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916 Highland City

 News about Rhode's Void Territory was the hottest topic on the entire continent. No matter where one was located, one would hear every discussion about the new territory. Mercenaries were excited to go on an adventure there while merchants drooled at its wealthy resources. Ordinary people, especially the neighbors of Void Territory, explored the topic with great interest. This instantly swept the Munn Kingdom and Country of Light into the vortex of discussions.

"It's true. You didn't see just how big the sun is...!"

Inside a pub, a mercenary gesticulated and drew a huge circle with his arms.

"I'm not lying. It's really that huge; much, much bigger than the sun above us. Besides, it seems like that territory is closer to the sky. I tell you; the moon over there envelopes half the sky! You would think that with a sun that huge, the territory must be burning, right? No! It isn't hot at all. Besides, it is so cool that my friend who lives there told me that it feels like paradise! Any seed that he planted grew quickly in the fertile soil!"

"Wow!"

The crowd exclaimed in awe. They didn't care how the mercenary knew so much because they couldn't roam freely like mercenaries and these stories amazed them. But they looked forward to visiting that place after hearing the exciting details. To most people, the appearance of the Void Territory was more like another topic of idle conversation over a cup of tea.

However, to some people, it involved life and death.

***

"The ruler of the Void Territory requested that we surrender to him."

The man put the letter away with a concerned look. He lifted his head and gazed at the elder, the city owner, on the other end of the table.

"Sir, I think we should consider it at length. No matter what, our Highland City is indeed under his dragon soul protection; we have no choice. As for the Light Parliament, I don't think that they have the ability to fulfill their promise. Besides, this isn't beneficial for us, isn't it?"

"Rubbish!"

The elder glared at the man.

"Don't be blinded by your greed. That so-called Void Territory is only a new territory, so what do you think the ruler can go against the Country of Light with? If you make a foolish decision, our people will suffer in our stead. Have you forgotten what happened to those guys? We can't afford another hit like this!"

"Yes, Sir is right."

"Compared to the Country of Light, this Void Territory is nothing. We are suddenly within his territorial control and all we need to do is to stay calm. If you can't even achieve this, why are you even talking about leading the city?"

The man accepted the criticisms in silence while the elder shot him a look and knocked the hammer on the table.

"Alright, this settles it then. Don't respond to the Void Territory for now. As for the emissaries from the Country of Light, we can appropriately reveal our bottom line to them, but don't be too obvious, understood? Everyone... This is the most critical juncture for our Highland City; whether we will break away from this fate will all depend on this!"

The elder smashed the hammer once again, announcing the end of the meeting.

The man headed out of the hall helplessly and shortly after, several men approached him.

"How was it, Clive? What did the city owner say?"

"It didn't work. Sir hopes to rely on the Light Parliament and he has a lot of supporters. It was impossible to convince him to change his thoughts..."

Clive shook his head hopelessly. Even as one of the city owner's assistants, he didn't agree with his idea. Highland City was originally a struggling city located by the borders of Order. They led hard and terrible lives, tolerating the pressures and exploitations from Country of Light. A large group of people including Clive could no longer tolerate such abuses, but they were at their wits' end. As a city located by the border, Highland City couldn't possess any strength to retaliate. Most of their foodstuffs came from the Country of Light-with heavy price tags. Although this region was located near the land of Chaos and the magical energy corroded the soil which produced several precious, resourceful mines, Highland City failed to become the next Soraka Mountain. On the contrary, they became a fleshy chunk of meat in the eyes of the merchants in the Country of Light. Instead of the mines bringing them benefits, they faced disasters instead. Many people in Highland City mined for a living, but their salaries were half of those of miners in other regions. Not only that, but the merchants from the Country of Light also didn't pay them with full gold coins. Instead, they paid using gold coins plus foodstuff to make up the difference, and the foodstuff was all frozen!

Highland City rebelled against the tyranny of Country of Light in the past. The miners united and protested with hopes of receiving their rightful fairness and benefits. In the end, the protest demonstration evolved into a massive parade and even chased away several merchant representatives from the Country of Light.

But shortly after, the Light Parliament responded.

They categorized the protests in Highland City as riots and dispatched soldiers to repress the situation. Although the Country of Light's army was indeed useless and would crumble in the face of any Undead Creatures now, they were still strong enough to take down the muscular, unarmed miners.

In the end, the 'riots' were suppressed and several leaders were thrown into jail and executed. Thereafter, the Country of Light strengthened their 'management' on Highland City and at this moment, most affairs involving foodstuff, water sources, mines, and commerce were managed by the five largest financial groups. In Highland City, the people slogged their lives away for stingy salaries while the higher-ups of merchants enjoyed luxurious feasts everyday.

Of course, this went without saying that a group of people including Clive would be resentful against them. However, they felt helpless because ever since the 'riots' ended, the number of soldiers in Highland City increased dramatically. The opposing soldiers were direct, private soldiers of the merchants while the soldiers of Highland City were only pathetic garrisons of slightly over a hundred... What could the garrisons even do? If it were in the past, perhaps they could continue to tolerate this abuse. But now, the Void Territory appeared and Clive discovered this new opportunity.

If they could receive assistance from Void Territory, perhaps they could break away from the horrible chains of the Country of Light and lead much better lives. This was a risk, but a group of young people like Clive wasn't afraid of taking them. Clive cautiously researched about the new territory and also heard news about its overlord-Rhode Alander.

Of course, there was naturally more bad news than good news about Rhode in the Country of Light. However, the bad news was great news for Clive because this overlord of Void Territory belonged to the anti-parliament forces, which brought a perfect opportunity for Highland City. If they could receive the support of that man, they would surely be able to break free from the Country of Light.

But it was a pity that not everyone thought the same.

A group of seniors, including the city owner, was doubtful of Void Territory's capabilities. After all, it was a new territory while they had witnessed the strength of the Country of Light. Of course, the Country of Light was currently like an ill elephant beyond cure and anyone could push them over. But an elephant was still an elephant despite the illness. It could still easily squash an ant like Highland City without showing much power, wasn't it? Therefore, the group of seniors wasn't willing to move up in the world. After all, they were used to leading such lives. But if they were to rely on Void Territory, their lives would restart all over again. Would the situation take a turn for the better? No one knew. But to the group of seniors, it was the right choice not to change.

What delighted the group of seniors was that the Light Parliament actually dispatched representatives to Highland City, announcing that they were more than happy to build and develop Highland City. The seniors were aware that due to the appearance of Void Territory, the Light Parliament uncharacteristically expressed goodwill to them. However, this was extremely good news for them. Many people including the city owner thought of using this chance to elevate the position of Highland City and turn this city into a valuable asset of the Light Parliament. They believed that once the Light Parliament recognized their importance, the people of Highland City would be treated better and benefit more.

On the other hand, Clive scoffed at this approach. He believed that the group of seniors were too rigid and fear had overcome them. If the Light Parliament valued this place, why would they even hand this city over to the five largest financial groups? When that happened, the Light Parliament would surely dispatch high authorities to take over management and perhaps the city owner would be disposed of like a piece of trash.

What gave Clive a bigger headache was the existence of the daydreaming neutral party. The beautiful, impossible dreams that they were having left him completely speechless. The neutral party hoped that their special geographical location could lead to benefits from both the Country of Light and Void Territory. Then, after they declared independence, they could become a crucial region that influenced the Country of Light and Void Territory. When that happened, everyone must obey their orders and this thought just made them so delightful... Hahaha. It feels awesome...

Clive didn't even have the mood to argue with them. He couldn't think of anyone except idiots would agree to such thoughts. Indeed, after the dragon soul protection expanded over Highland City, their value was instantly revealed. But it was also due to this reason that they found themselves in a precarious situation because the Light Parliament and Void Territory would never let this crucial region off. Lead them by the nose after we became independent? Do you really think that they're idiots?

Clive also thought that the city owner was exceedingly foolish to be fearful of the Light Parliament. Yes, the Light Parliament might be terrifying but what made him think that Void Territory was weak? Although the Country of Light hated Rhode to the core, there must be some basis for it. This proved that Rhode was an absolutely vicious and merciless person, so wasn't the city owner afraid that he would slaughter the entire city? At this point in time, Highland City held the critical geographical location to Rhode and he couldn't care less about the people living within. Although Clive didn't trust the rumors too much, he knew that Rhode would definitely be a harder character to deal with if the rumors were true.

"Sigh..."

His subordinates sighed to Clive's response. They didn't have any other solutions now because after all, this group of young men didn't hold any rights to Highland City. They also weren't willing to get too close to the merchants from the Country of Light to avoid wallowing in the mire with them. Although they were concerned about the future of their city, they were completely powerless.

"Forget it, Clive. Those old guys won't give up on their authority. I guess we should fight for our destiny ourselves. While the old guys are indecisive, it gives us the best opportunity, isn't it? We should use this chance to communicate with Void Territory. If we succeed, we can break away from the Light Parliament! We only have one chance. If we miss it, we may not have any chances left!"

"Of course I'm aware, but it isn't time yet."

Clive knitted his brows. Then, he scanned the surroundings to ensure no one was eavesdropping before lowering his voice.

"The Light Parliament has spies all around. If we act on our own, we may be discovered by them and everything will go to waste. We have the opportunities, but we must have the patience for them. If we don't practice patience, how different are we from that bunch of old men? Don't be overly anxious. There are still chances."

Clive waved his hand.

"Alright, I've got to welcome the merchants from the Country of Light... Hmph. Those guys sure are panicky now while they never gave a damn about us before!"

Clive grumbled. He turned around and let out a long sigh before heading off.

Half an hour later.

Clive curled his lips as he witnessed a luxurious, golden carriage dashed across the road. He had always disliked the merchants because nothing was more important than money to them... He hated their arrogance, but he had to do his job as the city owner's assistant.

The carriage came to a gradual halt and the door swung open. At this moment, the look of disdain on Clive's face was nowhere to be seen. Instead, it was replaced by an unprecedented, warm smile.

"Greetings, respectful guests; welcome to Highland City. I'm Clive Barbet and I'm happy to serve you."

He went up to the front of the carriage almost mechanically, lowering his head and repeating this greeting that he said for more than a thousand times. However, the instant he shifted his gaze into the carriage, he was stunned.

There was a young lady with golden curly hair and a beautiful young lady with silky, straight black hair gazing at him. Their gazes were surprisingly calm.

"Greetings, Mr. Clive. I'm Miranda Seren from the Country of Light..."