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 Seeing this system prompt, Rhode was surprised. After a while, he finally reacted.

His stronghold had reached the requirement to level up?

Thinking until here, Rhode put down the book in his hand and quickly looked at his mercenary group information.

Name: Starlight

Size: Small

Leader: Rhode Alander

Members: 42 people

Stronghold: 1 (medium)

Level: 1

Reputation: Regional Level

Facilities: Hall (LV: 1), Study (LV: 1), Bedroom (LV: 1)

Unexpectedly, his mercenary group's reputation had spread out really quickly.

Seeing his Regional Level reputation, Rhode could not believe it, but after thinking about it carefully, he no longer thought so. Right now, his Starlight mercenary group was indeed very famous in the Paphield region. After all, the things he did had spread among mercenaries, and it was no wonder his mercenary group's reputation would increase that quickly. In fact, Rhodes had not thought about it in the beginning since he thought that he needed to complete as many missions as possible to reach a higher reputation like he did in the game before. However, it seemed that reality and in-game were really quite different.

Thinking until here, Rhode accepted the level-up quest and carefully read the content.

The quest itself wasn't too complicated: it only asked Rhode to go to a mountain in the central Paphield region, look for a Mystery Ball, and bring it back. After that, his stronghold would automatically level up.

This quest wasn't too difficult, but Rhode thought that it was a little bit fishy.

He had completed many level-up quests in the past but he had never encountered such a thing. He knew that the Mystery Ball was an artifact. However, most were used for structural purposes and supplied magic guides for science and technology. It wasn't related to mercenary groups at all. In the game, mercenary groups were able to upgrade when they had reached the number of people and reputation required. After that, a system prompt would appear. If the leader had enough money and material, then he would be able to level up immediately. Those quest were only decoration and has never been too much of an importance.

But right now, if he didn't complete the quest, he would be unable to level up? I've never heard of such thing.

Having such a doubt on his mind, Rhode carefully observed the quest once again. The location was in Black Pine Ruins of the central Paphield region. He had gone there a few times in the game before. It was an ordinary dungeon; the only special thing about that place was that it was necessary to visit if a player wanted to change their job into Alchemist or obtain some alchemical material. The Mystery Ball was one of the equipments that showed up there, but Rhode could swear that he had never found the object to be related with leveling strongholds.

But now, they're actually related to each other.

He couldn't really do anything about it. He hesitated for a while, but still accepted the quest in the end.

The truth was that Rhode didn't really want to accept this quest because it had a time limit. He needed to finish it within half a month; the time was too tight for him. He didn't want to waste his time looking for an artifact, but in the end, he still accepted the quest. Because the reward after finishing that quest was that he would be able to build a training field in the stronghold.

The training field introduction said that it would be able to "simulate real environment, combat training, and increase movement speed." He immediately decided to do the quest. If he really got it, then after he built the training field, he would be able to conduct more standardized and systematic training for his subordinates and their strength would improve further, which was essential for Rhode.

But this time, Rhode didn't plan to bring his mercenaries with him. Since this quest was secret, he didn't want many people to go with him. Rhode decided that since it was a Level 10 dungeon and he had already reached Level 18, it would be no problem for him to go by himself based on his current strength as a Spirit Swordsman. Of course, for insurance, Rhode also decided to bring someone along. As for those newly recruited mercenary groups, it would be better for them to stay here so they could adapt to their new environment. Although the place was quite far from the Deep Stone City, since Rhode had defeated that black-cloaked mage, the air passage from Deep Stone City toward other area was no longer attacked, so it was open once again. By riding the floating ship, he would be able to reach his destination within half a day. With his current strength, it would only take him three to four days to go back; it wouldn't waste too much time.

"... Rhode... it's already noon, let's eat together..."

"Alright, I'm coming now." Seeing the girl's figure, Rhode wryly smiled. He stood up, walked toward Christie, and they left together.

After they arrived at Deep Stone City, Christie didn't have to work too hard like before. In any case, with her current physical condition, it would be impossible for her to do heavy work. Before, the people in High Cliff Village didn't treat her as a human; as long as she could do it, they would make her do everything. They even made her carry a sack of wheat. Could you even imagine a weak girl like Christie carrying a sack of wheat almost as big as her, dragging it forward, and stopping from time to time to cough?

Lize and others, of course, didn't want her to do those kind of things. From their point of view, since Christie had finally escaped from her suffering, she should have lived like an ordinary girl and enjoy her life. However, Christie, who was living in poverty since young, didn't think so. She thought that she couldn't enjoy her life unconditionally; since she had been given such a beautiful life and everyone loved her so much, she needed to do something to repay them and shouldn't take it for granted.

However, her condition was really too bad. Even if she was only cleaning the room, it would still make people worry. In the end, Marlene found a job where Christie didn't have to work; it was to call Rhode when it was time to eat or ask him when he would like a cup of tea or when he would like to sleep...

This job was no different than a maid's, but different from a maid's. Christie didn't have to do any physical work like serving tea or cleaning... Her body was really too weak and would need time to heal gradually. She spent most of her time resting in the room and only left the room to eat, sleep, ask Rhode how was he doing, and say goodnight.

Rhode quickly arrived in the dining room on the second floor while holding Christie's hand. Marlene and Anne had already prepared everything and were only waiting for their arrival.

Seeing Rhode, everyone greeted him, and then they started to enjoy the feast on the table.

At this moment, Rhode suddenly spoke up with the decision he had made. "I'll be going out these two days; I'll leave the mercenary group to you guys."

"Going out?" Hearing Rhode's words, Marlene, who was holding bread, suddenly frowned.

"Go where, Mr. Rhode? Should we..."

"There's no need." Rhode shook his head.

"I'm going to Central Paphield to do something. I can't explain in detail, but this matter is related with our mercenary group stronghold. I want to adjust it and I found the method, so I want to try it."

"Do you really have to go?" Lize curiously asked while pouring fragrant soup for Christie.

"Mr. Rhode, recently there are newly recruited members in our mercenary group. If you're not here... I'm afraid there will be problems."

"Those guys won't look for our trouble." Rhode shook his head. Those mercenaries didn't dare look for trouble; if they did anything, then it wouldn't be good for Sereck, who introduced them here. Moreover, Kavos guaranteed him before that his subordinates were trustworthy... Hopefully what they've said was right.

Thinking until here, Rhode looked up toward Marlene. "Marlene, these few days, I'll leave the mercenary group to you. If anything happens, don't panic-just wait for me. If it's too troublesome, you can just solve it yourself. I believe in your judgement."

Hearing Rhode's words, Marlene stopped moving and nodded with serious expression. "I understand, Mr. Rhode. Rest assured, I guarantee nothing will happen."

"Very well." After hearing Marlene's answer, Rhode nodded in satisfaction. After that, he looked at the golden-haired girl who was sitting on the chair with her legs crossed, while eating the food before her without reservation.

"Anne?"

"Hm? Whaht? Loeawder? U... u...!!!"

The girl was busily eating when Rhode called her name. She quickly looked up and answered, but she had forgotten about the food stuffed in her mouth and choked. The poor girl quickly put away the food in her hands. At the same time, Lize quickly stood up and patted her back. Christie also quickly brought a glass of water before her.

"Big Sister Anne, be careful, drink water..."

"U... Pu..A!!!"

She finally recovered and took the water that Christie handed to her. After drinking a mouthful of water, she rubbed her mouth and looked at Rhode. "Leader, what can I help you?"

Hearing Anne's question, Rhode reached out his hands and placed it on his forehead then said, "This time, you will come with me. You have nothing to do anyways, right?"

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