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 Keller sure showed enough sincerity.

Looking at the dark stone in his hand, Rhode gasped. It seemed like his guess was indeed correct. He had assumed that this newly appointed president of the Merchant Association naturally did not want to hand over this position to other people. In fact, when he discovered that the Keller family and the Jade Tears mercenary group were related, Rhode felt very puzzled. He remembered clearly that later in the game, the Keller family would be of important stature in Deep Stone City, and they were also loyalists to the King's party. Rhode had also completed a quest to protect the Keller family caravan that was sending out weapons from the Country of Light to the Munn Kingdom. Why would they suddenly support the Country of Light? Was the Keller family actually planning something big behind?

Now that things were finally clear, Rhode finally felt relieved. This matter was not actually done by Keller himself, so he didn't care too much about this. Of course, he still stayed vigilant and didn't completely trust Keller's words. As the saying went, all merchants were sly; if they weren't sly, then they weren't a merchant. There was no way for a merchant to tell the truth. But as long as Keller stood on the right side, Rhode wouldn't mind it. After all, it wasn't something he needed to worry about in this moment.

One of his demands was that he wanted a shop under the Keller's family name. Although the Keller family did mining business, they also had many other related industries. This time, Rhode had asked for the Keller family's shop that forged and sold magic weapons. Though Keller couldn't bear letting it go, he still agreed. In any case, mining ores was the Keller's family main business, and forging weaponry was just a side industry. He himself also very clear the reason why that shop could forge magic weapons wasn't because they had the craftsmans; instead, it was due to the forging table that had been handed down from a long time ago. When a weapon was forged on that forging table under the moonlight, the weapon would turn into a magic weapon. Keller had sent his men to investigate this forging table before, but the investigation yielded no result. On the surface, there was nothing special about this forging table beside looking a little bit old, but the magic weapons that were forged on this table were created with different magic effects. The strongest magical effect would occur when the weapon was forged on the full moon. To the contrary, when the weapon was forged on the new moon, there wouldn't be any magical effects on the weapon. In fact, Rhode's Blood Tears was also forged from it. It was rumored to be forged by a skilled and powerful blacksmith in ancient times under the blood moon that only appeared once every five hundred years...

And that was what Rhode wanted.

Although the loss of this forging table made Keller felt somewhat distressed, thinking about his entire family future, he could only comply with Rhode's request. Of course, Rhode also did not intend to leave the forging table there. When he returned to the stronghold, he would bring it with him. Keller had never moved the table before because he was afraid of damaging it, but to Rhode, it wasn't a problem at all.

In addition, Rhode also made another request. He hoped to obtain the black stone owned by the Keller family.

Hearing Rhode's request, Keller did not hesitate and agreed. Compared to the complimentary magical effect of the forging table, the black stone owned by the Keller family was only something that they accidentally found in the mining pit. Because of its strange shape, they decided to keep it as a memento. There was nothing special about it; they only used it to commemorate the ancestors of the Keller family up until now. If Rhode wanted it, there was no problem giving it to him. Of course, Keller also curiously asked about what Rhode was planning to do with this stone, but Rhode's answer made him feel a little bit surprised. Rhode said he just thought the stone looked good, so he wanted to take it back to make it into a statue...

Based on his instinct as a merchant, Keller always felt that Rhode wasn't telling the truth. However, there didn't seem to be any conspiracy in his actions. Even if Keller made an excuse and rejected him, Rhode still wouldn't seem to care about it. That's why Keller eventually no longer thought about it and agreed to Rhode's request.

But Keller didn't know that Rhode had been aiming for this stone ever since he walked across the Keller's family treasury. As for the forging table that contained the magical effect? It was only complimentary stuff because from the first time Rhode saw the stone, he recognized its true identity. It wasn't an ordinary stone. It was an item that could make players go crazy. It was the Heart of Spirit!

It was just like how wood could be formed from petroleum through distillation; the Heart of Spirit was formed from an evil Soul Core. However, their uses were slightly different. The Soul Core was used to awaken a summoned spirit, while the Heart of Spirit could no longer be used to awaken a spirit because the inherent, revitalized soul power inside it would turn stagnant after hundreds of thousands years. But it had another special ability: by drawing upon the stagnant, inherent power inside it, one would be able to increase their strength. In other words, it would increase a player's EXP.

In the Blackrock Depth before, the low-level monster's Soul Core was only as big as one's fist. However, the Heart of Spirit that he found in the Keller's house was even larger than one's head. It was conceivable that this Heart of Spirit was definitely sourced from a high-level evil spirit such as the Demon General or even the Archdemon. One of the biggest battles between demons and humans happened in Deep Stone City, and many demons died in human hands. It was very rare to see a Heart of Spirit in such an intact state. In the game, a Heart of Spirit costed about a thousand gold coins, and a huge one like this might have costed about ten times more.

The stone must contain quite a lot of EXP points.

When he conquered the Blackrock Depth, Rhode had already broken through to Level 19, but he didn't plan to level up until the moment he found this stone.

Even though there seemed to only be a one level gap between Level 19 and Level 20, there was, in fact, a huge difference between them.

In the Dragon Soul Continent, levels was strictly divided. No matter which job the player was, they had to follow the same rules. Level 1-10 was Apprenticeship level; most players on this level were ordinary rookies and newcomers. Randolf and Joey, who had both just joined a mercenary group, belonged to this level. Level 10-20 was the official entrance to all jobs. The moment players advanced 10 levels, they embarked on the path of a Professional. The regular mercenaries on the entire Dragon Soul Continent were basically at this level. In Rhode's mercenary group, Shauna, Lize, Anne, Old Walker, and other mercenaries were within this range. In the Dragon Soul Continent, it was the average level of the majority of people under the Light Dragon.

Level 20-40 was considered a big leap. This was the so-called "Advanced" level to the people of Dragon Soul Continent. When entering this phase, a swordsman would be able to use a sword energy that was similar to soul condensation, or even a higher level magic that exclusively linked to their job. Of course, the result would be calculated based on their level and skill proficiency. As NPCs of the Dragon Soul Continent, certainly, they did not have a cheat-like ability like a player's allocation of skill points.

In Starlight, the only person who had reached this level was Marlene. However, her lack of experience hindered her from making good use of her full power. It was just like a newbie who spent money to obtain godlike equipment. It didn't mean that the newbie's strength would become godlike too. Fortunately, after the training in the Mirage, now Marlene had the skills and experience to match up with her strength. At least Rhode wouldn't have to worry about the time in the game when he saw a Knight-a DPS character-becoming a tank...

Most of the people in this phase were considered as elites. Even in small places, they could have gotten a very high position in a mercenary group. Usually, the leader and vice leader of a mercenary group were around these levels.

Level 40-60 belonged to the Master levels; this was also a limit that ordinary human races could not reach. Sereck belonged to this category; he was a Level 40 Sword Master. Of course, his level was still considered low. In a remote area such as Deep Stone City, he had an incomparable prestige. However, in the Golden City, Sereck's level was no more than that of a Royal Guard Captain. In many places, people with this level were regarded as very influential people. Most of them held a great authority, and some of them became the follower of an old veteran. Certainly, from a human's point of view, there were indeed quite a few people who had reached the Master level, but the numbers were still far lower compared to mixed race, such as elves and angels who had a long lifespan.

Level 60-80 was Legendary level. It was very rare to find someone at that level in the continent. Most of them were the core of large forces, and some even became legendary figures. They lived humbly in secrecy, and it was very difficult to meet them.

Needless to say, beside the Great Level 100 Five Creators Dragon, there were also the three Archangels, five Elemental Lords, four Legendary Generals, and six Devils who could reach above Level 80. Even the Archdemons were only about Level 70; they simply could not reach a higher level.

For Rhode, reaching Level 20 not only meant that he would formally become an elite, but it also represented a very important change. In the game, every time players reached a certain level, they would be allowed to enhance their swordsmanship, attributes, or talents. If he chose to enhance his swordsmanship, then when he leveled up, his swordsmanship would increase +1 by default; the same would happen should he choose attributes or talents.

In the game, the player had a total of four opportunities to enhance their status. This was not a trivial matter because each choice could affect a player's growth. If not properly selected, it would negatively impact the next battle.

Rhode was not bewildered by this matter since he had made his choice already, but there was one thing that made him hesitate. When he became an Advanced Spirit Swordsman, he would receive a free reward: to designate a card and chose it as the Core Card of the Ten Strongest Spirit Deck.

As a Core Card, the designated summon spirit would be able to stay by his side without limited time. It would be able to absorb magic by itself to maintain its existence. The summoner would only have to supply the spirit with magic supplies if the spirit was heavily injured. Not only that, the Core Card could also use its magic power to summon cards with the same element.

Right now, Rhode only had two options: Celia or Gillian.

They both had their own strengths and weaknesses. Celia was his most commonly used card and had followed him for the longest time. If he chose her as the Core Card, then he would not have to waste his soul power to summon her anymore.

As for Gillian, she was extremely strong, but her summoning frequency was limited. Rhode did not only value Gillian's strength, but also her experiences and intelligence. It bothered him that currently, his Starlight mercenary group did not have a military advisor to help him think and solve problems. Anne's careless personality was not suited for this job. And although Marlene understood his objectives very well, it did not mean that she agreed to it due to her {spiritual cleanliness" that had formed from years of her being a noble. As for Lize, it was even more impossible; if it were a melee combat, she might be able to handle it, but if the situation had developed into a private confrontation, such as slandering, poaching, and conspiracies, there was no way for her to handle it.

However, Gillian was different. After interacting with her for some time now, Rhode found that he really liked her way of thinking. Just like himself, she solved problems through a player's point of view and was adaptable to evil means. If he could summon her, then no matter what happened in the future, he would not have to do things secretly like a thief, just like the previous incident with Frank. It was still okay doing it once or twice, but the pressure would be too much if he could only rely on himself continuously.

It did not mean that there were no other cons in summoning her out. Since her level was really high, there would be a penalty for summoning a spirit beyond his level. Previously, Rhode had suffered a great loss after summoning her once. This time he would have to consider how to thoroughly avoid similar problems from happening. Before, the penalty was only deducting some EXP points, but what if he became weak in other attributes? That would make him cry to death.

Then, what should he do?

Looking at the summoning circle in his hand, Rhode fell into deep thought...

Translator's Note: The Core Card of the Ten Strongest Spirit Deck and Core Card in the group deck are different. In the group deck, the one ranked first is automatically selected as the deck's Core Card. However, the Core Card of the Ten Strongest Spirit Deck is chosen by the player and the summoned spirit's rank didn't matter. In other words, the Core Card in the group deck is the Captain, while the Core Card of the Ten Strongest Spirit Deck is the General Commander.

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