To Christie and Lillian, the past was over, and that young man was nothing more than a random stranger they encountered on the street. Icy Snow was the only one who felt like there was something fishy about him. It wasn’t due to her strong observation skills, but purely that of her intuition as a player.
After hanging out in the Dragon Soul Continent for a long time, players learned to appraise NPCs at a glance and figure out whether they held any hidden quests. It was especially so as the Dragon Soul Continent was made entirely different from past RPGs, where even a passerby was created remarkably true to life. And in that case, it became a necessary skill for almost all players to detect if something was up with an NPC.
The moment Icy Snow saw the young man, her instincts as a player kicked in, telling her that there was definitely a ‘quest’ involved with him. But this was reality and not the game, after all. She was also way past the phase where she had to rely upon quests to gain EXP and level up. Hence, she gave it some thought, but didn’t say anything more.
If she were Mini Bubble Gum instead, maybe she would follow the young man for a good show. However, Icy Snow was always obedient. Since she was tasked with the duty to watch over Christie and Lilian, she wasn’t too distracted by him.
While Christie ran around picking out nice dresses, the young ladies didn’t know that there were some sneaky figures in a sealed hut nearby, whispering into one another’s ears.
“Outsiders? Of course I know they are outsiders. Do you have more details?”
Sitting in the middle was a skinny, middle-aged man with a face that resembled a monkey. He pulled a long face, tapping his fingers on the tabletop endlessly. On the other hand, three thin men clad in dark robes that concealed their faces and bodies stood in front of him. Inside the dimly-lit room, they looked even more bizarre. At that moment, upon hearing the middle-aged man’s question, one of the black robes spoke up.
“According to the guards, those girls entered the town in the morning.”
“Erm… I think they walked.”
The middle-aged man looked surprised. In his impression, noble ladies usually preferred riding in carriages. After all, the dirt road was filthy and difficult to navigate, and these little girls looked no more than 10 years old. In that case, how far could they even walk for?
“Just the few of them?”
“I heard there was another guy with them, making a total of five of them. They looked like they were out for fun.”
Upon hearing his response, the middle-aged man stroked his chin and frowned in contemplation. Looking at his reaction, another black robe cautiously raised his head and spoke.
“My lord, why don’t… we look for someone else since we don’t have any information about their background? It just feels too strange for them to wander around the streets without guards as if they are either lacking in mind or fearless. Besides, outsiders like them also look like some big shots. If we cause trouble with them…”
“Don’t you think I’ve considered that already?”
The middle-aged man glared at the black robe in front of him and let out a grunt.
“The problem now is that His Holiness has taken a fancy to those little girls and gave strict orders to capture them! If we can’t, you could imagine what will happen to us! Sigh… We can only blame those little girls for being unlucky to cross paths with His Holiness.”
The middle-aged man sighed, pondered with knitted brows, and stretched out his hand to retrieve a small vial from the fold of his clothes. Upon seeing the vial, the three black robes shuddered. Although there was no way to see their faces, judging from the heavy atmosphere in the room, it was apparent that they weren’t feeling great. After a moment, the black robe standing at the very edge of the room gave a gasp of astonishment and spoke.
“… My lord… You don’t have to go so far as to use the holy water on those little girls, do you?”
“What else can I do? His Holiness wants them tonight. Those little girls are also from the outside, so they might leave the town first thing tomorrow morning. How are we going to capture them if we don’t use the holy water?!”
At that moment, the middle-aged man stretched out his hand to rub his forehead. He had a throbbing headache. Although he was extremely respectful of the High Priest, he found it hard to accept his preference for little girls. There were clearly so many beautiful women, but he just had to take a liking for little girls. The middle-aged man had taken the time to observe the little girls and found that they were indeed adorable, which explained why the High Priest set his heart on them.
It wasn’t that they hadn’t done something similar in the past. But back then, it all happened in the main town where there were high officials who backed them up, while the High Priest held unsurpassed prowess. Most of the nobles revered the High Priest and were overjoyed when the High Priest graced their daughters.
If it were according to the previous rules, these little girls wouldn’t be a big deal. But the middle-aged man was no fool. He secretly observed Christie and the others for some time and thought that things were really odd. From the looks of them, although they were no different from those noble ladies he saw on a regular basis, it was really strange that they didn’t have a guard by their side.
Logically speaking, ladies born of noble birth like them would have dozens of guards protecting them. But the middle-aged man didn’t spot any of them after observing for some a while. It also wasn’t accurate to say that the guards had blended themselves into the crowd because he scouted every corner of his private quarters and didn’t see any fresh faces.
Could those little girls come out to play on their own?
At this thought, the middle-aged man nodded. He inquired about how the High Priest met the little girls face-to-face. It was apparent that those girls wore a lot of precious magical equipment. And if that were the case, it wasn’t surprising that they would come out on their own, or maybe even sneak out of their homes. After all, a lot of nobles loved doing that. After reading lots of novels about knights, it was likely for them to fantasize that they were also heroes in adventure stories who sneaked out to travel around the world or whatnot. In that case, it would make things much more convenient.
The middle-aged man nodded again and beckoned to the three black robes.
“Inform Captain Duran of the guards that…”
The middle-aged man said in a lowered voice. And upon hearing his instructions, the three black robes nodded in agreement. After a moment, the four of them stood up and disappeared silently into the darkness as if they were ghosts.
Christie and the others didn’t know that someone was targeting them. On the contrary, after strolling around the streets, they were still not satisfied. At that moment, Rhode just finished watching the fun and turned around.
All in all, the merchants weren’t a good bunch, and the same went for the guards which were a group of bast*rds. Rhode couldn’t be bothered with such a conflict. As the Chinese proverb ‘heaven was high and the emperor was far away’ went, he was the Void Dragon, after all. The downside of having a position too high was that very few people knew who he was, at least on this side of the territory. Even if he came out himself, it would be useless.
Hence, he followed the onlookers in shaking his head and watching the two sides fight for a while, before heading back after receiving news from Icy Snow that Christie and the others had finished shopping. This went to show that Rhode was definitely not there to administer justice, but was there enjoying a good show instead.
After taking a stroll in the entire afternoon, Christie and Lilian were more than satisfied. Even though Bell and Icy Snow didn’t enjoy shopping as much as them, they seemed to have a relaxing time too. Rhode lamented that ‘shopping’ was indeed the natural talent of all women, while men could never possess it. However, he wasn’t standing idly by either. While he watched the merchants and guards clashing it out earlier, he also inquired about the best tavern in town and brought the young ladies over for a meal.
Any problem that money could solve wasn’t considered a problem in the slightest. And with a few dozen gold coins sweeping up on the counter, even the coldest of tavern owners would serve up the warmest of smiles. The tavern owner arranged for the cleanest and most scenic room on the top floor for Rhode and the young ladies. Not only could they savor delicious food, but they could also enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Christie rarely had the chance to step out of Grandia. But now that she had Rhode accompanying her too, she was in a great mood. Furthermore, the food was delicious and she sang non-stop like a lark. The same went for Lillian. The two little ones chatted and laughed, while telling Rhode about the places they had gone to and the things they bought.
Meanwhile, Rhode smiled and listened to them talking away. Honestly, he felt like this kind of leisurely life suited him better. It was exhausting for him to be busy and occupied all day. Now that he had this chance to relax himself, things couldn’t get any better.
At that moment, the group heard a loud din from downstairs and were stunned. Christie, who was talking endlessly, closed her mouth and turned toward the sound in astonishment. At the same time, they saw a young, raggedy beggar flying across and out of the tavern, crashing onto the street heavily. At the same time, the door of the tavern swung open and several armored guards strode out and glared at the young beggar.
“You little bast*rd. How dare you come here to steal! Are you tired of living already?!”
“Please, I just want some food…”
“Shut up! Brothers, punch him to death!”
Before the young beggar finished his sentence, the captain of the guard bellowed and the guards went up to him a good beating. Although there were many bystanders, none of them went forward with the intention to help. Soon after, the young beggar’s screams became softer as if he were almost dead.
Looking at this scene, Christie revealed a worried expression, and even Lillian’s eyes were filled with sympathy. On the contrary, Rhode swirled the wine in the wineglass with a calm expression, narrowing his eyes at the one-sided fight below without saying a word. Upon seeing that the young beggar was about to be killed, Lillian couldn’t help but stand up, intending to go and stop the atrocity. But at that moment, a small hand reached out from the side and pulled Lillian’s hand.
“Big Sister Icy?”
To Lillian’s surprise, the one who stepped in to stop herself was none other than Icy Snow. At that moment, Icy Snow also narrowed her eyes like Rhode and gazed at the scene below carefully. However, there was no sympathy on their faces.
“Wait a minute, Lillian, something isn’t right.”
“Something isn’t right?”
As soon as Lilian heard Icy Snow’s words, the former froze for a moment, before taking a closer look below again. Despite that, she still didn’t notice anything suspicious. And it was at that moment when Rhode put down the wineglass and said.
“Pay close attention to the faces of the bystanders.”
Lillian was surprised by his words. She followed his instructions and observed the bystanders. Previously, she only stared at the miserable young beggar who was beaten up by the guards and ignored the rest. But now, she discovered that even though there were all kinds of bystanders surrounding the young beggar, none of them had any sympathy to speak of, and even the farmers also shouted in excitement.
It was at that moment when Lilian realized that something was indeed wrong. Strictly speaking, the four young ladies around Rhode might seem unaware of the dangers of the world. But, in fact, with the exception of Icy Snow, each of them had encountered hardships.
Christie had been regarded as a demon since childhood and grew up in scolding and discrimination. Hence, she was all too familiar with such happenings on the streets. As a refugee of the shelter, Bell survived in the harsh environment so she wasn’t naive either. Even Lillian, who had been on the run with Sonia for a long time, tasted the ups and downs of life. Besides, she also wasn’t a foolish person either.
Upon hearing Rhode’s words, Lilian also noticed that the expressions of the bystanders seemed rather odd. Perhaps one or two of the bystanders gloating in the misfortune of the young beggar was due to their radical trait or could be explained as nobles simply disregarding lowly civilians, but the situation was apparently too bizarre that even farmers, merchants, mercenaries, and nobles were also rejoicing at the fact that the young beggar was being beaten up.
“Well, this isn’t going to end well. And we will also lose our appetite after seeing his dead body. Little Icy, I’ll leave it to you.”
Rhode swept a glance at the scene again, before withdrawing his gaze and speaking plainly. And when Icy Snow heard his command, she nodded, stood up, and disappeared before their eyes in a flash.
“Stop at this instant.”
While the guards enjoyed themselves in thrashing the young beggar, Icy Snow’s clear voice rang in their ears. Soon after, everyone felt their vision blurred as a petite young lady appeared before their eyes. Upon seeing the sudden appearance of the young lady, the guards were stunned. They retreated hurriedly.
Icy Snow, on the other hand, swept a glance at them with puckered brows and turned to look at the young beggar in front of them. At that moment, the young beggar had curled up on the ground with his hands over his head, whimpering and groaning as if he were half-dead.
“Who are you?!”
Upon seeing Icy Snow, one of the guards snarled. However, after following Rhode for a long time, she wasn’t that easily terrified by an ‘NPC’. Thus, in the face of his bellow, she took a step back with a rather difficult expression.
“I’m just a guest of the tavern. You people fighting here are disrupting our mealtime, so I came down to give you a warning.”
“Little brat, how dare you meddle in the affairs of us, guards!”
Looking at Icy Snow in front of him, a guard pulled a long face, bellowing and stretching out his hand to grab her. But Icy Snow wasn’t a fool either. Besides, how could a player at the maximum level of 85 be seized by an NPC that was weaker than level 30? The moment the guard reached out his arm, she also extended her right hand and patted his arm gently. In the blink of an eye, the tall and burly guard fell to the ground with a thud.
“Hmph… Let’s go!”
Looking at this scene, the other guards were bewildered. Their captain snorted, waved his arm, and soon after, the guards turned around and left the scene. And along with the departure of the guards, the crowd of bystanders also dispersed. It was only at that moment when Icy Snow looked at the young beggar, only to see him crawling to his feet and looking at her with a thankful gaze. And just as he was about to say something, Icy Snow had already turned around and disappeared entirely from his sight.
Upon seeing her disappearance, the young beggar stared in surprise. But soon, he revealed an anxious expression and walked in circles by the entrance of the tavern, before finally stomping his foot and turning around to leave. Judging from his agile movements, he didn’t look like one who was just beaten up brutally. And shortly after he left, Rhode witnessed squad after squad of heavily-armed guards marching toward the tavern. And in just a moment’s time, they surrounded the tavern completely.
And it was at that moment that Rhode withdrew his gaze.
“Looks like you girls are being targeted. What happened earlier? Tell me about it.”