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 "This young miss... wants to join your mercenary group."

After Old Hank's introduction, Rhode glanced at the girl next to him, who took off her cloak and revealed her true face.

It was a girl that appeared to be about 16 to 17 years old.

She had beautiful facial features. Her snow-like, white hair looked particularly eye-catching. A lovely pair of wine-red eyes gave Rhode a curious look. Rhode could recognize that she was a noble from her demeanor. With an overt display of self-confidence and pride, it was no wonder that he could conclude that she wasn't someone ordinary. Moreover, she possessed a beautiful collar with intricate patterns carved on it.

"This young miss is..."

Rhode frowned. He hoped that nothing unexpected would occur.

"Hello, Mr. Rhode Alander."

The girl stretched out her hand. She smiled and said

"I am Marlene Senia. As you have heard, I hope to enter your mercenary group. I hope you will give me the opportunity."

"Marlene Senia?"

Hearing the girl said her name, Rhode was dumbfounded and showed a trace of surprise.

Marlene Senia was a familiar name to Rhode; this character was quite famous among the players, she even had a nickname: 'Queen of Mercenaries'. Rumors said that this girl was a mage genius. When she was 19 years old, she broke through the inner circle, which was the final bottleneck of a mage. Then, she formed a mercenary group 'Free Ring', and recruited many young girls from the Munn Kingdom who were geniuses in their own right. But among the players, this girl was not too likable because she has a strange habit, which was --- she hated men.

The game did not bother to hide it. Free Ring Mercenary Group was an exclusive group for females, and no males were allowed to join. Even if they paid a large amount of money, the male players wouldn't be able to hire any one of them. This made many players unhappy and began to dislike this woman. Thus, for most players, they did not really have a high evaluation of this woman called the 'Queen of Mercenaries.'

Although she wasn't well-liked among male players, Marlene's storyline was the typical 'hero's ending'. When faced with the Country of Darkness's attack, she and her comrades withstood the enemy's siege for three days and three nights in Golden City. Finally, when they were inevitably overwhelmed by enemy forces, they cast a forbidden spell which caused all of them to perish along with the enemy. They sacrificed themselves to protect the country. From this point on, her courage and valor became well known.

Rhode had heard her name before, but as a male, he had never met this girl in person before. Therefore, when he found out that this girl was actually in Deep Stone City and wanted to join his mercenary group, Rhode's eyes widened in surprise.

Didn't she hate men? Why would she take the initiative to seek him? Did she think that he is a woman? These strange things shouldn't be happening!

As he watched Marlene who stretched out her right hand for a handshake, Rhode continued to deduce this irregularity in his mind.

Perhaps its a person with the same name? It can't be her, right? She said that her family name was Senia, and looking at her appearance, she DOES indeed look like a noble... But --- the Senia family is located far away in Golden City! Why was this young miss, who was supposed to attend the Royal Magic Academy, here in Deep Stone City? Was she summoned to the countryside?

"I have heard your name, Ms. Senia."

Rhode replied tactfully and shook her hand. He did not know much about the legend in front of him, just like other players. But he still understood the general situation.

"I apologize if this seems sudden, but... shouldn't you be in the academy right now...?"

Marlene and Hank's eyes flickered at his seemingly casual comment.

However, Marlene felt that Rhode was interesting because he recognized her identity. This means that the rumor of Rhode being a noble was actually true. Hank was equally surprised, never had he thought that Rhode had a connection with the nobles. And now, Rhode finally 'revealed' his noble identity.

"So, it's like this..."

After confirming that Rhode was also one of her 'own' kind, she began to show modesty and controlled her pride.

"My teacher said that once my power passed a certain level. If I want to continue improving, I have to experience actual battles. That's why I came here to ask Uncle Sereck to give me the opportunity to train here."

So, it was connected to Sereck after all.

Rhode finally realized the reason. The Senia family sent her here because of that Master Swordsman. But before that, there was still something that needed to be confirmed.

"Ms. Marlene."

Rhode took back his hand, and his face turned serious.

"Since it was Uncle Hank who introduced you to me, I think you should have a grasp on our current plight beforehand. Frankly, we lack members. And even more especially so now, since we took on a four-star mission. If any mishap were to happen, we might be disbanded. Knowing this, are you still willing to bet your life and join my mercenary group?"

Facing Rhode's question, Marlene raised her chin slightly and revealed a confident and cunning grin.

"Of course I understand what you mean, Mr. Rhode. But I think that it is a good thing for me. Moreover, as a middle circle mage, I am very confident about my strength."

So this is a good thing for her?

Hearing her answer, Rhode could not help but to shoot a glance at Old Hank. Although she was the infamous 'Queen of Mercenaries' in the game, he had never come in direct contact with her before. From his first impression, this girl was very independent and possessed a strong pride. However, the words she spoke previously made him a bit puzzled. He did not understand why a person like her would say that joining a declining mercenary group was a good thing?

Uncle Hank was aware of the meaning behind Rhode's glance, but he was unable to explain his suffering. He was very clear about Marlene's identity and influence. As a young noble, she didn't lack the strength, but a mercenary wasn't all about strength. Experience and willpower played a critical role in the mercenary life as well. Even though she was a powerful mage who doesn't hesitate to kill her enemies on the battlefield, in the end, she was still a woman. If she was drugged and thrown onto a bed by some evil men, then even being a powerful mage would be useless, right? That was why Old Hank had always been very careful. If something happened to the young miss, then he would be put in a very difficult situation.

Her nobility-bred arrogance also made a lot of mercenaries quite uncomfortable. Old Hank tried his best to introduce her to several mercenary groups, but in the end, the other side always rejected, giving excuses such as 'having enough members.' After all, the status between nobles and ordinary people were worlds apart, and the mercenaries did not necessarily trust nobility.

Marlene wasn't stupid, she, of course, knew the reason why those people did not accept her. But her pride would prevent her from lowering her status and follow those guys.

Therefore, Rhode's appearance lit a glimmer of hope within her.

Rumors said that Rhode was also a noble. If that was the case, then presumably, he should be better than those uneducated mercenaries. Moreover, this mercenary group had only two members; they certainly did not have enough members. If they whip up an excuse saying that they already have enough people, then wouldn't it be a total brazen lie?

Rhode did not understand what Marlene meant, but Old Hank knew what she was trying to do. This made him helpless. Before coming here, he tried to persuade this proud young miss numerous times, saying that the Starlight Mercenary Group was not the best choice for her. They lacked members, and the mission was too dangerous. Moreover, right now they were living in the infamous Cyril's Haunted House. But alas, no matter how much he tried to reason, this young miss still did not listen to him. This confirmed Old Hank's belief of how proud and stubborn nobles could be. Rhode was one clear example, and this young miss was also the same. Birds of the same feather flock together. Such a troublesome bunch!

If he could, Old Hank wanted to report this matter to Sereck and let him deal with it. Presumably, Sereck would not allow Marlene to undertake such danger, but unfortunately, he was not in the Mercenary Association these two days, so he could not find him. Marlene was smart and took advantage of this period when Sereck wasn't in to force Old Hank to listen to her order.

Heavens! This kind of thing... why did you do it...

Old Hank could already imagine Sereck's expression when he comes back and hears about the decision made by Marlene. What kind of face would he show?

This was the sorrow of pitiful people like him.

Rhode did not understand Hank's grief-stricken inner monologue, nor would he want to know it anyway. It was a miracle for a mage to take the initiative to come and find him. Even if Old Hank disagreed, he would just ignore him and recruit the future 'Queen of Mercenaries' to his group.

But before that, he still needed to clear up a certain matter.

"I can accept you to the group. Ms. Marlene."

Rhode's expression became serious.

"But I have some conditions."

"Please speak."

Hearing Rhode words, Marlene's eyes flashed a trace of surprise. She came here to acquire some real combat experience, but she did not expect that after she arriving in Deep Stone City, she became a caged canary instead. This caused Marlene to be quite unhappy. Thus, after hearing about Rhode and his mercenary group, Marlene found out that this was a perfect opportunity to escape from the cage.

Now it seemed that she had succeeded.

"First of all, since you've joined the mercenary group, then you will be considered to be one of my subordinates."

Rhode lifted up one finger.

"As a subordinate, you must unconditionally obey my command. During missions, without my permission, you are prohibited from doing anything. Even if you want to go to the toilet, you must also report to me in advance."

"You!-"

Hearing this, Marlene expression changed slightly. But before she could say anything else, Rhode lifted up another finger.

"Second, although you have joined our mercenary group, we are not familiar with each other. As such, I do not think that you can fully cooperate with us, so in the battle, you must completely obey my instructions. You must do what I command you to do. If I wanted you to stand your ground, even if the enemy is before you, you are not allowed to move!"

Rhode put down his hand.

"These are my conditions. If you can accept, then I welcome you to join my mercenary group."

"And what if I don't?"

At this moment, Marlene's face was dark. She clenched her teeth and asked in low voice.

"I'll have you leave immediately."

Rhode did not hesitate in his reply.

"I needn't emphasize further about the difficulty of this mission. If you are unable to do as I say, then we are most likely to die there. So, I must lower the possibility of accidents. If you put us in a difficult situation, then for us, leaving you is a necessary choice."

When Rhode finished his explanation, the atmosphere inside the hall suddenly tensed up.

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