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558 Final Hurdle

 It was no surprise that Rhode agreed to John's request. Apart from being a Guild leader, he was also a Baron. The troops that he led to the Cloud Summit Fortress could be considered his mercenaries and private soldiers simultaneously. With his identity, he had the rights to handle his captives and he had no qualms in releasing the Cavalrymen. In fact, he actually had the authority to release General Dade. After all, strictly speaking, General Dade was also his captive.

However, John and Rhode knew that it was impossible. General Dade's identity had foreordained that he couldn't be released that easily. John suggested because he wished to test Rhode's reaction. If Rhode agreed instantly or put on an act to reject his request and try to give it a shot, John would surely turn around and leave without hesitation. But now, he had decided to accept Rhode's invitation.

Both Rhode and John felt that there was nothing alarming for the King's Party that Rhode had recruited a Cavalrymen Leader. Although John had a bad impression of the Northerners, he didn't have a favorable impression of the Southerners either. However, he focused all his hate on 'a handful of unrestrained enemies'. Unlike Rhode, John didn't see everyone who stepped out of the Country of Light as a person with problems from head to toes...

Of course, it was 'family hatred' for John while it was a 'nation hatred' for Rhode... There was still a difference in their level of hostility.

After seeing John away with his eyes, Rhode let out a long sigh. He suddenly felt exhausted.

It wasn't exhaustion on his physical body. Instead, it was his mental mind that was beaten. After ensuring that his mission was accomplished, he felt as though his senses had relaxed like a tightened string that was released and a heavy, choking pressure emerged deep in his heart. He couldn't help but pucker his brows. He exited the campsite and observed the surroundings.

The thin fog-filled Fortress was lit brightly with splendid lights and he heard the vague cheers of soldiers from inside. The sky had darkened and the celebration feast was about to begin... But now, Rhode couldn't find the festive mood to partake in it. Instead, he only wished to plop right into bed for a fulfilling rest.

"Ah, Leader, I finally found you!"

Rhode turned around and saw Gillian and Anne walking toward him with relaxed smiles. Then, Gillian slid over like a slippery fish and hugged Rhode's elbow against her soft, ample chest tightly. Anne didn't want to lose out. She clung on to Rhode's other arm and the young ladies sandwiched him like a flat ham. "Everyone's heading to the feast now, so what are you still doing here? General Garcia wants to invite you."

"You girls go ahead." Rhode shook his head tiredly and stepped back after breaking free from their entanglements. He forced a twitch on the corner of his mouth and nodded before patting on their heads lightly. "I'm a little tired and I want to rest. Both of you shall replace me in joining the feast."

"Master?" Gillian tilted her head and looked blankly.

Anne hopped out and raised her right arm hurriedly. "Okay then, since Leader is tired, Anne shall accompany Leader!"

"Little Anne, you can't do this. It has always been my job to warm his bed, okay?"

"Anne wants to warm Leader's bed too. If worst comes to worst... how about the both of us together?"

"Alright, alright." Rhode's head was swimming and he shook his head with knitted brows. "I don't feel like it today. Go ahead with the feast and enjoy yourselves. After all, we are heading into Frozen Lake after this. Don't worry about me and do what you should do. This is an order, understood?" Rhode turned around and returned to his tent.

Surprisingly, Gillian and Anne didn't continue to pester him. Instead, they looked on silently as Rhode disappeared into the tent. After a few moments, Anne blinked and turned to Gillian worriedly. "Anne feels that Leader seems very tired. Did something happen? Sister Gillian?"

"... It's nothing, Anne." Gillian twitched her ears and revealed a bitter smile to the young lady beside her. "Some things are decided by Master so he has to take up the responsibility. We can only watch from the side because we can't make a difference in some matters."

Pitch-black darkness spread across the vast, boundless land.

The sky was covered by dark clouds. Rhode scanned the surroundings, but not only was there no vegetation, but there also wasn't a single rock on the empty land. He also wasn't sure how long he had been walking for, as though he had been walking forward ever since he had conscious. At this moment, fiery flames rose from the ground.

The flames surged violently in all directions and the entire world was painted in scarlet. As the flames raged, the darkness spread on the ground grew even darker. Finally, the ground shattered like a mirror and revealed a bottomless abyss...


Rhode got up abruptly.

The sun was shining brightly on the campsite. Rhode squinted and adapted to the brightness after a few moments. Golden sun rays had spilled from the opening of the tent and he vaguely heard noises from the mercenaries outside. He held his hand against his forehead and realized that his forehead was filled with sweat.

"Ridiculous," Rhode lowered his head and cursed.

Anyone would surely be startled to see him in this state. Rhode didn't put on his signature aloof expression and he wasn't carrying his warm, gentle smile that he had disguised in Fiat. Instead, it was a complicated and ashen expression gathering all the negative emotions. The complexity was indescribable using words. At this moment, there was a distinct, vengeful glint in his eyes like an injured wild beast.

However, this expression lasted only for a second.

Rhode stood up and returned to his usual calmness. His calm eyes were as though everything before him was nothing but an illusion. Perhaps, that was just a BUG in the process.

At this moment, Lize called out from outside the tent. "Mr. Rhode, are you awake?"

"Yes, I'm up," Rhode changed his clothes swiftly. He lifted the tent entrance and saw Lize waiting for him worriedly. "Is anything the matter? Lize?"

"Ah, Mr. Rhode. Miss Gaya wants you to see her. She says there's something very important to inform you," said Lize.

"Gaya?" Rhode looked vacantly before nodding in acknowledgment. "Got it, Lize, I'll head over now. By the way, I guess you're aware of John's matter already. I want you and Gillian to manage the releasing of the soldiers today."

"Yes, Mr. Rhode. I will handle it right away."

Even though Lize said so, she didn't leave immediately. Instead, she rubbed the hem of her skirt with both hands and looked at Rhode worriedly. Then, she took in a deep breath as though she had made up her mind. "Mr. Rhode... Are you feeling unwell? You didn't join the celebration feast last night and I heard from Anne that you seemed rather tired..."

"I'm just tired from the long journey from the South. I will be fine after a rest, don't worry." Rhode shrugged and said swiftly.

Lize remained silent for a moment before nodding. "Alright, Mr. Rhode. But... If you feel unwell, please let me know."

"Don't worry, Lize. You will be the first person I look for if I have any problems." Lize showed a relieved expression and left with a smile. Rhode heaved a sigh of relief and narrowed his eyes on the Fortress. In fact, he had guessed the reason why Gaya looked for him.

When Rhode entered Gaya's room, the black-haired young lady was seated quietly by the window with her huge harp, just like how they first met. The young lady's expression and position were almost identical from before. Gaya turned around and nodded slightly to invite him for a seat... It seemed that she wasn't in a good mood.

But Rhode understood why she was in a bad mood. Although he didn't understand her a lot, he inferred that she wasn't a 'selfless model citizen'. She wouldn't take matters into her own hands unless she had received Lydia's orders. In order for Lize's plan to succeed, Rhode purposely checkmated Gaya. He used his mission reward and forced Lydia to order Gaya in complying with Lize's battle plan. It was no wonder that this young lady wasn't putting up a likable expression.

Even though she didn't show any likable expression to Rhode, that was.

"Please have a seat, Mr. Rhode. You've accomplished your mission successfully and the Royal Highness is satisfied with your work. Although I personally, detest your little tricks, that is." Gaya gazed at Rhode silently and Rhode couldn't read her thoughts at all.

However, he was most concerned about another matter because Gaya surely didn't ask him here just to complain about his little tricks. Indeed, Gaya continued shortly. "I'm about to convey the order from Royal Highness Lydia. She hopes that you will return to the Golden City and explain further your operations in the Grosso and Fiat regions."

As expected.

It seemed that things were as he had expected. Royal Highness Lydia wished to receive an explanation on the riot caused by the Undead Army in Grosso. No matter what, he accepted her mission and headed into the Grosso Region and suddenly, there was a riot caused by the Undead creatures. Lydia wasn't a fool. She naturally would request for Rhode to report everything to her.

This time, things might be a little more complicated. Lydia was an Archangel and Angels wouldn't usually accommodate to circumstances. To them, evil was evil and evil must be purified, annihilated, but never unrestrained. And this time, it wouldn't be as simple as to deliver a report to Lydia in the Golden City which proved that she had an entirely different view from before.

But even so, Rhode had his countermeasures ready.