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 Sunshine filtered through the window, spilling onto a quaint wooden table, bringing a hint of warmth to the room. A man focused on a document in his hand as he sat on the chair, revealing a broad smile.

This was an excellent opportunity for Keller.

Eventually, the Merchant Association rejected Klautz's request to lower the ore prices, restoring the original state of the market. After which, everything went smoothly. The Association and Vice President led their men to arrest at least 50 association members in the name of 'deliberately damaging the order of business.' And that led to the end of the negotiation, which only lasted three hours. Keller stood on the sidelines, witnessing the city guards arresting the spoiled merchants. Surprisingly, it included the President's secretary, deputy executive, and the Merchant Association's representative.

Keller felt a chill when he saw through the entire process. Apparently, Klautz had infiltrated the Merchant Association and received the support from the opposition party. Although most high ranking members had been arrested, there wasn't much difference yet. This was somewhat hard to explain because the influence was still present during the negotiations.

Keller was afraid that this might happen. The President assumed that by holding on to the whole region's business lifeline, they had the rights to request. But he overlooked one important point - no one was able to replace it.

It was the same for himself.

Keller shuddered at this thought.

Because of this incident, the Keller family secured an advantageous position, moreover, they benefited quite a bit from it financially. As a reward, Keller was assigned as the provisional President of the Merchant Association in the Paphield Region. Keller understood that if he did a good job, by this year's end, he would be promoted to the 'real' President. Previously, during Klautz's reign, he overheard that the government officials appeared to have interest in appointing Deep Stone City as the central business network. If that were the case, then the Keller family would have a smooth sailing future.

Of course, the prerequisite was for him not to make any wrong choices.

Keller knew he wasn't an ambitious person. He was fully aware the reason why Klautz appointed him. If he made the slightest mistake, then he would expect his wooden door to be pushed down by guards.

This wasn't the future Keller wanted for his family and himself. The consequence for betrayal in the Munn Kingdom was capital punishment. But of course, depending on the severity of the crime, there was a possibility of keeping the corpse together.

Knock knock.

When Keller was still a daze, a series of knocks sounded on the door, surprising him slightly. Somehow, when he lifted his head, he was strangely relieved that it wasn't a scene of fully armored guards charging in to arrest him. Keller forced a smile and shook his head.

I'm overthinking things.

"Come in." Keller tidied his clothes and said.

A housekeeper walked into his room and bowed politely.

"Sir, someone wishes to seek your presence."

"Oh?"

Keller frowned. It was still during his working hours, and he didn't wish to be disturbed by anyone.

"Who is it?"

"He introduced himself as the leader of Starlight Mercenary Group, Mr. Rhode Alander."

"Mr. Rhode?"

Keller was surprised when he heard Rhode's name.

"What does he need to find me for?"

It wasn't odd for Keller to feel slightly dubious. Although the two of them did have some interactions with each other before, they can't be considered to be close. And as a mercenary group leader, Rhode didn't seem to have any reason to visit him.

"I'm not too sure, Sir."

The old housekeeper didn't know how to answer to Keller's question.

"He only said that he had something he wanted to verify with you. Do you wish for me to ask him to leave, Sir?"

"It's alright."

Keller shook his head and stood up. No matter what, Rhode was an influential figure in Deep Stone City, especially so among mercenary groups. Keller knew that Rhode was a noble, and his group also housed the only heir of the Senia family. Thus, no one dared to belittle this man. Moreover, he realized that Rhode was an intelligent and determined man. In fact, Rhode seemed to know about everything regarding the recent series of events in Deep Stone City. Whether it was the Jade Tears mercenary group or other matters, this young man appeared to be everywhere. Keller even had a feeling that Rhode originated from Golden City, but according to Klautz, that wasn't possible.

This young man was full of mystery.

Although he wasn't sure why Rhode wanted to seek his audience, based on the young man's personality, something must be up.

However, he wasn't sure if it was going to be good or bad news.

"Bring me to him."

Keller followed the old housekeeper into the living room. Then he found a figure standing in a corner, appreciating a suit of armor. Keller's body tensed for a moment when seeing Rhode. He calmed himself down before walking up with a smile.

"Welcome, Mr. Rhode. What brings you here today?"

"Hi, Mr. Keller. It's been some time."

Rhode shifted his attention towards Keller. Keller revealed a warm smile and extended his hand, ushering Rhode to sit. The servant quickly served a cup of hot tea. Rhode's teacup was on the table, apparently untouched.

"I didn't expect you to look for me. What's the matter?"

After settling down, Keller asked Rhode, "I didn't expect you to look for me. What's the matter?"

Rhode slightly nodded without hesitation.

"I'm here to verify something with you, Mr. Keller."

"Oh?"

Keller made a surprised expression and gestured for the housekeeper to leave the room.

"So... What does Mr. Rhode want to verify with me?"

Rhode narrowed his eyes. He leaned back on the couch and stroked the Crimson Blade on his lap. For some reason, Keller felt a chill whenever Rhode's slender fingers touched the sword as if the blade was at his throat.

However, Keller endured and sipped his tea to force that odd sensation down his throat.

"It's like this," Rhode said in a soft voice, "previously, I made a bet with a tiresome person. Regarding that matter, is Mr. Keller aware?"

Keller felt the surrounding temperature drop.

"This... I heard from time to time."

Keller was distracted for a moment and answered in a fluster. The matter of Rhode and Barney's bet was blown out of proportions by the common people. And even Keller, who was incredibly busy during this period, caught hold of this matter. However, wasn't that something involving the Mercenary Association? What did it have to do with himself?

"Things have developed to a stage where I can't hide it from you any longer, Mr. Keller." Rhode crossed his arms and said. "Before my trip into Blackrock Depths, I needed to purchase a significant amount of Fire-type scrolls. However, my men found that a vast amount had been purchased by someone else."

A spark flashed in Rhode's eyes as he curled his lips imperceptibly. He continued, "So, poor Marlene had to spend many days toiling to create enough scrolls for our mission. It's all thanks to her efforts that we can safely return to the surface. It's always good to have a mage by your side, am I right?"

"That's... for sure, Mr. Rhode."

Keller answered hesitatingly. Up until now, he still couldn't figure out the link of the matter to himself? Scrolls? We deal with ores. Magical products had nothing to do with us.

"However, when we looted the battlefield, I've found many scrolls originating from Deep Stone City. And furthermore, I've found this-"

Rhode fished out a ring and placed it on the table in between them. Keller's face instantly paled.

"Mr. Keller. If I recall correctly, your family is in the mining industry... have you now decided to expand your business to magical products? I've confirmed with various shops that this imprint belonged to the Keller family. I hope to receive an explanation for this."

Rhode leaned back on the couch with his eyes slightly closed, carefully scrutinizing the man in front of him.

At this point, Keller's face was totally drained.

Of course he knew where this ring came from! It was his own daughter's ring!

Keller finally realized the problem.

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