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917 Repeat an Old Stratagem

 Rhode had guessed that Country of Light would hold onto Highland City tightly. Perhaps Highland City was just a poor city in the border region in the past, but the Country of Light would be foolish beyond cure if they were to give them up now. Compared to Sail Harbor, Highland City's biggest problem was that they were connected to the Country of Light on land. One of the biggest reasons why Sail Harbor surrendered to Rhode was because they weren't connected to the Country of Light and were separated by the strait. On the contrary, after Order was stabilized in the land of Chaos, Sail Harbor became connected to Void Territory instead. Under such a circumstance, it definitely wasn't worth thinking over as to who they should seek support from. They weren't willing to risk being attacked by Rhode to choose to rely on the Country of Light who was on the other side of the strait. Moreover, although the Country of Light had a powerful navy, they were too far to be able to help. Furthermore, Sail Harbor was also on the receiving end of the Country of Light's pressures and exploits, so it wasn't surprising that they sought another backing, especially after Rhode was willing to give them a certain degree of independence.

Although Highland City was also abused by the Country of Light, absolute fear also produced absolute obedience. Moreover, they lacked a superior geographic location like Sail Harbor, where Sail Harbor wasn't afraid of the Country of Light finding trouble with them. As a result, it was harder to handle this situation with Highland City on this aspect.

However, Rhode was determined to obtain Highland City. If not, the Country of Light would be holding one of his major routes in their hands. Besides, he definitely couldn't allow any region under his dragon soul protection to be independent. If not, his dominance would be severely threatened. He definitely couldn't tolerate this. In face of future wars, he had to ensure stability within his territory. If there was any social or political unrest, they would surely delay his plans of becoming stronger and he might also lose precious opportunities. If the Country of Light were to control Highland City, they would control the entrance and exit to the Void Territory and he was sure that those bastards would stir trouble in his territory. This was what he wasn't willing to see.

Therefore, he arrived at Highland City in the identity of 'Miranda Seren' yet again to personally understand the extent of infiltration the Country of Light had planned.

After he arrived, he discovered that apart from the five largest financial groups controlling Highland City, there were also some medium-size trade associations from the Country of Light. It seemed like the five largest financial groups were somewhat smart. They knew that the situation with Highland City wasn't great at the moment, so they might as well send these chess pawns forward. If there were any risks, these medium-size trade associations would take the hit. On the contrary, if there were any benefits, the five largest financial groups would take most of them.

The various mineral deposits were the most produced in Highland City. Therefore, it went without saying that the Alanic Family, which grasped the majority of the mineral resources, wouldn't let go of this region. Today, the Alanic Family's private soldiers occupied almost 80 percent of Highland City, where they managed almost every aspect of the residents. They were obstacles to Rhode's plan because if he were to launch his attack on them, it meant that he would be going against the five largest financial groups head-on too. Judging from this, it seemed like the Light Parliament wasn't that stupid. They knew that they weren't strong enough, so they handed everything to the five largest financial groups. Merchants were animals who wouldn't wake up early unless there were benefits for them to reap. They naturally understood that if they could control Highland City entirely, the rich resources in surrounding regions would belong to them completely... It was due to this that the five largest financial groups were spontaneous on this matter and were much harder to deal with than the Light Parliament

Rhode knew clearly that the Light Parliament was lacking in strong personnel because they were all basically eliminated by him. But in fact, the five largest financial groups possessed forces that were much stronger than the Light Parliament.

According to the players, the five largest financial groups more or less had relations with the Dark Brotherhood and demons from hell, where there was a demon lord among the core of the Dudek Financial Group. Sonia had also told Rhode that in her Lockos Financial Group, there were two powerful beings in the Intermediate Legendary Stage from the Dark Brotherhood who always stayed by the side of their patriarch. On the other hand, the spell casters in Pilt Financial Group intermarried with the succubi and fallen angels in order to gain powerful magical abilities from the non-humans. As a result, their children naturally became their elites. Furthermore, there were also rumors about the Pilt Financial Group having some unclean relationships with the succubus queen. Also, the Manny Financial Group who was the business leader was also related to Chaos.

The Alanic Financial Group was no exception too. Among the strength that they possessed, there was also the Brain Eater from the alternate plane of existence.

Rhode had to admit that the five largest financial groups did a wonderful job keeping their true strength a secret. These were only rumors that players had heard and never personally witnessed. It was only until Rhode led Starlight, plowed through Casabianca, and fought head-on with the five largest financial groups that he discovered their secret forces. The five largest financial groups were simply five nations within the Country of Light. In terms of military or politics, they were almost independent of the Light Parliament. They wouldn't be affected by the Light Parliament and could even influence them instead.

But what was ironic was that perhaps even the Light Dragon didn't expect such darkness and evil hidden under her dragon soul protection.

Rhode didn't find it strange because many cultists and evil forces in the Light Mainland were located in the Country of Light. As most Battle Angels resided in the Munn Kingdom, they would instantly eradicate these evil forces once they were discovered. On the other hand, humans distrusted angels in the Country of Light and angels were in extremely difficult positions which gave the cultists and evil forces to grow rampantly.

But... Rhode didn't expect to meet these guys so soon.

"Greetings, Miss Miranda. Welcome to Highland City. I didn't expect that your Seren Trade Association is also interested in Highland City."

The young man in a luxurious attire smiled and poured a cup of tea for Rhode. He was the person in charge of the Alanic Financial Group in Highland City-Shane Grant Alanic. However, Rhode was more familiar with his other identity-vice-captain of the Viper Gang.

Digging minerals and messing with the cultists at the same time... It seems like the Alanic Financial Group is doing well with their business, huh? The Viper Gang was second to none in slave trafficking. They were experts in capturing non-humans or poor people living by the border regions and selling them as slaves. But it appeared that their slave trafficking business earned them so much that they were able to develop this many mines.

Rhode criticized inwardly while sweeping a glance at the tea before him. He smelled and detected a special spice among the scent that could provide relaxing efforts. The spice was basically harmless but when used appropriately in the hands of an expert, it could lead to psychological changes. Old habits sure die hard.

"Business hasn't been great lately and we are looking to improve our business. After all, there are so many problems occurring within the country and many things aren't as convenient as last time. So, I came here to see if I can find new business opportunities for my Seren Trade Association. After all..."

Rhode pointed at the starry night through the window, which Shane burst into laughter.

"That's right, Miss Miranda. Unlike the past, there are limitless opportunities in Highland City now. Besides, I've received news that the Light Parliament will develop this place on a large scale. I'm sure that there will be lots of benefits from it but I'm unaware of... what your Seren Trade Association will focus on."

"I've not decided yet. After all, I'm here to check things out for now. There are bound to be risks for businesses with small capital, isn't it?"

Rhode smartly changed the topic because not even a true merchant would disclose their strength to a formidable competitor. Shane smiled in response.

"Miss Miranda sure is cautious. But you're right. Although merchants seek opportunities, it is also right to seek success through stability. How about this? I can arrange my men to bring you around Highland City, Miss Miranda. Even though Highland City is by the border, social order is great here. There won't be any problems under our Alanic Financial Group's management. If you have any needs, please let me know and I will help you as much as I can. I didn't expect to meet such a beautiful young lady like you from your trade association. I'm truly surprised..."

"Sorry to trouble you, Mr. Shane."

Rhode replied with a beautiful smile which Shane dazed before coming back to his senses. He let out an awkward cough.

"Erm... Miss Miranda, you came a long way and must be feeling exhausted. Shall I prepare a room for both of you..."

"Don't worry, Mr. Shane. We've booked a room before we came here. We intend to roam around Highland City later. When I first arrived, I was worried that this place is dangerous. Bu, it seems to be as safe as what you've said, Mr. Shane."

Rhode swept a glance at Angelina who stood beside him and lowered her head humbly. At this moment, Angelina was serving him in the identity of his personal maid. She wore a plain maid dress of black and white, complemented with white stockings, black leather shoes, and a white head accessory. At this moment, none of her pride and arrogance of a royal vampire could be felt. On the contrary, she seemed as though a genuine and loyal servant who followed her master everywhere. Rhode had to admit that the vampires' acting talent could never be beat. Angelina took a step forward and nodded to Shane obediently. Then, she turned around, stooped over, and said softly.

"Milady... It's about time..."

"Got it, Angelina."

Rhode nodded. He stood up and showed an apologetic smile.

"Alright then, Mr. Shane, I should get going. It has been a great time talking to you. I hope we can have more in-depth exchanges in the future."

"Yes, of course. I'm delighted too, Miss Miranda."

Although that was what he said, he felt dissatisfied that 'Miss Miranda' didn't touch the cup of tea at all. However, this emotion glinted in his eyes for only a split second before vanishing to nowhere. He revealed a gentle smile on his rather charming face.

"I hope you have a great night. Also, please convey my respects from the Alanic Family to your trade association."

"Will do, Mr. Shane."

Rhode smiled and bent over for an elegant bow. Then, he turned around and left the room.

"... Hmph."

After the door closed shut, Shane revealed an unprecedented expression of greed and malevolence.

"I didn't expect to find such a wonderful woman here. It will be a pity if I let her go... But it seems like that woman is quite smart too... Forget it. I have my ways."

Shane lifted the cup of tea from the table. He extended his tongue and licked the handle as though savoring her slender, delicate fingers. This was a huge surprise for him. He didn't expect that a woman would come to this place alone to check on the situation. As for the Seren Trade Association... Hmph. There were hundreds of trade associations in the Country of Light and he had never heard of whatever Seren Trade Association. But that was fine too. That woman and her maid were beautiful and if he could get his hands on them... He would surely have some fun in this boring place.

Shane placed the cup of tea down and snapped his fingers. Shortly after, two mysterious figures appeared beside him silently.

"Monitor that woman and report her whereabouts to me."

The two mysterious figures nodded and vanished into the darkness.

"Master, why didn't you let me control that human?"

Angelina gazed curiously and asked. Frankly speaking, she was baffled when she first saw Rhode in a female disguise. However, it wasn't due to the female dress. Instead, she discovered that he was actually not a woman...

Fortunately, her cautious personality saved her life. If Rhode were to know what she thought, she wouldn't have been alive and be by his side now.

Mini Bubble Gum and Canary had initially decided to join them. Although Highland City firmly rejected his presence and the Void Territory, Rhode's system apparently didn't care about their voices. The system included Highland City into his territorial control and this way, Canary and Mini Bubble Gum could freely roam in this region whenever they wanted. However, considering that they were also blacklisted by the Country of Light, he rejected their requests. After all, he could fool most people with a disguise, but the two young ladies couldn't possibly dress up as men flawlessly. Moreover, with Mini Bubble Gum's personality, she would hurl punches at anyone who she disliked. Rhode wasn't that naive to bring her along. Yes, at least not for now.

"That guy isn't an ordinary human and I suppose you've realized too. His aura was really strange and we should prevent conflicts by not making any unnecessary moves for now."

Rhode initially decided that he would let Angelina manipulate the person in charge completely. Then, he could casually analyze the situation in Highland City. However, he didn't expect that the person in charge was the vice-captain of the Viper Gang. Of course, Rhode could easily take him out but this wasn't how he intended to claim Highland City-that was too risky.

"I have a better idea."

Rhode's eyes glinted and he revealed an ice-cold, evil smile.