As Rhode stepped into the room, Christie was seated in front of the easel and carefully portraying a beautiful scenery painting .
The little girl’s skills seemed to have improved yet again . At least to Rhode, the sceneries that Christie drew was almost similar to photographs… Or perhaps, more beautiful than photographs . He didn’t immediately speak and he chose to quietly observe the little girl from the doorway .
The current Christie was so much different from when Rhode first met her . During those times, her body was weak and haggard . According to Marlene and Lize, Christie was all skin and bones which was a heartbreaking sight for everyone .
Now, with sufficient nutrients and food, Christie’s body condition became much better than before . At least she seemed like what a girl of her age should be . However, unknown if she was weak inborn, the development of her body wasn’t going on too well . Just look at Anne who was only about one or two years older than her, the maiden had a body that even Marlene and Lize were envious of… Of course, there tend to be differences between all humans .
Rhode had been very busy these few days and to be frank, there wasn’t much time for him to accompany Christie . However, this little girl had been obedient and she didn’t display any unhappiness . She continued to rest in her room, leisurely painted and read some books . But, all these activities seemed a little too bland for Rhode .
Christie was always serious whenever she’s painting and she didn’t detect Rhode’s presence . On the other hand, Rhode only quietly observed the little girl . Only after a few moments when Christie laid down the painting brush, Rhode stood up and lightly coughed .
Christie curiously turned around and a delightful smile instantly unrolled on the little girl’s face at the sight of Rhode .
Christie jumped off the chair and scuttled towards Rhode before diving right into his wide-opened arms . Rhode hugged the little girl’s soft body and revealed a gentle smile .
“I’m back, Christie . How have you been?”
“… I’m good…”
Christie hurriedly lifted her head from Rhode’s arms and nodded .
Rhode couldn’t help but smiled in response as he extended his arm to gently caressed Christie’s long hair .
“All these while I have been busy and I didn’t look for you…”
Rhode paused for a moment .
“Christie, I will be leaving here tomorrow to the Land of Atonement . You should also know that the place will be our guild’s territory . ”
A trace of disappointment revealed in Christie’s eyes, but she still obediently nodded . Rhode was hesitant but he eventually continued .
“But… If you want to go, I can bring you along . But Christie, you need to know that the conditions there are harsh and it wouldn’t be as bustling as Deep Stone City . If you don’t wish to go, then I wouldn’t force you to . ”
Christie’s gloomy eyes suddenly flickered . She wanted to give her answer almost immediately but some concerns caused her to ponder for a moment .
“… But… if Christie follows… will I give… Rhode… everyone… more trouble…?”
“Don’t worry about this . ”
Rhode smiled as he shook his head .
“I can guarantee that you wouldn’t cause any trouble . ”
Up until this moment, a smile resurfaced on Christie’s face . She looked up towards Rhode and happily nodded .
“… Ok… I want to go . I want to be… with Rhode… and Anne… Sister Marlene… everyone…”
“Sure, since you want to go then we will all welcome you . ”
Rhode released his hug and scanned the little girl from head to toe with a smile .
“So then, Christie, go get changed . We will have dinner soon . And remember to pack up your stuff okay?”
Christie delightfully nodded and swiftly began to pack the sketchpad and paint brushes . On the other hand, Rhode quietly observed the little girl and hopelessly revealed a bitter smile while shaking his head after a few moments, before stepping out of her room .
Rhode had been hesitant of bringing Christie over to the Fortress from the very start because he knew that a year later, there might be a fierce war . However, Rhode was also worried of leaving Christie alone in the stronghold especially after hearing Shauna’s report — Rhode wouldn’t be so innocent to think that the Southern bastards would only want to simply discuss some business with him . This bunch of bastards definitely were up to no good . Now that Rhode’s entire elite forces were shifted towards the Land of Atonement, he didn’t have the free time to appoint someone to specially protect Christie . However, this increased the chances of her facing threats . Many people knew that Christie and Rhode had a close relationship . Furthermore, Rhode had always doted on this ‘sister’ of his . From their exact same looks, it was enough for Christie to be targeted by many opposing forces .
Rhode didn’t wish that Christie would end up suffering in the Fortress, but he was also worried about leaving Christie alone . In the end, he decided to let Christie make her own decision . If the girl chose to stay, at most Rhode could send someone to look after her since there’s the Summon Gate around . However, if Christie was willing to follow him to the Fortress, then… Rhode would need to work harder .
But that’s not a bad thing .
Rhode shook his head with a bitter smile . He descended the steps towards the hallway of the first underground floor .
At this moment, the entire basement was empty with only odd sounds resounded from the hallway . Rhode directly stepped towards a sturdy, locked door and knocked .
Those disorderly noises stopped shortly after and a timid voice sounded .
“Ah, p-please wait, I’m coming!”
Accompanied by this panicky voice behind the door, sounds of clanging could be heard . After a few moments, everything returned to silence . As the door unlocked, it slowly creaked and Lapis appeared before Rhode .
Lapis was startled and she hurriedly took a few steps backwards . The maiden subconsciously patted off the dust on her clothes before timidly returning her gaze .
“Yes… Since I’ve completed the Fortress matters, I have returned to check around . ”
Rhode curiously looked over Lapis and the state behind her seemed to have just suffered from air strikes .
“What are you doing?”
“Ah, I, I was only doing some research regarding the alchemy of Behermes Family . As for the modifications on the list of magical equipment, I think I have just figured the way of doing it . But I still need to continue experimenting…”
“Alright, we will leave this for later . ”
Rhode interrupted Lapis’ speech with his hand . He knew that although Lapis usually was a timid yes-woman and didn’t have her own views, when it’s regarding her own profession, she wouldn’t stop speaking for at least 30 minutes to an hour . Rhode didn’t have the mood and time to listen to her on this topic, which was why he swiftly cut off her words .
“The Fortress there is ready and I want you to pack up now . Bring everything over to the Fortress… Don’t worry, I have prepared a specialized alchemy workshop for you . I think you will like it there . ”
Lapis’ eyes instantly glistened by the two keywords . The maiden nodded with might .
“Okay, Sir . No problem, I will get prepared now…”
“Don’t forget your dinner soon . ”
“Of course, Sir, I will not forget!”
Lapis immediately closed the door and scuttled off to get ready . Shortly after, Rhode could hear the usual clanging sounds from behind the door again .
Rhode shook his head helplessly and turned around .
As he arrived in the living room on the floor above, Shauna’s eyes brightened and she instantly ran to his side .
“S-Sir, you’re here at the right time . Someone’s here to see you . ”
“See me? Now?”
Rhode frowned after hearing Shauna’s words .
“Who is it?”
“He’s Matt, from Silver Libra Trade Association…”
“Oh?” Rhode twitched his brows . “Let him in . ”