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584 A Tough Period

 Rhode regarded the Blackblade Guards as even more important than his guild. Although his mercenaries were the base forces of the guild, the Cavalrymen would still be the highlight in times of war. Not only that, but the Cavalry team was also an important part of his battle tactics. He wasn't delusional to think that the 60 Cavalrymen would be enough against the Undead Army. However, with John and his Cavalrymen around, Rhode could train even more Cavalrymen, which was what he needed. No matter what, John used to be a military soldier and mercenaries were mainly typical forces. Even though they could work together as a team, it would almost be impossible to ensure strict obedience in the mercenaries for them to give up their lives during times of dangers. This was pre-determined by their individual values on life and identities, which Rhode wouldn't be able to change.

After officially forming the Blackblade Guards, Rhode finally had his very own team of private soldiers. Although they were still rather weak, Rhode was sure that they could become his competent trusted aides one day. Not only that, Rhode also authorized John to select among the mercenaries and laborers at the peak of their lives within the Land of Atonement to expand his team. Of course, Rhode also knew the logic behind taking a step at a time. Therefore, he allowed John to take in a maximum of 300 Cavalrymen and the next cycle of recruitment would re-commence after this batch had passed the test and reached levels of military Cavalrymen.

It seemed that the rumors and views about Rhode's guild becoming the Munn Kingdom's number one guild weren't exaggerating at all. The other guilds had authority restrictions no matter how much they developed, but Rhode carried the identity of being both a guild Leader and a Noble. Although Rhode's identity as a Noble wasn't too useful during missions, he could mobilize more manpower than the other guilds and organizations in times of conflicts. His double-identity could also be said as his best cover too. If Starlight got into a conflict with another guild, Rhode could send out thousands of Cavalrymen to overwhelm the other guild just by flaunting their presence. If the other party accused Rhode of breaking mercenary rules, Rhode could even turn around and bite him, claiming that one had humiliated his honor as a Noble. Rhode could also claim that he had been using his Noble identity to 'discuss the problem' instead of his guild Leader identity. If this happens, the other party would be devastated...

In fact, many mercenaries noticed these loopholes in the rules and the Mercenary Association had also discussed it. After all, Rhode was the first guild Leader who had a Baron rank. Most mercenaries were born in the lowest social class. They might perhaps collaborate with the higher class or form alliances, but they mostly wouldn't desire to serve the ruler directly. However, Rhode's unique identity had put the Mercenary Association in a difficult position and there was no conclusion to it. No matter what, they couldn't possibly come up with special rules to restrict Rhode's authority due to his identity because this would surely upset Rhode and cause an uproar among the mercenaries. Since Rhode's men were still acceptable of this arrangement and Rhode didn't seem to be expanding his guild on a large scale yet, the Mercenary Association would be glad to hide their heads in the hole like an ostrich.

Although Rhode was busy with his guild and the construction upgrades of his fortress, he wasn't idling around in other areas. The internal war between the North and South was still on-going in the Munn Kingdom. From the start, Callenbach put up a strong defense against the King's Party's encirclement after they received reinforcements. But their foodstuff was depleting quickly and the reserves received from the back end wasn't enough to feed 70,000 of them. Although the Commander had continuously cut down on the amount of foodstuff distributed to the troops, it wouldn't resolve the ultimate problem because there were just too many of them.

The frontline was in a dire situation and the back end was equally chaotic. In various regions of the South, the price of foodstuff had risen drastically as many trade associations stocked up their supplies to ensure their own survival. In the bigger cities, civilians complained while residents in towns were dissatisfied about being unable to purchase enough foodstuff for their daily lives. The Southern Parliament's internal department had gotten into a huge headache as they consisted of merchants in large trade associations and wealthy nobles. The trade associations had the network and abilities to stock up their supplies, but the nobles couldn't, which was why many nobles had requested for the trade associations to sell their foodstuff. The trade associations rejected their proposal while asserting that they had the freedom of trade. We make the call over how we operate our business and how much we want to sell our supplies for and no one can intervene!

However, the nobles didn't accept this answer from the black-hearted merchants. The more conservative nobles hurled abuses while the more violent nobles even dispatched their private soldiers to snatch the food supplies from the trade associations.

Apart from these problems, the refugees of the Grosso Plain also exploded with anger in this crisis. They could no longer wait foolishly for the empty promises of the Southern Parliament to be fulfilled and they 'relied on themselves'. Many of the refugees stole, robbed, and tried all ways to obtain food and money. The wealthy people of the city became their prime targets because the refugees believed that these apathetic wealthy people landed them into this predicament and they had even turned a blind eye to their suffering.

The entire South lost its peace and harmony and beautiful sceneries no longer existed. The bustling streets had turned into cold, deserted paths stained with trash and sewage. The dark alleys were filled with people in tattered clothing roaming about like crazy men. Robbed, naked corpses laid in the gorges on both sides of the street. Pubs and shops had shut their businesses down. People stayed home, cowering in fear. Fully armored guards stood outside the trade associations, wielding weapons from any possible ambushes from the nobles' private soldiers. The nobles stopped organizing celebratory parties and every one of their doors were shut tight to prevent womenfolk from becoming the target of thugs and the tool of their frustrations.

People were horrified and shuddered in fear. They never expected things to develop in this direction. The sky above them was so azure and the air that they breathed smelled of freedom when they first gained independence from the Munn Kingdom. They could determine their own future and was no longer in the invisible hands of someone high above. Everyone in the Southern regions had as though freshened up. They grouped up spontaneously to maintain order, rebuild, and establish new authority organizations. The people joined in and spoke their opinions actively. The Southern Parliament members heard their views and promised to consider their thoughts, which gave a huge sense of satisfaction to the people. They looked forward to a greater tomorrow and live their own lives like the Country of Light. Everyone worked hand in hand to build a great homeland and determine the fate and future of their nation.

But now, the beautiful bubble bath had been destroyed.

The victories, fresh flowers, cheers, and hopes were like a nice little dream for the Southerners. Dreams had to end one day. They would wake up from their slumber and see the pitch-black grave of despair and the choking fear that had crept into their minds.

They're awake.

The Southern Parliament was powerless. Their internal department had been divided. The merchants refused to agree to the nobles' terms while the nobles gathered their private soldiers to attack their trade associations. Both sides had gone against each other completely. Some weaker noble families attempted to escape. They abandoned the parliament and stepped onto ships heading into the Country of Light with all their assets. Fewer and fewer members attended the meetings. Although the core members had clearly recognized the calamity of the situation, they were hopeless... The situation had developed too quickly and was out of their control.

Although the Southern Parliament had requested assistance from the Light Parliament several times and even slapped the desk and glared their eyes, the Light Parliament was unperturbed. They had dispatched emissaries to Golden City, but Lydia was away to view the natural scenery of Frozen Lake. Not only that, she had also decided to take a stroll in the Cranmore region to experience the local customs... Anyone smarter than a dummy would know that Lydia was delaying her time from meeting with the Light Parliament's emissaries.

This swept up another storm in the Country of Light. Many accused Lydia of being vicious and overly indulged in her self-enjoyment. Her own country was in such a danger and she still had the mood to travel and enjoy herself. This is ridiculous!

However, despite all the accusations, they couldn't do anything to Lydia. Moreover, it hadn't only been a day or two since Lydia's bad reputation in the Country of Light. She had gotten used to those people calling her a tyrant, executioner, or evil woman and she naturally wouldn't care less. No matter what they said, Lydia wouldn't sway from her position as the ruler of the Munn Kingdom and as an Archangel. She continued to eat, play, and sleep as she used to.

Perhaps this was what the civilians of the Country of Light hated her the most for.

Although Lydia's whereabouts were unknown and the King's Party army staying put was a good thing for the Reformist Party, the Reformist Party had hoped for something more. They wished that the Light Parliament could mediate and they could sign an official armistice and an independence treaty with Lydia under the Light Parliament's lead. This way, Lydia wouldn't be able to rip up the treaty and they could officially gain their position.

But now, Lydia was nowhere to be found and even though the King's Party army hadn't launched their attacks yet, there were still possibilities of danger as long as both sides hadn't signed an official armistice. Even if the Light Parliament's emissaries were in Golden City, they wouldn't serve any purpose if they couldn't find Lydia before the war began.

The Southern Port had always been the most strategic location for commercial trade in the Dragon Soul Continent. Intelligence spread quickly that this once flourishing place had turned into a hell-like place, sinking slowly into the Bottomless Abyss and attracting a lot of attention from the nations and forces.

However, they didn't realize that on the other end of the Dragon Soul Continent, a transformation was slowly emerging in a place shrouded in unlimited darkness.

Under the dark night sky, the scarlet moon hung high up and illuminated the lonely tower in the wilderness. A man clad in a black cloak from head to toe stared at the desolate scenery. Then, a ghostly shadow emerged behind him and gradually transformed into a human figure. "Hi there, Sir Duke."

"You're late by three seconds." The man turned around and said.

He appeared to be slightly over 30. His face was manly and mesmerizingly beautiful. However, his pale skin tone and scarlet eyes exposed his identity-a Vampire. The shadow let out a laugh to the man's words. "I'm so sorry, Sir Duke, something came up just now. I heard that our eastern neighbor has gotten into a messy situation, so I unknowingly stayed behind to hear more about it."

"Hmph." The man let out a snort and lifted his chin arrogantly. "Those lowly, shameless humans are asking for death. Their short, fragile lives have caused the locked up pigs to forget about their duties. They have caused it upon themselves and their plight deserves no sympathy. How hilarious that the livestock tries to disobey their owners."

The man extended his arm and in an instant, a glass of red wine appeared in his hand. "How's His Majesty doing?"

"No changes, Sir. The Four Legendary Generals haven't received orders for mobilization yet. His Majesty recently has some interest in our neighbors. Not sure if it is just a form of entertainment for him or... But this isn't up to me to talk about it, Sir."

"The Four Legendary Generals may not have moved out now, but it doesn't mean that they won't in the future. Don't belittle His Majesty's knowledge and capability. He's the most outstanding being in the history of the Dragon Souls. Not only was he relentless against the Twin Dragons, but even the crippled Light Dragon... Hmph. It seems about time to settle the grudges between our Country of Darkness and the Country of Light." The man sipped the delicious wine in the glass. "But, we cannot watch from here idly. Di, you're also aware that His Majesty hates subordinates who lack initiative the most. Since our eastern neighbor has gotten into trouble, I guess it's about time we give them a little surprise. By the way, I heard... Not long ago, Nefarian's favorite subordinate died there? That's interesting. But the dignity of our Country of Darkness mustn't be stained. Di, you should know what to do."

"That's for sure, Sir," Di lifted his head and presented a malevolent, excited smile. "In fact, I already have a target, Sir. I guess you must have heard about the happenings in Soraka Mountain?"

"Soraka Mountain? I have indeed heard some rumors... But aren't they just rumors? So? What's the good idea you have?" The man twitched his brows curiously and turned around.

Di lowered his head deeply with respect. "To tell you the truth, Sir, there is a fascinating person in the Land of Atonement located along the border of the Munn Kingdom and our country... Perhaps he could lend us a hand."