"Mister, what are you doing?"
The woman didn't have any change in expression even when Rhode grabbed her wrist . When Rhode noticed her smiling expression despite exerting force, his eyes immediately narrowed and increased the strength of his grip .
"Oh… So you recognize that I am a 'Mister' . "
"Yes… of course, Mister . "
Not just anyone could resist Rhode's strength when he displayed his power . The woman's expression gradually sank and painfully forced a smile . To alleviate some pain, she leaned her body against the youth and smiled while raising up her chest . A white and ample chest bulged from the small crack in between her collar . However, instead of focusing on her chest, Rhode discovered something worth his attention . It was a silver ivory necklace hanging on her chest .
The woman struggled to free her hand and said, "I only wanted to take a closer look at this little lady here . She's indeed adorable, isn't she?"
She turned to Christie once again, but this time, she didn't dare to attempt to touch her . Instead, she took a few steps back . She revealed a discontented face at Rhode as if she was furious towards his ungentlemanly behaviour . But that expression only lasted for but a moment before she shrugged her shoulders and gave a soft laugh .
"You don't need to be tense, Mister . I am nothing but just a normal woman . That is no way to treat a lady . But I admit I was kind of rude, so… I will take my leave . "
After finishing her sentence, the woman smiled lightly, nodded towards Christie, and departed . Rhode gave a glance at the woman's retreating figure before lowering his head and discovering a slip of paper in his hand .
Christie's tiny voice sounded in Rhode's ear . She dubiously raised her head and eyed him . Rhode didn't respond immediately and simply kept the slip of paper . Then, he looked back at Christie and revealed a gentle smiling face .
"Christie, do you have anywhere else you want to go?"
It was already evening when Rhode had brought Christie back to their stronghold .
It was a rare opportunity for them to be able to take a break . Christie spent most of her time recovering and seldom head out . The furthest she went was the path at the stronghold's garden . Whereas for Rhode, he spent most of his time on building the mercenary group and working on missions . Thus, this trip was a great way for both of them to take a break from their usual routine . However, compared to the energetic Christie, Rhode seemed to be rather exhausted . After all, as a male, shopping clearly wasn't their list of interesting things to do . But for a female, a hobby such as shopping had already blended into their soul and blood . Christie was no different .
But to prevent the little girl from falling sick, Rhode decided to return to the stronghold . Though, emotionally, Christie was feeling great, but her body wasn't able to support a prolonged exercise . Thus, she had no choice but to head back to rest .
After sending Christie to her room, Rhode made his way to the lounge on the first floor with the intention to relax . After a full day of shopping, Christie was physically tired while Rhode was mentally drained . No matter how much he looked like a woman, he still couldn't understand the source of passion that women have for shopping . Was there any meaning to window shopping? In other words, if there isn't any intention to buy, why go shopping in the first place?
Rhode couldn't find the answer to this question .
However, when Rhode stepped into the lounge, he unexpectedly met someone .
"Yo, kid . "
Old Walker sat by the table beside the window . Noticing Rhode's arrival, he waved to him .
"Yes, I'm back . "
Rhode scanned the room . Originally, this room was a recreational room for nobles, but now, the room was empty save for the few tables and wine buckets in the corners . Usually, there would be more mercenaries in the room, but since the ban wasn't uplifted yet, many of them went out .
"… Never did I imagine that the mercenary group would grow to such large numbers . We already have so many members…"
Old Walker sipped on the fine liquor and stared out of the window .
"At that time, when you and Lize invited me to join, so many mercenaries mocked the both of you . Heh… a 3-man mercenary group? Who would have thought?" Old Walker laughed . "I was the same as those mercenaries as well . I also wished for your failure . Ah . . but alas, you disappointed me… . "
Old Walker's voice suddenly trailed off, and he lifted his wine cup .
"Kid, what exactly do you want to achieve? I had been a mercenary all my life and seen many kinds of people . Someone of your caliber would have high aspirations and lofty goals . I believe that the reason why you built this mercenary group isn't merely for seeking thrills in adventures right?"
Rhode didn't answer . He simply shrugged his shoulders and waved his hand .
"Of course I have my plans, old man . "
As they say, 'not to reciprocate is against etiquette . ' Since Old Walker had always called him a 'kid' every time they spoke, then Rhode wouldn't mind calling him "old man" .
"You just need to sit tight and watch . Since you are already so old, it's hard to change anything now anyway, isn't it?" Rhode smirked .
"Tch . "
Old Walker groaned at Rhode's playful remark . But then his face suddenly became serious .
"… I don't care what you want to do . But you need to be mentally prepared that not everyone would think or act like you . Your great ambitions may only be a burden to them… I hope you can remember this point, mercenaries… are sometimes… only mercenaries after all . "
Old Walker's face turned gloomy . He lowered and shook his head while sighing . Then he stood up and walked towards the wine buckets by the wall . Rhode's eyes tracked the aged man without saying anything .
"I had such an experience once . "
While he filled his wine cup, Old Walker said .
"At that time I was so full of mettle, and thought that I was omnipotent . I wanted to increase our power ever so badly . " Old Walker said with deep nostalgia in his eyes . He looked at the ceiling and continued, "Our prestige would ring throughout the ages, we would be richer than kings, and even the bards would sing our feats for eternity . "
"My close comrades and I had once thought this way, but, the truth was otherwise . Not everyone was interested in this future of mine . They didn't care about money nor fame . They didn't wish to risk their lives entering dangerous areas in order to guard the peace of mankind . In the eyes of death, they chose to cower . They had no desire to battle against the fiendish devils and rotting undead in icy cold regions underneath the earth . Many would eventually die without any reputation, and even worse, their bodies couldn't even find peace as they had a chance of reanimating as undead . Thus, the bulk of them chose to bring money back to their hometown and live a comfortable life . I had once felt betrayed, but now it seems like I was the one that was too ridiculous…"
The old man forced a smile but his voice was filled with bitterness .
Rhode sunk into silence after hearing the old man's words . He had never considered this question before . But now, the old man's words drove Rhode into contemplation .
What was the mercenary group's future going to be?
If everything were smooth sailing, after the mid-summer festival, Rhode's mercenary group would be promoted to a guild . This would be one of the biggest dreams a mercenary could ever have . No matter if it was Lize or Anne, they were working hard towards their goal . But what comes after? Would they idle their lives away?
Rhode certainly didn't wish for that to happen . To become a guild wasn't the end, but the start of everything . Eventually, his goal was to acquire a territory and build a force strong enough to resist against the Country of Light and Darkness as well as the following battles after that . Previously, Rhode felt that this wasn't difficult, after all, he had already experienced the calamity once, so he wouldn't lose the second time . But Old Walker's timely reminder made Rhode realize that he had subconsciously assumed the ideology of players to be similar as NPCs .
Players would never have issues with being fed up . Once they discover new missions and dungeons, they would try to conquer it . Furthermore, owning territory in a game was one of the important end-game milestones for most players, and they would probably explode with excitement once attained . The acquiring of items through hard work, managing guild resources and gaining prestige from difficult quests were all powerful sources of motivation which drove the player forward in the game . But as for NPCs, their motivation to battle was far different as compared to players . The most significant reason was that NPCs only had one life, whereas players could just revive again and again . Because of this, the NPCs valued their life over anything else .
Rhode knew a lot of Old Walker's history, but those were only widely known information . Initially, Rhode thought Old Walker was depressed because of his injury . But after hearing this story, he realized that Old Walker was already disappointed with his companions before he had gotten injured .
He used justice and glory to motivate his companions, but it seemed that these imaginary things didn't appeal to them . Meanwhile, Rhode intended to use equipment and power to lure in mercenaries . Will his method work?
It was as though you and your companions had just cleared a bandit camp and received a fortune that was enough to last a lifetime . Later, you received news that there was an evil dragon which dropped legendary equipment and weapons . And if you defeated it, everyone would hail you as heroes to the kingdom .
So what would the NPCs choose?
If it were the players, without a doubt, they would choose to slay the dragon .
As for the NPCs? Would they really want to challenge the dragon knowing fully that they might perish? After receiving ample resources to live a peaceful life, would they continue to choose to fight? No one could confirm this . But Rhode was clear that once the war started, no one could escape .
Despite knowing what the future holds, nobody would believe him if he told them . Just like now, most of the people living in Deep Stone City were satisfied with their peace . They had no idea that Country of Light and Darkness would start a war soon and Country of Darkness would target the Munn Kingdom as their first stepping stone . Peace is like a soap bubble, beautiful, yet fragile . Just a light nudge would destroy everything . However, the majority would choose to remain in this soap bubble, not willing to face the truth .
"Thanks for your advice, old man . "
Rhode stood up as he realized that he might need to re-consider this point .
"You're welcome, kid . Anyway, I was merely grumbling, and that's all I can say about these matters . It's up to you if you wish to heed them or not . I'm already an old man, so I don't care much anymore . Who knows how much longer this old life of mine can last?"
After downing another cup, Old Walker returned to his peaceful self . He wiped his mouth and stared at the youth who was leaving .
"What? Are you still heading out at this hour?"
"I'm going on a trip to Glorious Star . When Marlene and the rest return from their training, help me inform them that they do not need to wait for me tonight . "
Hearing Rhode's reply, the old man was stunned, but he soon he revealed a sly smile .
"Heh heh heh kid, you finally couldn't hold it any longer eh? The chicks there are splendid . As I said before, as men, how can we not go there for a good time? That is the best place in Deep Stone City . Every day, you have so many beautiful girls by your side, but you can only look at them . I must hand it to you . You successfully held in your urges until now . Go on, kid, I will cover up for you . If Miss Lize and the other girls asked, I will tell them that you went to do something important!"
Rhode shook his head when he heard his teasing .
However, it wasn't like he was lying . Like what Old Walker had said, he was indeed about to do something important .