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548 Mission Failed?

 Andre left with his tail between his legs and put a full stop to this matter. The bystanders believed that Andre hadn't mistaken 'Miss Seren' for another person, but they also know that she wasn't easy to deal with. After their backing had left, the Howard members sneaked away quickly. Of course, this matter between the two Trade Associations was far from being resolved. No matter what, the mines in Fiat were supported by both families and they had to propose a solution to handle this dire situation.

But this was all for Rhode. He had nothing to do with Fiat anymore. Moreover, he was more concerned about the defensive line in Northern Paphield. After accomplishing both missions, Rhode had found some clues to Lydia's plan. He knew what Lydia wanted to accomplish. If everything went on smoothly, perhaps he might have another chance to play his favorite game...

Rhode packed his belongings the next morning and left the Trade Association with Celia and Celestina. Of course, they bid goodbye to the interim representative of the Trade Association before they left.

Splash! Emily placed the teacup on the table carelessly and the hot tea spilled and soaked the wooden table and scattered sheets of paper. Emily looked vacantly at 'Miss Seren' before her. "Miss Seren, y-you said you're leaving?"

"Yes, Miss Emily." Rhode revealed an apologetic smile and nodded slightly. "I'm aware that I've brought a lot of trouble to your Trade Association and I've even caused you to lose your father. I'm deeply sorry for my actions. But after all, I'm only a merchant. My purpose here was to negotiate the ore trades. But, it seems that the situation in Fiat region is much more chaotic than we've imagined. I believe the ore production will not be restored within a short period due to the unfortunate incident and I would have no further purpose in staying here any longer. This is why I've decided to leave, Miss Emily."

"B-But..." Emily stammered and she was lost for words.

Frankly speaking, even though 'Miss Seren's' departure was to be expected, Emily couldn't accept the truth momentarily. Although they had known each other for only two days, Emily felt that 'Miss Seren' was as though an old friend whom she had known for most of her life. At this moment, with the mishap of her father, she had to run the affairs of the Trade Association, adjust the benefits of the merchants, and be surrounded by their grumbles and conflicts. Sometimes, Emily felt that she was in a lot of pain. Am I not the saddest person in this world? I've just lost Father! The merchants prioritized benefits more than showing concern for her. This was the first time that Emily felt that these people were heartless. She hoped that someone could accompany, console, and lend her a shoulder. This was her only expectation now.

After hearing from 'Miss Seren' that she was leaving, Emily felt as though the ground under her feet had disappeared and she fell entirely into an emptiness of disappointment. "M-Miss Seren, can you stay for a few more days? I..."

"I think it's best for us to not trouble you right now, Miss Emily. Your Trade Association is going through a tough phase now and it will require a lot of focus and time to resolve the issues. I'm just an outsider and it isn't beneficial for you if we continue to stay here. Besides... I didn't expect to see that many savage bandits in Fiat. Miss Emily, please be wary of the Howard Trade Association. Their conspiracy failed this time, but I'm sure they will be back," Rhode stepped forward and gently caressed Emily's cheek. "It was nice knowing you, Miss Emily. It isn't easy to meet a trustworthy woman in a foreign land. I will never forget you."

Rhode moved two steps back and lifted his skirt lightly to bow. "So then, goodbye, Miss Emily. I hope you will achieve your dreams soon."

The door closed.

Emily gazed vacantly and pondered for a long time. She eventually gritted her teeth as though she had made a decision. She went up to the bookshelves and withdrew a scroll. Picking up a feather pen by the side, she began to write with trembling hands...

"Is this fine, Master?"

After boarding the chariot, Celestina looked at Rhode with a sardonic smile while Rhode twitched his brows in response. Celestina chuckled lightly and continued. "Haven't you seen how heartbroken that girl was when you left her just like that? Why didn't you do what you're best at to calm her down and make her your slave? That sounds fun. Besides, you love to do that a lot, isn't it?"

"I'm a person who divides pleasure and work clearly, Celestina."

The smile on Rhode's face vanished and he revealed his usual, aloof expression. However, Celestina and Celia felt more comfortable with that familiar expression than the smiling mask.

"Work is work and one shouldn't bring personal considerations into the picture when the mission is accomplished. Besides... It's not like I haven't satisfied my personal pleasure during my stay here." Rhode shot a meaningful look at Celestina and the latter turned toward the window with a disdainful snort, ignoring him completely. Celia looked on in confusion as she couldn't understand what their interactions were all about. She turned to her left and front and both of them didn't seem interested in explaining... Well, gossiping wasn't the Battle Angel's hobby anyway.

"Eh?" Celestina widened her eyes slightly. She chortled and looked on engrossingly out of the window. "Master, you said you divide work and personal pleasure clearly, right?"

"Yes, is there any problem?"

"So then, since our mission is completed, you wouldn't mind enjoying for a while longer, right?"

"...?"

Rhode caught on to something strange and suddenly, the chariot slowed down and came to a halt. At this moment, a rather familiar, panting voice sounded. A voice that he had just spoken to earlier on.

"Please wait, Miss Seren!"

Rhode hesitated with knitted brows and eventually chose to exit the chariot. While neglecting the smiling Celestina who was watching at the same time. Rhode spotted Emily sprinting over while clutching a small bag in her hand. She was wearing outdoor attire instead of her home clothes... Oh, Lord. Could it be... It can't be...

Although Rhode was muttering inwardly, he greeted Emily with an elegant smile. "What's wrong, Miss Emily? Is anything the matter?"

"Huu... Huu... Ha... Ha..."

It seemed that Emily had been pursuing the chariot for a long distance. Fortunately for her, the chariot hadn't left the town yet. If not, it wouldn't be surprising that she might even chase her way into the deep forest.

Emily caught her breath and gazed at Rhode with determined eyes. She bit her teeth as though she had made an important decision. "M-Miss Seren... If it is possible, can I please leave with you?"

"..."

You gotta be kidding me...

Rhode had deeply realized how accurate this saying was. One must not speak unreasonably while missions must not be accepted irrationally.

Rhode refused to believe that Emily would simply give up on her life in the Trade Association and choose to become a Travel Merchant with him. Was this part of the mission? What kind of joke was this! If Rhode was truly a female merchant player, there wouldn't be any problems bringing Emily along. But he wasn't a merchant and even his gender was disguised... Moreover, Rhode had to head back to the Paphield front lines to resist the attack from the Reformist Party. How would he even have the time to accompany Emily in becoming a Travel Merchant?

Rhode didn't reject Emily's request firmly. He gazed at the young lady quietly for a long time while Emily lowered her head worriedly like a bewildered student reprimanded by her teacher. Then, Rhode finally responded. "Why, Miss Emily?"

"Because... Because..."

Emily had given a lot of thought and came up with several excuses before she bolted out of the Trade Association. She had so much on her mind to say to 'Miss Seren', but the thoughts seemed to have vanished now that they stood face to face.

"Because I..."

"I don't know what exactly you are thinking about, Miss Emily. But I will not bring you along... I can understand the pain and sorrows of losing your father. But... This isn't a justifiable reason for you to leave here, Miss Emily. You still lack the capabilities to become a Travel Merchant and I, as a citizen of the Country of Light, can't bring you out of your country with my own initiative, especially during this sensitive period."

"But Miss Seren, I..." Rhode placed a finger on Emily's lips and stopped her from speaking further. "This is the first lesson for a Travel Merchant. You're always alone on your travels. Merchants are also humans. They have the right to feel pain and sadness. But being merchants takes priority over being humans in their lives. You won't resolve the issue by evading, Miss Emily. If you can't be independent as a merchant, then you won't be able to travel with me. I'm sorry, but honestly speaking, you are lacking the aptitude to step on this path, Miss Emily."

"..."

Emily loosened her shoulders abruptly and she shrunk as though a helpless, deflated balloon.

"Am I really unable to travel with you, Miss Seren?"

"Yes, Miss Emily. You lack the capabilities, at least for now."

"So... So when will I be capable enough?"

"When you once again pick up your bag unhesitantly, without feeling any reluctance to part," Rhode smiled and looked at Emily who stood blankly on the spot. "You have the potential, Miss Emily. If you're willing to work for it, you will become an outstanding Travel Merchant one day. But now isn't the time. You're not ready to become one yet."

Rhode looked up to the sky. "It's late, Miss Emily, you'd better head back now... So then, this is goodbye. I hope that the next time when I meet you, you have become an outstanding Travel Merchant."

Rhode bowed and turned around gracefully. Emily looked vacantly at 'Miss Seren' walking toward the Chariot and she came back to her senses. She reached out to the chariot, but the chariot door had closed and isolated her from the world. The chariot driver lashed the horsewhip and the chariot drove off into the distance.

Emily laid down her hand. She gazed at her palm and revealed a bitter smile. "That's right... Travel Merchants don't weep... Miss Seren is right. I'm still not qualified to travel with her yet. But..." She clenched her fist tightly. "One day, I will become an impressive Travel Merchant, Miss Seren."

"Phew..." Rhode leaned back and took a deep, long breath.

Got to say, he was indeed flabbergasted back then, but he declined her request quick enough before she had to chance to hesitate. But... Am I still able to complete the 'Fiery Rose' mission? Rhode closed his eyes and called out the system panel. He saw a gray line of system prompt and he let out a bitter laugh.

"What's wrong? Master?" Celia asked curiously.

Rhode shrugged and shook his head slightly. "It's nothing, Celia. But... sometimes, some things shouldn't be forced."

Rhode looked at the sky through the window.

I wonder how's Lize doing...

If Lize could hear Rhode's thoughts, she would surely give a clear-cut answer.

Bad. Really bad.

At this moment, the young lady was seated on the stone-cold chair in the Fortress, gazing at everyone before her. The atmosphere was warm, but it felt as cold as a graveyard for her. It wasn't a physiological reaction. It was more of a pressure inside her.

"We have recently investigated that the Reformist Party are getting up to no good. Within the past two days, they have doubled the number of scouts that they have sent to the front line. Heh, I think this isn't a good sign. Same goes for Randolf's side. The enemies seemed to have hired plenty of rangers and hunters. The troubles happening these few days have increased significantly."

"Are you referring to the chances of being discovered?"

"Hahaha, you sure know how to joke, Miss Gillian. In any case, we're trained by Madam Canary and Madam Bubble, so we're better off dying in the front line than to let you know we were discovered by a bunch of newbies... I didn't mean that. What I meant was that those enemies seem eager to seize the sentry posts. I suspect the Reformist Party might have a huge movement soon."

"Hmm... There's indeed a possibility. Little Lize, do you find any problems with that?"

"Eh?!" Lize flustered as soon as everyone shifted their attention to her. She hesitated for a moment before speaking softly. "How... How many people do you think they have at the moment?"

"This isn't easy to gauge, Miss Lize. But Randolf and I think that there's about 10,000 of them."

"... Are they all Cavalrymen?"

"Hmm... That's a hard question, Miss Lize. I'm not their Commander, so how would I know? But Randolf's men didn't spot any massive movements of warhorses, so that isn't too possible. Basically, they should consist of mainly infantries and archers. Of course, we are only in charge of investigating the perimeter of the Fortress and we aren't sure about the situation farther ahead. This time, those guys are rather cunning. They set up camp in the depths of the defensive line and for safety's sake, we didn't dare to penetrate too deeply. I think that this upcoming battle wouldn't be as simple as before."

"Have you informed the Fortress Commander?" Lize asked.

Joey revealed a half smile and when he was about to speak, Gillian let out a cough to stop him. Joey swept a glance at Gillian who was twitching her ears and swaying her fluffy tail and he lowered his head quickly.

"Erm... Miss Lize, we pour all our hearts and souls for the Guild and those guys from the Fortress aren't even the one paying us our allowance... so, naturally, we informed our own people first."

"Uh..." Lize blushed in embarrassment and nodded. "I understand now, Joey. Thank you. I will consider this matter. By the way, I will need to trouble you and Mr. Randolf to be more vigilant for the next two days, especially at night. Of course, you guys must be careful too. I heard that the fog will be thicker for the next few days."

"Don't worry, Miss Lize. If anything happens, we can hide for the night and carry out investigations. Don't worry!"

"Hmm... Alright then..." Lize paused for a moment before sweeping a quick look at the crowd before her. "Alright, that's all. I will think of a solution."

"Okay, Miss Lize."

"Got it."

The crowd got up and left. After everyone had exited her room, Lize leaned back and let out a long sigh.

"I failed again..." Lize muttered under her breath.