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774 A Crazy Invitation

 Sonia laid down the glass of alcohol and gazed at the man she deeply loved in the past before her. However, for unknown reasons, she felt nothing for him despite her still clearly remembering the place they first met. Back then, she was proud, arrogant, and disinterested in a crude man like Andre. She looked down upon other races like the nobles of the Country of Light and it was due to this that she mocked Cheryl, which led to Andre's dissatisfaction.

Thereafter, Sonia came up with ways to defeat Andre, but eventually failed. It was at that moment her emotions toward this man had a strange transformation. Andre was a smart and powerful man to her, but he often got himself into trouble over meaningless matters and was willing to offend powerful nobles for his Elf servant. Sonia couldn't understand what was going through his head at all and it was from that moment she found herself interested in him.

Then, under all kinds of chances, she got close to that man, and the latter had given her encouragement that she never expected. When she almost gave up due to tremendous pressure from family conflicts, Andre encouraged her to pull herself together, and she finally became the third executive officer of the Lockos Financial Group. Up until this moment, Sonia still remembered that night-Andre looked at her deeply and spoke about his incomparably childish dreams under the moonlight.

Perhaps it was the moment when she saw the glint in his eyes that she became deeply attracted to him.

His every word and action caught her eyes. She was intoxicated by his serious attitude, as well as the shy, innocent, yet hilarious smile that he displayed whenever he felt awkward. There were many times when she hoped to confess to this man, in exchange for his love and recognition. But now...

That was the past, after all.

The memories of the past emerged in her head. But deep down, she felt differently. If it were in the past, perhaps her heart would be pounding. But now, she was so oddly calm that she couldn't believe herself.

What's wrong with me? What have I become? Why? Why don't I feel anything?

Sonia clutched the glass and took a sip.

"Sonia, are you alright?"

Andre asked curiously as the strong, stimulating sensation from the alcohol diffused inside her mouth, leaving her a little dizzy. Sonia shook her head.

"I'm fine, Andre..."

Sonia looked at him with a smile.

"Andre, do you like me?"

"Huh?"

Andre stared blankly and blushed.

"S-Sonia, what are you talking about..."

"Answer me, Andre."

Sonia stood up and went up to him. Currently, they were the only ones in this private VIP room that Andre had booked, which was why Sonia had no concerns. She placed her hand on his chest and leaned into his ear.

"Do you like me, Andre? Do you want me?"

"S-Sonia?"

Andre appeared rather miserable at her sudden advancement. He instinctively stood up as though to avoid her.

"What's the matter with you? You're drunk, Sonia... Don't..."

"I like you... Andre..."

A confession that he yearned for even in his dreams.

But for unknown reasons, Sonia didn't feel the excitement and embarrassment she had expected. At this moment, she felt as though an actress on stage and whatever she did was simply acting according to the script.

"Sonia, you..."

"Do you like me, Andre?"

Sonia took one step closer and pushed herself onto him. She looked up silently at him. Then, she wrapped her arms around his neck.

Will you be able to help me break free from this incubus so I can restart all over again, Andre? Can you do it?

"D-Don't do this, Sonia!"

Just as Sonia's lips were about to touch Andre's, the latter shrunk and pushed her away. Sonia staggered and widened her eyes in astonishment. The atmosphere turned strange instantly. Andre blushed and let out an awkward cough while his eyes wandered.

"I'm... sorry... Sonia, I didn't..."

"Huhuhu..."

"Huh?"

"Hahahaha...!"

Sonia stooped over and burst into laughter. After a few moments, she straightened her posture.

"You're so easily tricked by me, Andre. Aren't you a little too stupid? I didn't expect you to be this gullible. It seems like I should get Cheryl to watch over you whenever you go to the ball. If not, how am I supposed to explain to Cheryl if you're bewitched by a noblewoman?"

"T-This has nothing to do with Cheryl."

Andre rubbed his nose helplessly and let out a long sigh.

"Really. You almost scared me to death, Sonia. I thought you were drunk..."

"This is a compulsory lesson from me, Andre. You should get used to it."

Sonia lifted her head and looked at him wittily.

"Thanks for the lesson, Sonia."

Andre shook his head and gazed out of the window.

"It's late already. Let me send you back."

"... Okay, Andre."

Sonia turned around with her back facing Andre. She gazed at the night scenery outside the window. Although the room was brightly lit, she felt as though she had entered an abyss with nothing beneath her feet... It was an eternal darkness. She shut her eyes, lowered her head, and mumbled under her breath.

Master...

To Rhode, this period of time could almost be considered his days of making fortune.

After sending the first Holy Maiden Statue to Dragon Canyon, the other regions quickly contacted the Land of Atonement with hopes to attain one of the statues for themselves. It was no wonder that they were this passionate about the statue. Back then, even though the statues performed outstandingly during the battle, Rhode's fortress was supported by the Battle Angels and Magic Fleet, after all. They weren't sure if the statues would be equally useful in their territories. But now, they clearly witnessed the improvements to Dragon Canyon after they attained the Holy Maiden Statue and immediately let go of their concerns and sought help from Rhode. No matter what, they were desperate to have this legendary artifact that only Rhode could create in the entire Light Mainland.

The Holy Maiden Statues indeed weren't omnipotent. Although Ann sounded as though she was promoting it, this was the war period and it wasn't a great idea to hide their weaknesses. In fact, Rhode told General Anton that although the Holy Maiden Statues were the natural enemy of the Undead Creatures, they were only statues apart from this purpose, so they couldn't withstand any damage. Even though they were made of magic crystals with a certain extent of magical resistance, they would be completely doomed if smashed by catapults or battering rams. However, these minute problems didn't seem to stop the purchasers. Nothing was perfect in this world and even after decades, there were still no safety resolutions to the violent trembles which the powerful magic cannons brought upon when firing. Besides, the statues weren't so fragile that they would shatter instantly. The purchasers valued the statue's massive enchanted field and powerful holy spear. Moreover, it could enhance the area within its range with the holy attribute. Not only would the water sources turn holy, but the soldiers' armor and weapons would also be enhanced with the holy attribute, which would be great against the Undead Creatures who were weakened by the enchanted field. Furthermore, after the Undead Creatures crumbled, Necromancers wouldn't be able to awaken their corpses to replenish their forces because the evil energy would be demolished under the sacred rays and lose their effects entirely.

It went to show that with the presence of the Holy Maiden Statue, the Undead Army's forces were dramatically weakened, where they couldn't pollute the water source, lower the soldiers' morale, attack using their sturdy bodies that were enhanced by spiritual powers, or increase their forces by awakening corpses. Although the Undead Army's high-level troops were strong, at least the humans would be fighting a battle where they held an advantage.

This was more than enough for them.

It was due to this that letters from all around the Munn Kingdom flooded Rhode's table. The Eastern Plains and Sygram, which saw the most aggressive battles, were in more urgent need. Apart from them, some of the letters came from the regions that were bordered the Country of Light and it was apparent that they weren't confident in their army at all. Instead of relying on the Light Parliament, they were better off relying on themselves.

These overlords weren't as poor as Rhode. Of course, they wouldn't carry a few million gold coins around with them. Instead, the platinum coins and diamonds were the most commonly circulated currency on the continent. They didn't hesitate to fork out a value of 3 million gold coins as deposit at all, which left Rhode feeling a touch of envy.

I worked hard for so long and could finally rely on the system to earn some money. These rich overlords handed over millions without batting their eyes. Why is the gap between humans so huge in this world too?

But strictly speaking, Rhode didn't earn much because money was the capital to create the statues, after all. He would only receive his earnings after handing over the statues.

However, there was always good and bad to everything. In this world, human nature was an existence that couldn't be described with kindness. As the passionate letters flew to his desk, visitors to the Land of Atonement also gradually increased and some weren't here for travel. In fact, Joey and his team had caught a few fellows who tried to sneak into the Mage Tower. Moreover, there were also a lot of unfamiliar faces in the fortress. Not only that, but Rhode also heard from Marlene that some nobles raised their doubts to Lydia about how Rhode obtained this legendary artifact. Even though Lydia ignored the requests, Rhode was clear that doubts and opinions about him existed in the Munn Kingdom. He couldn't be blamed, since he was indeed overly powerful and rose to the top as an overlord from his past identity of just a mercenary leader. The nobles could still accept explanations if he had gotten the statues from the Senia Family. But now, he relied on himself to lay hands on the production process of the statues.

How did he do it? How is it possible? What secrets does this man have? What is he trying to do?

Rhode wasn't in the mood and couldn't have a way to clear their doubts, so why not leave all the questions aside? He knew clearly that these weren't the only problems. In fact, it wasn't wrong to say that he was an 'unregistered resident' of this world.

On the other hand, what left him astonished was that the Magic Fleet also dispatched a representative to ask if the Holy Maiden Statues could operate in air, which was an unexpected development for him. However, he considered and didn't find it too surprising because he had once used the Holy Maiden Statues on the Floating Boat in Dragon Canyon and turned the tide against the enemies. They valued the coverage of the Holy Maiden Statues, as well as the enchanted field that weakened the Undead Creatures, which explained why they wanted to move it onto their ships. Rhode admitted that this was a great idea. If it worked, the Munn Kingdom wouldn't need to fear anymore even if the Undead Creatures wrapped around from the other side or purposely avoided the enchanted field.

Frankly speaking, Rhode was rather astonished after hearing their request. In the game, none of the players had done so, but this wasn't due to the players' line of thoughts. Instead, it was because the players couldn't get their hands on the blueprints of the Magic Fleet, so they wouldn't even consider this possibility. However, Rhode admitted that this might be possible now. Of course, it had its obvious flaw, where if the enemies targeted the Magic Fleet that was transporting the statue, everything would be doomed if the Magic Fleet crashed. If they were to protect the Magic Fleet endlessly, it would be much easier on land. On the other hand, the Magic Fleet in air could avoid ambushes from enemies... This indeed was a great idea.

Rhode left the negotiations of this matter to Marlene. After all, the Senia Family had always been responsible in producing the Magic Fleet with the royal family and she was more familiar with those people than him.

However, this didn't mean that Rhode had nothing on his hands. After receiving Sonia's report, he learned that his troubles hadn't ended yet. A planted agent made things more convenient for him. He heard from Sonia about the views that the Light Parliament had toward him and Lydia. He couldn't help but acknowledge that Nakvard was skillful in manipulation. As a human supremacist, he deeply understood the logic behind humans supporting their own race and there definitely was a market for his ideas because the Light Parliament was fearful of Lydia. Rhode was sure that if Nakvard gave a public speech in the plaza and incited the people's emotions, he would successfully brainwash them into thinking that the Munn Kingdom was an enemy that they must defeat.

The battle had not ended yet. It had simply changed its location.

Besides, there were many times when the battles in the rear were much more thorny than the front.

On the surface, the fortress in the Land of Atonement was still as peaceful as ever, with everything going according to Rhode's arrangements. Nell was currently in charge of training Joey and his team of Thieves and Rhode learned from Joey that the progress was great. Even though Nell couldn't possibly teach them the characteristics of the Dark Elves, the assassination techniques that they had created were beneficial enough for the Thieves.

On the other hand, Orchid Heart had finally gained the recognition that she deserved after her crucial performance at the previous battle. Previously, even though many soldiers seemed rather respectful toward this young lady who always looked sleepy, they actually held doubts about her. It was thanks to Marfa and Sol that they learned to obey orders. However, after Orchid Heart eliminated the Undead Army, the doubtful voices vanished entirely. Even though they didn't figure out if Orchid Heart was a Mage or another class, there were no doubts about her formidable strength anymore, which was why Rhode appointed her to lead the army against the enemies in the game. Another reason was that she wasn't an expert in PK, unlike Rhode, Canary, and Mini Bubble Gum, who were the last ones standing in the PK arena. With Orchid Heart's current level, they could thank the heavens that she entered the third round of elimination matches.

This was also due to her being a Spellcaster Scholar because this class didn't possess many battle abilities. They solely relied on the enemies' attack to launch counter attacks. If she could survive the mid to late stages of a chaotic battle, it meant that she controlled the entire battle and could be the champion. However, anyone could defeat her in the early stages of the battle. Besides, the biggest problem of the Spellcaster Scholar was that they could only copy techniques and not enemy attributes. Therefore, they were at a disadvantage against pure attacks that didn't rely on technique. If Anne were to battle Orchid Heart, the latter would surely kneel before the former within half a minute. This was because Anne didn't need any techniques to deal with her, and where her shield would crush Orchid Heart immediately.

However, there weren't any issues with her commanding an army. Not only could she ensure her safety by staying in the back lines, but she could also accurately gather the techniques and magic spells the enemy cast. She would wait for an opportune timing and with a light stroke of her finger, various magic spells and techniques would instantly erupt to shatter the enemy's defense and attack.

On this continent, the casting of almost every technique required spiritual powers and it was no exception for Rhode's Spirit Swordsman class. However, the Spellcaster Scholar was the only class that didn't need to expend any spiritual powers. In other words, under the right conditions, Orchid Heart could instantly release a legendary spell that a dozen high-level Mages needed to cast together. This was because she didn't need to expend her spiritual powers in order to cast this spell, so there wasn't any issue even if she casted continuously.

Even though Spellcaster Scholars didn't need to expend their spiritual powers, they still had flaws. She could release a technique with the light tap of her finger if she just recorded the enemy's moves in her book. But if she were to release other techniques she learned before the battle, she would need a 'charge up' period. This was why the class was so insane, yet easily defeated in elimination matches. Elimination matches required speed and efficiency. Under such conditions, Orchid Heart wouldn't be able to respond appropriately and the enemy obviously wouldn't give her time to charge up her technique and magic spells. Even if she learned all the magic spells and techniques in this world, she still couldn't make up for this flaw.

After the previous battle, Orchid Heart's position in the Land of Atonement had stabilized. The new soldiers were no longer as brazen as they were and didn't need Marfa and Sol to keep them on their toes.

Everything seemed to be running on the right track.

But shortly after, the situation took a turn.

As their front line faced the attacks from the Undead Army, the Country of Light could no longer rely on themselves to defend. As a result, they officially requested reinforcements from the Munn Kingdom.

At the same time, an envelope marked with the crest of the Light Parliament and Archangel arrived on Rhode's desk.