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704 Nightfall II

 Many of them widened their eyes in disbelief. Even though they won the previous battles easily, it didn't feel good for them, after all. Everyone hated battles, even the easy ones. Although two days had passed, many felt disgusted as soon as they recalled the scenes and mental pressure which the Country of Darkness had brought upon them.

"... Boss, what do you mean?"

Joey scratched his head, but plucked up his courage and asked. In fact, his doubt also represented everyone's thoughts. Rhode observed everyone's expressions. Most of them were filled with suspicions and confusions. Only a handful of them, such as John, Marlene, and Old Walker had fallen into deep thoughts. Canary, Mini Bubble Gum, and Orchid Heart weren't concerned over this issue. As players in the past, they knew the causes and effects of the entire situation. Rhode let out an inward bitter smile. Apart from a few of them, most were mercenaries who were used to fighting and killing, so how was it possible that they would consider the meaning and problem behind the causes?

But it seemed about time for them to attend a lecture.

Rhode spread his arms apart.

"I want to ask everyone of you a question. What do you think was the reason of the Country of Darkness's attack on the Light Mainland?"

Everyone looked blankly and replied hesitantly.

"This... Because the Undead Creatures are sworn enemies with other living creatures..."

"Because the Country of Light dispatched troops to the border and enraged the Country of Darkness..."

"Both sides have been in conflicts ever since the Creation War. Perhaps the Country of Darkness is determined to dominate the Light Mainland now?"

Everyone gave all sorts of reasonable answers. After all, they were only natives of this continent and weren't modern players who had received all sorts of intelligence and news. They had done well to provide such analysis. Much better than...

"Who cares what they're here for! All we have to do is hit them back!" Anne brandished her tiny fist and yelled in disdain.

See. She's an exception.

Rhode shook his head and finger helplessly. Shortly after, the bustling room turned quiet and everyone looked at him for the answer. Then, Rhode said, "You guys have to remember that war is an extension of politics. It's means to achieve political goals. If they can't achieve what they want, then war will be meaningless. You used to be mercenaries who act in according to orders. But now, I need you to grow up and watch the complicated meaning behind this war everything else."

Rhode spread out the Dragon Soul Continent map on the table and pointed here and there. Everyone crowded over.

"I guess you're aware of the Undead Army's structure through Simon's confessions. But I have to warn you that this was only the tip of the iceberg. Their true strength is far from these. In the previous battles, they have only dispatched medium to low-grade troops, with none of the high-grade troops which included the Skeletal Trolls, Death Scythes, Liches, Vampire Army, or Shadow Demons. All of them are the Undead Army's ultimate killers and there is also the Dark Elves and another group of a dark race. Currently, none of them have appeared at all. Perhaps you haven't experienced how powerful they are, but I can tell you that if they emerged, even Mini Bubble Gum and Canary would avoid meeting them face to face. In fact, they also didn't dispatch any the medium-grade troops. All that you've seen are the Abominations and Death Knights. You didn't see any Specters or Ghouls at all, right?"

Everyone turned to Mini Bubble Gum and Canary and the two young ladies nodded in agreement.

"In other words, if they sent out a fully-equipped Undead Army, they should be led by Skeleton Soldiers, Skeleton Archers, Death Knights, Abominations, and Skeleton Guards and accompanied by Necromancers, Specters, and Gargoyles. According to the special characteristics of the army, there will also be Skeletal Trolls, Death Scythe, or Vampires. If the army is directly under the four legendary generals, you may have a chance to meet the Shadow Demons. They are illusory creatures like shadows shuttling in the darkness. Unless you have a weapon enhanced with holy powers, you don't even think of dealing a single bit of damage. They can easily pass through obstacles, so your armor will be meaningless. Even after you've killed them, they will instantly transform into Skeletal Trolls. Just think of the Abominations and multiply their threats by a few times and that's what you get for the Skeletal Trolls."

Many of them paled. They knew how terrifying the Abominations were. In fact, most of their companions had died to their attacks. Not only could their hatchets crush the Cleric's defensive barrier into bits, but the Abominations also didn't even flinch to explosive magic arrows as they advanced. If it wasn't for Orchid Heart who used the [Casali under the Night Sky] and reset the battlefield to reposition them away from the Fortress, no one could predict what the consequences were.

At this moment, no one was concerned over why Rhode understood the Undead Army so well. They stared at Rhode and digested the words that he said. Perhaps they might not be qualified commanders or generals, but they were still experienced warriors after all, and they recorded every detail of the enemies in their heads.

"This also means that if the four legendary generals sent out a standard, official army, it will be as great as a fantasy story if we can successfully defend them. Perhaps the only thing that Mini Bubble Gum and Canary can do is to drag out the time and allow us to evacuate safely. However, it is totally impossible to rely on them to defend this place. At least that's how it is now."

Rhode gestured with his hand and continued.

"But what did you see in this battle? The low-grade Skeleton Soldiers, Death Knights, Abominations, followed by Skeleton Guards, Gargoyles, Bone Griffins, and Necromancers. I've just mentioned that none of the high-grade troops have appeared. Do you know why?"

"Because they're preserving their strength?"

After all, John used to be an official commander and he was stronger in this aspect.

"Why are they preserving their strength?"

"That..."

Rhode revealed a trace of laughter in his eyes.

"This involves the political purpose of this war and was also their final goal. You may or may not be aware of this, but, currently, the Country of Darkness is a prosperous nation..." Rhode said and noticed the astonished expressions before him. Everyone widened their eyes in disbelief as though he had just said something ridiculous. But, they couldn't be blamed because the nation of death should have been a graveyard to them-ice-cold, lifeless, and had nothing to do with the word 'prosperous'. But Rhode didn't explain the reason why and continued. "... In the past, the Country of Darkness is as what you imagined. Under the control of the four legendary generals, the Country of Darkness was as peaceful and lifeless as a graveyard. But everything changed ever since the new Dark Dragon Soul, Ion, emerged. In order to change the situation, he strongly supported the small and medium family factions and changed the rules of the Country of Darkness, which granted them more opportunities to rise. It was this opportunity that the Country of Darkness grew livelier. Many families who were struggling on whilst at death's door or attached to other forces began to rise, and eventually brought upon the current, powerful the Country of Darkness."

Rhode shrugged.

"But, prosperity doesn't only bring about benefits. The cake is just this size and that is the same for every forces and nation. When the families rose, they affected the four legendary generals' benefits. As the most four ancient, largest families in Country of Darkness, the four legendary generals definitely wouldn't allow anyone to provoke their dignity. Even though they have means to utterly annihilate the smaller families, they will still be others to fill the deficit and they also have no lack of desires for authority and ambitions."

"But, Rhode, the four legendary generals are so powerful and others try to replace them... Is that possible?"

Marlene expressed her doubts while Rhode nodded slightly.

"That's right. It would be impossible if they were Humans. But Marlene, don't forget that they're Undead Creatures who have no lack of time and patience. Back then, 'Spirit Chaser' Balende was only a small team captain of a regional legion, while 'Blood Countess' Ashvril was just the illegitimate child of two Vampire families, and 'Conqueror' Garcia was only an ordinary child of a human slave family. If they can climb to where they are now over time, why can't others do the same?"

"That..."

Marlene was speechless. Indeed, humans had short life spans and could only grasp authority whenever the opportunity presented. The so-called patience was about 30 to 50 years and compared to the Undead Creatures who could wait up to centuries, they weren't even worth a mention at all.

"The capable families who could challenge the four legendary generals didn't give up while the four legendary generals weren't willing to hand their wealth and land over to them. However, the cake is only this huge and a tiger can't withstand the pack of wolves. Both sides might end up in mutual destruction if the conflicts escalated and it is the Country of Darkness' national power that would take the hit. Under such a circumstance where they can't share the cake, there is only one way for them-getting more of it to distribute fairly."

Rhode pointed to the map.

"And the Light Mainland is this cake."

"But... Sir..."

Sol swallowed his saliva to wet his dry throat. He was a Half-Demon and all he thought everyday in the past was about leading his companions across the continent in search for a place of residence. The furthest he could think ahead was what kind of life he would have. But now, all this discussion about war and the future of this continent sounded too surreal for him.

"I-Is this related to what you've mentioned before?"

"Of course."

This time, it was John who spoke. After figuring out the situation from Rhode's information, he had his own judgment now.

"Just as Sir has said, the Country of Darkness is just sounding us out at the moment. This is like a battle between two men, where no one will rush ahead immediately. If we can't defend against the Country of Darkness' attack, they will be determined to devour us entirely. But if we resisted against them successfully, they will consider if they have a need to continue their attack... Is that right, Sir?"

"That's right."

Rhode nodded in agreement. The game had also proven this point. From the start, the Country of Darkness indeed had no intentions or perhaps they didn't think that they could dominate the entire Light Mainland. This situation was similar to as though a rogue who had groped a beauty and perhaps he would back off after the beauty gave him a tight slap. However, on the contrary, if the beauty trembled and gritted her teeth without retaliating, that would encourage the rogue to continue grabbing her to fulfill his selfish desires.

"The Country of Darkness doesn't seem interested in breaking out in an all-out war against the Light Mainland-at least for now. Their main goal is to plunder more land and resources to supply their domestic, emerging forces. This is also why the four legendary generals didn't lead their armies to the battlefield in the first place. At the same time, this also serves as a test and knockout competition for the various forces in the Country of Darkness. The battlefield is like an examination hall. Those who fail will be crushed and only the true elites will survive."

Rhode couldn't help but recall the scenarios in the game. After the Country of Darkness launched their attack and dominated the Light Mainland, they agreed to sign a truce agreement with the Light Parliament. Back then, many players couldn't understand this move. The Country of Darkness came to an abrupt halt in their actions and gave Light Parliament more than a year to recuperate. But, eventually, the Country of Darkness tore up the agreement and continued with their abuse. Come to think of it, perhaps this might be due to them distributing the portion of the cake. In the previous battles, the dazzling new stars from the Country of Darkness emerged one by one and proved their capabilities, which also destroyed all the foolish people in the Country of Light. As a result, the Country of Darkness's appetite increased. But they eventually needed to digest after consuming too much. Moreover, letting the Light Mainland rest for a year was nothing to them. The characteristics of humans had predetermined that they couldn't create an army with a million troops within one year.

The pitiful idiots in the Light Parliament saw the opportunity for peace and presented the Light Dragon Soul for negotiations. How foolish they were. Up until this point, Rhode still wasn't sure how those idiots saw this as a 'sign of peace'.

"I said all this for you to have an entirely new outlook on the entire situation."

Rhode shifted his gaze from the map to everyone before him.

"This isn't just a simple war. The Country of Darkness's battle lines have faced resistance in the Munn Kingdom, but this isn't their true strength. I want you to remember this. They are regrouping their troops, reevaluating their strategies, and mobilizing their army. But just as I've said, the four legendary generals won't show up that easily because this might trigger the involvement of the three Archangels, turn into a battle between the Creator Dragon Souls, and become the second Creation War."

"Don't we have any ways to stop this battle?"

Lize placed her hands on her chest and said worriedly. Rhode twitched his brows slightly.

"There are indeed some ways. As long as we do our best in defending against the Undead Army's attack and eliminate their forces, the Country of Darkness will back down as soon as they realized that the damage is far more than their benefits."

Frankly speaking, Rhode also wasn't confident in this. This was simply a 'what if' that the players had came up with.

"What if this..."

"What if that..."

"What if the Munn Kingdom stopped Country of Darkness' attack..."

"What if the Country of Light joined forces with the Country of Law to launch attacks against the Country of Darkness..."

But history can't be changed. This was why all their what ifs remained a presumption. However, the 'what ifs' had a possibility of happening in this world. If the Munn Kingdom could resist the Country of Darkness's attack, would this stop the raging war that would spread throughout the continent?

Rhode had no idea about that too. He could only give it a shot.

Thereafter, everyone left the room with unprecedented solemness in their expressions. If they were only mercenaries who fought for the sake of fighting in the past, they naturally felt the heavy pressure on them now after realizing that this battle that they were involved in was related to the fate of this continent. But this was fine too as there wouldn't be motivation without pressure... Rhode shifted his gaze to Anne who had laid flat on the table and snoring away. It was apparent that she wasn't concerned about all this reasoning.

Knock knock.

Agatha's calm voice sounded from behind the door.

"Sir."

"Is anything the matter, Agatha?"

"Yes, Sir."

She 'slid' into the room quietly and bowed.

"The Battle Angel Army has arrived in the Fortress."