Nowadays, Kavos just couldn't see through the Starlight mercenary group.
After the incident where Lize and the others got into an ambush, Kavos and Shauna became petrified. Although Deep Stone City wasn't small, the mercenaries circles weren't huge either, so in the blink of an eye, news of Lize and Anne's battle with the knights had spread across the entire city. Everyone who heard this news could only mutter in their heads and didn't know how to react. This period of time, they had been tossed from side to side and now that such an incident had happened, some mercenaries were worried that the Starlight mercenary group had plans to go against the army.
Kavos and Shauna were worried about this possibility too, but they didn't express their concerns. If Starlight really had such intentions, it would be a huge impact to the newly joined mercenaries. Although after so many missions together, the mercenaries had a sense of belonging in this mercenary group, these mercenaries didn't have the guts to go against the army. Of course, these were only the thoughts of ordinary mercenaries. A mercenary leader like Kavos had considered even further. He knew that Rhode and Marlene were of noble status and if there really was such a clash, it wouldn't be considered a peasant revolt, but more a dispute over authority. Such matters shouldn't be for small mercenaries like himself to get involved in.
The disputes of the higher-ups eventually affected the commoners the most.
However, the truth wasn't as bad as what Kavos and Shauna had thought. The officials of Deep Stone City didn't take any actions against the Starlight mercenary group, and according to a piece of news, the clash didn't involve local soldiers. Furthermore, Administrative Officer Klautz had even specially made a trip down to their stronghold. Judging from the worried manner of this highly ranked personnel, it didn't seem like he was here to stir trouble.
But, these weren't the only changes.
After that clash, Starlight temporarily stopped their operations and no longer accepted any missions. Although the remunerations from the previous mission were fruitful, and the lower mercenaries weren't too mindful of this idea, this couldn't go on for long. However, although Kavos and Shauna was anxious, Rhode seemed to be neither worried nor sluggish. Other than letting the mercenaries search for herbs in the mountains or hunt for preys, there were no other activities. On the contrary, he spent his everyday with Lize, Marlene, Anne, Joey, and Randolf as though he wasn't too concerned over matters of the mercenary group.
What exactly is this dear leader of mine thinking about?
Kavos was uncertain. Luckily, Shauna knew better, but was still not far from Kavos. News that Starlight would be representing the Paphield region in participating the Midsummer Festival was never told to them and the Mercenary Association wasn't foolish enough to announce it to the public. What if the other mercenary groups were enraged? Everyone belonged to mercenary groups, and what rights did Starlight have to represent the region and not them? Starlight wasn't even established half a year ago and now they were representing the Paphield region's mercenaries?
Although most of the mercenary groups carried a 'harmonious unity' approach and kept silent, the Mercenary Association also knew that there would be a few thorns in each mercenary groups. And once these thorns found out about this matter and made noises, not only would it create a headache for the association, but the mercenary associations of other regions would also treat them as a laughing stock. Just how depressing could it get?
That was why the Mercenary Association was better off sealing their mouths and only announce right before the start of the Midsummer Festival. By then, even if there was anyone who made a din, it would be too late.
But Kavos wasn't aware of this. Frankly speaking, he truly wished for them to take up more missions. After a series of activities during this period of time, Starlight had already gathered enough points to sneak in from 3rd place to snatch the 1st position on the board, with the other two mercenary groups trailing by three points. This was a pretty impressive result. To Kavos, if Starlight could maintain its streak, and by the winter break period, Starlight would be the number 1 mercenary group not just in name, but also in reality.
Number 1 Mercenary Group. This sounds so pleasing to the ears, doesn't it?
Although Kavos led his own mercenary group before, they were all ranked low to mid range. Back in those days when he managed to hover back and forth in the top 10 mercenary groups and even unexpectedly get into top 5, it was enough to excite Kavos for three nights without sleep. Now that Starlight's position was so stable and they had a huge gap from the trailing mercenary groups, he naturally wanted to increase the gap and make Starlight even greater... Although he used to only be a leader of small mercenary group, it was still good to dream, right?
Now that he saw Rhode in a negligent manner and didn't seem to care about such matters, Kavos was kind of worried.
Shauna didn't have similar thoughts as Kavos. As a female mercenary leader, she still sought dependency and not have the mentality of 'we must be number 1' like most male mercenaries. To Shauna, as long as her mercenary group was leading a good life, then rankings of the mercenary group would be secondary. But, even so, she was still worried that if this continued, it would create a negative effect on the mercenaries.
Although both of their basis were different, they still decided to meet Rhode for a talk together. At the very least, they wanted to be aware of what the leader of the mercenary group had planned for them.
Coincidentally, as both of them arrived in Rhode's study room, he was speaking to Marlene and the others about something else. And right beside him was Christie, who was obediently sitting down with a paintbrush in hand, observing everyone with rapt attention. The little girl had found herself a job that was suitable for her, and that was to draw portraits of everyone. According to the little girl's interpretation, she wanted to record everything she saw with this paintbrush for momentum's sake. Originally, Rhode was dubious to Christie's suggestion, but after witnessing her fast drawing speed and that she wasn't pushing herself too much, he eventually agreed. At this moment, Christie was sitting beside Rhode and quietly observing them, flitting the paintbrush across the white canvas in soft rustles.
Rhode seemed to have predicted the arrival of Kavos and Shauna. He nodded to them and gestured for them to wait. Then, he turned back to the others.
"After these few days of training, all your abilities have reached a certain extent of improvement. Just based on this, it's considered a pass."
Although Rhode's comments were considered compliments, everyone including Marlene revealed awkward expressions. Rhode's so-called pass didn't mean that they were ready to defeat or fight a draw against the five illusionary images in the mirage. Instead, his so-called 'pass' was referring to them being able to withstand the opponents' attacks for three straight minutes. As long as they could do this, they would have been considered to pass.
However, it seemed that the people involved didn't think so, especially after so many tough training days. Although they were able to withstand it for three minutes, the eventual results were the same... That was why after hearing Rhode's words, none of them knew how to respond. However, Rhode didn't mind what they thought because he knew that it was still be impossible if they truly wished to defeat the five illusionary images. After this training phase, Rhode had reached his goal. After so many high-leveled training sessions, everyone, including Marlene, was already familiar in how to battling against powerful foes. They had also learnt how to defend and counterattack under ambushes. That was the best that training could bring for them, and the next thing would be the real battle...
"So then, based on what I've said earlier, all of you can start preparing. Don't forget our goal."
Rhode nodded and turned to Kavos and Shauna.
"I guess, what brings both of you here is about the future plans of the mercenary group?"
Kavos answered decisively.
"Recently, there aren't many activities in the mercenary group and everyone was feeling a little frustrated. Besides... the trailing mercenary groups are catching up quickly. I think we should accept a few missions..."
But out of Shauna and Kavos' expectations, Rhode gestured and rejected their suggestions.
"Get your men ready for the upcoming days. We're heading to Golden City."
Both of them exchanged curious glances. They indeed were experienced in this trade because they quickly realised the meaning behind that sentence.
"Sir, did you mean the... Midsummer Festival?"
Although the Midsummer Festival belonged to the territory of huge guilds, that didn't mean that mercenary groups weren't invited. As the Mercenary Association, they definitely knew that the lower classes were of utmost importance. And if they didn't bait the mercenary groups into upgrading into guilds, they wouldn't be able to grow. That was why other than guilds participating in team and individual battles, there were also other side events for mercenary groups and individual mercenaries to partake in. The side events would be for mercenary groups and ordinary mercenaries, and the final winner could win the rights to battle against the guilds. This was considered a good news for everyone as all mercenary groups desired fame, and if they could win in the Midsummer Festival and battle against the guild in team competitions, their reputation would definitely grow stronger. Furthermore, no matter if it was the team or individual battles, there would be a limit for the number of participants in each battle. That was why the guilds wouldn't be able to defeat mercenary groups with their overwhelming number of members. Both sides would send out equal amount of members and if the mercenary groups could pull off an upset in the Midsummer Festival, it would definitely be the hottest news in town.
This was definitely what each mercenary groups would expect to achieve, and that was why many of them including the solo mercenaries would all participate.
However, to Shauna and Kavos, such activities were sort of meaningless.
"Sir, I think... we do not need to participate in the Midsummer Festival. Because we don't have enough men, and the side events would require many battles with other mercenary groups. This would be an energy-consuming matter for us..."
Kavos thought for a moment and still felt that it was unreasonable. Indeed, becoming famous in the Midsummer Festival would be desirable for the mercenary group, but Starlight wasn't packed with such abilities yet. The schedules for the side events were long and extremely tough to adhere to. Besides, the small mercenary groups would do anything to win, and Starlight was already lacking strong members to begin with. It would be huge trouble if some of them got injured.
"Of course I know that. But, this time, we are not participating in the side events."
Rhode's answer shook them.
Not participating in the side events?
Both of them looked at each other in dismay as a shocking thought cropped up in their minds.
Could it be that...
Before they returned from their daze, Rhode calmly solved the mystery in their heads.
"Our trip to the Golden City is to represent the Paphield region in the Midsummer Festival."