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 Even though the mercenaries were still suspicious and curious about Rhode's orders, they, including Marlene and Lize, obeyed and left shortly after. Of course, it wasn't that Rhode didn't want them to know his secret. After all, he only needed half a day's time to complete building this humongous Fortress. Unless one's an idiot, if not, no one wouldn't think there's a problem with this. However, the fact that Rhode was willing to build the Fortress in front of them proved that they were his trustworthy confidants. As for why he made them leave, partially was for the element of surprise and also for safety reasons. After all, only Rhode had access to this construction system and who knew if the system might treat them as obstacles and kill them all if they lingered around. Furthermore, rebuilding the Fortress wasn't as simple as touching up the previous stronghold, so it's still best to avoid any possible dangers.

Rhode focused on scanning the surroundings carefully. Right now, he stood at the middle of the hall within the Fortress ruins. After the battle last night, this place was severely damaged. The ceilings had fallen to the ground and everywhere were filled with broken tiles which were hard to bear. Taking in this disastrous sight, Rhode shrugged his shoulders before extending his arms, and at the same time went through his thoughts.

Shortly after, a holographic map which commonly appeared in strategy games appeared before his eyes. Unlike the image which he used to repair the stronghold, this holographic map not only displayed Rhode's current location, it even unveiled the borders of the entire Misty Mountains and Twilight Forest. The areas that this system covered should be the territories which Rhode's guild had control over.

However, similar to those strategic maps, other than the surrounding regions near Rhode was clear in view, the other regions were shrouded in thick and dark shadows where only mountains, trees, and rivers could be seen. It seemed that this system had restrictions over its viewable range.

But soon, lines of system prompts appeared before Rhode's eyes.

[Detected Guild Territory. Land of Atonement]

[Fortress had been damaged. To repair?]

Nope.

Rhode denied the suggestion mentally. Shortly after, another line of system prompt emerged.

[Fortress had been damaged. Repair denied. To build new Fortress Stronghold?]

Yes.

Rhode nodded and presented the finalized blueprint onto the holographic scenery. Suddenly, a bright light flashed and a model of the Fortress based on the blueprint presented itself before his eyes.

[Fortress had been modeled. To build?]

[System Prompt: Building Fortress requires 7,590,000 gold coins. Please confirm.]

"..."

This time, Rhode hesitated.

He stared at this notification and gritted his teeth. After he carefully scanned through the holographic scenery with the materialized Fortress model, he could see that it indeed was oddly strong and sturdy. There were no concerns for the water source flowing from melted snow above the mountains and the surrounding natural barriers would prevent enemies from cutting off their food sources - If the enemies really had such capabilities, that's when the Summon Gate was best for such situations. As long as the Summon Gate was built, Rhode could gain direct access to the stronghold in Deep Stone City and didn't need to worry about problems with transportations of materials.

However, an object like the Summon Gate shouldn't be built outdoors. Rhode had instructed Canary to build the Summon Gate in the deepest area on the underground second floor in the Deep Stone City stronghold. Rhode would also build the Summon Gate in the deepest area with tightest securities. After all, the Summon Gate was a top secret and shouldn't be known to any ordinary persons.

[Please confirm. To build?]

The system prompted once more in view as Rhode didn't make a decision. And this time, Rhode hesitated no more and slightly nodded.

"Build."

This word came out from his mouth and there were changes to the surroundings.

The clear skies instantly dimmed and not only that, a little golden light ball emerged in Rhode's hand. Rays of golden beams projected from it as they crisscrossed into a grid-like projection. The golden beams swept across the ground similarly to before when Rhode stood in the middle of the stronghold and allowed the beams to scan the area entirely.

"..."

The earth let out a deep, loud rumble which Rhode couldn't help but gulped. This was the first time he experienced such a scenery. Even in the game, everyone only could view the Fortress after it was built. Even Rhode didn't witness the building process of the Fortress before. Due to this, although Rhode maintained his calm expression, it was pounding deep down in his heart with excitement, anticipation and also a little nervousness.

"Bam...!"

The rumbles got louder and louder before the entire land began to shake. Then, a huge, black figure broke through the ground and soared into the sky right before his very eyes.

Thick, sturdy walls emerged from the ground violently. In an instant, soil and dust rose rapidly and the wheezing storm forced Rhode to close his eyes. Those broken tiles scattered on the ground transformed into powder under the wheezing storm and disappeared to nowhere!

That was all that Rhode could capture.

Because at the next moment, the severely damaged walls began to repair themselves before his eyes. Not only that, the walls slowly rose up while the ceiling above him began to climb upwards while deforming its shape. This entire scene was similar to a construction documentary television programme which Rhode had seen - Humans recorded the construction process of an architecture over a period of hundred days and fast forward it for viewers to admire the whole process within a few minutes. Right now, Rhode felt like he was one of those viewers witnessing the live 'fast forwarded' construction process of this huge Fortress.

The navy blue stone walls stopped rising and strokes of floral patterns decorated its edge shortly after. Then, the pillar supporting the housing dome began to change its shape and within a few seconds, the utterly broken and rubbish-filled hall instantly turned sparkling clean. It's unimaginable that this new, smooth slate ground was irregular sand and gravel just a few minutes ago. Also, no one could accept that a moments before, what stood in place of these solid, thick walls were the tattered, thin walls that could crumble by an effortless push. The wrecked ceiling with a punctured hole transformed into a perfectly round and beautiful dome. Sun rays spilled in from the surrounding glass windows and brightened the entire hall.

The rumbles of earth continued but gradually turned softer and softer. In the end, everything fell into complete silence.

Up until that moment, Rhode let out a deep, long breath before proceeding up the stairs located in the center of the hall.

The stone-made steps were solid and precisely-flat without any slightest flaws. Even Rhode who witnessed the transformation couldn't believe his eyes. Were these really just built? If this was the power of the system he had, then where did the power of the system come from?

"Why do you even bother yourself with it, Leader."

At this moment, Mini Bubble Gum suddenly spoke.

"This place feels realistic to us anyway and isn't that good enough? Your hair will drop if you worry too much and you wouldn't look good in it. Just look at how beautiful this Fortress is... Think about happier matters and don't be like the bunch of blockheads in 'The Matrix 1999 movie'. They disputed over reality and virtuality all day long and guess what happened to them in the end? Hmph, while others were feasting delicious food and drinking hard liquor, they were still breathing in contaminated air and consuming food that was worse than dog food. I really don't understand what their brains were filled with. Savior, my foot! Looked more like masochists to me."

"Everyone has their own views and understandings, Bubble. What you said was too extreme."

This time, it was Canary's turn.

"They were only searching for the things that they desire... Hmm, whereas the results, they had chosen them by themselves."

"Smart people wouldn't make such a stupid choice. So, I think they're a bunch of idiots."

Rhode revealed a bitter smile. Mini Bubble Gum's explanation wasn't unreasonable. In the world that Rhode belonged in, this had never happened before. Whereas in movies, novels, and other virtual worlds, such things do happen. If speculations were based on this, then the world that Rhode lived in must be a virtual world... However, Rhode felt that things weren't that simple.

But, just as Mini Bubble Gum had mentioned, it's meaningless to consider if this world was real.

Rhode shook his head at this thought and he pushed the door open.

As the large door widened, cooling wind breezed inwards. The Fortress finally displayed itself in full view.

Just as Rhode admired his 'artwork', on the other side of the mountain slope, the mercenaries who waited accordingly to Rhode's instructions were having conversations. Of course, the contents of their discussions were only revolving around one topic - How exactly would Rhode construct this Fortress?

From a normal human's perspective, no matter how capable Rhode was, it wouldn't be possible for him to construct a Fortress. However, after mingling with Rhode for a long period, the mercenaries knew that Rhode wasn't someone who would crack jokes. But... If he's not kidding, what exactly would this man do?

In an instant, the mercenaries including Marlene and Lize were having many discussions over this. On the contrary, Anne seemed to be unconcerned about these matters. After reaching the mountain slope, she immediately found herself a comfortable area for a nap and was uninterested if Rhode was able to build the Fortress or not.

"Miss Marlene, could a Mage be capable of doing such things?"

At this moment, curiosity got over some mercenaries and they began to check in with Marlene. In response, Marlene frowned slightly a pondered for a while.

"This... is hard to tell. If the Mage specializes in Earth Element, it wouldn't be impossible to create similar things. But... it would be too difficult to build a Fortress. After all, the scale is too huge."

"But, Sir seems to be very confident."

"I'm not too sure about this too."

Marlene shook her head in denial before gazing at Lize. After dismissing the bunch of mercenaries, Marlene turned around and approached Lize. The maiden then whispered.

"Lize, do you have any idea?"

"Eh?"

Lize was distracted for a moment before lifting her head and gazing back at Marlene, not knowing what to answer. Just as Marlene imagined, Lize seemed to have a clue. After observing Rhode's mysterious behavior, Lize couldn't help but recalled the incident when they first obtained their mercenary Stronghold. At that time, after entering the place, Lize witnessed how tattered the whole place was with her very own eyes. However, after she returned from purchasing some daily necessities, the dirty, haunted house had a 360 degrees transformation. The whole house was sparkling bright and there were no traces of damage at all. Lize thought she had entered the wrong house by accident.

Of course, Lize did question Rhode afterwards. However, Rhode only gave an ambiguous and perfunctory answer.

"Yes... Marlene. I did encounter something similar... You still remember our previous Stronghold right? That place used to be a haunted house and it was ragged and filthy on the inside. Mr Rhode bought it over and we became residents after eliminating the Undead Creatures."

"I know about this."

Marlene nodded in acknowledgment. Before she decided to join Starlight, the maiden had inquired information about this mercenary group, which was why she understood what Lize had mentioned.

"But... Something is really odd. After we attained the house by defeating the Undead Creatures, the house was actually really really filthy and run-down. Some places were also damaged by the flames. But, after I came back from a shopping trip, the entire place became sparkling clean. Those worn-out pieces of furniture and even broken glasses were nowhere in sight. Everything changed beyond recognition..."

"That's really..."

Marlene frowned her brows.

"Did Mr Rhode say anything about it?"

"He told me someone helped him rebuild the house. But I'm not too sure who exactly was the person..."

Marlene slightly nodded to Lize's words and her face even flashed hints of unmistakable excitement and confirmation. But shortly, Marlene tapped onto Lize's shoulder.

"Since Mr Rhode said that, then I think he could be right. You see, weren't Legendary stage beings like Miss Canary and Miss Bubble under him? I think, he must have some really powerful people who helped him."

"But... No matter how powerful one is, would one be able to build a Fortress in half a day?"

"I'm not too sure about this. But, beings of Legendary stage... We are unable to figure them out or understand them. It wouldn't be impossible if they have such abilities."

As Marlene spoke, suddenly, there were rumbling noises which attracted everyone's attention. As the mountain peak obstructed their views, they weren't able to see anything. However, they could still feel the slight tremors on the ground. In an instant, many of them started to panic.

"Wha-What's wrong? Could it be an earthquake?!"

"Is it Sir? Is this Sir's doing?"

"But, what exactly is going on..."

In an instant, the mercenaries got into a hot discussion. They were curious of Rhode's doing and after this commotion, they were even more curious now.

"Why not we take a peek? What if Sir got himself into some trouble?"

"But Sir warned us to wait here..."

A bunch of men began to dispute. Some of them were worried if Rhode got into some trouble and some couldn't withstand their curiosities and intended to check on the happenings. And at this moment, Anne was still sleeping soundly on the grass with no signs of waking up.

"Ok ok! Stop fighting."

Joey instantly hopped out. In any case, he was considered quite popular with this bunch of mercenaries, so they immediately stopped bickering,

"All of us know that things don't look right. But, since Sir had given us an order, then we should follow through. Anyway, it's only half a day. We will get through it soon!"

The mercenaries gradually quietened down. All of them were uncertain as there wasn't a leader around. Marlene and Lize weren't speaking while Anne was sleeping by the side. Since Joey made a decision for everyone, they finally had a peace of mind. Indeed, it's only half a day's wait and it would be over soon.

The mercenaries calmed themselves down at this thought and began to wait patiently.

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