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830 Order Refugees 3

 If this was an official ceremony, Rhode would need to go through so many more formalities. Firstly, he had to cleanse himself by soaking in the water for 10 hours. Then, he would need to kneel before the altar for a day before being on night watch duty, where it was almost certain that some unimaginable creatures would find trouble with him. Unless he eliminated them and survived the night, he wouldn't be qualified to receive the reward.

Fortunately, Honorary Knights didn't need to go through all this hassle. Since it didn't require him to serve Lydia in full devotion and this ceremony was only nominal, it would be sufficient to have a witness who held the sufficient identity. However, Rhode didn't expect that Lydia would bring such a surprising witness.

"Greetings, Miss Erin, long time no see."

The corners of his lips twitched. This was the first time that he saw Erin in her human form. He had to admit that she let off a unique charm. Although she wasn't as eye-catching as Lydia, it was due to this reason that they complemented each other with a mix of strong and gentle attractiveness. Erin was like the moon in the night sky-pure, bright, and illuminating gently. She was as beautiful and elegant as Lydia. However, if Lydia was a proud, dazzling, and attractive elder sister, Erin would be the reserved, quiet, and lovable younger sister. No wonder so many players of the Country of Darkness were willing to do anything for her. It was also because of this reason that Rhode didn't stir trouble with her back then.

It was only after the Munn Kingdom perished and Lydia's death did Rhode's Starlight rise in force to become such a powerful guild. If he slaughtered Erin during the war, would there also be another 'Starlight Guild' like his from the Country of Darkness? He considered this question before attacking the Country of Darkness, which was why he didn't find trouble with Erin directly. Fortunately, Erin didn't turn up in his final battle with Dark Dragon Ion. But... some idiots thought that it was a great opportunity to take advantage of this situation and Rhode witnessed his guesses coming true. Even though the infuriated players of the Country of Darkness didn't manage to form a guild that was as powerful as Starlight, they were still powerful enough to take down Erin's murderers.

And now, Rhode realized that the rumors spreading among the players on the forums weren't illogical at all. Even though he wasn't clear of the relationship between Lydia and Erin, one could instantly see that they were close judging from their interactions. You see... Erin went up to Lydia while the latter extended her elbow for the former to cling onto!

Miss Erin, are you sure you're not going to ask your father if you were adopted by him from the Light Mainland?

If this happened in the game, Rhode would surely take a screenshot and post it on the forums. He guaranteed that this would keep the players excited for quite some time.

"Rin came here not long after you informed me, Earl Rhode."

Lydia seemed to be aware of what was going on in Rhode's mind. She said with a smile.

"Frankly speaking, I was rather surprised when Rin turned up here. No matter what... Yes, even I didn't expect that the princess of the Country of Darkness would come here personally. If it weren't for this political situation, I would have prepared a grand welcome ceremony for you."

"There's no need for this formality, Big Sister Lydia."

Erin shook her head with a gentle smile. With the identity of a princess, it also didn't seem wrong that she called Lydia 'Big Sister'-provided the Dark Dragon wouldn't mind having another family member come out of nowhere.

"Big Sister Lydia, I've heard many rumors about you in the Country of Darkness and I thought that we would get along well. It seems like I'm right. Not only did I discover a great artist, but I've also gained an intimate friend. This is truly a meaningful trip for me."

Do you two really understand the current situation?

Rhode asked inwardly because this matter was just too strange.

Princess Erin, no matter what, you're still the princess of the Country of Darkness. It is fine that you traveled to the Light Mainland, but aren't you afraid of getting caught for visiting Lydia? Come to think of it, your outing this time isn't agreed upon by the Dark Dragon, Ion, right? So, aren't you afraid of getting into trouble if this piece of news gets to him?

Also, Your Royal Highness Lydia, although you two get along really well, you should also consider your identity and standpoint, isn't it? Even though it seems like Erin's identity isn't a secret, isn't it ridiculous to invite the enemy princess to stay in your Golden City?

The benefit of a poker face was that no matter how much Rhode cursed inwardly, his true intentions wouldn't be revealed. Lydia and Erin spoke casually before quickly getting into the main topic.

"Alright then, I'll need to trouble you now, Rin."

"No problem, Big Sister Lydia. I've fought with Mr. Rhode in the Land of Atonement before. I'm sure that he's qualified to receive this honor."

... Forget it. What else can I say about them?

Rhode sighed inwardly as he went up to Lydia. At this moment, Erin had quietly stepped aside. The conferring of an Honorary Knight didn't require a solemn ceremony, which was why Rhode didn't need to get changed. He stood before Lydia who tidied her attire and gazed quietly with a smile. Then, he lowered his head and half-knelt on the floor. At this moment, Lydia extended her arms and in a dazzling flash, two snowy blades emerged in her hands.

Then, she slowly lowered the blades.

"Rhode Alander."

Lydia announced.

"I, as an Archangel and in the name of the Munn Kingdom's ruler, grant you the honor of sacredness and glory."

The blades were placed in a criss-cross position before lightly touching the back of his neck. At that moment, Rhode felt the cold sensation from the blade and their rich sacred powers. He had to admit that the power was so much stronger than Star Mark.

"Protect this piece of land and be faithful to it for all your life. Honor shall follow you forever..."

The blades landed his shoulders.

"I hope you can scrupulously abide by your heart. In this world, the dark, unknown path may be full of thorns and obstacles. But only determined ones can overcome them and pave a way for themselves."

Lydia brandished the blades in midair before tapping on his shoulder.

"You shall become an Honorary Knight. Don't forget about the ones who follow you. They shall raise your flag high and head down this entirely different path with you. Everything depends on your decision. I hope you have a clear conscience when you raise the blade in your hand."

Hmm?

Rhode twitched his brow curiously. This wasn't the first time he participated in this ceremony and Lydia's words were rather odd as though there were some hidden meanings. He lifted his head and gazed at her. At this moment, Lydia had put away the blades and looked at him with a gracious smile. Rhode stood up slowly and instantly felt an unprecedented excitement-he succeeded.

The only regret he had in the game was resolved right before him. There were also some improvements to his relationship with Lydia now. He was no longer the heroic figure who fought for the perished country. On the contrary, he would be fighting hand in hand with them in the path toward the same goal.

"As you wish, Your Royal Highness Lydia."

Rhode said softly.

"Good."

Lydia displayed a satisfied smile before winking at him slyly.

"Alright then, this is my punishment for you."

"Punishment?"

Rhode was astonished.

What did I do wrong?

"You actually kept such a talented artist for yourself and didn't tell me about it. This makes me so sad, Earl Rhode. Do you know? When I learned that...." Lydia shifted her gaze to Erin 'angrily' "... someone received a masterpiece from that artist earlier than me, I have to admit that sometimes, the dazzling radiance makes me neglect the things before my eyes. It seems like I've lost this time. But it's a pity that I won't give up just yet."

"So... What you meant was..."

Rhode vaguely guessed the reason why Lydia was upset. But he couldn't be blamed. Even though he was a top player of the game, he didn't possess any artistic cells in him, after all. In fact, he did see many beautiful paintings done by Christie, but he wasn't aware of the artistic value in them and they weren't in his considerations at all.

"It's simple."

Lydia winked proudly.

"I hope to receive a painting by Miss Christie... This should be fine, right, Earl Rhode?"

"... Of course, Your Royal Highness Lydia."

Rhode was left entirely speechless.

"What do you think, Rin?"

Rhode made his way swiftly after the ritual ended, leaving Lydia and Erin in the room alone. The two young ladies looked at the doors closed behind him and Erin shifted her gaze to the other young lady.

"What an interesting person, Big Sister Lydia. I like him a lot. I think he will be a capable subject."

"Is that so?"

Lydia winked playfully before gazing at Erin quietly with her beautiful pair of eyes.

"That's right, Big Sister Lydia. I can see that he's more than capable and decisive..."

Besides, he may also possibly be Big Brother's biggest enemy, Erin said inwardly and her eyes glinted with complicated emotions. But shortly after, the smile returned to her face.

"Alright then, Big Sister Lydia, it's about time for a tea break."

After the short ceremony ended, Rhode attained the Honorary Knight title. This way, he held the authority to expand his territory and head into the Land of Chaos. As soon as he succeeded in obtaining the Creator Dragon Souls' tinder, he would gain the territory which was recognized under the signing by the Creator Dragon Souls in the Creation Pact. Of course, this was only recognition and not compliance.

But this didn't hinder his plans.

The harsh, cold winter slowly ended with warm spring enveloping the continent. The aftermath of war gradually recovered and the atmosphere in his fortress became much livelier.

Rhode stood before the Order Flame Column and gazed at the Order Refugees before him relaxedly. After two months of transactions, his relationship with them had gotten much better, where they directly called him 'Overlord' as a form of respect. Throughout the two months, Rhode received plenty of precious magical materials, which increased the pace of Lapis's research drastically. But this time, he hoped to receive some other benefits.

"Why?"

The leader puckered his brows and asked in a deep voice. He clenched his hands covered with callus tightly.

"Why? Overlord. Don't intend to. Transact?"

"No, I have the intention of a transaction."

Rhode waved his hand and interrupted.

"But the transaction that I hope for is rather different from what you imagined. I hope to receive your help for something more meaningful."

"Help?"

The man knitted his brows. It was apparent that he didn't understand what Rhode meant. He shook his head and pointed at the materials before him.

"This is. All. We got."

"No, not these."

Rhode shook his head before gazing at the man silently with his pitch-black pupils. After a few moments, he spoke.

"I hope to know the coordinates of the tinder."

---!

The man instantly drew the blade on his back. His tall, burly build made him look like a furious bull. He stared with eyes that were as large as copper bells. The two men beside him also drew their weapons and stared at Rhode vigilantly.

"No one! Knows! Tinder! Except! Elder!"

The man glared at Rhode, not sure if it was out of fear or warning.

"Everyone. Who searched. Tinder. Died! All! Do you. Also?!"

"I don't think so."

Despite being surrounded by the three men, Rhode's expression didn't change at all. He narrowed his eyes and gestured for his men to not act rashly. Then, a pitch-black sword emerged in his right hand in a flash.

"It's fine if you don't believe me. But I can tell you that I'm familiar with your world. Of course, I know what it means to you people in seeking the tinder. So, I still hope to receive your assistance. After all, you people know how much this means to you, right?"

"I. Don't. Think so. Elder. Too!"

"Alright then. I hope you can bring me into your refuge, so I can speak to your elders."

"..."

The man didn't reply instantly this time. He lowered his weapon and stared at Rhode.

"We. Can't. Protect you."

"I promise you that I can protect myself. Besides, I promise that if you bring me to your elder, I will give you three times the reward."

"..."

The man was almost convinced perhaps due to the persistent confidence in Rhode's voice or the fact that he wasn't willing to lose such a huge reward. After all, fresh food and pure water was even more luxurious than gold to them.

"Three days."

The man said after pondering for a long while.

"Three days later. We respond."

"Good."

Rhode narrowed his eyes with traces of smile.

"I'll be waiting."