The early morning star peeked over the horizon once more, casting a radiant ray of gold as it sprinkled through the window which fell upon the white, polished marble floor. A warm light filtered through the girl's thin eyelids and she narrowed her eyes for a brief moment. Her body slouched comfortably on the soft couch while enjoying the afternoon leisure time.
Just outside the window, a river rippled along with the gentle breeze. The lush, green branches swayed, followed by a calm, rustling hymn. A gorgeous crystal chandelier refracted a magical light, which spilled a royal palette of colors onto the golden walls encompassing the grand hall; a beautiful painting hung on the wall, perfectly matched with an exquisitely crafted sculpture. Just standing there emanated the sensation of an art paradise.
The intricately carved door of a Nine-Winged Bird quietly creaked open, and a noblewoman donning a formal gown quickly walked past the red carpet before half-kneeling at the girl who laid on the couch.
Acknowledging the noblewoman before her, the young girl's eyelashes fluttered open slowly, her green eyes giving off a lazy and playful look. The brilliant rays which shone through the windows were akin to a silky fabric which wrapped around her beautiful and charming figure, accentuating her slim figure. A pair of white, slender legs hung down from the couch nonchalantly, which was rather seductive. Her golden, lustrous hair reflected the rays of the sun, appearing extremely appealing as though it was a crown.
"What is it, Carol?"
"Everything is ready as per your orders; the Merchant Association's side has been processed. By your command, we ca-"
The woman suddenly stopped speaking and snapped her mouth shut. This was because she saw the girl in front of her close her eyes again. Based on her understanding of Her Highness, she decided to stop and wait for her command.
"Decaying plant matter are really disgusting," she said. Her eyes were closed as she reached out her hands, gently stroking a black cat which curled up lazily on her lap, "but they provide the necessary nutrients for the new saplings to grow into beautiful flowers. Halting the growth process of beautiful lives isn't something I fancy."
"I see, Your Highness."
Although her words appeared rather incoherent, the woman could still understand the underlying meaning of her words. She nodded in reply, but her face revealed a complex expression.
"... from the recent report, the Paphield area," she hesitated for a moment before continuing, "...there appears to be a rat from the council."
"Let them be."
The girl stopped stroking the black cat and sighed.
"My cute subordinates should know what to do. The ruler and her subjects should have this kind of tacit understanding. Qualified underlings will understand what I mean. Only flowers that weathered the storm are eligible to accept my favor, I believe they know what to do."
"Yes, Your Highness."
When the girl heard her docile answer, she exposed a brilliant smile.
"After working so hard, I believe you must be exhausted. How about accompanying me for a cup of tea? This is a fresh red tea that I just acquired recently; I think it should suit your taste."
"Thank you, Your Highness."
"Carol, you are too humble... But that's the reason why I'm so fond of you. Come now, don't just stand there, how about you come closer to me?"
The wind grew stronger.
Rhode felt relieved when he returned to the safety of Deep Stone City.
On the way back, they did not encounter any interference. Just like what Marleen had said, the undead were only able to maintain their existence because of the Necromancer's energy. Now that it was dead, naturally the undead returned to dust where it originally belonged.
The mission was a success. Rhode finally created his much needed Soul Core, Lize acquired her Holy Book, and Old Walker looted a cloak which could resist elemental attacks.
As for the distribution of the Dark Soul Ring, Rhode and Marleen had contrasting opinions.
In the Dragon Soul Continent, the definition of 'Rare Items' were generally divided into two categories. The first was the item itself was rare, and contained a rare skill. And the second was an item that could increase the effectiveness of the item itself. Rhode's sword, Star Mark, belonged to the latter while the Dark Soul Ring belonged to the former. Nevertheless, both of them were categorized as 'Rare Items' and the Dark Soul Ring possessed a considerably valued skill, even to the players.
[ Shadow Mist: The item holder can create a dark fog AOE. When inside, the item holder can move as and when he wanted, granting a passive 'Stealth' ability. The effect will be lost once the holder is damaged. ]
Another way of describing this skill was: granting a limited dimensional space to move in. In the game, this ring was an incredibly rare accessory. Since the granted ability wasn't limited to their class, the item was highly sought after by non-mage classes. This is because they did not possess skills that could move quickly and the Shadow Mist was a way to counter that deficiency. Its utility didn't only limit to ambushing; if the holder was under attack, then it could help by concealing the holder to aid him to escape. The only drawback was its limited effective AOE. But for most players who spent the majority of their time adventuring, it was only but a minor issue.
Although it was an extremely rare and useful item, Rhode did not monopolize it all for himself. He slowly explained the function of the Dark Soul Ring to Marleen and then asked her if she needed it.
But never did he expect Marleen to actually express disdain! Her reason was simple. Firstly, she was a middle circle mage and possessed a plethora of life-saving spells. And secondly, she felt that Shadow Mist wasn't as exceptional as Rhode described it to be. In the battle, when Necromancer utilized the exact same skill to conceal itself, Rhode still found him easily with his sword. She believed that it was best to not bet her life on something that was untrustworthy. Thus, Rhode took the ring.
He did not know what to say about the players who were willing to spend astronomical amounts of money to purchase this rare accessory that had been deemed 'untrustworthy' by an NPC.
He wondered what kind of expression they would make.
"Thanks for your help, Mr. Rhode."
Shauna's countenance was apparently much better than before. Although the Necromancer's attack was lethal, since this red-haired female swordsman was a veteran, she managed to dodge the attack in the nick of time, and ended up with an injured shoulder. With Lize's healing and proper rest, fully recovering wouldn't be a problem.
However, as a whole, the Red Hawk mercenary group received heavy losses when compared to Rhode's group. They turned the Pavel Cemetery upside down, but they were still unable to find the sword they were searching for. This made Shauna extremely depressed. However, it was just as Rhode expected since he could remember clearly that the drops from Pavel Cemetery were all related to the magic classes and never heard of a hidden quest involving a sword.
Previously, when he heard the mission description from Shauna, he assumed that it was an NPC exclusive quest, and players were not eligible to participate. But judging from the situation right now, it seemed that something was indeed fishy...
"Miss Shauna, are you sure that your client is looking for a sword?"
She sighed and shook her head helplessly.
"He said that it was their family's heirloom and that Pavel stole it. Thus, he requested me to find it. Based on the agreement, he paid us 150 gold coins as a deposit, so I doubt that it'll be a fake mission. But now, since I can't find the sword, I don't know what to do..."
It was no wonder Shauna didn't doubt the credibility of the mission, because according to the rules, the deposit received when undertaking the commision would not be returned. In other words, regardless of success or failure, the money would still be taken away. In many cases, clients paying a small deposit could be considered as a symbolic meaning. Nevertheless, they would still pay the remaining sum after the mission completion. Since her client offered her 150 gold coins as a deposit, it was almost equivalent to finishing a three Star-Ranked mission. It was such a huge boon, no wonder Shauna didn't doubt the legitimacy of her client. After all, who would throw that amount of money just for fun?
But lamenting over it right now was pointless. The sword that Shauna had to find was an ancient sword. It was a sword that also existed in the game, but these swords were primarily used for decorations. Since she couldn't find it, her mission was a failure, and she lost many comrades in the process. Thus, she was in quite a foul mood, so she promptly bade farewell to Rhode and the others, and she trudged towards the Mercenary Association with whats left of her group following behind her. Only Barney, that idiot, was being carried by the Shield Warrior. That poor little guy had not yet woken from his coma. But if Rhode didn't guess wrong, he wouldn't wake up anymore.
When Shauna and the others finally disappeared around the corner, Rhode's eyes turned cold.
"They were deceived," Rhode said.
Hearing those words, Lize widened her eyes in surprise. Even Old Walker frowned.
"What is it, boy? You said they were being deceived? Why is that?"
"If it was just as the client said," Rhode's eyes narrowed as he spoke, "then why would he entrust everything to a mercenary on something as significant as his family heirloom? Furthermore, he didn't even appear once."
Rhode said as he deduced the situation calmly.
Marlene nodded and agreed.
"For us nobles, family heirlooms are the spirit of the family. It can be said that it is the measurement of the family's honor and glory. If the heirloom is lost, then as a member of the family, it is their responsibility to find it as soon as possible. If the Senia's family heirloom was misplaced or stolen by someone, not only would I ask a mercenary for help, but I will also follow them. Only the family's bloodline should regain the glory by personally retrieving the heirloom. If someone else, for instance, a mercenary, retrieves the heirloom, then it would stain the honor of any prestigious family. I don't believe someone who has a family heirloom to be a nouveau riche. As what Mr. Rhode had said, there must be a problem."
Hearing this detailed explanation by Marleen, Lize expression immediately tensed up. After all, Shauna was her good friend, and now she discovered that she might be in danger, so of course she could not calm down.
"I don't know."
Rhode shook his head, then he looked up, staring at the Deep Stone City before him.
"...but I may have a clue."