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618 Leaving?

 The banquet was still going on when Rhode and Marlene returned to the banquet hall. Their departure didn't catch too much attention and most of the nobles thought that they had just gone out for a stroll. Some of them knew about their relationship and they believed that Rhode might have gone out to accompany and console her. After all, the rewards she had received weren't comparable to the other young nobles, which left her depressed inevitably. However, perhaps no one could imagine how daring they were to do such a thing in the majestic and sacred Golden City...

Many nobles approached Rhode and praised him for his swordsmanship. At the same time, they were also interested in his past contributions. Some consulted him on how he had cultivated this wonderful swordsmanship while some were more amused by the construction of his Fortress in the Land of Atonement. On the other hand, a group of beautiful young noblewomen gathered over and hoped to gain his liking. After all, everyone could see that this young man had a bright future ahead after Lydia conferred him the Holy Cross Medal. No one in the history of the Munn Kingdom had received the Holy Cross Medal at such a young age. But come to think of it, they weren't astounded as to why Lydia had made this decision because there weren't any Archangels who were as flamboyant and vicious as her, anyway.

It appeared seemingly reasonable for special ones to experience extraordinary situations.

But politics was cruel.

The young nobles forced Marlene out of their way as they warmly crowded around Rhode and none of those who admired her in the past went up to speak to her. However, they couldn't be blamed for this behavior because, no matter what, it was bizarre that her rewards were this unimpressive. From a certain standpoint, this might possibly be due to the dissatisfaction of the Royal Family due to the Senia Family being overly powerful. Lydia's desire to dominate was much stronger than previous Archangels, but what about the Senia Family? With their advanced magical technologies, it could be said that they had monopolized the magical equipment production in the Munn Kingdom. Besides, although they were one of the three largest families in the Munn Kingdom, they were unlike the two other families at all. None of the Senia Family members had ever engaged in intermarriage with Royal Family members and they maintained their pure bloodline. If this happened in another nation, where a powerful noble family refused to merge with the royal family, perhaps the noble family would be long gone. Fortunately, the past rulers of the Munn Kingdom were Angels and they didn't have much desires for authority. On the other hand, the Senia Family had been working closely with the Royal Family too, so no one dared to shoot their mouths off.

But it was different now. Lydia valued authority and prestige heavily and disapproved of anyone from taunting. Meanwhile, Marlene wasn't rewarded generously. Could this be the start of a threatened monarchy?

Many nobles kept a respectful distance away from Marlene. The Senia Family was formidable, like an unwavering tree that towered into the sky and with roots that infiltrated every corner of the earth. Therefore, it had been a long while since the Royal Family tried to control the growth of their strength. However, the other noble families were different in the situation. Their strengths were incomparable to the three largest families and this was the best chance for them to extend their strength.

The young nobles weren't as concerned about their families' future as their elders. Since Marlene had clearly expressed that she belonged to Rhode and they had witnessed the tragedy of Antonio from acting recklessly, they wouldn't be that foolish to risk their lives...

Marlene leaned on the wall and gazed at the crowd that was swarming around Rhode. Instead of displaying a resentful and furious expression, she revealed a gentle smile. It wasn't a fake smile that a noble had to express in order to maintain her poise. On the contrary, it was a sincere and genuine one. Then, a frail voice sounded beside her.

"You seem rather delighted, Marlene?"

"Father."

Marlene turned to the Patriarch of the Senia Family. Then, she nodded with a smile before shifting her gaze to Rhode once again.

"That's right, Father. Look, this is the first time that I didn't receive any attention in a banquet with no one currying favors or confessing to me. I've never thought that such peaceful times were possible. It seems that it was a right choice to turn down Royal Highness Lydia's reward. If future banquets would stay this way, perhaps I might even miss such times."

"Hahaha."

The elderly man squinted and followed her gaze. Then, he nodded and continued.

"Have you told him about your decision?"

"Not yet, Father. But I can guess what's on his mind, so it's fine letting him wait a while longer. Serves him right for leaving me behind for that long. This is also a small punishment for him..." Marlene extended her finger and placed by her lips cheekily. "When that day comes, I'll need Father to be in on it with me, alright? Rhode is smart and my little tricks will go to waste if he notices anything strange."

"That's for sure, Marlene. You're my daughter, so why would I help the rascal who stole my daughter than to help you?"

The elderly man revealed a satisfied smile. He looked at his young daughter with a gentle gaze before letting out a long sigh.

"Marlene. Frankly speaking, after bringing you up for all these years, I never expected that I would say this to you. Go and do whatever you want... As long as you like it..."

"Same goes for me, Father."

Marlene lifted her head.

"I've never thought that this day would come. I've told myself that my life belongs to the family and it's my duty to carry out the responsibilities of what the family asks of me. But now, I don't feel that it's a heavy burden. Instead, I feel fortunate and blessed, which is more than enough for me, isn't it?"

"You're right."

The elderly pondered before nodding with a gentle smile. He turned to Rhode once more and revealed a stern glint.

"By the way, Marlene. I've heard from you that there's some trouble with Starlight? I can send our Alchemists to help if you wish to."

"No, Father."

But, before the elderly man finished his sentence, Marlene interrupted firmly.

"Rhode is a proud man and he doesn't like to receive help from others. Besides, I have my own solution. Our family doesn't need to step in for now because I'm sure that Rhode has sensed that we didn't approach him because we were simply attracted to him. Moreover, I'm sure that Rhode would believe it after this incident. Perhaps we will need to tell him the truth one day, but it isn't the time now. I will tell him everything myself when the time is ripe... Everything about me, our Senia Family and him..."

Marlene bit her lips and complicated emotions flickered in her eyes.

"This is my duty and I should be the one to come clean with him about it."

The elderly man shook his head and patted on Marlene's shoulder before heading toward the noble circle on the other side of the hall. He had his own duties too. Many of the nobles believed that this might be the start of the Senia Family's collapse after Marlene's disappointing rewards. However, the nobles weren't aware of the inside information and the Senia Family wouldn't spread word about it either. But even so, the Patriarch had the duty to let others understand that the Senia Family was still a massive figure in the Munn Kingdom and they wouldn't bow down to others.

It was late at night and the celebratory banquet had ended with nobles leaving Golden City with all smiles. This event represented the end of an old age and also the start of a new phase. To some extent, the Munn Kingdom and the Country of Darkness were rather similar. They were powered up and rising young forces who went against the ancient families. However, their paths were entirely different. The Country of Darkness had chosen to expand externally in order to dampen the new forces' desires while the Munn Kingdom had chosen to adjust internally. As for the Reformist Party, they were the best sacrificial offerings for them.

But no matter if it was external or internal, they represented the same thing: this was the beginning of a new wave of power expansion.

It was the same for Rhode too.

Although Grenbell was a deserted mountainous range, it didn't mean that there weren't any benefits for him to uncover. He knew all the hidden locations with maze dungeons, treasure chests, missions, and even classes and organizations. All these were all too easy for him as an experienced player of the Munn Kingdom. Although the nobles treated Grenbell as simply a symbolic compensation for Rhode, he knew clearly that this 'extra territory' contained an abundance of treasures!

He didn't have the time and strength before. But now... if everything turned out as smoothly as he had imagined, he wouldn't need to worry about the Country of Darkness invading his territory anymore. He would kick them back to where they came from!

However, nothing was perfect and as to Rhode, he won some and lost some.

Marlene had left.

After the banquet had ended, Marlene and her father left Golden City. She didn't have the time to bid goodbye to Rhode's group. Although Anne was grumbling over why Marlene didn't leave with them, Rhode felt that his guesses might have possibly come true. Even though he couldn't understand why Lydia had only given Marlene the symbolic rewards, he understood the importance of the heir of the Senia Family. Besides, after this incident, Marlene might need to put more priority in her family matters and Rhode believed that this was perhaps the end of his fate with Marlene, especially after her unusually passionate behavior. Perhaps Marlene knew that she wouldn't be able to be by his side in the future, which was why she gave her all for her desires.

Rhode couldn't bear to part with her. He wasn't iron-hearted, after all. Besides, it wouldn't be right of him to simply forget about Marlene just because he had Lize and Canary by his side. Every woman was unique in their own way. If they were all the same, why would men even have extramarital affairs? Wouldn't they be satisfied just from hugging their wives at home? But many situations weren't within their grasps. He didn't have any feud with the Senia Family. Also, Marlene wasn't a melodramatic princess who was imprisoned by her family and waiting for her prince to rescue her. She had her pride and honor. If Rhode barged into her home, dragged her away with him, and threatened anyone who tried to stop him with his sword... He would count his lucky stars if Marlene didn't give him a tight slap and fall out with him.

But now...

On the second day, Rhode didn't leave Golden City immediately. Although he had packed his luggage in the morning, he stayed in the inn for the entire afternoon. In the end, he didn't get to see the scene he had hoped for.

Forget it. I knew that this would happen and this is nothing more than a confirmation.

Rhode shrugged and exited the inn.

"Let's go, Anne, Lize. There are many matters in the Fortress waiting for us to handle."

Lize sensed that Rhode's thoughts were wandering and she knew the reason why he behaved this way. It seemed that Marlene had left them.

Lize couldn't bear to part with Marlene either. They were the best of friends and even though they had to be separated due to certain situations, their friendship didn't fade over time. However, it was different this time. Not only did Lize feel reluctant, but she also felt regretful because she was determined to confess to Marlene about her encounters with Rhode. But now that Marlene had left them, perhaps they wouldn't have a chance to talk about it anymore.

It was due to this that Lize also appeared to be preoccupied. On the contrary, Anne had the purest of hearts. One without any troubles would be free from headaches. Apart from grumbling over why Marlene didn't return to the Fortress with them, she wasn't bothered by anything else because since Marlene was still a member of the Guild, she would surely return one day. Anne believed that Marlene was merely tied down by family matters and she would return once she had dealt with them.

The chariot drove off and Lize gazed at Rhode who was admiring the picturesque views through the window. Her head was filled with the exchange of words that she had with Lydia the day before.

"As your elder sister, I have to give you my blessings in finding your happiness, Lize. This is what you deserve. A diamond will eventually emanate a unique, shimmering radiance after wiping off the filthy dust. But I hope you can understand, Lize. Not only will a beautiful diamond bring happiness, but it will also bring danger. You must know that you're not following an ordinary man. You will face all sorts of unimaginable dangers whenever you're with him and the dangers won't be as simple as those that you've experienced as a mercenary. Lize, the immense pressure might overwhelm and crumble you. I'm not trying to scare you. You should also know that he isn't an ordinary man by now."

Yes, Sister. I'm clear about this.

Lize shifted her gaze to the azure sky.

If this man didn't rescue me by the Floating Boat, would I have survived until now? Perhaps I would've turned into an ice-cold corpse like the rest.

Back then, she knew that this man wasn't ordinary at all. But now, she felt that she could accept this reality.

As long as I stay by his side... No matter what sort of danger and difficulties I face, I won't be afraid.

She was confident.

"-"

As the chariot reached Golden City's gate, it abruptly slowed down and came to a halt.

What happened?

Rhode and Lize came to their senses and exchanged curious glances. Seldom would there be chariots stopped when they were leaving the city.

Could it be that there was some kind of a roadblock? But they had never heard of such problems arising in Golden City. Or could it be that members of the Reformist Party had escaped?

Suddenly, someone knocked on the chariot and the door opened.

The trio curious turned toward the door.

"Rhode, why did you come so late?"

Clad in her usual Mage robe, Marlene stepped into the chariot and sat beside Anne, twitching her brows and displaying her gorgeous smile.

"I've been waiting this entire afternoon."