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824 After the Winter Season

 Winter is almost over.

Rhode nodded in satisfaction as he stood on the balcony and watched over the bustling streets. Even though he had also built a fortress in the game and developed it into the mightiest city, he felt content watching its huge transformation from nothing. He also didn't know if it was due to the fact that spring was coming that he felt like he was in a better mood.

After returning from the Eastern Plains and building the Astral Temple, everything turned out well. Due to his habit of keeping secrets, he didn't arrange for the Bow Knights to patrol the fortress. He made them stay in the Astral Temple for the time being. Although the residents within the fortress were also curious about the mysterious yet majestic building at the peak of the mountain, they quickly got used to it. After all, having stayed this long enough in the fortress, they knew that Rhode had all sorts of tricks up his sleeves and could build a whole new building overnight. Moreover, the Ocean Elves had been roaming the fortress and they were all used to them already.

This time, Rhode had gained a lot from his trip to the Eastern Plains-namely Christie's legendary artifact and the Astral Temple. He had gotten Canary and Mini Bubble Gum to care for Christie, and Marlene joined thereafter. Although Marlene's mastery of magic wasn't as great as Canary's, even 10 Canarys couldn't compare to Marlene in term of magical theory. As the magic that Christie used wasn't the true form of magic, magical theory lessons were also critical from a certain perspective.

As for Sovann, Rhode didn't know what happened during the inheritance ritual. However, Sovann appeared much better after returning to the fortress, and he was also willing to hand over the training secrets for the Battle Mage Group. However, Sovann told Rhode that the reason why the average strength of the Eastern Plains' people was so high wasn't due to some secret training method. To a large extent, it was due to them receiving systematic training from a young age, which produced the results today. As for the mercenaries... Although Sovann didn't mention it, Rhode understood what he meant. But Rhode wasn't concerned because indeed, it would be too late to train even newbies like Joey and Randolf from a scientific angle. However, he didn't forget that he had the science-breaking Sphere of Mystery... Hmm? Wrong. It was the system doing the work, so it shouldn't be considered science, right?

According to Sonia's report and the intelligence collected from Gillian's 'network', Rhode had a new understanding of the current situation. As more and more Holy Maiden Statues were distributed, the Undead Army's threats were increasingly eliminated, including those in the Eastern Plains. Currently, even though there were still small-scale clashes in border regions, the chances of large-scale attacks from the Undead Army were getting slimmer.

As for Lilian, Rhode learned from Sonia that in the final discussions, the Light Parliament had partially agreed to her suggestion. They allowed the Munn Kingdom's reinforcements to only defend the military frontline and not get involved with non-military affairs by the rear. This left Lilian fuming in discontentment. However, Sonia consoled her and Lilian eventually calmed her anger. She returned to the Country of Light after signing the agreement. What amused Rhode was that he didn't know what sorcery Sonia used on Lilian, but it was apparent that the little girl liked her a lot. After returning to the Country of Light, Lilian requested for Sonia to be transferred to her side. Of course, this was the best opportunity for the Light Parliament to further monitor Lilian who appeared as a threat in their eyes and they agreed wholeheartedly to Lilian's request. Not only that, but they also seemed to be glad that Sonia gained Lilian's likes in such a short period of time and hoped that Sonia could use the opportunity and 'brainwash' Lilian more.

Rhode let out an inward chuckle after hearing the instructions that the Light Parliament had given Sonia. That bunch of idiots was totally hopeless. They would never think that Sonia was actually his devoted pet. On the other hand, Rhode had confirmed that Lydia signed the agreement with Lilian despite receiving the Projection Crystal from Gaya. This apparently proved that Lydia didn't wish to hand the fate of the Munn Kingdom into the hands of others, so Rhode heaved a sigh of relief.

However, Rhode felt weird at times about how Lydia made her decisions. Logically speaking, an angel's standpoint and politics weren't anywhere compatible because angels were members of kindness and order while politics couldn't be considered as a good or just cause. This was also why the Munn Kingdom was this wealthy and powerful, yet was always behind the Country of Light. The Light Parliament also seemed aware about the differences between angels and humans, which was why they brazenly stained the reputation of angels, knowing that angels wouldn't get back at them. However, Lydia was special. Her decisiveness and determination left Rhode gasping with admiration.

Regarding the refugees, Marlene's plan was surprisingly effective. Even though the number of battles had decreased, refugees continued to leave their homeland. Marlene used her contacts in the Senia Family and got in touch with other territorial overlords, so most of them immediately sent the refugees to the Land of Atonement. Just as Marlene predicted, many overlords were having headaches over this problem as they lacked the funds and foodstuff to provide the refugees. To make matters worse, it was still the winter season. Moreover, conflicts between the refugees and locals had also brought them a whole lot of trouble. Since Rhode was willing to resolve this problem for them, they gladly accepted his help. Of course, there were also clashes and conflicts within the Land of Atonement after the refugees arrived, with some attempting to incite and take advantage of the crisis for personal gains. However, those idiots apparently didn't understand Rhode or the Land of Atonement. After Rhode hung the corpses of those idiots on his city wall, the people finally knew not to mess with him or stir any trouble in this place.

Of course, Rhode was clear that this was all an illusion. The main reason why the refugees were willing to spend their lives here was due to his powerful strength and means to suppress defiant ones. After all, the refugees had had enough of wandering helplessly. Therefore, even though he wasn't considered kind and was actually rather frightening, they could only accept this fact. After all, their home didn't belong to them anymore.

On the other hand, Marlene's 'loan plan' worked perfectly. Indeed, there were several talents among the refugees including hunters, artisans, blacksmiths, and intermediate alchemists. Also, there were several jobs for merchants. After they settled down in the Land of Atonement, they quickly relied on their skills and experiences in establishing their businesses. The Land of Atonement had become much livelier now. Of course, on the other hand, Rhode requested for Marlene to observe the merchants among the refugees and told her to recruit the talented ones as Ann's subordinates and form his own independent trade association. This matter was currently in the works and should be completed soon according to Marlene. The only problem was that Ann was Marlene's assistant and didn't have the time to manage her daily merchant routines. Moreover, there also wasn't anyone else who was trustworthy enough to handle the operations of the trade association. Although the refugees seemed sincere, who knew what was going on in their heads?

As the refugees entered the Land of Atonement, the recruitment of Mages that Canary constantly kept in mind had finally been settled. She found a number of magically talented children among the refugees with the Mages from the Mage School and sent them to the Mage Tower for education. Although they were still young, Canary was confident that with the Sphere of Mystery, they could become official Mages in a year.

"Master."

The shadow behind Rhode shook and Nell stepped out of it. She gazed palely at the sky and sun, lowering her head.

"Our patrol team is back. We've searched the border and didn't find anything."

"I see..."

Rhode puckered his brows.

"Is the Order Flame Column still burning?"

"Yes, Master. I've seen it for myself. There isn't any problem. But I didn't discover the strange marks on the Order Flame Column that you wanted us to find."

"Okay."

Rhode nodded and gazed at the sky, holding his hands together. Even though winter was slowly over, the thick layer of snow continued to cover the mountains.

As Rhode pondered deeply, Nell interrupted his thoughts.

"Master, there's another matter I need to report to you."

"What's the matter?"

"Miss Lapis hopes that you can pay the workshop a visit. She mentioned something about a major breakthrough in research and development."

Nell sounded rather unnatural when speaking about Lapis, but she couldn't be blamed. Even though Lapis and Nell were considered descendants who separated from the main Elf race due to unique circumstances, they didn't see each other as companions. No matter what, the Dark Elves had a horrible reputation. Even though the Behermes also weren't saints, at least they didn't commit any outrageous acts on the verge of extinction like the Dark Elves. Besides, Lapis was gentle and peaceful in nature, so it wasn't surprising that she disliked Nell. On the other hand, Nell knew about it and had no intention of making up for their relationship. Anyway, all she had to do was lurk around Rhode, pass messages, resolve some hassles, and sometimes satisfy his desires. Such a life was much better than living in the underground.

"Okay."

Rhode nodded while Nell stooped over and vanished into the shadow. Rhode left the balcony, exited the study room, and gazed at the empty corridor. At this moment, Lize descended the flight of stairs.

"Mr. Rhode?"

Lize came to a halt and looked curiously.

"Where are you going?"

"I received a message from Lapis about some major breakthrough, so I'm heading to the workshop to have a look. What about you, Lize?"

"I... I was just walking around..."

Lize blushed slightly. Then, she lifted her head and revealed her usual gentle smile.

"Can I go with you, Mr. Rhode?"

"Of course."

The duo arrived at the entrance of the workshop. Compared to the broken and tattered room in the past, this looked more like an alchemist workshop-professional, minimalist, and clean... Yes, the messy sight was nowhere to be seen.

"I haven't seen Lapis for awhile..." Lize said and let out a sigh.

"Did you two have a quarrel?"

Rhode sensed the strange tone in her voice and turned to her curiously. Lize hesitated for a moment and shook her head with a bitter smile.

"No, we didn't, Mr. Rhode. It's just that..."

Lize bit her lip and said.

"It's nothing. I'm just rather worried about her. You know it too, Mr. Rhode, she often forgets her meal because she's overly passionate in her work."

That's true.

Rhode shrugged. Lapis always behaved this way, especially after she accepted the wisdom of the Behermes. In order to digest all of it, she had put in a lot of effort. In the past, perhaps she would've starved to death if Christie weren't around to remind her. But... Rhode looked at Lize. Based on his understanding of this young lady, he knew that something was amiss. But since Lize wasn't willing to talk about it, he wouldn't continue to pester her.

Rhode shifted his gaze to an exquisite metal bar by the side of the door.

Hmm... Looks like she's still the same old self.

Rhode picked it up and knocked on the door.

Knock knock knock.

Rapid footsteps were heard from behind the metal door. Then, a slight gap opened and a young lady clad in an alchemist robe peered from behind. As soon as she saw Rhode and Lize, she hurriedly bowed.

"Greetings, Sir Overlord, Miss Lize."

"Don't stand on ceremony. I heard that Lapis was looking for me?"

"Yes, Sir Overlord. Madam Lapis is looking for you. She said it is something about the..."

Before the young lady finished her sentence, they heard Lapis' voice.

"Who's here? Is it Sir Rhode? Great! I'm about done here... Huh? H-Huh?! Oh no! Wait! Hold on! Don't come in! E-Everyone, run-----!"

Boom!

The group witnessed a white mushroom cloud of smoke rising from the backyard of the alchemy workshop.

She didn't change at all...

Rhode shook his head helplessly.