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836 Tinder 2

 Get ready for battle.

Everyone instantly went on alert when they heard these four words, standing up and holding their weapons vigilantly. They were anxious about who their enemies were. After all, they didn't see any armed garrisons apart from the barely naked Order Refugees. So, who were they about to fight?

"Hmm?"

Rhode swept a glance to the surroundings and saw the shattered flower.

"Which idiot brought the Hallucination Flower here? But it seems like none of you were brainwashed by that thing."

"..."

"Hehe..."

Marlene lowered her head in embarrassment while Anne let out a chuckle. The latter perked up her chest proudly as though waiting for one to praise her for her good deed. On the other hand, Lize shifted her gaze from Marlene to Anne. She clearly witnessed what happened just now. In fact, she was also surprised by Anne's actions. After all, it was just a little boy who presented the flower. Wasn't he fine holding that flower too?

Lize thought that Anne was overreacting, but for the sake of maintaining harmony within the group, she hurriedly jumped in to resolve their conflict. However, she was baffled after hearing Rhode's words. She had only heard that the Hallucination Flower was just a precious plant one that grew in the underground. Moreover, it would use its fragrant scent to lure, hallucinate the prey, and turn it into its slave and food. But... that little boy didn't seem to be manipulated at all?

Lize stole a glance at Marlene, but realized that she wasn't unhappy with Anne's proud behaviors. Instead, she gazed at the flower with complicated emotions. As a spell caster, of course she knew about the Hallucination Flower. But unlike Lize, she didn't take that as an accident. After all, Rhode had reminded them before they entered the refuge and yet she still...

"... Erm, Rhode, did the negotiations fail?"

Marlene let out an awkward cough and changed the topic. On the other hand, Anne simply turned and gazed at Rhode quietly.

"It was neither considered a failure or success. I guess they won't tell us the coordinates so easily."

Rhode gazed at Marlene and discovered that the three young ladies looked rather off. However, since they weren't willing to talk about it, it shouldn't be a big matter. Moreover, Marlene, Lize, and Anne were considered gentle in nature and wouldn't break into fights over nothing important. It would be another discussion if it were Nell or Sonia, so Rhode treated her as though he didn't realize that something had happened.

Although the elder eventually gave up on his tricks and calmly (definitely not sarcastically) negotiated with Rhode, it was apparent that he wasn't willing to let Rhode in on the coordinates. However, Rhode insisted and displayed incomparable confidence to him. The elder wasn't affected by him that easily and Rhode also wasn't willing to give up the chance to find the tinder, so the negotiations were on parallel lines. The elder emphasized about the dangers of lighting the tinder and wouldn't reveal the coordinates to Rhode. If Rhode were to threaten the elder, the latter would rather bury the entire refuge alive. However, Rhode also expressed that he was aware of the dangers and he must find its location. He also wouldn't mind slaughtering everyone in this refuge for it.

Both sides were clever. After the parallel negotiations went on for a while, they realized that their interests couldn't reach an agreement, which was why Rhode left temporarily. Of course, before he left, he left a list of benefits for the elder's consideration. The elder nodded in agreement, but both sides knew that this was just a stalling tactic for them to not get into further clashes.

"Why?"

Lize knitted her brows and asked.

"Mr. Rhode, I remember that you told us we need to eradicate the Chaos in this land before we can light up the tinder, right? After that happens, everyone can leave this refuge and lead their lives on the surface, isn't it? So why aren't they willing to help us?"

Lize couldn't understand. If it were her, she would surely agree to it because such living conditions in the refuge weren't for humans at all! So, why did they give up and stop them from helping?

"Because it is too dangerous for them."

Rhode shrugged and said helplessly.

"I've told you that this refuge was established after their ancient ancestors linked up the tinder to the source of Order in order to avoid the disaster of Chaos. In other words, the reason why this group of refugees survived in this place was due to the strength that they received from the source of Order. This is also why I'm asking them for its coordinates because they are the only ones who knew."

Rhode gestured.

"But the Chaos has willpower on their own and I'm sure you've noticed it. When you walked across the Land of Chaos, they sensed the presence of Order on you and launched their attacks. The existence of Chaos is to destroy Order, just like the emergence of light eliminates darkness. It doesn't matter if they are willing or not because they will simply do it."

Everyone nodded in agreement. However, they were still dubious as to why the refugees weren't willing to help themselves.

"I guess you've heard the legends of the Land of Chaos where after the Chaos wreaked havoc and devours the land, the tinder fades away while waiting for someone to awaken it. Over years of silence, the strength of Order connecting to this refuge slowly weakened. I don't know if this is considered fortunate or not because the weakened strength of Order was hidden from the detection of Chaos. This is why they can continue to live here for centuries. But, if we were to light the tinder up, the strength of Order connected to the refuge will increase."

"Could it be that..."

Marlene's face turned pale as she finally understood what Rhode meant.

"That's right. Once we light up and awake the tinder, the Order protection of this place will be strengthened and eventually discovered by the Chaos. When that happens, the Chaos will gather and launch their attacks to eliminate all the refuge."

"..."

Everyone pondered in silence. The Chaos Creatures were so powerful and hard to deal with despite the mercenaries and soldiers being fully equipped. The people living in this refuge weren't even dressed or armed, so how would they be able to deal with the Chaos Creatures?

The answer was obvious.

"Alright then, Rhode, how long do we need if we're going to light the tinder?"

Marlene puckered her brows and asked.

"Depends on the situation. I don't know the specific location of the tinder yet. But, I have to tell you that the tinder usually lies hidden in the core region and in an underground palace or temple. These places were built with complexity in order to protect the tinder. Not only do we need to face threats, but we also need to defy the Chaos Creatures for..." Rhode paused and made a rough guess on the amount of time needed to accomplish this mission.

The Land of Chaos was a huge dungeon and its city where the tinder was located was a medium-sized dungeon, and finally the palace in the core region was formed with three to five small instance dungeons. After the number of players were confirmed for this campaign, it meant that they wouldn't be able to leave the Land of Chaos for quite some time and could only leave after attaining the final victory. Most people needed... Rhode roughly calculated and gave an answer. "At least 15 days."

"..."

Marlene couldn't believe that the Order Refugees could survive for 15 days of battles. She finally understood why the elder refused to reveal to Rhode the coordinates. They could still live on without being rescued, but if they told Rhode about it, perhaps they couldn't even survive for the next few days.

At this moment, Marlene became silent. If it would sacrifice some people to accomplish the mission, she would gladly do it. But, if it would sacrifice everyone here, it would be an entirely different matter. Although it seemed like Rhode didn't favor the Order Refugees too much, these people were... so weak that they deserved empathy...

Screech--!

At this moment, the door suddenly opened and the little girl who was accompanying the elder earlier on stepped out. She held her pale hands together. Then, she took in a deep breath and walked up to Rhode.

"This is... the elder's... answer..."

The little girl said.