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510 Paphield Battle 3

 The reinforcements of the Cloud Summit Fortress arrived shortly. After a brief explanation, Nemo's group rotated roles with the reinforcements mainly because his soldiers were wounded and also he had to report to the Chief Commander about the situation. As a soldier himself, Nemo knew that soldiers and nobles usually didn't see eye to eye with each other. Therefore, instead of letting the reinforcements lead Rhode's group to the Cloud Summit Fortress, he was better off doing it himself.

Along the way, Rhode asked Nemo about the recent happenings and Nemo expressed that he felt rather helpless. Although the Cloud Summit Fortress was considered one of the defensive lines for Paphield, their defensive forces wasn't too strong, and this was due to the terrain of Paphield.

As the center connecting the North-South, Paphield's overall terrain was high in the west and low in the east like a triangular-shaped pie. The mountains in the west formed a solid barrier that connected with the Country of Darkness while the east side of the terrain was more gradual. The border on the south was a flat land with the Dawn River dividing both sides. It could be said that this border was easy to invade and hard to defend and it was also the hinterland of the kingdom. The main duties in the Fortress were searching and defending against bandits and other criminals. It was due to this and the current terrain that the Could Summit could hardly play any role for a military fortress. Therefore, most of them set up some outposts in the frontline and the fortress would regularly rotate soldiers there. Of course, although this could increase the stretch of defensive line and allow them to discover the stream of bandits quickly, the outpost was almost defenseless against a true military army.

Due to this reason, when the news of the South declaring independence spread, the entire Fortress got into a mess. They were lacking in manpower in the first place and in order to defend against the Country of Darkness and the Country of Light, Lydia couldn't possibly transfer the troops from the border to assist them. This left the Fortress Commander hopeless and in the end, he managed to gather a few of the outpost soldiers and he ordered them to send out signals as soon as they were ambushed in order for the Fortress to send reinforcements.

This was the only solution left. The borderline between Paphield and Crosia was too long unlike the Land of Atonement with towering mountain range as its natural barrier. Rhode's Fortress was established in the main path and he wasn't afraid that enemies would bypass it. But now, it wasn't difficult for the enemies to bypass the defense of the Cloud Summit. Frankly speaking, it was a somewhat troublesome matter to handle everything at once.

"Sir Rhode, I think our Commander will be thrilled to see you. He has been grumbling about the lack of manpower all day... The report that Golden City sent over seems to indicate that they can't provide any more assistance. Although the military in the Cole Plateau and Morphis are getting ready, who knows how long they will take to arrive here..."

Rhode remained silent as he rode his warhorse. It seemed that Lydia was truly ambitious. The Reformist Party knew how to perform and this Duchess was a great actress. In order to lower the mice's vigilance, the Duchess actually treated this matter like nothing and she didn't even mobilize any military troops. Just this amount of bravery itself was enough to move Rhode. If it were another ruler who knew that the Reformist Party were rebelling for independence, perhaps the ruler would dispatch his private army for safety's sake. However, no matter how secretive the military mobilization was, there would always be information leakage. The Reformist Party was as described by Lydia: mice hiding in a hole immediately after hearing a cat's meow and never resurfacing again.

And in order to lure the mice, there must be a sumptuous meal before them. One could wipe them all out after they lost their vigilance and crawled out of their hole.

There were many benefits to doing so, but it came with huge risks too.

Lydia took the gamble and she even kept all her military personnel in the dark.

But the results were great, nonetheless.

If military personnel received the news and carried out various countermeasures orderly before the Reformist Party dispatched their soldiers, the Reformist Party would surely realize that the other party had taken precautions against themselves and they would be even more cautious. But now, it appeared as though the King's Party wasn't prepared for the ambush at all. This might be the reason why the Reformist Party was bold enough to attack Paphield.

If that is really the case...

Rhode gazed at the beautiful prairie with knitted brows. Due to the unique environment here, there would be thick, cloud-like fog every morning and night and this was where the name of Cloud Summit came from.

Of course, from a player and traveler's perspective, this place was absolutely stunning. However, this damn place was disgustingly dreadful for the soldiers stationed here. Fortunately, they were more familiar with this surrounding than their enemies were.

As Rhode was guessing Lydia's true intentions, the Cloud Summit Fortress emerged before their eyes.

Rhode didn't display any reaction when he first saw the Fortress. However, the mercenaries behind him were flabbergasted. Oh, Lord. They call this a Fortress?

It wasn't the magnificent, towering Fortress that they had imagined. Instead, it was an unusually low stone building of about three meters tall and its interior was utterly outmoded. A tattered, old-fashioned wooden door awaited them like a seriously ill and downcast patient leaning against the wall. The mercenaries suspected if the door couldn't even be closed properly.

The mercenaries didn't see too many military Fortresses in their lives and they were most familiar with Rhode's Fortress in the Land of Atonement. In their impressions, a military Fortress would be similar to the Fortress in the Land of Atonement with massive towering walls, bunkers, arrow towers, and various enormous buildings. However, this Fortress... Perhaps the guild stronghold was much safer than this.

"Uh... Please don't mind, Sir." Nemo witnessed the astonished expressions of the mercenaries and he let out an awkward cough. "This place isn't highly regarded, so there usually wouldn't be too many visitors... Of course, it may also be a little unpleasant, but..."

Rhode simply nodded because he knew that the soldiers here weren't valued as much in this unloved border region.

Everyone entered the shabby Fortress with heavy feet and shortly after, Rhode's group was led to an empty field near the Fortress temporarily while Nemo went off to report the situation. The mercenaries didn't have any thoughts about this treatment since they were used to spending the night in the open. On the other hand, Lize and the Clerics set up tents nimbly and no one grumbled about anything.

Very good.

Rhode nodded in satisfaction. A team with fighting strength had to have the spirit to endure hardships and this was the priority that Rhode had Canary and Mini Bubble Gum arrange their training. Now, it seemed that the results were showing. Aside for Lize, who had begun her mercenary life since a long time ago, the other Clerics who were roped in by Rhode from the Mercenary Association had no prior experience with such living conditions. Rhode recalled when he first led these young ladies into the Silent Plateau, some of them vomited right after they exited the chariot. But now, their calm, steady selves were no different from the experienced mercenaries.

"I didn't expect that we'd be battling in such a place." An alluring and quick-witted voice sounded in Rhode's ear. He turned around and spotted Gillian approaching him with a graceful smile. Her ears twitched non-stop as her fluffy tail swayed side to side. On the way here, this Fire Elemental Lord had attracted a lot of attention. "The squalor speaks for itself and the quality of this defensive line isn't strong too... Master, are you sure we can stop the mice from here?"

"All we have to do is to do our part," Rhode twitched his brows slightly as Gillian seemed much more honest ever since Canary and Mini Bubble Gum existed in this world. However, a leopard can't change its spots and this little fox didn't dare to do anything in front of Canary. The fact that Rhode brought her here seemed to have excited her-just look at how her tail was swaying so happily.

"That doesn't sound like something that you would say. Master, I think you should have understood what Little Lydia is planning, right?" Gillian winked at Rhode and revealed a strange smile. "If you perform too well, perhaps Little Lydia will be disappointed, oh. And you will lose the chance of crawling into her bed."

"What do you mean by crawling into her bed? That sounds awful." Rhode's expression sunk slightly.

"Ah, sorry, Master. I should say that the chance of Little Lydia crawling into your bed instead." Gillian stuck her tongue out cheekily.

"Yes, that's more like it." Rhode nodded in satisfaction after hearing Gillian's seriousness in changing her words. Even though Rhode had many loyal subordinates in this world, there were not many who he could hold a conversation with casually. Canary, Mini Bubble Gum, and Gillian were the only ones who dared to joke with Rhode without dividing their superiority. On this continent, one's concept of social class was definite and one would speak according to one's social class. Even a cheerful soul like Joey dared to joke harmlessly with Rhode, but he would never dare to make a joke out of Lydia.

Rhode wasn't disrespectful towards Lydia, but he always felt that the generation gap between these aborigines was due to this reason. As a player, he preferred the kind of unfettered, fearless momentum that belonged to the players. Although they might respect or adore an aborigine, they wouldn't worship her as a god and they wouldn't worry about offending the other party.

This was why he could gossip jokingly about Lydia with Gillian and Canary or discuss how much he hated the Parliament and the silly, cowardly Light Dragon Soul. However, aborigines, including Marlene, would express their resentment tactfully and wouldn't express their hatred bluntly.

Of course, jokes were only jokes.

"M-Mr. Rhode," Lize hesitated as Rhode was having a conversation with Gillian. However, she continued to approach him, nonetheless. "Erm... I heard you were asking for me?"

"That's right, Lize." Rhode turned around and spotted her uncomfortable expression. He pondered for a while before replying. "Inform Joey and Randolf to get ready. Even though we may not be required to take action, we won't just sit by idly. Also, since Marlene isn't around, you shall take over her adjutant rule. When I'm not around, you shall give orders. Understood?"

"Okay, Mr. Rhode... Huh?!" Lize nodded subconsciously before she widened her eyes in disbelief. "M-Mr. Rhode, you want me to be your adjutant?"

"That's right; are there any issues?"

"B-But, I..." Lize stuttered and an unprecedented fear grew in her heart as she gazed at the giggling Gillian. Lize was very clear of what the duties of an adjutant entailed. However, she had never thought that she could do it. She wasn't Marlene and she wasn't as capable as her. The thought of her giving a wrong command due to her bad judgment that would lead to the deaths of many sent chills down her spine. Furthermore, this overwhelming pressure had almost let her breathless.

"Mr. Rhode, I-I can't do it... I think Miss Gillian will be a much more suitable choice. I..."

"Sorry, Little Lize, I'm busy enough warming up Master's bed and I don't have time to take over other tasks oh~"

"The weather is warm enough, so I don't need anyone there to disturb my sleep," Rhode glared at Gillian before turning towards Lize. "I have decided and I won't change my mind. Gillian has her own duties and you can discuss your options with her if you can't make up your mind."

Rhode cut off Lize's explanations and he could see pressure, fear, and worries in the young lady's eyes. However, he had to do this because ever since Marlene had left, Rhode had been trying to find the right person to take over her role. He thought that Lize had the potential as she had always been extra meticulous about her tasks and her exquisite display of Cleric skills proved that she wasn't a careless person.

Besides, she had the most seniority amongst the mercenaries and seniority meant everything. She didn't need to worry about the mercenaries disobeying her orders. Moreover, a Cleric would always be a staunch support to the mercenaries. Of course, even though Lize seemed to be lacking proper judgment in general situations, Rhode wished that she could act as an adjutant and fill up Marlene's spot. Lize's only flaw now was her lack in self-confidence.

But this wasn't an excuse for her shrink away.

"That settles it." Rhode gestured forcefully and Lize could only close her gaping mouth and nod in silence before returning to her tent.

"Is this fine, Master? Little Lize seems a little sad."

"She has to grow up and not continue to live under the shadow of a large tree," Rhode said softly with knitted brows."Besides, this isn't good for her in the long run."

On the other side, Nemo had completed his reporting in the shabby room. He stood before the table and gazed at the Fortress Commander, who had fiery-red long hair and an unbuttoned commander's uniform draped over his shoulders negligently. His face was full of slovenly beard stubble and he leaned against the chair with his legs resting on the table.

"Hmm... You're saying that these people have the strength of a peak Elite? And the Lion Legion was so battered that they couldn't even retaliate?"

"Yes, Sir. Besides, they have used some odd tactics... And I never imagined Clerics to be this useful for battles..."

"That sounds interesting. I can't imagine those harmless young ladies killing their enemies on the battlefield. Did they use their tiny fists? Haha, what a funny joke."

"..." Nemo shrugged his shoulders hopelessly because he knew that this Commander had such a personality. The Commander got out of his seat and tidied his rumpled clothes with both hands.

"Alright, thanks for the report, Nemo. I shall go and greet our respectful guests now." The Commander paused for a moment before revealing a ruminating smile. "By the way, is that Rhode... really beautiful?"