The cold night wind blew.
Rhode stood on the balcony on the second floor, quietly watching the beautiful scenery of Deep Stone City before him. Along the edges of the mines, lights formed into bright lines which flickered in the dark sky like fireflies in the night. A calming trickle from a nearby creek, together with the gentle breeze that could be heard from afar, seemingly formed a whole new world.
Rhode felt that his existence in this world was becoming increasingly realistic.
A gentle pair of footsteps came from behind, but Rhode didn't need to look back to know who it was. The person also did not say anything and stood quietly by Rhode's side, bathing in the cool night. After some time, Marlene's voice sounded in Rhode's ear.
"I've heard about you from Lize, thank you."
"I did not do anything worthy of your thanks," Rhode said coolly.
"You saved Lize. This act itself is a very important matter to me."
Marlene reached out her hand and flicked her long hair. Then, she glanced at Rhode's broad back.
"She is my only friend. Our friendship was the same in the past, and there's no difference now. If she died..." Marlene trailed off, but Rhode could understand what she was trying to say.
"Do you know about Lize's past?"
"If she wants to tell me, she'll take the initiative to do so."
Rhode did not answer her question directly, he just shrugged and gave a vague answer. When she discovered Rhode's point, Marlene found herself unable to reply immediately. She quietly watched Rhode and clenched her teeth. Although Lize told her that Rhode was an easygoing person, Marlene just couldn't understand how was he easy to get along with...
"...I have decided, Mr. Rhode. I agree to your conditions. I would like to stay."
Hearing Marlene's answer, Rhode turned around.
"Have you truly decided on it?"
Marlene proudly raised her head and replied, "Yes."
Although she had lost miserably, she managed to grasp her own weaknesses. She believed that perhaps Rhode wouldn't be able to give her the best suggestions, but at least someone could point out her mistakes.
Now that she had made her decision, she wouldn't go back on her words. That was her pride.
Rhode didn't speak any fanciful words and nodded slightly.
"Are you still hurt?"
When she suddenly heard him ask this, Marlene's calm expression had a slight change. Subconsciously, she held her wrist. The wound wasn't anything serious, and after receiving Lize's treatment, not even a scab was left. But this injury still left a knot in her heart. Just by thinking of it, it was as though she could still feel the pain.
"But you had a chance to beat me."
Marleen was shocked. These unexpected words took Marleen by surprise, and she raised her head to look at him.
"Your injury wasn't serious. If you had the willpower to fight back when you're injured, then even if you failed in the end, it wouldn't be as quick as before. Just a minor injury and you completely gave up fighting. If this were a real life or death battle, this action is akin to giving yourself a death sentence."
Marlene's face turned red when she heard Rhode point out her mistakes. After that, she slowly recalled the fight with Rhode and found out that what he said was true. Though defeating the youth was almost impossible, but at least she wouldn't have lost so miserably. It was just as he said, it was a life or death battle, she would be dead."
"I understand. Thank you, Mr. Rhode."
"No problem, I just merely said it casually."
After hesitating for a while, she asked again.
"Mr. Rhode, I heard that... you came from the Eastern Hill."
"Yes, what's the problem?"
"No... I just want to ..."
The girl opened her mouth but did not finish her sentence.
"Never mind, I'll take my leave. Good night, Mr. Rhode."
It should be impossible, according to the information, that family had long been extinct.
Marlene shook her head and away that thought. Then, she bid her farewell by lifting the hem of her skirt slightly and bowing.
Suddenly, a loud voice broke the still of the night, frightening her for a moment.
"Hey, you damned kid! Where are you!? I'm coming in!!"
Rhode walked to the entrance and saw Old Walker standing there impatiently. This time, the old man's lazy and decadent attitude from before was gone, his ragged clothes were replaced with a piece of old, but clean leather armor. A thick wooden bow and quiver full of arrows were neatly placed on his back. It was as if he had a total makeover and his entire body seemed to be radiating with energy. Only his face still had an expression of as though someone owed him a living.
"I thought you wouldn't come, Mr. Walker."
Although Old Walker's face clearly displayed his dissatisfaction, Rhode turned a blind eye to it. He strolled to the side of Old Walker and glanced at him, and then nodded.
"You still had 20 minutes... Well anyway, welcome to my humble abode. From today onward, you are a regular member of the mercenary group."
"Don't be too proud, boy." Discerning that Rhode was trying to put on airs, Old Walker coldly snorted and replied, "I want to see how badly an arrogant guy like you would fail. Hmph, at that time I will mock you endlessly so that an ungrateful brat like you will experience the cruel reality!"
Rhode kept his calm and remained silent. This made the old man furious. Then, as though finding something to mock Rhode, he caught the dissatisfied gaze of Marleen by the side. His mouth twitched.
"Who is this chick? Is she your woman? Not bad, it's just that her face is a little bit ugly..."
Marlene immediately flared up. Ever since the start, when she heard Old Walker's loud voice, she had already classified him as those 'rude men.' And now that rude man was insulting her? This wasn't something a noble young miss like her could tolerate.
"What a rude man! I am..."
"This is Miss Marlene, an old acquaintance of Lize who will join our mercenary group for the time being."
It was clear that Rhode did not intend to let Marlene vent her anger. Before Marlene spoke, he waved his hand and interrupted them. Then he reached out his hand and made a welcoming gesture.
"So, Mr. Walker, it's already late today. I will prepare a room for you. Have a good rest. Tomorrow we will start early to go to Pavel Cemetery."
"Of course, no problem, kid. You think I was..." The Old Walker blabbered half way before actually registering what Rhode had said, "...wait!!"
He stared at Rhode in surprise. Then he jumped like a cat whose tail had been stepped on.
"Pavel Cemetery? What are we going to do in that ghostly place? You have already selected that damn mission?"
Hearing Old Walker's question, Rhode raised his brow.
"You crazy kid!! You actually took this mission! Why didn't you tell me beforehand!"
"Simple. First, when we went to find you, I had yet to accept this mission. Second, even if we had accepted it, you were not a member of our mercenary group yet, I didn't think that it's necessary to tell you."
"You you you..."
Old Walker pointed at Rhode furiously, his hand slightly trembling in anger.
"You actually fooled me! I quit!"
"Do as you please."
Rhode did not even bat his eyes as he faced Old Walker's temper head on. He knew that the old man was actually a masochist. If he did not teach him a lesson, he would definitely not follow his command in the future. That was why, in the first place, he did not bother to be courteous with him. Moreover, even if this old man left the group, it wouldn't affect his plans by a large margin. Since he had already drafted a plan to challenge the cemetery with a minimum of two people, and furthermore, now he had Marlene's presence in the group, so even if Old Walker failed to appear, it didn't really matter.
"It's not surprising for a coward to go back on his words."
Old Walker felt his blood boiling and almost fainted. At this time, Marlene who was standing at the door also chuckled, looking playfully at Rhode.
As Rhode always wore an indifferent expression, Marlene thought that he must be a taciturn person. But when she came in contact with him, she discovered that he actually spoke a lot, and sometimes his words were hurtful. His age might not be much older compared to her, but whenever she stood next to him, she always felt like he was a towering giant. Never had she felt this way before about people who were around her age.
Or perhaps he was an exception?
After staring at Rhode for a moment, Old Walker finally gave up. He put down his hand and turned his head.
"Well, kid, you win. I'd like to see how badly you will die. I will go with you, but if I feel that something is off, I will immediately run away! I may be old, but I still don't want to put this old life of mine in the hands of a reckless kid like you!"
Rhode shrugged nonchalantly.
"If you can do it, then I have no opinion."
What does he mean?
He was confused and surprised at the same time. What did he mean?