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 It was three days later when Rhode and Anne returned to Deep Stone City.

Indeed, the self-recovery ability of Rhode's bloodline was clearly powerful. His body was full of mortal wounds when he first left the ruins. When he woke up the second day, more than half had recovered. And by the third day, they were totally unnoticeable. Rhode decided not to delay any longer and hurried his way back with Anne. Back to Deep Stone City, of course, he warned Anne not to mention about this incident. It was still a mystery regarding the ambush on Rhode at the Black Pine Ruins. And he was sure he wasn't the only unlucky one because after leaving the ruins, he risked returning to the main entrance of the ruins. The mercenaries corpses were nowhere to be seen. But from the remnant energies, he managed to deduce that their corpses were eliminated by the same type of energy that was launched at him.

But up till now, Rhode still wasn't sure if it was due to luck that he was able to survive.

When he was recuperating, Rhode used to time and analyzed the Ball of Mystery. With the help of the system, he quickly identified how to use it. To put it simply, it could re-enact the user's memories, and create a space to materialize them. The people within the space would be stripped of their differences in equipment levels and dropped to the same level. Engaging in training within this space could quickly improve the levels and familiarities of abilities. Obviously, this was a tool used during ancient times for training and was useful for Rhode. Initially, before he traveled to the Black Pine Ruins, he had planned to complete his base missions in order to build a training facility for his group so that they had the needed practice for the festival competition in two months time. And now with the Sphere of Mystery, he can accomplish his goals even quicker.

Although he was still rather doubtful about this, after returning to Deep Stone City, Rhode immediately put this thought away for now.

"Leader?"

Noticing Rhode's return, Shauna immediately ran forward. She looked at Rhode with slight surprise and revealed a welcoming smile.

"Welcome back Leader, Miss Anne."

"Thank you, Shauna. I brought something great for all of you."

Rhode greeted the red-haired mercenary and nodded his head. It was noon, and the courtyard was peaceful. Other than the patrolling mercenaries, there was nobody else. Everything seemed tranquil and perfect, without any problems.

"During the period of my departure, were there any matters that need my attention?"

Rhode asked casually as he walked alongside Shauna. The red-haired mercenary's expression became serious when replying his question.

"No problems, Leader. Everything is well. The newly-joined mercenaries are still adapting to the environment. But I feel they still performed rather adequately. Besides, they were also satisfied with this place and didn't have any objections." Just when she wanted to end her report, her eye's twinkled as she remembered something," Ah.. yes! One more thing. The matter that you suggested had already been completed. Their reactions were great, and everyone liked it."

Before Rhode departed, he suggested a method to keep everyone's hands full and as well as to increase their cohesion within the Starlight Mercenary Group.

A well-known problem among mercenary groups was their emblem. Every mercenary group had their unique symbol to ensure that everyone within could recognize each other's identity. And it was no different for Starlight Mercenary Group. Their emblem consisted of a four-edged star within an oval-shaped halo. But Rhode didn't purely treat it only as an emblem, instead, he reformed it based on the experiences he got in the game. The ordinary mercenaries could only wear a basic version of the emblem. Whereas for the mercenaries with higher authorities, they were allowed to modify their emblems to display their individualistic traits. For example, Rhode affixed a sword with a pair of wings right in the middle. As for Anne, she added a shield behind the four-edged star. For Lize, she put wings around the halo. And lastly, for Marlene, four main elements of Wind, Water, Fire, and Earth were located on each corner of the star.

According to Rhode's statement, as long as the regular mercenaries work hard in doing their part, then they could receive a unique emblem of their own. Of course, it wasn't just for aesthetics These special emblems came with a certain amount of magical energy. This aroused the passion of many mercenaries. After announcing this rule, Shauna often heard discussions from the mercenaries regarding their future badge designs, which showed how much they looked forward to getting them.

To such reactions, Rhode was very relaxed. Although there were some who couldn't understand the meaning behind this arrangement when he first mentioned it, Rhode understood how far humans would go for something to boost their ego. Taking the game of Dragon Soul Continent as an example, there was a quest item called 'Clock of Summoning'. Players could use it to summon three ghost maids by his side. Of course, the ghost maids were different from summoned spirits. They weren't able to attack enemies, and could only help players to tidy their inventories or discover hidden ores or magic herbs. All in all, there just wasn't much use for them. That mission was unusually lengthy and complicated which made it impossible to complete without at least ten days. Even the rewards at the end of the quest were mediocre at best. Moreover, the ghost maids that the players' summoned were random. However, many players still finished it. They had to spend so much time to acquire a decoration that could only last for an hour with a three days cooldown. What for?

Of course it was to flaunt their achievements in public. All the newbies would be staring at them with admiration and worship, asking, "What are they? Where did you get them? That's so cool." This ego-hunting bunch limit themselves to items alone; even life skills were also the same. Some of them wasted so much time to achieve a life skill that brought little to no benefit for his class such as to change the color of his armor or to splash a few words on his cape. All of these were just to attract the attention of others. Vanity existed all the same no matter in which world, or which race. Not to mention, if it carried magical elements, then that would be an even more valuable reward.

From Shauna's briefing about matters that happened in his absence, Rhode found out that even though no missions could be taken up due to the Mercenary Association's temporary ban, those mercenaries weren't lazing around all day. Marlene had arranged some of them to pick magic herbs and hunt by the edges of Twilight Forest. The magic herbs were meant for Lapis to have a more extensive stock of supplies for her alchemistry. At the same time, the mercenaries were able to maintain their form and receive certain remunerations at the same time. Whereas for the three mercenary group leaders, they were also tactful. It seemed that Rhode had successfully played the boss when they met for the first time. At least there weren't any grumbling from any of them.

While Rhode and Shauna were discussing, all the mercenaries gathered at the front door. The moment when Rhode opened the door and walked into the hall, he saw a black figure dashing towards him.

"... Rhode...!"

Christie opened her arms while running down the stairs. She smiled and dived right into Rhode's arms. Rhode revealed a gentle smile and embraced her while intimately caressing her hair. It seemed that Christie had recovered much during this period, which could be discerned from her energetic voice and redder face.

"... You are back. Is everything okay?"

"I'm fine, Christie."

While caressing her hair gently and looking at her, Rhode replied with a smile. He was unsure why, but as long as it's Christie, Rhode would naturally drop his usual aloof image and turn into a 'normal person'. It was a pity that only Christie could enjoy this special treatment.

"Are you okay? Are you used to living here already?"

"Yup."

Christie nodded her head really hard. She held her palms together and revealed a delighted smile.

"It's comfortable here. The bed is soft, and there's also nice warm food. The older sisters treat me very well too..."

Everyone around felt glad as Christie sounded cheerful. This little girl seemed to have a very unusual charm. She could convey her feelings to anyone very directly and everyone would be infected by them, revealing their smiles from the bottom of their hearts. However, some of them didn't limit to only smiles...

"Ayah... Anne is back too, Christie!"

Anne ran and jumped to the little girl and gave her a huge hug.

"Anne brought some presents back too. Some really really cute presents~ I'm sure it will suit you a lot."

Rhode shrugged while looking at the playful duo. Later, he turned his head to the front and saw Marlene and Lize walking over towards him.

"You're finally back, Mr. Rhode. Got anything good?"

"Of course."

Rhode answered firmly to Marlene's question. He then gestured to both of them.

"And I also brought a gift for the two of you... come to the basement with Anne later on. Oh yes, get Joey and Randolf too."

"Eh?"

The two maidens looked at each other curiously, not knowing what was Rhode up to...

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