal not to show mercy to your enemies? Since both sides had accepted a life and death challenge, naturally they had to try their best. It is one matter if the opponent can't bear to kill, but it's also another matter if you can't escape, right? Also, wouldn't it be better if they didn't agree with the life and death challenge?"

In the beginning, this new logical approach didn't garner much attention, but in time, it gradually spread like wildfire. This was as expected as only ten of thousands of people witnessed the afternoon tournament which didn't even count to one-fifth of the total population of Golden City.

The people who weren't able to watch the match could only learn what happened through hearsay. Rhode's performance was very much controversial - to the extent that the moment the audience exited the arena, they began cursing and swearing. And for the people who didn't manage to catch the match firsthand, they initially thought that these arguments were all incomparably accurate.

However, the audience tones were overly aggressive and mostly exaggerated. After all, Rhode had previously fought Barter on the Sacred Arena face-to-face, so everyone thought since this man had the guts to fight Barter, he shouldn't be despicable and shameless enough to do such a thing to Liberty Wings. Therefore, many began to grow doubtful of the stories from the audience.

It was at this moment when the emergence of the neutral 'new viewpoints' spontaneously erupted, immediately claiming many agreeable sentiments for Starlight. Most importantly, these discussions weren't as aggressive as the initial rants from the audience. Instead, they seemed to calmly explain to the 'obscure masses who didn't know the truth.' Of course, this entire process made no progress towards the agitated audience. However, they won the masses with their calmness, reasonable explanations, and less hatred.

On one hand, they presented themselves like innocent, bashful children and on the other hand, there were a steady and reasonable bunch of adults. Furthermore, the entire process didn't differ much from those explained by the audience, so it naturally became more convincing and acceptable.

A portion of the angry audience began to calm down after hearing the explanation. However, there was still a dismissive handful who had wholly regarded Starlight as Dark Brotherhood rats, on which only hating on them was the proper way, and it was a sin if one defends them!

These bunch of staunch haters began to deplore those who believed the new rumor, thinking they were misled by their imaginations and in turn, retaliated by spreading statements such as, "You guys didn't watch the tournament so how will you know how shameless those people were?"

This time, the majority of the people who didn't watch the final matchup were upset by this claim. Humans were considered to be a contradictory lifeform. No matter what, there will always be an existing contradiction within them. Many of them flaunted themselves as calm, detached and rational individuals. This way, they could maintain a level higher than the others. So how should they express this side of them? Of course, they had to refute with public opinions! Since ancient times, this method was universal no matter which world in the vast multiverse.

Therefore, the people no longer remained silent after facing the insults. They stood against the other party's passionate opinions, stating they were too extreme in their methods. Right. Even though one didn't watch the match, it was evident that both sides didn't do anything wrong. Just like what was previously mentioned, the conditions for both parties were equal. Rhode sacrificed four of his men to defeat Rosen, and he equally faced four opponents by himself to secure the win. Since that was the case, why shouldn't he receive the recognition that he deserved?

In response to this, many retorted that Rhode was someone with legendary strength, so why couldn't such a powerful person fight Rosen fairly instead of resorting to such trivial schemes?

However, some refuted by questioning whether the rumor of Rhode's legendary strength was true. Nevertheless, even if it was true, the other members of Starlight didn't have similar strength. Thus, it didn't seem to be a problem if Rhode resorted to this choice, right? What if he fought Rosen face-to-face and was defeated? Wouldn't Starlight lose because of this? As a leader, one should always maintain his composure and Rhode did nothing wrong! As the summoned creatures? The rules had never banned the summoning of creatures and therefore why are you people still being sore over it?

These people thought that Rhode's decisions were reasonable. Moreover, Starlight didn't break any rules, and his choices as the leader led his relatively weak mercenary group to a decisive victory. Rather than a disgrace, this unprecedented outcome could've been said to have unveiled a new page in the tournament's glorious history because it broke the illusion of powerful guilds being undefeatable by anything below them!

This explanation caused those against Starlight to clench their teeth in fury as they continuously denounced that these people couldn't differentiate right from wrong and were irrational to trust the words of others even without witnessing the tournament with their own eyes.

This dull rebuttal was akin to beating the dead horse, and it was no surprise that it resulted in further unhappiness among the masses. Was it our fault that we can't enter the arena due to its full capacity? Again, your explanations are similar to theirs, and they are even more reasonable than you, so why must we listen to you?

Eventually, the string of events led to another new viewpoint which appeared out of nowhere: "What an honorable way to end the tournament. How could the winner be under such abusive accusations?"

The answer was simple because most of the people within the audience were supporters of Liberty Wings!

This new viewpoint ignited like a bushfire in summer, and the masses were immediately in an uproar.

As mentioned previously, the guilds represent the benefits and reputations of the various regions. There had been conflicts due to certain reasons within these regions. Thus, those who supported the guilds were mainly people from that respective region, and Liberty Wings was situated in a somewhat prosperous area in the Southern Port, second only to Golden City.

Because of their standing, they've always treated civilians of other regions as beggars and country bumpkins, so they weren't well-liked anywhere else. As the saying goes, the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Starlight helped them wipe out this bunch of arrogant Southern scum, and many were delighted. From their perspective, those who criticized and insulted Starlight were the sore losers.

It was no surprise why these people were exasperated. They heard that Royal Highness Lydia was there to observe the tournament personally and if things had grown ugly, would that beautiful woman who adored beautiful things not care at all?

These people couldn't tolerate it any longer as they felt that they were the conscience of this country which represented fairness and justice. Yet, their rightful accusations had been treated as a sore loser's harassment?

How can we permit this?

What do this bunch of uneducated Northern poor bastards even know!!

"This is getting bad..."

"It's starting... The chaos is starting..."

Standing by the edge on the second floor, Old Walker gazed over the railing at the chaotic pub with a cup of wine in his hand. Many patrons were exchanging insults and even began throwing punches. Frankly, Old Walker had never expected such a scene.

He thought Starlight was done and dusted. After experiencing the storm in the arena, Old Walker began to worry about Starlight's future. Even though he understood Rhode's plans, but deep in his heart, he couldn't help but feel dubious. Could a few words really change the people's perspective on Starlight? Could his men of utterly inadequate measures be able to spread the words and create the effects that Rhode wanted?

Now, he was absolutely convinced.

The crowd who had insulted Starlight had been divided. Many even threw their fists in the air, screaming Starlight's name for support while struggling against those who were anti-Starlight. They seemed more loyal than the craziest supporters. Some even announced that they would start supporting Starlight in getting rid of those Southerners!

As Starlight continuously defeated the Southern representative guilds, Sky Sword Guild and Liberty Wings Guild, many Northerners had accepted Starlight as their companions. Not to mention that Starlight even showed respect in their fight with the Purple Lily Guild.

Since that was the case, they didn't care if Starlight was shameless and despicable. As long as Starlight could get rid of those pretentious and arrogant bastards of the South, then it doesn't matter if they were more shameless!

Such happenings didn't only occur in the pub that Old Walker was in. According to his intel, there were similar uproars in other areas, and what surprised him even further was that the people who went against Starlight had become the minority! Furthermore, various Northern nobles and influential mercenary group leaders announced their support for Starlight and labeled those that avoided supporting them as heresy!!

Various rumors mingled and grew so twisted that it made people unable to differentiate this from that.

However, even so, many had the tacit understanding of not mentioning Waltz's transformation and the actions taken by the battle angels. Anyone could tell that Waltz's transformation was definitely something odd and after the troop of battle angels surrounded the Liberty Wings Guild, no one wanted in on the matter. If anyone revealed any pitiful thoughts towards Liberty Wings, they would probably have a hard time in future - which was why they focused their energy towards insulting Starlight's schemes.

However, no matter how Old Walker thought about it, he couldn't understand - How did Rhode manage to think of all these consequences?