Inside a dark room.
An oppressive atmosphere made everyone unable to breathe.
"That b*stard said that?!"
Frank clutched the bed while gritting his teeth. His formerly handsome face was now warped and distorted.
A man quietly stood beside the bed with his head bowed down.
"Good, very good..."
Frank gnashed his teeth and said to himself. Then, he shook his fist and slammed it onto the bed.
"That b*stard thinks he's something! Hmph! He's just a low-ranked noble of a barbarian country. How dare he oppose me!"
The man shivered as his master bellowed in anger.
As an attendant who had followed Frank since he was young, he naturally knew of Frank's past. In Barce, although he was the third successor of the top family, he had never received his family's respect. Frank didn't receive recognition because he wasn't as outstanding as his two other brothers. His mother was frail and couldn't even fight for her own authority in the family, so how could she possibly help her son?
After a huge conflict between him and his family, Frank chose to leave. From then on, he swore to himself that he must succeed before going back to claim what was his. To achieve his goal, he forced himself to endure any humiliation and bitterness along the way. In the end, he managed to grasp a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and as long as he can complete his task, he will be able to return to his hometown with his head lifted high.
When that time came, he can do whatever he wanted without worrying about his two brothers. His mother who had always been looked down upon didn't have to suffer like a servant anymore.
That was why he had to come to Deep Stone City and work with these mercenaries.
Similar to most people from the Country of Light, Frank held a deep animosity towards the Munn Kingdom. In his opinion, the Munn Kingdom was full of cowards. They sold their soul just for money. These people were like a Ganon of leeches who had no future or hope. Just like the beggars on the street, they blindly followed the person who threw them the most money, pretending to be deaf, mute or whatever they needed to become to acquire wealth. Pitiful.
However, for the sake of his future, he had no choice but to live with these spineless cowards. On the exterior, he worked hard to mingle with these people, but within the depths of his heart, Frank never felt anything else but contempt towards them. From his perspective, they were nothing more than tools that he had to use to pave the way to success.
According to the plan, he had to acquire Jade Tears mercenary group, which he promptly did and Frank saw himself completing the task within one year as long as everything went smoothly...
But here came someone called Rhode who suddenly appeared out nowhere and destroyed his hopes and dreams.
Frank had never been so close to death as he had been back then. Although he had already worked as a mercenary for close to a year and encountered many dangerous situations, it was not as terrifying as his confrontation with Rhode.
Luckily, he managed to live.
If that person didn't happen to be beside him, he would've already been a corpse.
The thought of his death caused his body to shiver once more. However, he began to be suspicious of something.
That man... Rhode... why would he want to kill me so eagerly? Is it because of the declaration of war? That can't be right... isn't he overreacting?
Doesn't he fear the backlash he will receive from the other mercenary groups if he kills me? Or is he just batsh*t crazy?
Still, the information that I received from Clinton tells me that he isn't a simple person. According to Clinton, he sent his subordinates to kill Rhode, but they ended up being killed by him instead.
Perhaps... he found out about my mission...?
When he thought the about the possibility of his mission being leaked, Frank couldn't help but feel a chill down his spine.
Does that mean that he had already figured out their plan so he decided to counterattack first?
"What's the situation in Deep Stone City? Is there any new information regarding Klautz?"
"The Mercenary Association only gave that notice?"
Frank frowned after receiving his subordinate's report. If that man discovered his plan, Deep Stone City should be making its move. Or were they waiting for him to make a mistake? On the other hand, there was also the possibility that he was overthinking it.
In any case, the Mercenary Association's new regulation would cause difficulty in implementing the next stage of his plan.
What should he do?
"Send some people to contact Wolf's Den and report the current situation to them."
After acknowledging Frank's command, the man straightened his body and planned to leave. But at this moment, Frank once again called him up.
"That's right, is there any news about Starlight?"
"They have left Deep Stone City."
Frank raised his brow.
"Do you know where are they going?"
"According to the report, they are heading for Twilight Forest. But as for what are they doing there... I don't know."
"Twilight Forest? Wait, I remember..."
A trace of joy flashed past Frank's eyes. After that, he forced himself up and looked at his subordinates.
"Look for Clinton and tell him that Starlight is in Twilight Forest... and I want..."
The last few words were almost inaudible, but the intent was clear from the malicious look on his face.
Meanwhile, Rhode had just begun his 'Basic Training' for Randolf and the rest.
Rhode didn't give them a divine book that would instantly give them cheat-like abilities, but it was still handy for them to improve their strength.
In this era, skill training was still quite vanilla. Although they could learn techniques from the instructor, the ability to combine the skills was another issue altogether. This is because everyone's character and fighting style were different. Thus, the way the instructor teaches also varies.
Everyone was unique; what one would consider perfect could be insufficient to another. Due to that, people would travel far and wide to experience real battles. During that journey, they would gradually master the skill and develop their personalized fighting style. That was the main reason why adventurers must travel as fighting experience from training and life-or-death battles were entirely different.
Perhaps after a few years Randolf and the others would master their skills and develop their fighting style, but Rhode couldn't wait that long for them. Judging from the skill level of these guys right now, it was more likely for them to die at the start of the journey than being successful.
The paper that he passed to Randolf and the rest were 'entry-level' strategies that he developed with the input of millions of players.
Although it was only 'entry-level,' it recorded all the basics on how and when to use the skills. In Dragon Soul Continent Online, if a player wanted to play well, many veterans would tell them to look at a guidebook for beginners. If they understood the concepts and principles well, conquering most dungeons shouldn't be an issue.
If skills were a language, it would be considered as a word. And when combined, these words would form sentences with meaning. If one desired to turn these words into fluid sentences with excellent vocabulary, that would be the same as the challenges of using high-leveled skills.
To put it in context, Randolf and the rest were just like children who'd just begun studying the language and were unable to spell out the words to express themselves. So, how do we teach children languages? By getting them to repeat them over and over again until they understand it of course.
As long as they were able to learn these words, in time, they would be able to form their own sentences. As for whether they could completely utilize the meaning of the words... it was something that Rhode hadn't thought of it yet. Anyway, let's just study it first!
And then that's where the tragedy began.
Rhode didn't give them an explanation on why were they doing this as they didn't require to know the reason. As long as they could read and regurgitate the theory into action, they would naturally understand the reason later on. In Rhode's opinion, this method of training was way better than bringing a group of newbies to enter a dungeon.
The next morning, a strange scene was happening in Starlight's base camp.
Randolf lowered his body and jumped up. At the same time, he pulled his bow and aimed towards the tree in front of him. After shooting, he didn't pause and immediately did a roll backwards. In a quick motion, his left hand nocked another arrow and pulled on the string once again.
As for the heavily armored Swordsman, Andon kept repeating a monotonous set of movements with his sword and shield.
Forward, retreat, swing the sword, block, turn around, swing the sword again.
He repeated the notion again and again under the hot sun, drenching his entire forehead with sweat. Still, his eyes maintained its focus and stared at the empty space in front of him as though a dangerous enemy was waiting to strike him.
Joey was no better. No longer had he had a relaxing smile on his face. At that moment, he was frowning as he dashed around nimbly while wielding his dagger.
"I say, kid. Does this method really work?"
Old Walker said with worry as he looked at the three men training and continued.
"The actual battlefield is ever-changing. How can they expect to use these set of movements for every scenario? If the enemy didn't fight like that, wouldn't they be finished?"
"I don't care how they fight, but they must do as their told. This is my requirement."
Old Walker almost passed out when he heard Rhode's answer. Then he rolled his eyes and shifted his gaze away from Rhode, clearly dissatisfied with his response.
"Ah... that's enough, kid. I'd like to see what you can come up with. It'll be weird if there's no issue with this inflexible way of fighting."
"That's my problem, not yours, Walker. What about the things I asked you to do previously?"
Old Walker shot a glare at him and stood up.
"Well, I've found some places fitting the requirements that you've mentioned. I've also gathered some information since those guys aren't difficult to handle... but do you really intend to..."
Old Walker cut off his speech. When he saw the look in Rhode's eyes, he already knew his answer. He shrugged and didn't bother continuing.
"Anyway, just take it like I didn't say anything. But kid, Lize is in a bad mood these days, if you have the time, you should look for her. You should know morale is a big issue for every mercenary group, especially so for serious individuals like Lize..."
Old Walker stood up and put his hand on Rhode's shoulder before turning around to leave. He believed that he didn't have to finish what he had to say because he understood that Rhode wasn't the dense type of man.
Rhode didn't reply. He only shifted his gaze towards the base camp.
There, three beautiful girls in the mercenary group were leisurely having fun.
Rhode didn't assign any tasks for the three women. After interacting with them for a while, Rhode understood the characteristics of their techniques. Lize was precise; the way she managed her cooldowns was better than players. Rhode was sure that even if the strongest Cleric player, Thousand-hand Guanyin, transmigrated to this world, she would be no better than Lize regarding this aspect.
Marlene wasn't as precise as Lize, but her talent for being proficient in the whole magic system was also something that could be compared to most high-leveled players. Even if Rhode wanted to assign training for her, it would be impossible. While he was familiar with Mage spells, ultimately he wasn't a Mage, so there were things he wouldn't completely understand.
As a 'regular' genius, Marlene comprehension towards a variety of combat skills was quite good. In Pavel Cemetery, Rhode didn't have to spell out what she should do, and Marlene would understand what he wanted. She was slowly changing, and Rhode could see that.
If Marlene was the 'academical type,' Anne would totally be the 'practical type.' Rhode could feel the wildness in her. Violent, unique, irregular, and unstable, but could create an unexpected result. Anne's ability to think on the spot and react was superb. So, he didn't think that there was much to teach her.
As for the pitiful men who hadn't met Rhode's expectations, they trained hard around the base camp.
The world out there isn't kind. Only failure awaits if one doesn't succeed.
Then, Rhode stood up and walked towards the hillside.