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 "This is too much!" The middle-aged Alchemist glared fiercely and ground his teeth. Then, he turned his gaze away with a disgusted face as though the magnificent fortress in the distance was a pile of dog feces.

"Those barbaric bastards actually treated us this badly! Sir, we can't let this matter go to rest! We must show them that we don't accept such humiliations from a small and unestablished Guild! We must let them know how powerful we are! If not, how can we uphold the pride of our Alchemist Association!" The group of fuming Alchemists complained to the middle-aged man.

As elites of the Alchemist Association, they were praised and revered wherever they went. Indeed, the Alchemists weren't any powerful in battle strength, but their knowledge and skills revolving alchemy equipment and potions were far superior to most humans. It was also due to this that most Alchemists were overly proud and looked down on mercenaries who relied on muscles and Mages who survived with their talents. Mercenaries and Mages were nothing more than shameless stealers and if it weren't for their talents and strength, they would be worth nothing at all. However, Alchemists were different. They didn't need talent or muscle and only relied on their knowledge to gain powers. It was also due to this that most Alchemists saw themselves as superior and it was utter humiliation for them to be threatened by a group of mercenaries!

When Rhode's murderous intent emanated, intense fear brewed from the bottom of the Alchemists' hearts. In that instant, they felt as though the Grim Reaper was waving his sickle to the death tune behind their necks. The Alchemists couldn't hold their wrath in any longer... But they definitely wouldn't admit it due to their pride.

"That's right! Would those barbarians even be able to chase us out if we, Alchemists, weren't willing to let the matter off just like that? We shouldn't be too civilized against people like them. Everyone, the ones with the biggest fists are the boss! Let's show that arrogant young man how powerful we are!"

"That's right, that's right! Our intelligent words can't get into the heads of those barbarians! We need to show them how great we are!"

"Alright, alright." The middle-aged man gestured for them to give him some peace. Then, he lowered his head and gazed at the ground sulkily before letting out a snort. "Since they refused our soft approach, let's give them the rough treatment! You guys are right. We, Alchemists, are unlike the crude mercenaries, and we have our own ways of resolving this problem..."

The man revealed a sinister smile and turned to the Alchemists. "Have the Egrets entered the fortress?"

"Yes, they have, Sir. We have received news that the Egrets have sneaked into the fortress and weren't discovered by the mercenaries. They are searching for an opportunity outside the alchemy workshop. We have also heard that the Guild Leader has strengthened the defense around the alchemy workshop after we've left. There are more mercenaries patrolling the area now and perhaps we will have a harder time entering and snatching the criminal."

"Hmph. How hilarious that a small little countryside mercenary organization even sets up an alchemy workshop! Get them to continue monitoring..." The middle-aged man revealed a creepy smile. "By the way, tell them to execute plan B."

***

"That's impossible!"

Smack! Dasos slammed the paper on the table and gazed at Rhode sternly. He spread his arms apart and his aged, rough face wrinkled to his strong disagreement. On the contrary, Rhode didn't even bat an eyelid while Lapis was almost startled to death.

It was no wonder that Dasos was this furious. He thought that they would only need to fork out an insignificant sum of money for the corresponding remunerations. However, when Rhode presented the long list of items, even Dasos who had great self-restraint couldn't help but smack the table. "Mr. Rhode, this is totally unreasonable! Everything on the list is an expensive material that our Alchemist Association can't afford! I'm sorry, we will not agree to this request!"

From the Demon Grass, Magic Crystals to the Angel Tree Heart and the Shadow Nucleus, all the listed items had absurd price tags. Some of them were so rare that they didn't even have market prices and couldn't be purchased from the markets. But now, this young man actually asked for every material in the quantity of carts! Carts!

He's better off robbing the sellers!

Frankly speaking, Dasos would rather provide the corresponding value of the materials in gold coins instead so he wouldn't feel the heartache. Although the Alchemist Association wasn't as powerful as the Mercenary Association and Church, they weren't financially tight with their outstanding alchemy skills in concocting unique potions for sales. Dasos wouldn't even wrinkle his forehead if Rhode asked for hundreds of thousands or even millions of gold coins. However, no Alchemists would agree to provide the equal value worth of alchemy materials because, after all, it was much harder to gather these valuable alchemy materials than to acquire them using gold coins.

"Don't be that agitated, Master Dasos. It's not good for your age," Rhode said with a casual expression while sipping his tea.

Dasos shook his head with an ashen expression. "It's impossible, Mr Rhode. I'll say it once more. The Alchemist Association can't provide that many materials!"

"I'm really surprised. An Alchemist Association with branches all over the Dragon Soul Continent can't even hand over this little amount of materials?"

"You...!"

Dasos finally understood what Rhode's true intentions were. Initially, Dasos rejected firmly because he was indeed incapable of providing all the materials. Although the Alchemist Association was wealthy in the Munn Kingdom, Dasos couldn't hand over that many materials even if they sold the entire Alchemist Association. Dasos realized that this cunning young man didn't intend to make him pay the price from his pockets because he had laid his eyes on the entire Alchemist Association!

But, even so, the Alchemist Association Headquarters would also have a hard time providing them.

"I know what you're thinking about, young man. But that is impossible. You should also know that the Alchemist Association Headquarters is far away from the Munn Kingdom. Besides, the materials that you requested are too precious and frankly speaking, I don't think the Headquarters will be willing to give them to you..."

"... Even in exchange for your Chairman's life?" Rhode took over the conversation. He laid the cup on the table and gazed at Dasos calmly. "I see. So the life of your Chairman isn't valuable at all. Forget it. Master Dasos, this spells the end of our negotiations. Since your association doesn't value your Chairman, I won't be bothered by it either. I will also not look into the matter where you people have trespassed into our fortress. That's all."

Rhode stood up and gestured to see his visitors out.

"This..." The senior looked on blankly.

Initially, he thought that he could use the name of the Alchemist Association Chairman to pressure this young man. But he didn't expect that he would use the Chairman against him instead. Dasos was speechless. The Chairman was the most important figure in the entire Alchemist Association and that was why the association had sent out an investigations team in such a short period of time. Dasos also knew that the internal department was having a power struggle and an uproar would arise in the Alchemist Association once they were aware of Rhode's ridiculous request. But what else could they do? The Alchemist Association didn't have any powerful beings in the Legendary Stage to fight for their rights and even the Mist Sword Saint of the Light Parliament failed. The Light Parliament only dared to resist Lydia diplomatically, so how is it possible that the Archangel will even regard those guys highly? Even the Light Parliament had failed to win his favors, so what else can the Alchemist Association do? Moreover, Dasos had even witnessed the logo of the Church, which meant that their collaboration wasn't baseless... Even Dasos didn't know how he should face such a horrifying monster that was related to the formidable forces. "You can't put it this way, Mr. Rhode. You have to understand our difficulties..."

"This is a business, Master Dasos. You're an Alchemist, but you should also understand this. If your association can concoct the antidote yourselves, you wouldn't need our help at all, right? I think that my conditions are more than reasonable. Of course, we perhaps can negotiate further in the specific details."

"..."

Dasos was left speechless because he knew what Rhode said was the truth. This poison was too mysterious where none of the top-rate Alchemists could concoct the antidote for it. This was also why the Alchemist Association took actions this quickly after investigating that Starlight had concocted the poison. Although the Chairman was still in a coma and didn't show any critical symptoms, everyone knew what would happen to the Chairman would be if he continued to survive only through potions to extend his life.

Rhode wasn't the one rushing for time. He could leisurely wait and perhaps the Chairman would have passed on by then... This way, he would undoubtedly offend the Alchemist Association. But what could they do to him? Stop selling alchemy potions to him? Rhode had such a young, top-rate Alchemist Master by his side so would he even need to care about them? Moreover, the King's Party and the Senia Family were also widely known for their advanced magical technologies. Since Marlene Senia was still a part of the Starlight, it meant that Rhode could receive magical equipment from the Senia Family, so would he even be bothered by the Alchemist Association's suppression?

Dasos let out a long sigh and sat down to scan the list of items once more.

It seemed that there were no other solutions other than going through another negotiation with Rhode.

While Dasos and Rhode were engaging in their 'friendly negotiations', it was a whole different atmosphere in the alchemy workshop for Christie and group.

"Ah... How boring..." Anne stretched and wiped her drool sleepily. Then, she looked at Christie and the little mermaid with a pout. Both of them were softly talking to each other by the table. Or perhaps, Christie was the only one speaking since the little mermaid couldn't speak at all and both of them interacted using hand gestures. Anne wished to use this opportunity to get closer to the adorable little girl who always stuck around Rhode's side. However, she felt helpless because the little mermaid was still equally afraid of her. Apart from Rhode and Christie, she didn't dare to approach anyone else... But Anne wasn't a person who would resign to her fate. At this moment, an idea cropped up in her mind and she jumped to her feet. "Christie, Cutie, are you two bored? Want to accompany Anne outside?"

"Outside?"

Anne's suggestion piqued Christie's curiosity. Christie was here to assist Lapis, but Canary had asked Lapis away, leaving Christie with nothing on her hands. However, even though she was bored, she continued to stay in the workshop obediently.

"That's right, Christie. Cutie has just arrived here, right? We can show her around the fortress and spend some time too. Isn't that good?"

"That..." Christie looked at the little mermaid beside her and she was somewhat interested in Anne's proposal. In fact, Christie also adored this extremely adorable little girl floating in the water ball. Their closeness made Christie felt as though she had a younger sister. Besides, Rhode had also asked of Christie to take good care of Snow, which gave her a sense of responsibility. Perhaps Christie might be hesitant if Anne suggested heading out of the fortress. However, she swiftly nodded in agreement since they would be roaming about in the fortress and Anne was with them. "Alright, Sister Anne."

"Let's go!" Anne grinned and hopped toward the two little girls.

The little mermaid displayed a frightened expression and hurriedly shrunk her body. Along with her movements, the water ball nimbly shifted to behind Christie. Although the little mermaid couldn't touch Christie due to the separation of the water ball, this behavior was more than enough to explain her thoughts. However, Anne wasn't mindful of it at all. She carelessly pulled Christie's hand with an excited smile. "I'll bring you two to see something fun in the fortress!"

The massive fortress was exceptionally bustling as more and more people had moved in. Even though the originally deserted fortress had slowly become lively, there were still close to no incidents of harassments and riots caused by the migrants because Rhode had laid down strict rules. If one caused a ruckus in the fortress, one would be blacklisted and immediately deported. With such rules and the presence of the mercenaries and Ocean Elves, ordinary civilians didn't dare to stir any trouble. Therefore, although the entire fortress was bustling, there weren't any disorderly uproars and chaos.

Christie and the little mermaid attracted a lot of attention. However, no one was foolish enough to stop their paths as they knew the rules of the Guild. Although the little girl floating in the water ball appeared interesting and adorable, she seemed much more normal than the Ocean Elves with tentacles fluttering all over their bodies.

"Let's go to the garden! Anne always loves to go there for a nap everytime Anne returns to the fortress. Christie, Cutie, do you know? The best way to have a nice dream is to find a warm and quiet place, shut your eyes and think about happy stuff... That's how Anne does..."

As Anne gesticulated excitedly to teach Christie and the little mermaid about her 'Nice Dream Philosophy', some men clad in cloaks emerged in the crowd out of a sudden. They appeared to be ordinary humans who had blended into the crowd and were approaching the three young ladies gradually. While Christie listened attentively to Anne's exciting speech, the little mermaid looked around worriedly as though she had detected something and inched closer to Christie.

Shortly after, the group of men in cloaks brushed passed the three young ladies. They drew out three short staffs from the fold of their clothes secretly and struck forward.

Clang! Anne raised her right arm instinctively without turning around. Along with this movement, the shield hung on her back sprung up and crashed to the ground heavily to protect Christie and the little mermaid from the ambush. At the same time, a violent whirlwind rose from the ground and swept across the streets. The group of men in cloaks lost their footing and rolled on their backs. But a faint magical radiance emanated from their bodies quickly and they stabilized their footing.

"Who are you? What are you trying to do?!" Anne clasped her shield and protected Christie and the little mermaid bravely.

The group of men didn't answer. Then, another group of men in similar outfit emerged from the ground mysteriously and encircled the three young ladies. The man leading the group reached into the fold in his clothes and retrieved a shimmering dagger. "Get them!"

The group of men instantly transformed into ghostly shadows and pounced forward!

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