Things progressed smoothly. After Lize was returned from the Mercenary Association, she was stunned after noticing the new stronghold. She stood anxiously in front of the entrance while holding the supplies that she had just bought, not daring to come in. If it were not for Rhode, who found her rooted to the ground in a daze, Lize would've probably stood there until night came.
Seeing the changes, naturally, she had some doubts. Although Rhode said that he would tidy up things, just by common sense, anyone would have assumed that he'd just cleaned up the broken furniture, and not deliver a complete makeover. Clearly, Rhode did not want to explain much, so she did not ask further. After she went through a lot of things, she began to trust him unconditionally. Even though what he did was odd, but since Rhode was a very mysterious person, so there was nothing strange.
And Lize believed that one day he would tell her everything.
Rhode heard from her about the situation in the Mercenary Association. That old man was left speechless once she recounted the story that happened. It was apparent that he did not expect the both of them to conquer the haunted house. On the other hand, Sereck took their side. He even gave some advice to Rhode, reminding him that he should be more careful to avoid unnecessary trouble.
Rhode's heart felt warm about Sereck's kind and genuine reminder. While Haunted House had a bad reputation, Deep Stone City still did not send its top-tier fighters to conquer it. For a Master Swordsman like Sereck, he could easily subdue the undead. But the reason he did not do so was not that the enemy was stronger than him, but instead, it was because of some other external factors.
In the end, this place was situated at the highest district and belonged to the nobles, which would certainly spell trouble for them if they interceded needlessly. Once the greedy nobles discovered that the haunted house was no longer cursed, matters would become incredibly troublesome. After all, 500 gold coins for a large mansion was utterly absurd, even calling it a bargain was an understatement. Naturally, some people would have sinister intentions to take the house back. As the saying goes, there was no free lunch in this world.
Rhode knew about this matter, but he was curious as to why Sereck would remind him of such things since both of them was not even close... Was it because of the battle from before that made Sereck fond of him?
But these were matters that weren't of a high priority now. The current challenge was how to further develop his mercenary group.
Rhode highlighted the first problem: Manpower.
A mercenary group consisting of only two people was certainly impossible. Indeed, by relying on Rhode's familiarity with this area, he would be able to complete the mission easily. But if there weren't enough members, then it was no way for him to make a competent team. Based on his current strength, he could only kill undead creatures efficiently. If he fought against living creatures, it would be much more troublesome. As for the usual mercenary commission such as escorting, transporting, and others, with his current member count, no one would dare to entrust these jobs to him.
However, what kind of men he should hire? At least the price must be reasonable... With this amount of money currently, he should be able to employ about one or two mercenaries. As the saying goes, use the best steel to make the knife's edge. If he chose the wrong personnel, then it would be too late for him to cry.
He creased his brows as he sat in the study room quietly. The room had plenty of open spaces. Other than a desk, few chairs and a bookshelf, there was nothing else. Although it looked quite shabby, right now, he could only accept it.
After closing the book on his hand, Rhode fell into deep into thought.
8th Month, the year of glory --- was half a year later. The Country of Light, after investigating some matters, they declared that the Country of Darkness was the perpetrator behind the floating ship attack on the border. Then they quickly sent their troops and occupied Mount Solacen. There, they controlled the inhabitants, claiming that those men were the culprits behind the ambush. After that, they were promptly arrested and executed.
Two months later, the Country of Darkness's army made a response and took back Mount Solacen, and the Country of Light's army was annihilated.
An all-out war broke out.
The Munn Kingdom was the first line of defense against the Country of Darkness, and also the place that Rhode resided. In truth, the calamity could be avoided, but the Country of Light issued a decree, preventing them from surrendering.
That battle was the very first time that players suffered many casualties. When besieging the Munn Kingdom, the Country of Darkness sent powerful military forces. Vampires, skeleton mages, and other terrifying creatures that reached level 80. The average level of players were only level 40 to 50. Thus, the outcome was disastrous. Although some players organized various parties to try to and defend their land, it was useless in the face of the sheer level difference of the Darkness army. At that moment, the Country of Light's council made a very shocking decision --- They declared that the Munn Kingdom was in treacherous collusion with the enemy country and sent troops to invade the Munn Kingdom.
This crushed any hope the Munn Kingdom had left. Realizing that it was fighting a futile battle for survival, the kingdom finally began to retreat. And at that time, the King of the kingdom, Lydia Paphield Mila Frederica, made a shocking decision. She sent her personal elite corps, the 'Purple Lily', to escort the players and citizens to retreat to the Trisfia Port.
Rhode still vividly remembered the scene from back then. They stood beside the refugees, and almost every player was gritting their teeth in humiliation while staring at the burning land before them. While being overthrown by some NPCs already made them furiously mad, the betrayal from the Country of Light was the icing on the cake.
The players began hurling insults to quench their resentment. Their wide range of explicit vocabularies began surfacing: 'F*ck GM!! How dare you toy with us?!', 'Die you stupid game company!' and 'I want to kill those group of b*stards from the council!' were common sentences from the players. While the players were cussing their hearts out, the Munn Kingdom's inhabitants departed in a hurry.
But only one person stayed.
As an angel, she singlehandedly withstood the Country of Darkness relentless assault until the last ship from Trisfia Port left, then she finally closed her eyes to rest for eternity. Unto the last moment, she carried her oath to the grave --- 'I will always stand behind my people and shield them from the storm, whether they were willing or not, was of minor consequence.'
Soon, the players' anger couldn't be contained any longer and broke loose like water bursting out from a dam.
Rhode could distinctly recall the time where hundreds of thousands of players leaving the official game forum in retaliation. Many claimed that this was against the will of the players and used many ways to express their resentment. Some player guilds even began to rebel by taking revenge through sabotaging the Country of Light's army and murdering their NPCs. After these consecutive events, Rhode began to take this game seriously. He gathered the players with similar hatred towards the Country of Light and was able to form the Starlight Guild. Half of the players wanted to regain their dignity as players while the other half wanted to show the developers by boycotting the game. All in all, they wanted to vent their anger and somehow take revenge for their loss.
And they succeeded.
Under Rhode's command, Starlight grew stronger each day. They were able to sweep through the Country of Light and utterly demolish the Country of Light's council. After that, they sharpened their blades and went for the country that started this whole mess-the Country of Darkness. In the end, they succeeded and even conquered one of the Creator Dragons, the Dark Dragon. The Starlight Guild then rose to the fame as the game's most powerful guild.
While everybody was celebrating, Rhode basked in a dull melancholy, and a tiny voice constantly rang within Rhode's heart.
At that time, if I had this power, would I be able to change everything?
He didn't know the answer, but deep inside, he understood-
He understood that time wouldn't rewind itself. It was delusional for him to believe that he could start over.
...That was what he had believed, until he arrived to this world.
Now that Rhode finally found an opportunity to change this fate, he wouldn't waste it by 'playing casually.' He didn't want to experience that feeling of helplessness from before. Whether as a refugee or player, he would never allow himself to suffer from that kind of humiliation once again.
Rhode had thought of visiting the Golden City after leaving Dusk Forest. But after hearing about Lize's plight, he changed his mind. Since he could form a guild powerful enough to contend against Hell's devils and destroy both countries of Light and Darkness, he was confident that he could do it again. Even killing the Void Dragon wasn't an impossible task in the future.
He still had one and a half year of time. While it wasn't a long time, it wasn't short either.
And now, he had already acquired the Mercenary Association acknowledgment and a stronghold. He could finally start to rebuild his glory from before. This time, he wasn't going to feel the shame from before, this was something he absolutely could not tolerate.
Since everything was going on the right track, it was time for him to begin preparations.
Admiring Deep Stone City's scenery from the window, Rhode began to recall those NPCs attributes and skills. Then an idea struck him.
He stood up and knocked on the desk. Soon, the girl who was seemingly engrossed in a book, heard his call and stood up immediately.
"Let's go to the Mercenary Association."
The Mercenary Association was as lively as usual. Mercenaries were sitting in the hall, drinking and chatting at the various tables. More people were queuing in front of the hall to accept and hand in commissions.
Rhode quickly found his mercenary group name on the stone slabs of all the mercenaries group in Paphield area. The total number of mercenary groups on the stone slab was 32, and Starlight was ranked the last with an eye-catching number beside it, 0.
Lize felt somewhat helpless when she saw the ranking. Although she had already seen it yesterday, but to think that her mercenary group which was previously around the middle, fell to the bottom of the list overnight, wasn't a pleasant thought to have.
She took a deep breath and forced herself to calm down and said, "Sir, we are now ranked last. 0 points... Even other mercenary groups have five points at the very least. We must think of some way."
Rhode nodded in response and looked up. Then he saw another name -- Red Hawk. If he remembered correctly, the Red Hawk leader was a friend of Lize. It seemed like they were doing quite well, ranked at the 21st. They belong to the standard level, without any merit, which was not too low and not too high.
The reason Rhode arrived here today was not because of them. He glanced at the other side of the hall.
The arrangement of the Mercenary Association was distinct. The left side of the hall was the place occupied by mercenary groups, and the right was the place for those idle and unorganized mercenaries to hang out. These people do not have a mercenary group and could only wait here while taking on some common missions, or wait for a mercenary group to recruit them. Because of that, this place was much quieter than the left side.
Rhode and Lize's appearance caused a lot of heads to turn. A group of rowdy mercenaries whistled loudly and greeted the both of them uncouthly. Rhode ignored the idiots who couldn't even recognize his gender, whereas, for Lize, it was just another day for her. She gave a smile as a courtesy, and did not respond. She knew that these mercenaries were actually bored, and wanted to find some fun. Whether she met their greetings with anger or happiness, they still accomplished their goal. Thus, it was better to just ignore them, lest attracting unnecessary trouble.
Rhode turned his head towards the corner and walked over...
The cup of wine was as sweet as usual...
The old man put down the glass in his hand while forcefully holding his slightly trembling right hand. He leaned against the chair, looking at the ground. He was once the member of Wind Glory mercenary group. At that time he was very confident, brave, and energized. For countless of times, he dreamed that someday he was going to be a mercenary group leader. To lead his men to go on an adventure was his hope and his dream.
But after this injury, everything changed for the worse.
He had lost the strength from before, and those who had worshiped him before, also abandoned him. And what was he now? The youngster who had a limitless future, was now a poor old man who could not do anything besides drinking alcohol. Thinking about this, he could not help but sigh again. He looked up and glanced at the group of youngsters around him. They were too young and still dreaming. Adventure, beauty, money, fame... what were those? Everything was meaningless once they lost something to rely on, then what would become of them?
The old man reached out his hand and touched his right eye that was covered by an eye patch. Then he raised his glass signaling the bartender for another cup.
At this time, he noticed two people sitting beside him.
"Mr. Walker? Mr. Didar Walker?"