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534 Guests from Afar

 Fiat was a mining town, but on a much smaller scale than Deep Stone City. They focused on business and processing industries while lacking the interest in basic industries. The South relied on importing raw materials from the North before processing them for sales and profit. Due to this, they felt that they were a step higher than the northern hard laborers. They earn merely a few gold coins from hacking down forests manually while we can sell them for up to a thousand gold coins after we process them into luxurious furniture and decorations... How will the muscle-headed barbarians in the North even understand this?

There were multiple layers of conflicts between the North and the South. Not only due to the disagreements between the rulers and the gap between the rich and the poor, but such superior mentality also occupied the majority. The South relied on its own transportation network, and they weren't afraid of complaints from the North because no matter how hard the North complained, they would still obediently make a living like slaves through manual labor. Without the South, perhaps the North couldn't even fill their rice bowls.

Under such a superior mentality, the Southerners were less concerned about the basic industries and the manual laborers were often looked down upon. In such a huge Southern region, only Grosso and Fiat supported basic industries, whereas the remaining regions mostly strived in the trade, commerce, and processing. As the ores and foodstuff in the Grosso and Fiat regions weren't advantageous in price as compared to their Northern neighbors, their influence was insignificant. However, now that the South had lost their resources and the Grosso region utterly destroyed, their last hope would be Fiat.

The Southern Parliament was tied up with a ridiculous amount of work at the moment. The small mine in Fiat could produce a concerning, limited number of ores annually while the foodstuff crisis over at the Grosso region forced them under immense pressure. Although they had opened up the granaries and more or less appeased the restless civilians, they knew that this was only temporary and they would be in for a rough ride if they couldn't search for a stable food source promptly.

Due to these reasons, they lacked the time to focus on the small town situated in the lofty mountain range.

The mining town was extremely quiet when Rhode entered in his chariot.

Perhaps because of its distant connection with other places or because it was far away from Grosso, the storm that Rhode had stirred up didn't seem to affect this place at all.

Rhode withdrew his gaze from the window and looked at Celestina opposite him, who was scanning himself from head to toe. The Demon young lady revealed a mocking smile and Rhode knew exactly what was going on in her head.

Anyone who had spent enough time with Rhode would know that he despised being treated as a woman. But this time, he actually dressed up in a female costume of his own accord and this was obviously an excellent pretext for a gossip. This was the reason Rhode had rather left without bringing Anne and the others along since his summoned spirits wouldn't let the cat out of the bag. If the others were around... Rhode would be better off dead.

Celia sat quietly at the side, gazing fixedly on the moving scenery, as though she had no opinions on Rhode's dress. Celestina would turn to him with a teasing and mocking gaze every once in a while as though this was her sweet revenge since Rhode had made her his maid. However, Rhode's reactions disappointed her hugely because he didn't appear embarrassed or ashamed at all. Not only did he turn a blind eye to Celestina's gazes, but he also displayed an elegant, gentle smile, like a well-brought-up young woman.

Shameless!

Celestina ground her teeth aggrievedly before letting out a discontented 'hmph' and looking out of the window. But this didn't mean that she had given up. She would surely ridicule him harshly when a chance presented itself.

Rhode said nothing after Celestina admitted defeat. Even though he hated to be treated as a woman due to his feminine features and this current situation should have been a torture for him, he let it all go after putting on the dress as it felt like putting on a play, where one would feel bashful and unable to perform standing before the whole crowd. However, this reaction was normal. By letting himself go, he didn't need to worry and be concerned about outsiders' opinions. Now, for the sake of victory, Rhode couldn't care less about such embarrassment. Since he was in on it, he might as well do it with alacrity. What's the use of hating it? I might as well treat it as I have opened a transsexual account in the game. I don't see any psychological issues associated with the players who have done this.

The chariot slowed down gradually and Rhode saw themselves approaching the entrance to the Trade Associations, which was also Rhode's target.

The mining resources were dominated by the Howard Family and Edward Family. Both families started out by mining and each held half the mining resources. Of course, this was what was made known to the public, but there were still some differences in their respective resources.

The Howard Family controlled the crystal ores, while the Edward Family controlled silver ores and iron ores. Fiat had an abundance of ores and it could fulfill the requirements of both parties. However, they were obviously dissatisfied with being just that and they had been digging into each other's resources in order to monopolize the entire Fiat region.

Of course, it was the same in the political standpoint. The Howard Family leaned toward the King's Party and their crystal ores were mainly sold to the North for production of magical technologies and weapons. On the other hand, the Edward Family supported the Reformist Party and had always treated the Howard Family as a traitor and enemy. The conflicts between them had never been settled.

Rhode did ample research on this place before his arrival. The two families were evenly matched in forces at the moment. During the Midsummer Festival, the Edward Family suffered grave losses for supporting the Liberty Wings Guild and Rosen, while the Howard Family seized the opportunity and took the upper hand. The Howard Family could have taken over the entirety of Fiat and resolve the major troubles hidden within, but, as every dog had its day, the Reformist Party declared independence when the Howard Family was sharpening their swords to strike. The Howard Family who had lost the support of the King's Party withered abruptly and the Edward Family that was on the verge of crumbling grabbed the chance to revive themselves. The current situation seemed to be developing well for the Edward Family and no matter what, the Howard Family couldn't save the situation without the King's Party's support.

This downfall wasn't as simple as Rhode had heard of. He spotted the entrance to the Howard Trade Association. It was completely deserted and seemed about to close down for good. The crystal ores were materials for manufacturing magical weapons and technologies and the majority of them were sold directly to the King's Party. Now that the transportation routes had been blocked off, the Howard Family had no other ways to deliver their bread and butter. Moreover, their bad reputation in the South resulted in no one willing to engage in business transactions with them.

Rhode wasn't here to provide help. Firstly, he had better things to do and secondly, wouldn't he be finding trouble since they were at the heart of the struggle? Rhode disguised himself mainly to dodge his terrible reputation and why would he be that foolish to reveal himself?

His target for this operation was located at an entirely different place.

The chariot stopped in front of the Edward Trade Association.

Celia got off the chariot first, opening the door for Rhode on the other side. Rhode lifted his skirt and stepped out elegantly while Celestina curled her lips and followed him unwillingly.

The three of them stood out like sore thumbs and attracted many curious eyeballs. The busy crowd halted their feet and cast their curious gazes. Soon, a well-dressed man who seemed like a manager welcomed them. "Welcome to Edward Trade Association. Is there anything that I can help you with?"

"Hi there, Mister," Rhode smiled and nodded politely. Rhode's voice was no longer the deep, manly voice. Instead, his gentle voice sounded just like when he spoke to Christie, but with more femininity. Celia and Celestina exchanged strange looks with each other. They weren't aware that Rhode had this 'unique skill'. Rhode displayed a charming smile and took out a kraft paper stamped with an emblem and red ink paste as the seal.

"I'm Miranda Seren from the Country of Light. I represent the Seren Trade Association, with hopes to discuss the purchasing of your ores..."

"Oh?" The man revealed a delighted expression. He took over the kraft paper respectfully and scanned through the contents. Then, he tucked the kraft paper into his pocket and turned to his side, laying his arm out in a welcoming gesture. "Please come in, Miss Seren. I will notify our Chairman and I believe that he will be interested in this discussion."

The trio followed the man's lead into a luxuriously decorated lounge. The man instructed the servants to take care of the respectful guests and he excused himself to inform the Chairman excitedly. Rhode knew that this man had gone to check on his identity. After all, a Trade Association must be wary of bandits and swindlers no less. Even though money was mere worldly possessions, it was the most important thing for merchants. Their IQ wouldn't simply dip to zero just because they met three beautiful young ladies.

Rhode wasn't worried that his true identity would be exposed at all. He casually sipped on the tea while Celestina stood uneasily behind him. Normally, she would be the one passing her days and enjoying life. But now, she had to stand behind Rhode and serve him as a servant. How humiliating!

Although she wasn't feeling great, she was still somewhat a good sport. She stood up straight and exhibited a calm expression while Celia scanned the lounge curiously and silent as always.

Rhode re-evaluated his plans with every sip of the fragrant red tea. He was here to utterly destroy the mine through a simple approach. As a player who couldn't be more familiar with the Munn Kingdom, he was aware that an Earth Element creature was sealed below the mine. The two families competed and dug fiercely, unlocking the seal and infuriating the creature. Players were able to enter this new dungeon and the main mission was to eliminate this creature and recapture the mine.

But this time, Rhode had no intentions of annihilating the creature. Although he stood a chance against it, he recalled that it was between level 45 to 50 and it was a Master Elemental Lord. Of course, there was still a huge difference between it and a Commander Elemental Lord like Gillian. Rhode had made this decision based on its ability to manipulate lower level Earth Elemental creatures. By allowing this creature to roam in the underground mine, ordinary humans wouldn't be able to eliminate it and the entire mine would be sealed off entirely from further excavations. The South would then lose their final source of support.

Even if the Reformist Party managed to find someone capable of defeating this creature, Rhode wouldn't be worried because he knew that the creature blended with the mine totally. If one dared to seal or destroy it, one must suffer the fate of the mine crumbling entirely. This, in turn, would even save a lot of Rhode's time.

Rhode visited the Edward Trade Association in his disguise because the seal of the creature was located deep in the mining areas of the Edward Family and Howard Family. It wouldn't be easy for him to unlock the seal himself, which was why he turned his attention onto the Edward Family. After all, it would be best if he didn't need to dirty his hands.

Besides, there was something that he could make use of...

At this moment, Rhode heard a scurry of footsteps from the doorway and a flustered man's voice. "Miss, you can't go in there. There are..."

"I know, Uncle Hans, but Dad has appointed me to handle this. Don't worry. I won't mess it up."

The lounge door opened. A young lady with fiery curled hair and donned in a formal merchant dress entered with a bustling vibe. She was taken aback as soon as she caught eyes on Rhode and revealed a heartwarming smile, extending her hand forward. "Hi there, Miss Seren. I'm Emily of the Edward Trade Association. I wait upon my Father. Oops, no, I wait upon the Chairman's order to deal with this specific discussion about the ore tradings with your Trade Association. Please ask me anything and I guarantee a swift answer."

"... Hi, Miss Emily."

She's finally here.

Rhode twitched his brows slightly, the corner of his mouth curled into an undetectable sinful smile. He dressed himself up as a woman just for this and things were developing smoothly in the direction that he had anticipated. He stood to his feet and extended his arm elegantly. "I'm Miranda Seren... I hope we can work well together."

From all aspects. Rhode thought inwardly.