The rain stopped around midnight and the mercenaries could finally continue their journey under the fresh air and warm sunlight. The refreshing morning put everyone in a much better mood. The mercenaries packed up their stuff and moved on after having breakfast.
The little girl they met yesterday was following not far behind at the back of the group. She was wearing her usual clothes. Her dainty wooden stick waved from left to right as she herded the lambs. After the little girl woke up, Rhode managed to find out that she was indeed a villager from High Cliff Village, but there were no further details. Due to the leather mask, the little girl had a hard time speaking. She could only communicate by nodding and shaking her head. This way of communication doesn't allow complicated words to be understood, so Rhode decided to bring this little girl back to High Cliff VIllage and find out what truly happened.
If it wasn't for Lize's healing, the little girl who hadn't ate for the whole day wouldn't even have the strength to stand. Even so, she still politely and determinedly rejected the kind help from the mercenaries and continued to drive the flock of lambs while gritting her teeth. She was very experienced in doing it... at least the lambs were obediently following by her side.
Even as the mercenaries walked, the topic never left the little girl. After all, although these people participated in many adventures, they had never seen such odd incidents.
"What a poor child. Why would she receive such treatment?"
"Could she be under a curse?"
"Don't joke about it. If it was a curse, do you think Miss Lize will not feel it? She said it was only an illness."
"Could she be disfigured so she purposely hid it? I've seen a lady in the city who covered herself with a cloth every day after a major burn scar on her face."
"That's just for concealment I guess. Haven't you seen the collar and chains on the little girl's neck? This obviously is an act of torture."
"But who will do such a thing? Any normal human wouldn't be this cruel..."
"You already said 'normal human', how could you include those scums of High Cliff Village?"
Hearing their comrade's answer, one of the mercenaries replied with disdain, and the other mercenaries ended their conversation on this topic.
To be honest, they didn't wish to go to High Cliff Village. In fact, Shauna and Old Walker's attitude represented the mercenaries' attitudes - If possible, they would rather wish those people to die to the undead creatures than to help them. After all, these people had a bad reputation and everyone in the mercenary group, except Marlene, had experiences with them before.
To many people, the villagers of High Cliff Village were just a bunch of scum who could do anything for money. Their wicked name was widely known, and none of the mercenaries were willing to provide service for them. But these people were so shameless that they would even beg and cry for mercenaries' help in the Mercenary Association. Every one of them yelled and wept so pathetically but once the mercenaries turned soft on them, those scums turned their back and chased them out of the village.
The mercenaries filled with hatred and anger couldn't do anything because within High Cliff Village there was a guard captain from a nearby region. The moment the mercenaries and villagers had conflicts, they would immediately complain to him. Although the mercenaries were naturally rash, they could only conduct "legal business." If they were caught by the guards and thrown into jail, they wouldn't have an opportunity to earn money afterward.
And this time they agreed to go alongside Rhode, partly was due to the rich remunerations offered by Deep Stone City's owner, Klautz.
Just half of the remuneration for each mercenary was around a dozen of gold coins. Since the officials were the ones giving money this time and had no chance of bilking, they wouldn't mind showing their "professional ethics" - As long it was for money, everyone would be helpful.
Of course. On the other hand, they were curious on what Rhode would do to those villagers in High Cliff Village. Although they had not spent much time with Rhode, these mercenaries were aware of Rhode's temperament. Cold, cruel and no mercy. If he could kill somebody in front of the Mercenary Association due to an insult then no one could guarantee that those scums could get away safely from him later - In fact, to most of the mercenaries, they appeared not to have witnessed this young man's good temper before.
And because of this, you could say that half of their motivation comes from Rhode's attitude and the other half came from the reward. They don't give a damn about saving those people...
"Mr. Rhode, that poor child..."
Walking beside Rhode, Lize continued to turn around to care for the little girl struggling to keep up from the back. Although most of them slowed down their pace to make it easier for her, most of them were already adults, so they were fast when it comes to walking. Although the little girl tried hard to follow behind, due to her short legs and lack of energy she was always panting throughout the rocky path back to the village. But even so, she never turned to them for help. Lize had been rejected many times when she tried to offer assistance.
"She's a strong child, but... for her, this is too tiring."
Marlene stared at the little girl's figure with admiration in her eyes. Her approach was different from Lize. She was highly appreciative of the little girl's will. Even though she understood that there was a tough journey ahead, but she still chose not to rely on others. Marlene displayed her respect by admiring her efforts and chose not to destroy this little girl's determination.
"She appears to fancy the leader." With both hands behind her back, Anne did a stretch as she spoke.
She wasn't wrong though. In the crowd, what the little girl cared the most about was Rhode. She periodically glanced at the young man without any reason. Of course, this wasn't considered too weird for anyone. Besides, Rhode was a man with attractive and beautiful feminine features. Just this reason was enough for people to stare at him. Rhode was well aware of this, but he didn't mention anything about it.
"I can sense an obscure evil energy from within the child's body."
At this moment, an angelic voice echoed behind Rhode's ears.
When no one was looking, Rhode summoned Celia in the morning. Since their target for this mission was the undead creatures, as an angel's natural enemy, Celia would gladly slaughter these vile beings in battle. Also, Rhode hoped to use this opportunity to teach those scums of High Cliff Village a lesson about humbleness and humanity.
As for Celia's sudden appearance, the mercenaries weren't surprised at all. After the battle in the Twilight forest, they knew their leader always had an angel on guard by his side, so they didn't felt anything odd.
Marlene heard the ominous words and frowned.
"Bloodline? Or curse?"
"I'm not too sure. But it seemed that this child hadn't realized it herself. Maybe it hasn't awakened yet."
Celia spoke with a soft voice as she swept a glance at the little girl.
"But the energy is weak. There shouldn't be any negative impact on the surroundings."
"Maybe this was the reason why she wore a mask?"
Anne curiously scratched her head and asked with a frown.
"Anne didn't think the little girl as someone who will do bad things."
"Many people are like this. The unknown will cause fear, which is very normal."
Marlene continued and said.
"But this is indeed too much... even if we judge by what Miss Celia had said, we still can't verify anything. We can only wait until we reach the High Cliff Village and investigate to find out what is really happening."
As Marlene spoke, High Cliff Village finally appeared before everyone.
High Cliff Village was a small village located within a moderately deep mountain range. From just one look at it, this town was no different from others. A wooden fence surrounded hundreds of little houses with a clear stream of water flowing from top to bottom causing the windmill to turn slowly under the water flow. Kids were playing happily, and villagers were harvesting crops. It was a prosperous and harmonious scene.
Most of the mercenaries let out distasteful grunts.
"All of you, hold it!"
Soon enough, the mercenaries stopped by the militia guarding the village entrance. They held weapons in their hands and looked down at everyone in disdain.
"All of you are... mercenaries?"
Rhode stepped forward and nodded lightly.
"We received a request from City owner Klautz to get rid of undead creatures. Are there any problems?"
"You guys should have arrived earlier! Why are you so late?!"
Looking at Rhode, the militia captain who stood in the front, growled and swung his weapon.
"Do you all know how troublesome those undead creatures were? We were overwhelmed! Damn it, seems like mercenaries are just a bunch of bastards who only work for money. If there isn't any money involved then you guys wouldn't have any sympathy towards us eh? Get the hell in! I will say this first. This path is a business avenue, so all of you barbaric mercenaries don't create any trouble for me! If not... when the garrisons get involved, you all should know the consequences."
Hearing the militia captain blabber, one of the mercenaries coldly spit. The militia captain immediately widened his eyes.
"Why, do you have any objections? Let me tell you, if it wasn't for the situation now, we wouldn't even beg the administrative officer for help. All of you should be glad even to be here, so what objections do you have? The lot of you better listen carefully. Do not create trouble. Finish your job and scram. If you break anything or start nonsense during your mission, then don't blame us if we complain to the administrative officer! By then, all of you can dream about getting your reward!"
The militia captain who spouted everything didn't realize that Rhode's gaze turned ice cold. The captain then drew his sword and as if examining prisoners, walked closer to the mercenary group. When his sight fell on the last girl at the back, his face immediately turned ugly.
"You little slut! Where have you been skiving!"
He growled and took big steps forward. Witnessing the terror approaching, the little girl's body shook instinctively. She held her thin wooden stick firmly, standing on the same spot with trembling legs.
Suddenly, an extended arm blocked his from moving an inch farther.