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967 Temporary Peace

 After the Order Ceremony ended, Rhode's Void Territory was officially recognized. Even though the Light Parliament asserted that Rhode's 'immoral character' made him unfit to be a dragon soul heir, no one bothered with their nonsense. The fact that he was on par with Lilian, Ion, Siena, and Nalea was enough to prove his identity. After an endless amount of time, the heir of the Void Dragon who was missing finally showed up.

There weren't any huge changes for Rhode. After he discussed with Marlene about the Mage Tower, he eventually agreed for them to construct the Dimension Gate. But he only approved for the Dimension Gate to face outward and not inward. If not, he would immediately cancel the agreement and destroy the gate. On the other hand, the Mage Tower agreed and at the same time, the stationing works of the church, Mercenary Association, Alchemist Association, and various large-scale organizations also proceeded in an orderly manner. As a result, the Void Territory became much more lively now. Not only were there more immigrants, but there were also many people who arrived in the Void Territory for sightseeing. After all, they didn't dare to go to the Country of Darkness and the Country of Law seemed similar to the Country of Light in appearance. On the contrary, Rhode's Void Territory was like a scene from 'outer space' and was extremely unique.

In terms of external affairs, apart from handing Erin over to the Void Territory, the Country of Darkness didn't take any other actions. The Country of Law had no responses too because they had already sent their representatives to the Land of Atonement earlier on. Back then, they were sent to communicate with Rhode and for convenience in monitoring.

However, the Country of Light was in the most conflicting situation. After their entire border army was wiped out by Rhode, they no longer had any intention of conducting high-level contacts with the Void Territory. Of course, they used the incident in Highland City to announce that the Country of Light would never recognize the Void Territory as a nation and prohibit all diplomatic ties with them. Not only that, but they also attempted to stop all trade associations of the Country of Light from entering the Void Territory regardless of purpose and forbid merchant ships from also entering the Void Territory's port, stopping all trades completely. It was particularly enforced for important resources like military armaments and foodstuffs. Moreover, they also announced that if they discovered any territories who violated the ban, they would hand out severe punishments.

The people of the Country of Light celebrated after the ban was announced because they were totally sick of the Void Territory after their failure in war against the Country of Darkness and the incident in Highland City. But it was a pity that not everyone supported the ban, especially the five largest financial groups. Everyone knew that the Void Territory was first founded by opening up the land of Chaos, which meant that it was full of business opportunities. The five largest financial groups had initially decided to make a fortune, but they didn't expect the parliament to meddle with their affairs. Although the five largest financial groups were obviously unhappy, they didn't have any countersolutions. Even though they were basically the political mastermind behind the scenes, they couldn't dictate all aspects of policy making. Moreover, most people in the Country of Light were supportive of this movement and eager to teach the Void Territory a lesson. Of course, this was all temporary.

It seemed like this was a great move by the parliament as the Void Territory had basically nothing at this point. Even though Marlene and Lapis were around, there was insufficient infrastructure and few magic power plants for them to build upon. Although they could create their own, it would take a long time.

But...

Yes, the main point was 'but'.

There was an important point in the parliament's 'ruling'. Perhaps they could dispatch fleets of warships to block off the channels or stop merchant ships from entering, but there was one thing that they couldn't control.

And that was the transfer of money.

Everyone knew that all money-exchanges and the transfer of money was completed in churches while churches were private assets of the Country of Law. This meant that the Country of Law was the true figure who grasped the financial lifeline of this continent. Rhode had criticized that even though the Country of Law was inconspicuous, they had already dominated the entire continent...

Perhaps the parliament could accomplish many things, but if there was something that they couldn't do, it would be enough for Rhode to exploit if it was important enough. And now, this was the situation that was happening.

The parliament's ruling seemed terrifying but in fact, its essence was to completely block the financial circulation of the Void Territory. But financial circulation wasn't within their grasp so they couldn't possibly stop anyone from transferring money in and out of the Void Territory. It could also be said that even if Rhode had millions of platinum coins in Casabianca, the parliament couldn't do anything about it unless they broke into the churches and seized their vaults. But this way, they would be openly falling out with the Country of Law.

If Rhode could make them go that far, he would have done it even if it cost him millions of platinum coins.

This was why even though the parliament's blockade seemed powerful and strong, that wasn't the truth at all. As long as one understood the knack to the situation, they would know that the parliament was just like a leashed dog. It might be barking bravely now, but if it were released by its owner to attack, it would quickly hide in safety. Therefore, not everyone treated their bans seriously.

First and foremost was the Munn Kingdom. Based on the relationship between Lydia and Rhode, as well as the geographical location of the Munn Kingdom and the Void Territory, the Country of Light's fleet would only be there as decorations no matter how powerful they were unless they were used to attack the Munn Kingdom. Moreover, their fleet of broken ships was nothing in the face of the powerful, airborne magic warships of the Munn Kingdom. This was why the Munn Kingdom totally disregarded the parliament's warnings and swiftly signed a full range of commercial trades with the Void Territory. Not only was Lydia willing to sell ordinary goods, but she also offered small-scale magic warships. This news caused an uproar in the Munn Kingdom. But since Lydia was the biggest personnel in the Munn Kingdom and Rhode from the Void Territory also returned the favor, the objections slowly disappeared.

Compared to the Munn Kingdom, the number of goods that the Void Territory could export was very limited. All Rhode could provide was mainly materials which were currently the easiest to gather and develop in the Void Territory. But this wouldn't be enough in the long run. He also didn't wish to see his territory turning into someone else's farm. But... There was always a gap between wish and reality.

After returning to the Void Territory, the 'technical team' consisting of Rhode, Marlene, Lapis, and the three humanoids-Rain, Heart, and Haze-got into a long discussion about how the technological tree of the Void Territory should be scaled. Although Marlene possessed ancient knowledge as the 'Wisdom Deity Warden', the problem was that everything had to start afresh if they were to build the first generation of the Void Territory that consisted of advanced technologies. This was because the required equipment and techniques were different back then. It could also be said that the magic power devices on this continent were restored from the previous wreckage after going through intensive research and their power was around one-fifth of its original level. That was far from being able to support Marlene's ancient magical technology. The only advantage was that even though modern magical technologies weren't as powerful as its ancient counterpart, the unique self-circulation system was at an advanced stage. If they were to use the modern magical technologies, it would drastically decrease the amount of time needed to develop the territory. But the disadvantage was that once established, Marlene's knowledge of the ancient magical technologies wouldn't come to good use anymore because the power cores were different. The materials needed to create the ancient magic power devices had to be of higher quality. With the current level of magical technology, it was impossible to create such materials.

On the other hand, if they used the ancient magic technology, everything would have to start from scratch. Besides, it wasn't as simple as just changing the magic power devices. It also meant that all industries and properties must be upgraded, such as the melting furnaces for ores and magical machines for steel-processing. Even though this would allow the initially prosperous Void Territory to reappear and create many strong magic power devices that the modern era couldn't contend with, it would take a long time to accomplish. If they were fortunate, they would take one to two years. But if they were unlucky, they would take three to five years instead. Moreover, this was only for the foundation. The amount of time needed might increase as the industries were upgraded.

Of course, it would be for the best if they could combine both technologies. But the problem was that the difference in features between them was too huge. One couldn't possibly implement something from the steampunk era in the atomic era because it would be too outdated. For the same reason, one couldn't possibly manufacture a nuclear reactor during the steampunk era because the competencies of technologies then were completely inadequate.

If it was only for a war on this continent, the current technologies weren't sufficient either. On the contrary, it would be a totally different situation if Rhode were facing enemies like Chaos. According to the scenes he saw in history, not even ancient magical technologies resisted Chaos for long, so if they only had this level of technology now... Perhaps they would sink in minutes.

But it would take them a lot of time if they were to restore the ancient magical technologies. As for the Country of Darkness... Would they be willing to wait that long? Even though Ion sent Erin over, which seemed like a sign of goodwill, no one knew exactly what he was planning. Perhaps this was only a delaying tactic by him? On the other hand, if he truly wished to rope Rhode in, Rhode would need to marry Erin as a response, which was impossible. Although the dessert was captivating, the thought of his harem crumpling made him abandon this thought immediately.

The 'technical team' discussed for three straight days but reached no conclusion. Since there was no result, Rhode decisively jumped to the next issue.

Deepest Labyrinth.

"Leader, are you sure?"

Mini Bubble Gum knitted her brows and gazed rather worriedly at him. After completing the mission of the Order Ceremony, the mission rewarded him with permissions for Mini Bubble Gum and Canary to leave the restricted territories. But as Phantom Guardians, they still had some limitations. They could only roam within a radius of 500 meters with Rhode in the center. However, they were more than glad to gain this amount of freedom.

"There are so many things going on in the territory now. Do you think it is a good idea to head there now?"

Canary also revealed a dubious expression. Even though they were powerful in strength, they were completely helpless in the development of territory. Even though Canary and Mini Bubble Gum were godlike in the game, there were still obvious differences in reality. In reality, Canary had only just started university while Mini Bubble Gum hadn't even graduated from secondary school. Talking about managing a territory and country? That would be asking too much from them. This was why Rhode had been so busy. But even so, there was something that they were worried about.

The reason was simple. After failing to reach a conclusion in the meeting, Rhode began his preparations for battles in the Deepest Labyrinth.

"I've made up my mind. I will definitely go this time. I don't know why, but I feel like there's something that I must look for at the end of the Deepest Labyrinth. Even though I don't know what it is, I feel like it has something to do with why I'm here in the first place... This is why I must go."

Rhode puckered his brows. During the Order Ceremony, he clearly witnessed the system prompts about the Deepest Labyrinth's signals being activated. For some unknown reason, he felt like there was a certain secret that was related to him. That was an intuition that exceeded his instincts as though he 'knew' that 'something' was really there, but he didn't know what exactly it was.

"Indeed... It's a good idea to grind some levels in the Deepest Labyrinth. Leader, you're strong enough now, it's just that your level is increasing really slowly... Hmm... You're also as aware of the place. Big Sister and I can at most reach the 40th floor and even with you around, we still can't reach the end."

If it were in the past, Mini Bubble Gum would have agreed to hunt for newer equipment. But now, she had already received a new set of equipment from Marlene, so she wasn't too interested in getting lower-level equipment anymore. Of course, the main reason was also her... 'unlucky looting aura'.

"Don't worry."

Rhode looked at the two young ladies.

"I've confirmed with Alice that the Deepest Labyrinth was created by the Creator Dragon Souls. Since I have the power of the Void Dragon in me, the guardians won't attack us. What we need to deal with are most likely the hidden creatures residing in the labyrinth. If we were to face enemies stronger than us, I can summon the guardians to fight for us."

"Heh heh. In this case, it's gonna be interesting."

Mini Bubble Gum snickered with an excited expression as though she was deluded. Canary saw her expression and let out a helpless sigh. She and Rhode exchanged glances and witnessed a bitter smile in their eyes. They couldn't be blamed because as players, they were equally as proud as Mini Bubble Gum upon hearing this news. The thought of controlling and turning those powerful BOSSes who were capable of wiping out their party into meat shields felt so amazing.

"But will everything be fine, Rhode?"

"Even though scaling the technology tree is important to us, it doesn't affect the people much. During this period of time, it is most important to help settle down the immigrants and ensure that they lead stable and peaceful lives... Since I can't handle it myself, I might as well let Marlene manage them. For now, my priority is in strengthening myself. As for the specific development of the territory, I will get to that after I return."

As Marlene had become one of his summoned spirits, Rhode could communicate with her spiritually. So even if something were to happen in his territory, she could immediately report the situation to him. Besides, with the Deity Wardens of Wisdom and History holding down the fort, the weaklings from the Country of Light could forget about returning home after paying a visit.

"What about the Country of Light? I heard from Marlene that their election has ended. In this case, will the new parliament chairman take actions against the Void Territory?"

Canary asked in a rather worried tone as Rhode revealed an uncharacteristic, amusing smile.

"Haha... We'll worry about it when they find the time to settle down."