This was the first time Emily had met this 'young woman'. However, she was the most important piece of the puzzle for Rhode's plans.
She was the daughter of the Edward Trade Association's Chairman and also a young woman determined to become a merchant. If female players emerged in this Trade Association with a merchant's identity, it would trigger a 'Fiery Rose' mission which requested players to assist Emily through a series of tests in becoming a merchant. It was extremely rare to find a female who wished to become a merchant in the original world of the Dragon Soul Continent. Emily didn't want to be a 'Merchant' who stood by the shopfront all day selling merchandise. Instead, she hoped to roam around the continent as a 'Travel Merchant', which was viewed as a rebellious behavior by the aborigines. Although there were indeed female Travel Merchants in the history of the game, there were more female presidents and prime ministers. Emily had been working hard to achieve her goals, but the world cruelly refused to accept her ideal.
Therefore, once any female player merchants emerged, it would fulfill Emily's 'anticipations' and she would seek assistance from the female player to teach her everything about being a Travel Merchant. Of course, the missions were trivial and began from the most basic product identification to training her so she could travel alone into dungeons to fight creatures and monsters. After completing the series of missions, the player would receive an [Unwavering Hope] achievement and generous rewards. Emily would then travel the continent and there would be certain chances for her to meet other players. She would randomly gift equipment and weapons and the players who completed her mission could purchase merchandise from her with a 20% discount. Although this young lady was barely level 30, the rare list of equipment on her menu was between level 50 to 60, occasional with legendary equipment in them. But no one knew where she laid her hands on that much top-grade pieces of equipment. Even though players had tried to rob her, they had little success as they couldn't loot the equipment from her corpse. Not only that, the players' reputation with various influential forces would fall drastically. After this consequence was made known, players seldom laid their hands on her anymore.
Rhode didn't lure her out for the sake of mission rewards. Instead, it was due to her identity as the Chairman's daughter and as one of the people qualified to enter the deep mine. Players knew that Chairman Edward had intentions of raising his daughter as his successor, but she 'failed to live up to expectations'. She gave up the hopeful position as the future Trade Association Chairman and had chosen to become a Travel Merchant... Rhode had no interest in family affairs. But he had to admit that if he could get close to Emily with his disguise, he could penetrate deep into the mine without being suspected.
Rhode knew that his guesses were correct after gazing at Emily's cordial and anticipative expression. As a male player, he naturally wasn't able to trigger this event. However, he had read about the strategies on the forum and heard from Mini Bubble Gum and Canary when they flaunted their equipment purchased from Emily.
I guess the scene when they first arrived here should be similar to now.
Rhode said inwardly as he let loose of his handshake with a gentle smile.
Ding! At this moment, a system prompt flashed before his eyes.
[Hidden Mission - Fiery Rose: The young lady before you has always wished to leave this piece of land to become a merchant who travels the entire continent. You are her expectation and ideal. In order for her to gather sufficient knowledge, courage, and strength to achieve her dreams, you must...]
It can't be.
Rhode was dumbstruck. Frankly speaking, he only triggered and received a small number of random, sudden missions after arriving in this world, unlike the gaming world, where he could receive every mission. He had never expected that he would receive this mission... Let's not talk about why it suddenly appeared... Isn't the hidden condition of this task only triggered by 'female merchants'? Are the 'Masquerade' so amazing that the fake identity they created could perfectly bypass even the system?
Rhode had the urge to strip before a mirror to see if he had really turned into a woman...
"Miss Seren?" Emily called out inquisitively.
Rhode collected his thoughts and cleared out the mission before his eyes. He let out an awkward coughed before displaying her smile again. "Please pardon me, Miss Emily. I never expected to meet someone so similar to myself... After all, there are really too few people like us in this line."
"Ah. Haha, that's right. But, Miss Seren, I'm not as capable as you. I'm just acting as a supporting role for my Father and I'm still far from being a competent merchant like you." Emily let out a sigh, a look of hopelessness and envy smeared across her face.
The man beside her stepped forward hurriedly and interrupted their conversation. "Miss Emily, please pardon my rudeness. Our guests came from afar, so don't you think we should..."
"Ah. Right, right. Don't worry, I've not forgotten," Emily patted on her forehead and turned around with a wink. "Miss Seren, you and your servants must be tired from the long journey. Our Trade Association has prepared a room for you. Please, follow me and have a good rest for the day. We can have our discussion tomorrow."
Rhode didn't reject Emily's suggestion and he nodded kindly in agreement, leaving Emily envious and deeply moved. Just as Rhode had expected, Emily had seen the proof of identity for 'Miss Seren' in her father's room and she was entirely fascinated. Firstly, this 'Miss Seren' hailed from the Country of Light and the Southerners had always admired the Country of Light, resulting in her being extraordinarily heartwarming. Secondly, this 'Miss Seren' was actually a registered merchant recorded in the books of the Merchant Association, which made Emily all the more curious and envious. She knew how hard it was to obtain a registered merchant identity. Besides, 'Miss Seren' had come all the way from the Country of Light to discuss business with her in such a small place... Not only Emily, but even her father was thrilled to think that this was a chance for his Trade Association to rise abruptly to a towering position. If their business transactions went smoothly, their tiny Trade Association might develop vastly. However, as a merchant, he knew the importance of not overly expressing his eagerness. Since the other party came here to discuss business with them, he held the power to act according to his own intentions. As a result, he allowed his daughter to greet them in his stead while he seized the chance to gather every supply intelligence to ensure the real and rightful value of goods.
Emily was somewhat surprised after meeting this 'Miss Seren' as she had never expected her to be this beautiful. Although Emily knew that she wasn't an outstanding beauty herself, she was still confident in her own appearance. But, after meeting 'Miss Seren' and her two maids, Emily felt that she was no different from a village farmer and had lowered her humility... This was an inevitable competition between females and she wasn't too mindful about that. Instead, she became more and more curious. Wasn't a beautiful lady like her bringing two pretty maids along afraid of facing any troubles? Emily had often heard of merchants complaining about bandits around the mountainous regions, other cunning merchants, and those notorious places that put risks to their lives and possessions. Even if merchants hired mercenaries, they would worry about the mercenaries turning into traitors after accepting a bribe... Although merchants could be considered one of the more indispensable classes on this continent, they had to worry about many problems with their innate weak strength unless they were merchants of large Trade Associations who could afford to hire private bodyguards.
It seemed like this young lady from the Country of Light wasn't such a person. There weren't any bodyguards except for the two pretty maids. Weren't they afraid that they would get robbed? What would they do if they were robbed or eyed by evildoer who harbored malicious intentions?
Emily led Rhode's group with these thoughts clouding her mind. She would turn around and ask curiously while Rhode responded with his usual gentle smile. It wasn't difficult for Rhode to answer Emily's strange and bizarre questions since he had experiences in dealing with trades in the game. Emily was full of praises as she listened to Rhode's depiction of exotic stories.
"Wow... I didn't know that such places existed..." A glint of curiosity and expectation flashed in the red-haired young lady's eyes. At this moment, she stopped along the corridor, opened the door before her, and beckoned for Rhode's group. "This will be your room."
Rhode entered the luxuriously decorated room that was apparently prepared with utmost care. He nodded in satisfaction and turned toward Emily with a smile. "Thank you so much for your hospitality, Miss Emily. Frankly speaking, I have somewhat suspected the environment in this town. But it seems that it was only my prejudice. I think we will have a great and pleasant business transaction."
"I hope so too, Miss Seren. Father would surely be thrilled if he had heard these words from you." Emily narrowed her eyes delightfully and she looked at Rhode in uncertainty as though she was reminded of something unpleasant. "Erm... Miss Seren, perhaps this request may sound rude, but... can we have tea together after dinner? I am very curious about your traveling stories and if it is possible..."
"Sure, Miss Emily," Rhode nodded warmly.
Everything had gone according to plan. It seemed that Emily was interested in him and if he could seize this chance to get along with her even further, it would surely be helpful for the plans tomorrow. By then, Rhode would enter the mine in the name of inspecting the purity of the silver ores. If everything went on smoothly, he would easily arrive at his destination with Emily's company.
"Ah..." Emily grinned from ear to ear like a blooming flower in spring. She bowed excitedly to Rhode and scampered off after closing the door. At this moment, the trio heaved sighs of relief simultaneously. It was unusual for them to experience such a situation.
"How disgusting, Master." Celestina plunged onto the chair and curled her lips into a mocking smile. "A man dressed up as a woman and even speaks to another woman so affectionately... This is unbearable. I would be full of goosebumps if it were me."
"Oh?" The corner of Rhode's mouth twitched and he turned around. "I'm surprised to hear these words from you, Celestina. Aren't you Demons the best at double-crossing disguises?"
"I wouldn't be shameless enough to do that."
This remark of hers immediately offended 95% of the Demons in the seven floors of hell. She lifted her chin proudly and snorted. "That is why I can never understand, Master. You degrade yourself in this neither manly nor feminine appearance just for the sake of accomplishing a mission? Did that Angel chick really attract you that much that you needed to humiliate yourself just to win her favor? Although this is your freedom, I feel that this is really..."
"Big Sister," Celia puckered her brows and interrupted. Celia was also curious as to why Rhode would take it this far, especially after the conversation they had after the Grosso massacre where she realized that Rhode had a strong desire in gaining victory. Although Celia couldn't figure out why Rhode revealed such emotions, she felt that Celestina shouldn't have ridiculed him. What if she infuriated him?
"Everything is for the sake of victory," Rhode simply smiled in response. He sat down, shut his eyes, and crossed his arms together. At this moment, his voice returned to its initial deep and aloof tone. The calm, tender smile across his face faded like leaves that were swept away by the autumn wind, as though it were a total disguise.
In fact, that was a disguise.
"Perhaps you could never understand, Celestina. The thing that you regard as important has no value to me. I don't need honor and dignity because I wasn't born that way. Position, strength, and glory-the premise for these is obtaining victory. Without victory, there can be no pride. Losers will be mocked and I lack the qualifications to be a loser."
Celestina's fingers twitched slightly. She widened her eyes, exchanged looks with Celia, and each saw a similar doubt. They couldn't understand what Rhode meant. It would be easier to understand if he said that he lacked the qualifications to be a victor. But what did he mean when he said that he lacked the qualifications to be a loser? Did one even need qualifications to become a loser?