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478 Misled IV

 Earthquake?

Rhode held onto the handrail as the ground shook his feet. The crowd below were unperturbed, as they were powerful presences that had entered the Legendary Stage. Meanwhile, the guards beside him remained calm and didn't seem to react to the earthquake.

"Do earthquakes occur often here?" Rhode asked one of the guards. He couldn't recall that Soraka Mountain was prone to earthquakes. However, the guards seemed to be used to such a magnitude of an earthquake, which was somewhat strange. The guard turned around and responded respectfully. "It isn't the case, Sir. The earthquakes have only begun quite recently. Their durations were usually short and with low magnitudes, so everyone has gotten used to it."

"Oh? Since when did the earthquakes start to happen occasionally?"

"About two to three months back... Come to think of it, it has been quite a while."

If such earthquakes occurred in other regions, perhaps it would be deemed a strange phenomenon. However, it was the opposite for the residents here. After all, they were living in a territory with a Chaos Forcefield that was ever present. Therefore, the residents had gotten used to seeing rain today and snow the next day and earthquakes weren't worth their worries.

Earthquake...

A vague, unusual feeling suddenly came to Rhode's mind. However, before he was able to figure it out, bells sounded out of the blue and the Chairman led the group of parliament members out of the room.

It was apparent that they displayed expressions of unity and unswerving determination. Rhode didn't know what convinced them, but, the 'Mastermind' of the four senior men in red robes was gazing at the Chairman hopelessly. It seemed that the Chairman's difficulties had been resolved entirely after twists and turns.

But even so, Rhode wasn't assured and he decided to speak to the Chairman after this meeting was over to see if he could fish out some crucial information. After all, this matter involved the life and death of his own territory and once the Country of Light and Country of Darkness began their war, his territory had to bear the brunt of the Undead Army. Although he had Canary and Mini Bubble Gum by his side, he hoped that the war could be delayed. It would be the perfect scenario if he could induce the Country of Darkness to attack the Country of Light fully without implicating him. But this possibility seemed terribly tough. The next precaution was to ensure that his territory would take on the least powerful first wave of attack from the Undead Army. Rhode was clear that the Country of Darkness adopted the tactic of attacking from all sides. They made full use of the conflicts and competitions between the rich, powerful noble families and attacked the Country of Light, which caught them off guard. The Country of Light misunderstood that those conflicts would only develop into local conflicts and didn't expect it to backfire on them. After the attack, the scheming Country of Darkness gathered their strength immediately and gave up on parts they couldn't devour at once. Then, they turned their attention to the parts they had occupied and penetrated even deeper. Afterward, with the sleepless powers unique to the Undead, they marched at their fastest pace to encircle and devour their enemies' panicking souls.

This tactic was truly effective. At that point in time, the Country of Light was causing trouble for Lydia. Meanwhile, Lydia, who was occupied with dealing with those maggots in the Munn Kingdom, wasn't able to withstand the aggression from her enemies. However, as one of the strongest and strangest rulers in the country since ancient times, Lydia reacted swiftly to the raid where she resisted the assail of the Undead Army instantly. On the contrary, the Country of Light Parliament had been a great hindrance to Lydia. As a result, they weren't aware that their own territory had been devoured by others - By the time they were notified that their frontlines had almost fallen into the enemy's hands, only the Munn Kingdom was left alone to struggle.

As a result, not only did those bastards disregarded the Munn Kingdom as a fort that had defended against the Undead Army, but they were also furious that Lydia's overly-tough resistance had caused the invasion of their territory by the Undead. They blamed Lydia's inability to respond appropriately and claimed that she had enraged the Country of Darkness which triggered the Country of Darkness to launch an all-out war with the Country of Light. Not only that, they had even tried to conduct a military trial and list her as the main culprit of this war.

What in the world was that logic?

Rhode recalled the moment after his group raided the Country of Light's Parliament and he couldn't find the mood to feel angry after reading these record files.

Afterwards, the Country of Light signed an agreement with the Country of Darkness to secretly assist them in annexing the Munn Kingdom. In exchange, the Country of Darkness would return all the territories that they had occupied in the Country of Light and they would sign an armistice treaty. Shortly after, the Munn Kingdom collapsed entirely under the Country of Light Parliament's backstab and the Country of Darkness, who annexed the Munn Kingdom's territory. Then, they launched an all-out attack on the Country of Light after the short ceasefire. Technically speaking, the Country of Darkness didn't violate the contract because they did ceasefire-tthey merely started another war afterward.

As for why the Country of Light's Parliament came up with such an agreement, the players had an explanation that they were blinded by their interests. Some players said that there were traitors in the Country of Light's Parliament that were planted by the Country of Darkness and brainwashed the majority. Moreover, other players also mentioned that this was just a story flaw by the game designer. Although there were all sorts of guesses, no one knew the true answer apart from the Country of Light's Parliament themselves.

Rhode wasn't confident in the strength of the Country of Light for the upcoming war. Therefore, he knew that he could only rely on himself and even though his mercenaries had improved tremendously through training, they were still far from ready. Although the mercenaries were powerful enough to deal with ordinary troops, they would have a hard time facing the Undead Army. However, their growth was on the right path and ever since the building of this mercenary group, Rhode had consciously chosen missions that were related to the Undead and Demons in order to prep them for this war. Canary and Mini Bubble Gum had also been assigning them tasks that dealt with imaginary Undead Creatures as their primary targets and Rhode would have manpower enough to deal with an Undead Army in time.

In time. That was the most important.

"We have made a decision, everyone," the Chairman's voice filled the entire hall. Rhode felt the floor beneath his feet trembling, as though shaken by the Chairman's loud, resonant voice.

"Soraka Mountain has decided to reject this proposal. We will continue to live independently and comply with the existing contract! Nothing will change!"

Zieg's heart pounded fiercely as he glared at the elderly man on the stage like a furious viper. Although he did expect the possibility of this result, he felt hopeful when the other parliament members stood against the Chairman's decision. He anticipated that the elderly man would step out of the room with a gray expression and announce his overthrown decision. However, Zieg heard the exact opposite answer. Zieg felt as though his body had been paralyzed as he leaned against his seat. He still had to report his failure to his family. But...

"..." The trembling of the ground became stronger.

This was the first time the Chairman revealed a bewildered expression. The violent shaking had long surpassed the standards of 'slight tremors' and Rhode felt that the floor that he was stepping on was as though a plank floating and swaying on the ocean. Of course, this wasn't enough to cause panic for Rhode. However, the guards began to scramble and hugged the columns beside them to maintain their balance. Moreover, some of them had even tried to escape the building. As the ground shook, web-like cracks emerged on the smooth, carvings on the relief sculptures on the wall. In a blink of an eye, Mithril Hall had as if became a tiny boat in a surging storm.

The Chairman could no longer stay calm. Soon, his devoted subordinates ran over and supported him as they retreated. At this moment, the various representatives had stood up and decided to leave. Even though they were in the Legendary Stage, they didn't need to be buried alive to prove how formidable they were.

"-!" Suddenly, the tremor on the ground got stronger. Then, a massive, pitch-black hole tore apart the smooth, solid floor. In a blink of an eye, black flames erupted from within and it surged upwards violently which formed firewalls that blocked everyone's escape.

"What's this?" Corina stared in disbelief. As an Elf, she realized that the earthquake this time wasn't ordinary. Also, as the closest race to nature and a powerful being in the Legendary Stage, Corina had a strange sensation since the start of this earthquake. In spite of the scorching black flames, there was no heat at all. Instead, the flames were filled with a malicious chilliness that left her shuddering as she retreated.

"Hmph." Apart from Corina, even the Vampire who was always smiling frowned. As an Undead that had devoted his soul to darkness, Di had also sensed the hidden ice-coldness in the flames. This was also strange for an Undead Creature in the Legendary Stage.

"Everyone be careful. There's something strange about the flames!" An elderly man clad in a silver robe lifted his staff. He stared at the flames before him and took two steps back as he chanted softly. Soon, a defensive barrier appeared and shrouded him entirely. Then, the elderly man raised his arms and began chanting another spell immediately...

"Be careful!" Someone yelled with a sharp voice as the surging flames launched towards the elderly man as if a demonic mouth. No, this description wasn't too accurate because as the flames struck the elderly man, the silverish defensive barrier above him deflected it and formed a translucent ball that protected him entirely. But this was only temporary.

Kacha. The elderly man's defensive barrier shattered and the pitch-black flames ignited frantically as though the barrier was a ball of gasoline. He shrieked painfully as the flames devoured every inch of his body which frightened the spectators. They exchanged looks and retreated farther away from the flames. After all, this elderly man in the silver robe was a well-known figure and a formidable Mage. Everyone expected him to cast a powerful defense spell and yet, it was broken just like that?

What exactly is that?

A black figure leaped down from above and pounced into the flames. Then, a gale erupted from within the flames and Rhode rolled out from the flames with the elderly man. The Elderly Mage was extremely pale but strangely enough, his silver robe had no signs of burning. However, his painful expression was as though he had just been tortured in the depths of hell.

Damn it.

Rhode gritted his teeth and scanned the surroundings. He couldn't care less even if his identity was exposed. "Everyone, be careful. This is the Chaos Flame!"

"!" Almost everyone present shrieked in horror while Di's expression sunk. He stuck close to the wall and moved along to draw a distance away from the black flames carefully without maintaining his usual elegant demeanor. Meanwhile, Corina, as though she had lost the nimbleness as an Elf, shifted her body carefully like she was facing a viper. Even the carefree Dwarf who disregarded the flames had placed his huge ax before him as a shield.

Chaos Flame.

Although it could be said that no one had seen it before, it was impossible that no one hadn't heard of its presence. The Chaos Flame was the pinnacle of the Chaos Forcefield and was the natural enemy of all 'Order' and 'Rules'. The Chaos Flame devoured 'Order' as its fuel to destroy this world. All the 'Order' and 'Rules' were food for them and this was why everyone was this cautious. They were in the Legendary Stage and possessed their own elementalization. However, this also meant that they had become a part of the 'Rules'.

These powerful beings in the Legendary Stage were perfected fuels that had been purified for the Chaos Flame.

Damn it!

The earthquake continued to wreak havoc and the crevice became larger and larger. Everyone acted cautiously after witnessing the guards that tried to escape devoured by the flames mercilessly. However, this wasn't the worst imaginable scenario for Rhode. His heart sank to the bottom of his heart as he finally realized what exactly was sealed underneath Soraka Mountain.

It was the everlasting presence that lived alongside chaos and destroyed everything.

The Devil of Devils.

The enemy of all Order.

An aberration that came from only the bottomless abyss.

The Duke Fiend.