"High Cliff Village?"
Everyone was surprised once they heard this name.
"The villagers were attacked by undead creatures?"
Marlene frowned and thought for a while.
"If the undead creatures were in their ghost form, then there's a high possibility that it was due to a Hell Rift. Or... it could be some creatures affected by the dark energy, in which it could get thorny."
Although Marlene's primary concern wasn't wrong, the rest were more concerned on another matter.
"Sir, have you accepted the request?"
Shauna's expression dulled as she asked with uncertainty.
"Anne hates that place, can I don't go..."
The carefree maiden who was sitting on the chair, pouted and shown her displeasure.
"Mr. Rhode, I feel that this... isn't a good choice."
If anyone rejected this matter based on their reasons, it didn't really matter that much. But if it was from Lize... even Marlene was slightly startled. She couldn't understand why Lize, as a cleric, would reject this mission? Could it be that she missed out the part where Rhode mentioned that the undead creatures attacked the people there? Why would she question Rhode's decision about accepting that mission?
"Why would you think of it this way? According to Mr. Klautz's explanations, the people there are struggling right now. Since they were seeking help and we have accepted it, shouldn't we give our best to complete it?"
"Even if you said so..."
Lize's expression turned gloomy as she glanced at Rhode. She didn't know how she could explain her reasons. Just as she was hesitating, Rhode came to her rescue.
"Alright, look at it this way. Deep down, we know that all of us have no interest in High Cliff Village because that place has a bad reputation within all the mercenaries."
Old Walker nodded.
"Everyone in that village are sly, cruel, selfish bastards. They only know how to take advantage of others. We mercenaries had already been made used by them for so many times. Because of the natural geographical location of High Cliff Village, it was along one of the common trading routes, so was slightly troublesome. They would often seek help from Mercenary Association, hoping to get rid of wild monsters or bandits. But almost every single time when we accomplish our mission, these bastards will find excuses or ways not to give us the remunerations. Those people are just scums!"
"That's right! Anne helped them once by defeating a group of Kobolds. And what did those people say to Anne?! They said that Anne was too small and didn't look like a mercenary! They even suspected that Anne lied to them. In the end, they didn't pay Anne the money! Anne hates the people over there! If possible, Anne wouldn't want to see them again!"
Anne gritted her teeth and swung her little fists. From her angry expression, everyone could see how much she hated that place.
"And the worst part was, we couldn't do anything about this."
Shauna joined in.
"If there were conflicts between mercenaries, then it's still under control because eventually, we would seek help from Mercenary Association to settle the issue. However those people are ordinary civilians, and if we wanted to get even with them, they could report us to the garrisons, and we would have to go to jail."
"Me... too... Last time, my leader and I even helped the High Cliff Village get rid of the bandits, but in the end, they said that those bandits were people of the village and even threatened to say that we purposely killed the villagers. In the end, not only did my leader not receive the reward, but he had to pay compensations instead... just because we couldn't prove that those bandits weren't people of the village..."
Lize lowered her head. Even though no one could see her expression clearly, but judging from the way she clenched her fists, the maiden was unquestionably enraged.
"And that's why, Missy, those villagers in High Cliff Village are simply worse than the bandits. Even bandits talk about feelings, where they take turns to gang-rape women. If it's those bastards... hmph..! I think they would even rape their own daughter by themselves. Many mercenaries hope everyone from that village dies! And isn't this a good opportunity? Kid, don't accept this mission, just let them die, and you will be the idol of all mercenaries in Paphield Region!"
".... Mr. Rhode, is it really that bad?"
Marlene purposely neglected Old Walker's insults and asked with doubt.
"It's even worse than what you imagined, by a thousand times."
Rhode answered swiftly. The bad reputation of High Cliff Village wasn't only amongst the NPCs. Even in the game, they were too. The missions they gave were troublesome and time wasting. After finishing the task, they wouldn't acknowledge it and not only that, even when the players wanted to teach them a lesson, they would immediately turn to the village guards. When the low-leveled players faced these highly skilled guards, they could only retreat with unwillingness.
However, after the players managed to grow to higher levels, they would find the opportunity to revisit this place and slaughter everyone time and time again. No matter young or old, humans or animals, they would leave nothing behind.
If the Parliament was considered hateful, then the High Cliff Villagers would be utterly disgusting.
"... If that's the case, should we still accept it?"
Even though Marlene had not met such disgusting people before, the happy-go-lucky Anne and the kindhearted Lize had already expressed their resentments, so she felt that this wasn't a good choice.
But Rhode simply nodded his head.
"Why not? No matter what, our remuneration is guaranteed by the Deep Stone City's owner, Klautz. We don't have to worry about those scums finding excuses. Besides, don't you all have any interest to see how those scums are suffering right now? Just imagine - those poor sods kneeling and begging in front of you for help, won't it feel great?"
"Of course it will feel great. Anne is going crazy just thinking about it!"
The young girl shouted with both her arms in the air as if celebrating in a parade carnival.
"I hope they will apologize to my previous leader and atone for their impolite behavior, but..."
"... but that will not be an easy task. Yes, we know that, kid." Old Walker finished Lize's uncompleted sentence.
"Those bastards are like mice. Once you give them some slack, they would worm right through your kindness. You want them to listen to you obediently? That wouldn't be an easy task..."
"Don't worry about these matters. You guys just need to do what you are supposed to do, that's all."
Rhode waved his hand to stop Old Walker from continuing.
"For the next step, leave it to Marlene and me."
Hearing her name, Marlene pointed at herself with her index finger.
"What do I need to do, Mr. Rhode?"
Marlene was rather worried. She knew everyone had a bad impression of that village and Rhode didn't seem to have a positive attitude towards them too. This made Marlene secretly worried. She tried to guess if Rhode was about to use her magic to intimidate those villagers. Although they may be disgusting people, to Marlene, such intimidation acts would damage her identity and her family's honor - Rhode shouldn't intend for her to do that, right?
Contrary to her expectation to her curious question, Rhode put his index finger on his lip. From the maiden's expression, Rhode already guessed her what she was thinking, but he didn't intend to reveal it.
"Not to worry, Miss Marlene. We'll see later. Even if I don't ask you to, perhaps you would have done the same."
After saying that, Rhode clapped his hands.
"Alright, all of you go and get prepared. Randolf, get Lapis here. I need her to provide the potions for this mission."
After hearing Rhode's command, Randolf bowed respectfully and immediately left. Everyone else didn't say much after realizing there's no other way to change Rhode's mind and swiftly proceeded to prepare their equipment. Just when everyone was dispersing, Rhode stopped Marlene who was also about to leave.
"Oh yes, Miss Marlene. This is for you."
Rhode placed a piece of paper on the table.
Marlene quickly walked up front and grabbed the piece of paper.
"This is the contract that you wanted. Due to your special conditions, I've given you an unlimited deadline, similar to Lize. The only difference would be, you can choose to leave anytime and there will be no termination penalty. At the same time, I hope you understand that this contract doesn't represent a membership of my mercenary group, but rather, you are my assistant in adventures and battle... what do you think of this condition?"
Marlene was stunned and a red blush started to flush on her face and began to stutter a little.
"T-This... Mr. Rhode."
"If I did not misunderstand you... what you meant was... this contract doesn't require me to become a mercenary, but to become your assistant in battle?"
"S-So... Can I take it as..."
As Marlene stuttered, she unconsciously stretched out her hand and played with her shoulder-length hair.
"W-What you meant was... I can stay by your side for as long as I wish?"