Matt revealed a shocked expression upon hearing Rhode's words. He widened his eyes dubiously and stared at the black-haired young man as if trying to figure out his true intentions. However, Matt gave up because he couldn't get a read from Rhode's expressionless face.
Matt couldn't hold in his curiosity anymore. Although he wasn't heavily in debt, he wasn't far from being bankrupt either. Even if his business transaction went well in Golden City, it wouldn't change Silver Libra's state. If it were anyone else suggesting this, Matt might consider it as a trap. But since it came from Rhode, he felt much more assured.
"Since you have heard about Starlight, you should also know why we're heading to Golden City."
"That's for sure, Mr Rhode."
Matt showed his huge thumb.
"I have to congratulate you guys. I didn't expect Mr. Rhode to be so capable as to make a mercenary group that was about to be disbanded the hottest topic in Paphield. To be frank, I admire you a lot, Mr. Rhode. If I could be half as capable as you, our Trade Association wouldn't be in this terrible state..."
"Since you're aware, it makes things easier."
Rhode nodded slightly. He glanced at everyone and said.
"I guess Mr. Matt must be clear that if we get promoted into a guild, we won't be able to sustain our operations based on our current situation. A guild requires a certain extent of assistance, but I don't have any good candidates in Paphield. I have been troubling over this matter... Mr. Matt, are you interested in this?"
Matt was astonished.
"Regarding this, I..."
"Of course, I won't let you do it for free because I understand the current state of your Trade Association. After all, you have already explained to me just now... So, if you wish to accept my invitation, Starlight will gift a batch of magical potions to you every month. What do you think?"
Matt jumped up from the ground with his shivering legs. He stared with eyes so wide that they were about to pop off.
He couldn't be blamed for being so excited. The magical potions were more precious than gold to all merchants. In the past, magical potions were common. But now, after hundred years of battles, many recipes for magical potions had vanished and most of the remaining recipes belonged to the Alchemist Association. Most people wouldn't be able to have them, whereas only Mages and rich nobles could get their hands on them through various channels. To the others, the magical potions were as good as legends, and even the cheapest magical potions could be as valuable as a high-grade gem.
However, there were still many people trying to obtain the magical potions and because of that, the prices had never fallen. Materials required to make the magical potions were rare, but the recipes themselves were also hard to obtain, not to mention low success rates using alchemist skills. Furthermore, the Alchemist Association had strong control over the recipes and not anyone could create anything out of them. Although Lapis had the techniques of an Alchemist Apprentice previously, she was not valued by the Mark White Mercenary Group. If it weren't for Rhode, who retrieved the records from his game where the potion recipes were modified by players, it would take three to five years to create a bottle of potion based on Lapis' ability.
Matt knew that Rhode had many magical potions on hand. After all, there were so many members in Starlight Mercenary Group and everyone was seen with a few bottles. Anyone who saw them were envious and jealous. Back then, Matt didn't think much of them because he was aware of Rhode's noble status, so obtaining a few bottles of magical potions wasn't impossible. It was just rather wasteful to use them on mercenaries.
But now, it seemed that things weren't as simple as what Matt had thought. Since Rhode had promised to give him a batch of magical potions every month, this meant that Rhode had enough channels to obtain them. Matt had to give a thorough consideration about this matter because, after all, the magical potions could bring him huge profits. If Rhode gave him 20 bottles of ordinary magical potions, Matt would definitely be able to recoup his losses within half a years' time!
Right now, he had no choice but to consider.
"To be honest, Mr. Rhode. This request of yours has given me a huge surprise..."
Matt carefully spoke in fear of offending the young man.
"But... Please pardon my rudeness. Why me? Mr. Rhode, I appreciate the offer but, to be honest, I almost nodded instantly after hearing your words. But... Please pardon me for being straightforward. Just as you've said, I understand the relationship between guilds and trade associations. But, although the Silver Libra Trade Association is indeed influential in Paphield, we aren't that powerful yet. In fact, I feel... We can't bear such heavy responsibility."
What Matt said was the truth. Guilds and the trade associations supporting them from behind the scenes were traceable to the same stock. No matter politics or economics, the other 4 largest guilds had deeply rooted forces and networks. Moreover, their benefits were closely entangled with the forces behind the scenes. Compared to them, Matt's Silver Libra was more like a sapling within the gigantic tree. That was why Matt felt tremendous pressure in this issue as though a local chain store was venturing internationally against the big names, where success was minimal.
Rhode wasn't surprised by Matt's response. Instead, he nodded inwardly.
Although this fat merchant didn't seem reliable, he was a person who understood his own situation. Rhode knew that if he laid the same offer to other merchants, they would've immediately accepted without hesitations. After all, no matter what, this represented a huge sum of remunerations. However, Matt was able to return to his senses from the surprise, which showed how objective and rational he was.
But it was also due to this that it further strengthened Rhode's will to collaborate with him. Only one who wasn't blinded by remunerations was worthy of being his ally. As for those who could give up their principles for the sake of remunerations, even if he could provide support for the sake of remunerations, he would also betray you for the same reason. Rhode definitely didn't need such a person by his side. Matt knew his own place and was the most ideal partner.
Matt said that he didn't have the foundation and wasn't suitable to be Rhode's partner, but he didn't know that that was why Rhode chose him.
Guilds that solely relied on behind-the-scenes forces for income and political assistance to survive would eventually lose their ability to live independently. The gigantic tree that they were from would gradually transform into vines that crawled toward other tree branches. This was the reason why trade associations supported the guilds; they hoped for powers to protect their own benefits. In short, the guilds were like their own private army.
However, Rhode didn't wish for Starlight to head down this path. Indeed, there were more powerful supporters than Matt, such as the Keller Family and Klautz, who had hinted to Rhode in this aspect. However, Rhode didn't agree as he didn't want to become the private army of Paphield. He had no interest in taking orders from others.
Because of this, being financially independent was essential.
However, it was a difficult task for guilds to survive financially on their own because they didn't have a stable income and it was rather risky. Furthermore, in order to maintain their ruling position, most would choose to take in more members, which in turn led to financially heavy situations. Due to this reason, the mercenary groups could either rely on their local political forces to maintain their ruling position and lighten the burden in this aspect or they rely on trade associations to recruit more members with their financial resources.
However, Rhode was different as he held a resource other guilds didn't have, and that was the manufacturing of potions. Lapis with her MAX levelled alchemist technique could quickly create many potions. Along with Rhode's modified recipe, Lapis could make at least 30 to 50 healing potions a month. Furthermore, she had the special talent of the Behermes Family, so the effects of these healing potions would be two times better than ordinary potions on the market. One could even say that no matter how seriously wounded one's men were, as long as they were not dead, they could still be rescued.
Such healing potions would definitely have sky-high prices.
But, although Rhode held such a resource, he lacked a necessary way out. After all, selling potions required a lot of time and energy. Rhode's current focus was on running the mercenary group and he couldn't find the time to manage these matters. Because of that, he had to ask Matt for help. As a small trade association within Paphield, Matt had his own trading network. Even though the trading network might not be huge, Rhode was confident that the magical potions he supplied would definitely be sold out. After all, these were trading networks with standardized rules and regulations. If Rhode wished to meddle in it, god knows how long it would take him to start up.
This way, Matt's Silver Libra required Rhode's supply of magical potions and Rhode's guild could be maintained with the income from the trade association. Both parties would be able to maintain their ranks and balance. And because Silver Libra didn't have the influence over the whole Paphield region, Rhode didn't need to worry about others snatching the territory, which could complement each other into a win-win situation.
Of course, these were the intentions in Rhode's mind. To Matt, he naturally had other opinions.
"I can understand your feelings, Mr. Matt."
"And it's because of this that I feel you're the most suitable business partner for me. You mentioned that your Silver Libra isn't able to influence the whole Paphield region, but so what? My Starlight used to always be obscure and unknown too. We must pave our own ways and trust me, if we work together, we can get desirable results."
Matt hesitated. Although he couldn't figure out what was going on in Rhode's head, he understood that if he roped in a good relationship with Rhode, it would be beneficial for his own trade association, so he didn't have to worry much within Paphield, at the very least. However, these weren't all the problems Matt was worried about from the start. What he was hesitant about was whether the forces behind the 4 largest guilds would act.
"As for the 4 largest guilds, you don't need to worry."
Rhode spoke as though he had read Matt's mind.
"If anything were to happen, leave it to Starlight to handle. I can't guarantee that Mr. Matt's trade association won't suffer any losses at all, but I can guarantee that Starlight will stand alongside your trade association no matter what. If Mr. Matt feels that this is worth the risk, then..."
Matt remained silent as he stared at the bonfire before him. His eyes were filled with complications. In the end, he let out a long sigh and struggled to stand up on his feet.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Rhode. This is an important question, and I can't answer you right now... Please allow me to consider it carefully."
"Sure, Mr. Matt."
Although there wasn't a definitive answer, Rhode had already expected this. He had witnessed Matt's cautious personality when he was in Twilight forest back then. Although such personality would be troublesome during adventures, one had to admit that it was necessary to make logical and right calls for a merchant.
"I understand your worries, so I won't force you to make a decision. You can think about it and my invitation will still be effective until the end of Midsummer Festival."
Matt revealed a bitter smile, turned around, and walked into his campsite with heavy steps. He shook his head and sighed. It seemed like he hadn't return to his senses yet...
Rhode gazed in silence. At this moment, a slender figure suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
"How was it, Master? Did it work?"
Gillian twitched her ears and swayed her tail. Rhode shook his head as a response.
"No one knows what will happen next. I hope Mr. Matt can understand this... No matter what, at least until now, I can't find a partner better than him."
"You really trust that fatty?"
Gillian blinked her eyes curiously.
"Master, although both of you experienced an adventure together, people do change, you know? Even though they might display a worthy side in life and death situations, they might put up a mask when they're back to their normal lives."
"Of course, I understand what you meant, Gillian," Rhode said. Meanwhile Matt's back had disappeared into the opposite campsite.
"But I have decided to give him a chance and if he agrees to my suggestion, it would be for the best. But, if he rejects, it would just mean a slight trouble for my side, that's all. Such troubles are within my calculations."