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358 Death and Reborn

 Only one day was left before the midsummer festival closing ceremony.

Heated discussions regarding the match between Starlight and Liberty Wings were still drifting among the people. But due to Rhode's strategic misguidance, Starlight was no longer the center of attraction. Now, the conflict converged on the Northern and Southern Regions, but under the watchful eyes of Lydia, it didn't go out of hand unlike before.

The Southern Reformist Party suffered a crushing defeat; Sky Sword and Liberty Wings were practically doomed.

Rosen was murdered, battle angels imprisoned Liberty Wings, vile rumors spread about Liberty Wings working with demons. Because of these factors, the Southern Reformist Party chose to keep silent. They didn't want their enemies to have another reason to blackmail them.

"I didn't expect things to turn out this way."

Old Walker who had accomplished his mission, returned to the stronghold. He stood by the window and admired Golden City's beautiful cityscape. Old Walker's heart was filled with contentment; he had never thought that his secret manipulations would successfully cause the mercenaries, civilians, and upper-class nobles to go crazy in pubs. Frankly, Old Walker felt overwhelmed. He even thought that Rhode went slightly overboard with his plan. Still, he didn't believe that a few words could flip the situation around and cause such chaos.

Oh Holy Soul, has this world gone bonkers?

Old Walker couldn't understand at all. But now he had a chance to get an answer.

"It's simple, old man."

Rhode shifted his attention towards a door nearby and listened to the rowdy noises outside. His expression was calm, but his gaze revealed a rare concern.

"There's a saying in my hometown. The ass decides the head."

"The ass decides the head? What does that mean?"

Old Walker pricked his ears in doubt as he looked back over his shoulder. He couldn't find any link between his ass and brain.

"It means that your standpoint decides your view," Rhode spread his arm apart and explained.

"It is simple logic. No matter what, Liberty Wings is still the herald of the Southern Reformist Party and Rosen was no different. He was the hero in the hearts of all Southerners but was an all-out thug in the eyes of the Northerners. So, even if these Southerners were to pressure me for using such methods on an old man, the Northerners wouldn't mind at all. After all, in their eyes, Rosen is a villain and as long as I kill him, they will appreciate it - You should've been aware of this, Mr. Walker. The Northern King's Party and Southern Reformist Party are as incompatible as fire and water, so it will be impossible for the King's Party to sing praises for the Reformist Party."

"However, it's different now because Starlight is only a mercenary group, and since we defeated Liberty Wings, we've established our stand against the Reformist Party. As the saying goes, the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Even though the King's Party upper echelons may be praising us for the sake of their own benefit, it will still trigger the reformist party's disgust. Long story short, as long as there's an excuse for them to get rid of this embarrassing situation, they will not mind the truth."

"Sometimes... I just can't figure out how you nobles think," Old Walker gave a long sigh and shook his head. "You people can complicate such a simple matter to such an extent. But kid, have you considered that those Southern lads would be displeased with us?"

"So what?" Rhode sneered, his expression turning cold. "Even if we do not resort to such schemes, we will still be a thorn in their eyes. And let's say we lost the match, not only the King's Party would be displeased, the Reformist Party would join in and move against us as well. Besides, the Reformist Party is our enemy; there's no disadvantage for us if we let them tear each other apart. Anyway, we still managed to get a good impression on the King's Party and the Northern citizens... isn't that good enough?"

"I'm too old for this... Just do whatever you want, kid." Old Walker once again sighed and turned around. "By the way, how's that little brat Anne doing? I heard her condition isn't looking good."

Ah, no wonder he was worried. Since he was the one who introduced Anne to Starlight, he had some attachment to her.

Old Walker had been busy following Rhode's orders and he only returned a while ago. Naturally, he found out about Anne's situation shortly after but there was nothing he could do.

"All we can do now is to wait."

Rhode said as he shifted his gaze towards the nearby door.

Right now, the guest room was in a complete mess.

Fragments of what used to be tables and chairs were strewn across the room; even the bed had been shattered to bits. Anne's limbs were spread out on the floor, widely convulsing like a wild beast uncertain of its fate. Her throat let out a deep growl as her fists cracked the ground under the pressure. Luckily, the room was as solid as steel as it was built for the guards to live in. If it were an ordinary room, perhaps it would've been long torn apart.

"... Can't... lose... Anne can't... lose... argh..."

Anne clenched her teeth. She endured the intense pain and anguish within her body. This time, the pain was many times worse than what she had ever experienced before. She felt like her body was nearly going to explode as her body convulsed uncontrollably. Each time a wave of blood coursed through her bulged blood vessels, a deep pain incited every nerve in her body. Even so, Anne gritted her teeth as she knew this was her last chance.

If this fails, Anne would be dead - no doubt about that. On the surface, Anne might've appeared to be nonchalant regarding the high possibility of death, but it wasn't as though she wanted to die.

Anne wasn't aware of Rhode's backup plan. If this attempt failed, Rhode could still request Royal Highness Lydia to help treat Anne's condition. While Lydia wasn't part of the five Creator Dragons, being an Archangel, she should have the ability to cure Anne's condition partially. That way, at least Anne wouldn't be left handicapped.

"Awuuuu...!!"

A severe pain caused Anne to wince and cry. Then, her pupils dilated abruptly and emitted a bright green light.

It's that feeling again...

Just like that nightmare; there was a horrifying, shapeless monster chasing her, which at the same time, slowly gain control of her body. All she could do was to run as fast as she could even though it was futile. It felt like a tug of war; she had to wrench away the control of the monster while escaping its encroaching grasp.

"...!!"

Anne's consciousness gradually fogged. She hit the ground with her fists as the image before her began to distort and the strength within her body began to leak.

Did it fail?

Did Anne fail again?

Why did it fail?

In her blurred consciousness, she lifted her head towards the sky. She tried her best to maintain her sentience but every second caused immeasurable agony. She felt as though she had reached her limit and could feel her strength gradually depleting away. Like her consciousness, the bloodline flowing within her also grew fainter yet more erratic, causing Anne to feel like she was going to burst.

"... Sorry... leader... Anne... still lost..."

The girl lay on the floor, motionless. The focus in her eyes gradually disappeared. And with the last breath she had, she managed to whisper a few last words that were too soft to be heard.

Suddenly, Anne heard a low and deep growl within her.

She knew that it didn't belong to her, yet it felt so familiar and intimate...

It was as though it was calling her to embrace it wholeheartedly. She had never heard this voice before, but she somehow knew who it belonged to.

"... Mother...?"

Her green pupils shrunk in an instant.

Then, a green beam of light erupted from her body, tearing through the roof and towards the heavens.