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507 Battle Briefing

 "I have gathered all of you here to announce something important."

Rhode stood on his feet. Lydia had returned to Golden City after completing her 'mission' while MP Danny and his subordinates left with the unconscious Mist Sword Saint like stray dogs. That clown from the Parliament had no more value to Rhode and now wasn't the time for him to focus on such boring matters.

Everyone gazed at Rhode with stern expressions after sensing his serious tone. Marlene squinted and focused on Rhode with full attention because, as the heir of the Senia Family, she understood all that was happening clearly. Lize sat beside her and she appeared anxious and nervous. Even though she wasn't aware of what had happened, she could still recall Lydia's words from yesterday. Moreover, this was the first time Rhode gathered every member of the guild in one place and the young lady felt that things weren't looking too good.

Anne rocked her chair back and forth as though she wasn't concerned about what Rhode's announcement would be. All she knew was that as long as she followed Rhode's instructions, she wouldn't get into trouble.

Perhaps Lapis had been working in the workshop for too long; she seemed as though she hadn't been involved with the affairs of the outside life. Her eyes swirled blankly like she was lost in thoughts...

Compared to the young ladies, Joey, Randolf, Shauna, and Marfa were looking much more solemn. However, it wasn't because they joined the guild much later and their identities, positions, and strength couldn't be compared to the others. Instead, they were mercenaries who emphasized discipline. Of course, Old Walker shaking his liquor flask beside them and staring at Rhode with dissatisfaction was another matter.

Canary, Mini Bubble Gum, and Gillian had entered the mode of watching a show. They sat on the other side leisurely and didn't seem to be concerned about anything. Or perhaps, they already knew what was going to happen next.

They were Rhode's confidants.

Rhode twitched his brows as he faced all the different expressions and thoughts that manifested on their faces. "Perhaps you may have heard, or perhaps you aren't aware. But I'm just going to say this once more. Last night, the fleets belonging to the subordinates of the Reformist Party had launched an ambush on the Brenhill Fortress and occupied it. And this morning, they sent a letter in the name of the 'Southern Federation Parliament' and declared publicly that they are breaking away from the Munn Kingdom and forming an independent country."

"..." The entire room was strangely quiet. Everyone thought that this was just an opening speech and Rhode would be getting into the important details soon. But Rhode shut his mouth after the last sentence and the entire room fell into an awkward silence.

After a few moments, Lize stood up from her chair frantically and she accidentally shifted the chair with her legs. Screech! This ear-piercing screech shook everyone back to their senses as though they were pricked by a needle to their buttocks. "What?! The Southerners are breaking away to be independent?"

"Sir Rhode! Is this true? You must be joking! This is a serious matter!"

"Oh my goodness. What are the Southerners thinking! Royal Highness Lydia will definitely oppose their shameless suggestion!"

"T-This is... simply...!"

This sudden news stunned everyone apart from those who knew that this would happen and those who were mentally prepared. Even though the mercenaries did face dangerous battles in their daily lives, those were, after all, battles, and not a war. Moreover, they couldn't accept that this broke out in their own country. War and internal conflicts were something that existed in heroic legends to them and they weren't mentally prepared for this at all.

Rhode didn't stop their clamor. Instead, he used this opportunity to observe his men. Marlene had no expression, but that didn't mean that she didn't have any thoughts about it. She was the heir of the Senia Family and regardless of the results of this internal war, it would affect the future of the Senia Family by a large extent. It was impossible for her to not be concerned about it.

Lize appeared pale and very much astonished. Even though she had been saying that she had nothing to do with the King's Party, Rhode knew that some matters couldn't be counted on her words. This matter implicated the authority of Lydia and the King's Party, so naturally, she would be even more worried than others.

As for young men like Randolf and Joey, they couldn't accept this truth at all. Not only them, but even the usually collected Marfa and Old Walker knitted their brows as though it were the end of the world. As for Lapis, she seemed to not have an idea about what was going on.

It was apparent that the different attitudes of his men represented the various attitudes within the Munn Kingdom. Marlene represented the nobles and she was mentally prepared for it. Lize represented the King's Party members and she was undoubtedly worried about the King's Party and the wellbeing of the nation. As for Joey, Randolf, and even an ordinary mercenary like Old Walker, they didn't seem to be thinking a lot. Instead, they were feeling uncertain about their future. Even though the mercenaries led a tough life, most of the environments that they lived in were calm and tranquil. But now, this serene and peaceful land was on the verge of devastation. Unlike Marlene, they couldn't involve themselves with the benefits of noble families. Not to mention, they couldn't see the problem from a country's perspective like Lize. The trivial and ordinary matters were what they were worried about.

On the other hand, a stay-at-home girl like Lapis would only be concerned about these matters when she was struck in the head.

"Alright, cut it out," Rhode gestured and stopped their conversations. "Everything is the truth. Royal Highness Lydia is rushing back to Golden City to handle the aftermath and there is indeed something that we can help with. Before Royal Highness Lydia left, she commanded in the name of the King's Party for me to provide assistance and I have given my answer. This means that Starlight shall step on the battlefield and fight for the King's Party. As the representative guild of Paphield, our first mission is to head into the Cloud Summit and get ready for the next possible attack. All of you shall become my henchmen and fight alongside me."

Henchmen.

Many of their eyes sparkled as soon as they heard this word.

Mercenary didn't need to lead an adventurous life. In fact, what they needed the most was something more practical. What did one need in one's life if it wasn't money, fame, and women? Was it world peace? Or freedom and equality?

To most mercenaries, it could never get better than becoming the henchmen of some nobles. When they chose to join Rhode's mercenary group, most of them did it as an early stage investment. And now, their investments had paid off.

They were aware that Rhode was conferred a feudal title from the King's Party and had become a Baron. Even though mercenaries couldn't differentiate between Baron, Earl, and Marquis, there was something that they were absolutely sure about. These people were definitely figures that were high and mighty and they could only look up to them. And now, since Rhode had become a Baron, didn't they also become the henchmen of a noble?

The mercenaries were incomparably excited, but they didn't know that the Baron rank that Rhode was conferred actually had a historic significance-he was the first ever mercenary conferred a Baron rank in the history of the Munn Kingdom.

After all, even though mercenaries could contribute a lot, they were rarely honored. Besides, the proud and arrogant nobles couldn't accept the vulgar, insolent mercenaries to be on equal footing as them. This was also why even though the Cole Falcon and Purple Lily had served the King's Party for years, none of them had been conferred a feudal rank.

Apart from Rhode's favorable qualities, his contributions to the nation were outstanding. Moreover, with Marlene and Lize by his side, he had gained a lot of political support. Due to this reason, the nobles didn't have any objections to Lydia conferring the Baron rank to Rhode. After all, in the eyes of the nobles, Rhode must have a mysterious, yet massive family backing and since that was the case, it wasn't humiliating for them to invite Rhode into their nobility circle.

But to Rhode, the realistic effects of this identity were far greater than the meaning it represented.

Everyone knew that guilds were limited in the number of mercenaries in order to prevent them from causing harm to the law and order of the society. But now, Rhode wasn't only a guild leader. He was also a Baron. As a noble, he had the rights to own his very own private soldiers.

Even though Rhode held the lowest noble rank, he could still recruit up to 2000 private soldiers according to rules. However, there would be a conflict in this arrangement since the Mercenary Association had ruled that a guild shouldn't contain more than 500 members. Now, Rhode could recruit up to 2000 private soldiers with his noble identity. In other words, he could recruit up to 2500 of them...

Of course, Rhode was aware that he couldn't find 2500 of them instantly.

The frantic mercenaries calmed down gradually as their eyes flickered in excitement. That's right. Since they were the henchmen of a noble, they could enjoy military treatment. In the future, if they met any troubles on the battlefield or if they couldn't battle anymore due to injuries, they could receive a generous compensation to lead fortunate lives in their hometown. They wouldn't be in dire straits like their companions who starved to death on the streets.

Furthermore, this was a direct order from Royal Highness Lydia. Wasn't their bright future just before their eyes If they could accomplish her request?

Rhode nodded as he observed their thirst and excitement for their future. Mercenaries were a bunch of practical humans and they wouldn't take on a dangerous task which was not proportional to the remuneration.

"Next, we are going to discuss the main point." Rhode didn't allow them to continue feeling excited because, after all, time was limited. "This war will not end so quickly, so we have to prepare ourselves for this prolonged war. According to Royal Highness Lydia's data, those idiots weren't satisfied with just taking down the Brenhill Fortress and they are now heading towards Paphield. But fortunately, we have enough time to head into the Cloud Summit. Joey, Randolf, Marfa, I want you guys to pick 50 mercenaries for each of your teams. Remember, their strength must reach my requirements and they must be loyal. Understand?"

"Yes, Sir," Marfa gazed at Joey and Randolf before nodding. "I promise that we will fight for Paphield until the very last moment!"

"Good." Rhode nodded in satisfaction. But these wasn't all that he had planned. He turned his attention to another crucial member. "... Marlene, are there any problems?"

Rhode raised this question because this war had obviously dragged the Senia Family into it.

"Yes, Rhode." As expected, Marlene stood up and nodded. "My Father has given me an order... I'm sorry, I think I will need to return to the Senia Family to get prepared for the upcoming battle."

"... Is that so..." Rhode was slightly disappointed. Honestly, he hoped that Marlene could stay by his side as she had been his adjutant for a long time and he had gotten used to letting her handle his matters with a peace of mind. He trusted Marlene and Marlene had never disappointed him. Not to mention, as a Middle Circle Mage, Marlene had outstanding abilities. The upcoming battle would proceed much smoother if Rhode could have her assistance. But now... He had no other choice but to let her go.

"Alright, I wish you good luck, Marlene." Rhode nodded and shifted his attention back to the masses. At this moment, Lize asked with knitted brows. "Mr. Rhode, why do you think that this battle will not end so quickly? Do you think that Big Sister... Royal Highness Lydia has no solutions to exterminate the traitors?" Even though Lize asked softly, the noises in the room muted abruptly.

"Indeed, I have this doubt too, kid," Old Walker wiped the liquor off his lips. "Everyone knows that the various cities in the Munn Kingdom are guarded by the Battle Angel Army. Aren't the bunch of Southerners afraid of the Angels severing their heads?"

"Royal Highness Lydia will never dispatch the Battle Angel Army unless necessary and I think that she will not step into the battlefield herself either."

"Why?" Joey couldn't help but yell. "Boss, I don't get what you mean. The Southerners have declared to leave the country so why isn't Royal Highness willing to do something? With Royal Highness's abilities, it shouldn't be difficult for her to get rid of the rebel army, right?"

"Indeed, this isn't difficult for Royal Highness Lydia at all." Rhode gazed at Joey. "She can lead her Battle Angel Army and capture those idiots once and for all. This way, the rebel army will crumble without entirely without their commanders. But if she really does that, she will possibly face decades of unceasing war from the South."

"W-Why?" Lize asked and this time, Marlene gave her the answer.

"Because all of you have forgotten that soldiers aren't the only ones who can start a war and every war will need support and replenishment from the backlines. The Southern civilians think that the soldiers were fighting for their freedom. The soldiers are their heroes who are rescuing them from tyranny. If Royal Highness Lydia eliminates these 'heroes' entirely, the position of the Munn Kingdom in the hearts of the Southern civilians will definitely fall. They might even resist the King's Party's will and this might possibly pass on to future generations."

"So, if Little Lydia is smart enough, she will definitely not take decisive actions in this complex situation." Gillian joined in the conversation and she pointed her finger at the masses cheekily. "That bunch of idiot Southerners is still immersed in the romanticism of rebellion. But this is war and they have belittled it. They haven't experienced what a war will bring them and humans will not remember pain unless they are whipped. When the duration of the war extends slowly, when they can't receive victory, and when their originally peaceful life is filled with war, death, and chaos, these people will learn to reflect and regret. Little Lydia is waiting for this chance. She doesn't only wish to simply defeat the South. She wishes to completely uproot the foundation of the Southern unrest. Only after experiencing the cruelty and horror of war, those idiots will learn to not put a war on a romantic and glamorous stage so easily in the future."

"That's right." Rhode nodded in agreement before turning towards Joey and Randolf. These things were overly complicated for them. "But we don't need to worry about something that is years from now. We should first focus on guarding the defense lines and ignore the situation of the South. At the very least, we don't wish to see Paphield sinking into a similar chaos as the South. But... That doesn't mean that we can't give them some trouble."

Rhode gazed at Old Walker. The senior mercenary didn't have the mood to enjoy his liquor anymore as he muttered with knitted brows. "What's wrong, kid? You need my help on something?"

"Your men should be trustworthy, right?"

"Of course. I can assure you in my own name... Why?"

"So then, I have a very important task that needs your help."

"What is it?"

"It's very simple." Rhode revealed a delightful smile before beckoning the senior mercenary forward and whispering into his ear. "I only have one request and that is to make your men praise and support the Southern Reformist Party in public as much as possible. At the same time, object violently to those who doubt the Southern Reformist Party. Of course, they must be careful not to expose their identities."

"That's no problem for sure. But..." Old Walker gazed at Rhode with doubts. "What exactly are you planning, kid?" The smile on Rhode didn't change at all. However, there was an ice-cold glint reflecting in his eyes.

"It's nothing. I just hope to speed up the pace of their perishment, that's all."