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 Although Rhode felt bad because he was unable to cure Christie's illness, except for that, everything still went smoothly. After the banquet finished, the Head of the Mercenary Association, Ton, had officially admitted Rhode's Starlight mercenary group, which was to be called the Starlight mercenary guild, to be in charge of mercenaries within the Paphield region.

"Mr. Rhode Alander, on behalf of the Mercenary Association, I officially announce that from today on, Starlight will be promoted to a mercenary guild. I hope you can inherit the will of our mercenaries and move forward bravely."

Ton handed an exquisitely crafted sword to Rhode, and Rhode bowed down and respectfully took over the sword. This was a symbol that a mercenary group had been promoted to a guild. It also meant that from now on, Rhode and his team would officially become the leader of all mercenaries in the Paphield Plains.

After becoming a mercenary guild, Starlight's position and power would be greatly enhanced. First, as a guild, Starlight would have the backing of the Mercenary Association in the Paphield region. Including when they were going for some relatively important and dangerous missions, a mercenary guild could gather those small mercenary groups to fight together with the permission from the Mercenary Association. Not only that, when they perceived that a mercenary group was making threatening actions against mercenaries and the surrounding area, as long as they had conclusive evidence, they could even forcefully demand the mercenary group to disband. Of course, in the worst case scenario, the Guild could also eliminate it using force, if necessary.

This was how the relationship between the mercenary groups and mercenary guilds worked. As a large cross-border organization, the Mercenary Association enforcement itself was not sufficient. After all, the job they had done was basically paperwork and their employees were mostly composed of civilian personnel, which led to a very low deterrent effect. Even if some of them were strong, it wasn't like they could divide themselves into hundreds of people by pulling out a tuft of hair like the Monkey King and maintain the order of the mercenary regiment. That's why, by working together with the Mercenary Guild, their strong force could make up for the association's lack of enforcement. It was a win-win solution, so naturally, it was a pleasant cooperation.

"President Ton, I assure you that I will lead Starlight and keep moving forward. We will not turn our backs on our men, nor venture into death and danger. We will be with the glory of battle and fight for our glory and faith. "

Rhode took the sword and replied in a low voice. Hearing Rhode's answer, Ton nodded with satisfaction. Although Rhode's behavior at the Midsummer Festival made him a little unhappy, he was pleased with his modest answer. Not to mention, Rhode had also objectively helped him eliminate a threat. If he had lost the game and Waltz had won, Ton wouldn't be standing here for the ceremony now.

Thinking until here, Ton showed a friendly smile, then coughed. He unfolded a map in front of Rhode. It was the map of the Munn Kingdom, the most conspicuous part on it was the four symbols of mercenary guilds in the corners of the map.

"You deserve the glory and reward of victory for your efforts."

Ton pointed to the map in front of him.

"Now, it's time for you to get your reward, Mr. Rhode."

Rhode looked up as he heard Ton's words. He looked at the map carefully and exclaimed. Rather than those written provisions, the real advantage after they were promoted into a guild was that they would have the authority to build a fortress in their area that truly belonged to them, and the maximum number of recruits could be as high as 700.

This fortress was not the sort of stronghold that Rhode had built before. In the Dragon Soul Continent, in order to prevent those who possessed forces from harming civilians or threaten the authority of the King, the Mercenary Association clearly stated that a mercenary group could only build ordinary strongholds and its members must not exceed 100. In addition, the stronghold itself could not have any offensive structures. If a mercenary group was found to have violated the law, the local authorities would able to 'demolish' it. That's why the walls and gates in the stronghold that Rhode had previously built looked very pitiful until they were upgraded to a mercenary guild. The sentries and towers building function were finally unlocked.

And in terms of size, stronghold and fortress were also different. The mercenary group's stronghold was only the size of a small estate, but the guild's fortress could be as large as a small town. Of course, it was not up to the guild to decide where the fortress was to be built. They had to submit an application first and wait for it to be vetted by the authorities and recognized by the Association before they could formally establish it. In return, mercenary guilds could enjoy special privileges, which allowed them to make their own local ordinance that did not involve or violate national laws and regulations. Naturally, if there were any clauses that threatened the authority of the King, they would also suffer the same blow.

"I've made a decision, Mr. Ton."

Without much hesitation, Rhode quickly pointed to the northeast corner of the Paphield area on the map. Ton frowned as he followed along Rhode's movement. He was surprised and immediately frowned.

"This is... the Land of Atonement? Are you sure, Mr. Rhode? Do you know what place is it? Although I, as the Head of the Association, should not have a tendentious view, I honestly do not think that it's a very good place."

"I've made up my mind, Mr. Ton."

Rhode politely shook his head as he heard Ton's kind advice. Of course, he knew exactly what kind of place the Land of Atonement was. However, he didn't change his mind. In fact, it was the reason why he chose it. In there, he would be able to make the best use of all the resources at his disposal.

"Now that you've made your decision, I won't say anything more."

Rhode obviously wasn't going to take his advice, and so Ton stopped saying anything about it. He took out his pen, circled it in detail, and then solemnly put away the map.

"Then, Mr. Rhode, I will report your choice to Your Highness and wait for her permission. Then you may go to the Land of Atonement and establish your own fortress. Still, I expect you to do your best. After all, a mercenary guild has a heavy responsibility "

"I will certainly bear your advice in mind, Mr. Ton."

Rod nodded slightly as he heard Ton's advice. He understood what Ton meant. On the surface, a mercenary guild seemed to be very impressive, having its own territory, having its own power, and able to do whatever they wanted. However, in reality, it was the opposite because only one mercenary guild was allowed in each region and because of the cooperative nature between a mercenary guild and a mercenary association, they had somewhat become the guardians of the mercenaries in the entire region to some extent. Moreover, there were nearly 30 mercenary groups in one region and they were scattered all over. It was very difficult for an ordinary guild to ensure that nothing went wrong and that there were no conflicts between the armies and mercenaries from one area to another while at the same time guaranteeing its absolute authority and influence in the area.

That was one of the reasons why mercenary guilds eventually sought backing from authorities and merchants. It was a bit difficult for those simple-minded mercenaries who only knew how to scream, kill, and lead carefree lives to turn into the guardians of the entire region. What's more, the mercenary industry itself was not directly related to input and output. Having good connections and luck was enough for them to make a lot of money and not have to worry about retirement. However, bad connections and bad luck would lead to their demise.

Unfortunately, unlike the players, an NPC couldn't resurrect after death. So for them, death was not something unusual. That's why, facing the 'undead incident' that happened in the Paphield region previously, many long-established mercenary groups eventually disbanded because they lacked the strength to defend themselves against such risks.

The same went for mercenary guilds; although they were stronger than mercenary groups and naturally had less risk when facing such a small matter, but if they were exposed to greater risks, they, too, would have this problem.

This risk was unavoidable because the Mercenary Association made each mercenary guild complete at least two five-star (highest) mercenary mission every year. Else, they would be forcibly disbanded. They were not allowed to fail nor delay those missions. Hiller's Burning Blade was stuck on this rule, repeatedly. That's why his Burning Blade went up and down, down and up, up and down every year.

Because of this, although Rhode's Starlight had now been formally promoted to a guild, not many people were not optimistic about this future. But at least, he had taken his first step.

After leaving the Mercenary Association, Rhode walked to the hall and soon saw two familiar yet unfamiliar figures.

"Frankly, I still think it's a bit too much for you, kid."

Barter smacked Rhode's shoulder as he drank the beer in his hand and laughed loudly.

"There's still half a year until the winter break, but kid... How are you going to accomplish two five-star mercenary missions in six months' time? These missions aren't any easier than the stuff that you did previously.. "

"You will suffer a great loss if you underestimate him, Barter."

Viktor stood on the other side, looking at Rhode with his usual gracious and calm smile.

"Those two old fellows, Mobis and Waltz, precisely didn't expect that they would lose. Especially, that old Waltz. He even took Rosen out, but see?"

"Yeah, Rosen..."

Upon hearing this name, Barter placed down his cup, his smile gone and replaced by a sigh.

"You know, I don't really have a good opinion about that old bastard, but... Ah, just forget it. There's nothing to talk about. "

"Don't just talk about me. Aren't you two the same?"

Although Rhode was not in a very good mood because of Christie's situation, fortunately, his poker face had concealed it. So, even if his current face was expressionless, no one would notice that he was not in a very good mood. Rhode also didn't complain; he knew that it was useless no matter how much he sighed. Since Lydia couldn't help Christie, he could only take one step at a time. Anyway, life would continue to go on. It's not like it was the end of the world just because one or two things didn't go in his way. That was his philosophy of life.

"Yeah? What do you mean? "

"Mission, of course."

Facing, Barter's bewilderment, Rhode could not help but frown.

"True, we're not ready for a five-star mission, but that applies to you too, Mr. Barter. For the preparation of this Midsummer Festival, I don't think you had the time nor the mood for the mission, right?"

Both Viktor and Barter were stunned by Rhode's rhetorical question.

In fact, Rhode was indeed right; not only them, all the four major guilds had not yet prepared for this year's five-star missions so far. They had put all their energy and effort into the Midsummer Festival. Now was time for the mercenary guilds to start preparing for the mission. The five-star mission was not easy to accomplish. From a player's point of view, it was on the same level as an Elite level dungeon. It was not unusual for a group to fail about ten to twenty times when doing it.

The players could still resurrect even after they were dead. However, for NPCs, if they failed even three times, they were definitely finished.

That's why the mercenary guilds were very careful in handling five-star mission and even made complete preparation months in advance, so when 100 of them went out on a mission, even if only 50 or 60 people were coming back, it was already a big win for them. This was the advantage of being an NPC. There was a limit to the number of players on the team, but there were no limitations for NPCs. Because of that, when many players went to a 50 to 100 people dungeon, it was not surprising for them to see thousands of NPC corpses inside when they entered...

"But we're not like you, kid."

Barter shook his head and patted Rhode on his shoulder, then grabbed another bottle of beer from the table.

"To tell you the truth, we're not prepared for it, but we have a lot of people. Previously, in order to avoid too much trouble, we sent about 100 people for the mission. Since the current situation is more troublesome, it's not a problem for us to dispatch another 100. What about you, kid? How many mercenaries have you had so far? "

At this point, Barter laughed.

"Or are you going to go there on your own? It won't be easy. Yeah, I admit that you're strong, but kid, I don't think you alone can handle these five-star missions..."

Of course, I know that.

How could he not know about it.

Rhode rolled his eyes as he heard Barter's words. However, what Barter said was true. With the strength of his mercenary guild, it was really hard to do a five-star mission. As a legendary level player, naturally he had done almost every five-star mission, and because of that, he knew just how hard these five-star missions were. It's not just the BOSS that was powerful; the most troublesome part was the elite monsters that laid around the wilderness. Facing such a scene, skills and formations were all useless. Bringing a lot of people to resist it was the most practical way.

Unless...

At the thought of it, Rhode's eyes whirled and an idea flashed through his mind.

"Well, Mr. Viktor, Mr. Barter, would you like to make a bet?"

"A bet?"

Upon hearing Rhode's words, they immediately looked up at Rhode with curiosity.

"What kind of bet?"

"If our Starlight is able to finish two five-star missions before you two... Then I hope you'll be able to satisfy my one small request. "

"Hey, you, kid, you're kidding me, right? Are you serious?"

At this moment, Barter's eyes widened in amazement.

"This..."

But before he could finish, Viktor, who had been staying silent, suddenly reached out his hand and stopped Barter's words. Then, he looked at Rhode cautiously and asked.

"So, what is your request, Mr. Rhode?"

"It's easy."

Speaking until here, Rhode spread his hands.

"I only hope that the two of you will be able to help me to open up a small trade route within your respective jurisdictions."

"What do you want that for?"

Hearing Rhode's request, Barter frowned and immediately responded. Viktor, on the other hand, looked down and began to think. Soon, he looked at Rhode once again.

"But even if you lose the bet, it won't do us any good, will it? Since there's nothing in the Paphield area that we want."

"That's right."

Upon hearing Viktor's reply, Rhode nodded calmly, then he glanced at Barter.

"Frankly, I'm just a little bit angry that some people are so sure we're going to fail."

"Hahaha, you're still angry about it, kid? Why can't I see that? "

Barter burst out of laughter. Then, he pointed towards Rhode's expressionless face and laughed heartily.

"Look at your dead face, kid. You don't laugh when you're supposed to laugh, you don't cry when you're supposed to cry, who knows what's going on in your mind. What's so interesting about all it? I think you'd better learn how to be an assassin and get a mask to cover your face. It's still better than the way you look now, isn't it? "

Barter threw a punch.

"Well, I'll take this challenge, kid, but if you lose, I'll make you wear a dress, smile, and pour me a drink. Hahaha, since you look just like a woman, I want to see how you look when you wear a dress."

"......"

Upon hearing this, Rhode's brow slightly furrowed. Although his face was still expressionless, a cold chill slowly exuded from him.

"All right, Mr. Barter... In that case, if I win this bet, I also expect you to dress up and pour me a drink... I think it's going to be an unforgettable scene. By the way, I want to decide the costume myself."

"I don't have a problem either." Viktor nodded slightly. "However, I won't join this silly bet, Mr. Rhode. If you really can do two five-star missions before the two of us, then..."

With that said, Viktor hadn't yet finished his speech because at this moment an attendant came up to him and whispered something. Viktor expression seemed to be surprised as he listened to it. Afterward, he lifted his head and bid his farewell to them.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Barter, Mr. Rhode, but I've got some business to attend to... and Barter, I'm not going to join that silly wager."

With these words, Viktor turned around and left.

"Such a boring guy."

Looking at Viktor's back, Barter shrugged his shoulders helplessly. He put down the empty bottle in his hand and reached out to take another bottle from the table, then shook it in front of Rhode.

"Well, I'll take your bet, and if I do lose, I'll wear whatever you want. But if I win... Hahaha, I'm really looking forward to that. Anyway, today is a happy day, so let's not talk about this boring topic, ok? How about a man-to-man contest? You look like a girl; don't tell me you can't drink either? Well, that's hilarious. "

"..."

Rhode didn't respond to Barter's words. Instead, he lifted his cup in silence.

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