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772 A Tes

 Casabianca.

Sonia knitted her brows as her chariot approached the spotlessly white city. About a week ago, she craved to return to this city. But now, she felt sick of this place, and even hateful. She touched herself and the mild pain made her shiver. Then, this sensation disappeared quickly.

"Sigh..."

Sonia shifted her gaze away from the scenery and shut her eyes. But to her surprise, it wasn't the face of that man who she thought it would be. Instead, it was the ice-cold expression of a man with black hair and pupils.

Master...

Sonia lowered her head and muttered under her breath. The image of Rhode speaking to her in the room reemerged in her head.

"I'll give you one chance, Sonia..."

Back then, Rhode's voice was so gentle yet dangerous that it gave her a sense of thrill and pain. Just hearing his voice was enough to make her tremble. This was an instinctive reaction Rhode had trained her to have, where she hoped to be reprimanded, thrashed, and looked down upon by a disdainful gaze that scorned her dignity. All of these stimulated her senses. The sense of comfort from abandoning her self-esteem, beliefs, and surrendering completely to a certain powerful will was like a sweet poison that seeped into her heart.

"This is a test. A test for you to possibly return to the past and become the old you..."

Rhode's ice-cold, gentle voice rang in her ears. But this time, she wasn't happy. In fact, she didn't feel glad or delighted at all. On the contrary, she was worried that her master would abandon her! The thought of her leaving Rhode's side and returning to Casabianca alone left her incomparably anxious and unwilling. Back then, she couldn't even recall that Andre and Cheryl were waiting for her return. There was only one thought in her mind-to be with Rhode until she died.

And now, she was getting closer to the city.

Sonia lifted her head. This spotlessly white city was so indistinct before her eyes. The figure who supported her beliefs had long disappeared. She didn't even know what was going through her head now. However, she was certain that she didn't wish to return to Casabianca.

This wasn't purely due to her longing for Rhode. She knew why the Light Parliament had sent her to represent the investigation team in the Land of Atonement. Although no one openly said that the Munn Kingdom and the Country of Darkness were related, she was clear that they had this intention. This time, they didn't have any strong proof for her to go to the Land of Atonement and the Light Parliament was only using her as a pretext to make a fuss in order for them to wrest some control of authority from the Munn Kingdom. But now, she had nothing, which left the Light Parliament desperate. She knew that her failure would tarnish the reputation of the Light Parliament even further while the anti-parliament forces would become stronger, which might affect the Country of Light.

Although the Light Parliament wouldn't make things too difficult for her with the Lockos Financial Group as her backing, they still wouldn't have an issue with showing their disapproval. The thought of those bastards messing with her later on left her fuming. But...

"Miss Sonia, we're here."

The chariot came to a halt. Sonia gazed into the hall, took in a deep breath, and exited the chariot. Then, she saw several parliament members waiting for her with gloomy or furious expressions while some rejoiced in her misfortune.

How strange...

If it were in the past, she would have felt uncertain upon meeting them. But now, she was feeling exceptionally calm. The blame and pressure on her-she couldn't feel anything at all. She gazed at them expressionlessly as though watching a bunch of clowns.

So what if the parliament strikes my name off or if my family drives me out? I still have Master. And in Master's eyes, they are just a pile of worthless trash.

Sonia swept a sharp glance at everyone and they were perturbed. They had never seen such an ice-cold expression from her, which were as though ice blades penetrating their bodies. In an instant, everyone subconsciously kept their expressions and turned away guiltily.

"Welcome back, Miss Sonia."

At this moment, one of the parliament members stepped forward in large strides. His expression was also rather awkward, but he swiftly returned to normal.

"We know that you're exhausted. But the parliament wishes to receive first hand information, so..."

"No problem."

Sonia interrupted coldly. Then, she ascended the flight of stairs without looking at the man.

"I'll report to the parliament now."

Sister Sonia is back!

Cheryl scuttled along the corridor and ran up the stairs with a grin. She arrived at the study room, tidied her attire, and knocked on the door gently. Then, Andre greeted her.

"Cheryl? Is anything the matter?"

"Sister Sonia is back. She's heading to the parliament to report the situation now."

"Oh?"

Andre's eyes glinted. Cheryl was the only one who was aware of what Sonia was up to before her departure. Back then, Andre was still in his daze while Cheryl, as an Elf, couldn't leave the place without Sonia's or his protection. After all, Cheryl had often been mocked and humiliated by the nobles. It was due to this that in order not to have anyone find trouble with Cheryl and Andre, the former stayed indoors and never showed herself. Everything returned to normal only after Andre pulled himself together.

After Cheryl heard from Sonia that the latter was appointed by the Light Parliament to head into the Land of Atonement, Andre was incredibly worried. He understood what the Light Parliament was plotting and believed that they were overly anxious to recover some lost ground in their battle against Rhode. However, they made a foolish decision, especially after they heard that the investigation team was locked up for causing harm to the locals in the Land of Atonement. There were a few times when Andre tried to head out and check on Sonia. However, he gave up on this thought in the end. After all, he still had many things on hand. Even though Sonia was important to him, he was also clear that he would be doomed if he didn't pull himself together after reading her letter.

Andre had worked hard and the aftereffects from his failure slowly vanished. With the help of Teacher Soderfast, Andre contacted parliament member Carlson and conspired a comeback. Even though it was predictable that he would face a lot of resistance from the Light Parliament, there wasn't a better chance than this: the infiltration of the Country of Darkness.

But it wasn't the time to consider this problem now. Sonia was back and this was the most important matter!

"Get the chariot ready; we're heading to the parliament hall!"

It was already evening when Sonia exited the parliament hall. The sun had sunk under the horizon while the dark night sky enveloped the spotlessly white city. However, the gloomy and dissatisfied look on her face was nowhere to be seen. In the hearing, she reported all her information to the parliament and as expected, they made things tough for her. They questioned if Rhode had threatened her, blamed that he treated the emissaries badly, and judged that from his hostility against the Country of Light, he must have some relations with the Country of Darkness, etc.

However, Sonia wasn't interested in this topic at all. Just like Priest Aiken, she answered everything and instead of listening in silence to their complaints, she retaliated, which stunned many parliament members. Sonia had always been low profile in the Light Parliament and no one expected her to blow her top. Not only that, but she also grumbled that the knights who accompanied her were a bunch of idiots. If it weren't for their arrogant behaviors, would the investigation team be this embarrassed? The army would need to be responsible for this blunder.

Sonia's words left the army representative's face as black as charcoal and he stormed off in a huff. In an instant, the atmosphere became extremely awkward. However, no one suspected that Sonia had changed because to them, she was only venting her frustrations from suffering in the Land of Atonement. They didn't know that while she ridiculed the army and parliament, her heart wasn't filled with anger at all. On the contrary, she felt fearless in this world whenever she thought of Rhode's support. The Light Parliament was merely a bunch of maggots to her.

After experiencing darkness for 15 days, she realized that she had surprisingly changed a lot.

At this moment, she saw two familiar figures at the bottom of the stairs.

"Sonia!"

"Sister Sonia!"

Sonia gazed blankly at Andre and Cheryl. Then, her world had as though turned dark. She heard Rhode's voice in her head and she had as though returned to that day.

"I give you one chance. This is a test, Sonia."

Rhode's sweet, ice-cold voice.

"You love Andre, don't you? Miss Sonia? Alright then, let's see how strong the power of love is, shall we? Miss Sonia, I've always believed that one should give everything to their beloved, no matter if they were beautiful or disgusting. You can give it a shot to see if you can receive true love... This is my final test for you. You can seek his hug, protection, and stay by his side. Then, we shall see if you can return to how you were in the past..."

Rhode revealed his warm, gentle smile.

"This is your final test and choice, Miss Sonia..."

"Sister Sonia?"

Cheryl's calls dragged Sonia back into reality. Then, the latter realized that Cheryl and Andre had arrived before her and looked at her curiously.

"Your complexion looks terrible. Did the parliament members bully you?"

"No, I was only..."

Sonia forced out a smile and looked at them while adjusting her mood.

I'm finally back! Andre! Cheryl! I'm finally back! I miss you two so much! I finally see you two again! This makes me so happy... Am I really happy?

No matter how she changed her thoughts, she realized that her emotions weren't moved at all as though they were only acquaintances. When she looked at Andre, she no longer blushed. She unrolled an awkward smile and shifted her gaze to the floor.

"The.... The parliament's interrogations left me breathless. Thank you, Cheryl and..."

Sonia lifted her head and gazed at Andre.

"You're finally back, Andre. I knew that you would succeed."

"It's all thanks to your reminder, Sonia."

Andre rubbed his nose and revealed a shy smile.

"If it weren't for your letter, perhaps... I wouldn't have pulled myself back up so soon. Thank you, Sonia."

"It's nothing, Andre. Good to have you back..."

Sonia looked at him and was speechless. This voice that comforted her was no longer as warm. This face that she felt amusing and it was as if they became strangers...

That's right... You're back, Andre. But I... may never return.