"Because it's a nice place."
Rhode took the contract on the table and stuffed it in his pocket.
"... a nice place?"
Old President and Sereck glanced at each other, bewildered.
The Land of Atonement was located in the southeastern region of Paphield. Technically, it wasn't far from Deep Stone City, but alas, the towering White Rock Mountain stood in between the two.
The Land of Atonement also boasted idyllic sceneries, fertile lands, and was located on a plateau. But that was the only good thing about that place.
Since it was such an ideal place for settlers to build a village, why didn't people flock over the moment it was discovered? Simple. The Land of Atonement was akin to a walnut, hard on the outside and tasty in the inside.
White Rock Mountain daunted most travellers with its steep, sheer drops and numerous monsters, making it nigh impossible to climb over the mountain. If someone wanted to bypass it, they had to make their way through Silent Plateau. That's right; it was THAT Silent Plateau.
The Land of Atonement was near the borders of the Land of Chaos and the Country of Darkness; surrounded by mountains on both sides, sandwiching it like a hotdog. The Land of Chaos was a place outside the Dragon Soul's protection and as for the Dark Dragon's Kingdom, it was no better than the Land of Chaos...
There was no way to build a road through the mountains as it was impractical to clear out all the undead. And even if one was able to reach the Land of Atonement after venturing through Silent Plateau, they would still face the threat of invasion from the nearby Land of Chaos and Country of Darkness.
There was one more way to bypass the mountain; a forest trail. But it was a path filled with bandits.
But beyond all these threats, the Land of Atonement was an attractive place packed with huge potential for wealth, and since it was along the borders, it could open many new trade routes. If one could build a fortress, they could protect the merchants from the threats and gain a new source of revenue.
But the difficulty of doing it was...
"Kid, that will really be hard."
The old man shook his head.
"If you're not planning to go through White Rock Mountain, I think you should just forget it. You've been through Silent Plateau before and you should know the difficulty of clearing the undead. As for the forest trail, I don't think you have enough manpower to wipe out those bandits. Furthermore, you have to transport materials to build the fortress; it's going to be troublesome with those bandits harassing us along the way."
"I understand what you are suggesting, but I have my methods."
Rhode nodded towards the Old President, acknowledging his worries. Frankly, the reason why he chose the Land of Atonement wasn't as simple as what Old President thought. He wasn't only interested in the fertile land, but also the rich minerals and magical herbs found nearby.
Due to its proximity with the Land of Chaos, Land of Atonement was rich in magic crystals, magic herbs, and even rare beasts - all of which were valuable materials.
The Enchanted Crystal Mine was the source of power of Dragon Soul Continent and it was no less important than the oil and gas on Earth. Rhode could foresee that once these crystals were mined, the most important source of funding for the guild would take shape.
As for the manpower, Rhode wasn't as worried as the Old President did. He was aware that there were still some NPCs living around the Land of Atonement. Since they were far from civilization, they lacked many improvements to livelihood. Some of the villages were even taken over by bandits. But Rhode wasn't afraid of them as he possessed a trump card in his hand.
Of course, these were his little secrets, so he certainly wouldn't spill it out casually.
Seeing that Rhode adamant about his choice, the Old President shrugged and sighed helplessly.
"Nevermind, I shouldn't have worried about you. Since you could win the midsummer festival, erecting a fortress in the Land of Atonement should be nothing for you. I'll just wait and see. But don't blame me for not reminding you, you should also pay attention to mission completion... Our Paphield five-star missions are not that easy."
The Old President said nothing more smiled. However, soon he discovered that he appeared to be too lenient with Rhode, so he straightened up his face and turned away.
"Come on Sereck, let's go. I'm going to have a drink with you when we get back!"
Looking at the two figures that vanished behind the door, Rhode shook his head and left the room.
The rowdy estate finally turned serene. Rhode left the study and walked down the stairs, making his way to the training ground. The moment he had been waiting for was just around the corner.
The Sphere of Mystery hadn't changed much; it was still quietly hovering around the center of the statue.
When he approached the statue, Rhode took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down. It can't be helped as he didn't know that the Sphere of Mystery could work this way, even the game didn't reveal that much.
The function that he had been waiting for finally appeared before him... but the question was... was it really effective?
After calming down, he placed his hand on the Sphere of Mystery.
A system prompt appeared.
[Activate the Sphere of Mystery - Please select your ability]
Rhode lowered his eyes to read the system prompt and replied. Then, the Sphere of Mystery flashed a new line of text.
[Phantom Guardian has been activated. Please select a maximum of three projection targets. Cooldown time - 180 days. If the projection target is above the user level, target -1]
Rhode frowned. It seemed the Phantom Guardian wasn't as good as he thought it would be - the 180 days cooldown was almost ridiculous. This means that if he chose three targets, he would need to wait 180 days to replace them. If he accidentally picked a wrong target, he had to wait another half a year to fix his mistake... Wasn't the system too strict? It even limited the number of projections if it was higher than the user. Now he can at most only choose two projections.
[Skill Activated - Please select a projection target.]
Several names appeared before him. They were player IDs that Rhode was familiar with, but to his amazement, there was a small percentage behind it.
[The Phantom Guardian will project and copy the image according to the user memory. Its stats will change based on the Comprehension Rate.]
[Canary: Comprehension Rate 100%]
[Mini Bubble Gum: Comprehension Rate 97%]
[Unloved Loser: Comprehension Rate 55%]
[Learn To Love: Comprehension Rate 30%]
Rhode studied at the numbers before him and understood what the system meant. Obviously, the system itself was not omnipotent. Naturally, the more he knew about the person, the more perfect the projection would be.
In the beginning, Rhode thought that as long as he remembered their IDs, the projection would be able to copy it perfectly, but now it appears that, unless he knew the person well enough, it was impossible for the projection to be the same. After all, the projection image in Phantom Space came from his own memory, and so it was not possible to project a character that Rhode didn't know.
In that case, it was natural for him to find someone he knew well.
With that in mind, Rhode started thinking deeply.
I need to find an expert, or at least someone that can protect my fortress for 180 days. That person should be known and trusted by everyone.
Rhode looked up and quickly identified the first candidate. He shifted his gaze towards a name. It was a strong, burly man, full of muscles and scars.
[Rhode Alander: Comprehension Rate 100%]
Rhode pointed his finger and selected it.
[Projection failed. An identical person detected. Not replicable.]
Oh my God!
For a moment, Rhode wanted to kill himself and redo it again. But in the end, he only sighed and shook his head. He looked towards the other two names below and went silent for a while. Then he reached down to select the two names below his.
[Phantom Guardian Activated - Canary, Mini Bubblegum - Projection Begin!]
After the system prompt confirmed his selection, two beams of light emerged from the Sphere of Mystery and landed nearby. Soon, amidst the fog, two familiar figures appeared.
Rhode laid his hands on his chest as he stared at the dark shadows before him. His heart was beating violently, and soon, when the two figures were fully projected, the sphere's brightness disappeared.
The fog also dissipated at the same time.
Two figures stood naked in front of him.
Then a deafening scream pierced the air.
"You pervert! Get out of here! "
A violent flash of light flew towards him. Rhode, who didn't manage to react in time, was immediately sent flying back to the room.
F*ck! Even if you can't duplicate equipment, at least project some clothes out!