"Yes, I am," Old Walker briefly turned around and discovered a good-looking young man sitting in front of him, though he had never met this person before, the young lady behind him was someone he faintly recognized. "...and you are?" He asked Rhode with a passive tone.
"I'm Rhode Alander, leader of Starlight Mercenary Group."
"Starlight?" Old Walker squinted his eyes as he tried to scrutinize the young lad in front of him in his drunken state. "Ahh... yes..." After a moment, his eyes twinkled slightly. He seemed to had recalled something and nodded his head, "Yes... the one who accepted Silver Libra's-"
Suddenly he paused with his mouth slightly open, and the old man quietly raised his glass towards the blonde girl next to Rhode.
"You're that Spirit Master... Oh, don't take it too hard. This is how mercenaries live, rain or shine, we don't even know when our time is up..."
"Mr. Walker, we're here to find you. We need your help."
"...Oh?" With only a somewhat dissatisfied tone, the old man didn't pay much significance to Rhode's interruption.
His eyes locked with Rhode's.
"Yes, so, what is it?"
"I wish to recruit you to my mercenary group." Rhode didn't bother to mince his words and got the point without delay.
For a moment, the old man's eyes widened, but it quickly changed laughter.
It was as if he heard the joke of the century. He couldn't help but smack the table a few times which caused some wine in the glass to spill to the floor. Lize was surprised at the old man's sudden reaction. On the other hand, Rhode maintained his calm. He even had the time to wave his hand, gesturing to the bartender for two more glasses of wine.
Even after the bartender left, the old man was still tearing at the tips of his eyes. He gasped like a broken fan before he finally leaned back on his chair.
"I did not hear you wrong, right? Lad, you actually want me to join your mercenary group?"
"Is there a problem?" Rhode frowned.
The old man finally became serious. He sobered up, and his eyes turned sharp, looking towards the young man.
"Do you think that because I'm old, that you assumed that I'm senile? I would like to ask you a question, how many people are there currently in your mercenary group?
Rhode quickly answered without hesitation.
The old man clasped both of his hands.
"Two people? Mercenary group? How do you even going to take a commission? It won't be long before the end of the spring, and now your Starlight Mercenary Group's point is zero. Let's put aside the fact that you've failed a commission before, no one would pass over a commission to a two-man mercenary group... and frankly, it's not something that both of you can complete." The old man sighed folded his arms. "Even if I'm old, I'm not confused. Youngster, I've lived here for decades, and I know what occurred here daily. Sorry, but I'm not going to join your sinking ship." Old Walker said grimly.
This caused Lize's mouth to twitch. Meanwhile, Rhode calmly waited for him to finish.
"Mr. Walker, what are you afraid of?"
"... What do you mean?"
"I just want to know what are you afraid of."
His tone was indifferent, but his voice revealed a trace of ridicule.
"Indeed, I admit that our situation is quite bad. Our mercenary group might be disbanded at the end of the year, but ..."
Rhodes stretched out a finger.
"Even if it did disband, it is something that will happen a year later, right? Who cares if we fail? Either we end up dead, or we disband. This is the way of life for an ordinary mercenary. How about you? Look at yourself now; even if we disband, you can just stroll back here and continue to live like this. Or are you actually afraid of death?
The old man's face darkened. "Don't think that you can provoke me with those words, lad."
"For so many years, I've seen many kinds of people. I am not afraid of death, but I do not like being deceived. Both of you will surely fail, and naturally, I wouldn't want any part of it."
"Sounds like a nice excuse." Rhode clapped his hands, mocking him sarcastically.
"When you abandoned Wind Glory, did you use this same excuse?"
Hearing Rhode's words, the old man expression changed. He slammed the table angrily, startling the poor Lize.
"They abandoned me! You little b*stard, since you do not know anything at all, don't go flapping your gums as if you do!"
As usual, Rhode kept up his nonchalant demeanor, "Acting like a victim; everyone can do it too." Then he merely shrugged at the old man and continued, "but what qualifications do you have to complain? Grievance? When they gave you the opportunity, what did you do? Look at yourself now, living out life like a wounded jackal, afraid of moving out from your nest. You are afraid. Face it; you've lost your confidence, so now you don't dare to face anything unknown. Is that it?"
A cold dagger flew rapidly and stopped right before Rhode's throat.
"Shut your trap, youngster." The old man face darkened even further, "You aren't qualified to talk to me like that."
"That 's what I should say to you. Seems like I've hit the mark, eh?"
Rhode didn't care about the old man's threat. He vividly recalled the old man's background. Back in the game, he was a rare high-cost NPC in Deep Stone City. His attributes were good, but it did not mean that his IQ would be good too. In fact, on his personal quest to 'find the past glory', the old man's conduct was considered as idiotic by many players. In that quest, his mercenary group was ambushed by demonic beasts. After hearing the grave news, this old man decided to go rescue them, and naturally, the player needed to help him too.
However, players were very unhappy with his wishy-washy behavior because he was just as long-winded as a woman! A matter that could be settled within minutes became hours. And a simple matter that could be easily concluded, became unnecessarily complicated. Many times, he would stop to think about matters such as: 'Should I go or not..? Would they be happy to see him...?' Things like this made the 56-year-old man resemble a fussy old lady. It caused anxiety to some players, who wanted nothing but to strangle him to death.
And because of his indecisiveness, his comrades ended up as wild beast food. It wasn't until that incident when the old man finally reflected on his mistakes and went mad. He later perished with the wild beasts in the quest 'return of the prodigal son'.
This questline was labeled as complete trash to the players. On the tedious escort quest, the old man wasted three to four hours by being indecisive. In the end, the players were caught in an encirclement of wild beasts. From that point on, they did not respect that old man any longer and only needed two words to describe him while pointing with their middle finger.
Rhode was also one of them.
But it was also because of this quest that made him aware of what happened with Old Walker. His companions gave him ample patience and time, but the old man still wallowed in his past. Just like a turtle that hid in its shell, he was oblivious to his comrades' goodwill and refused to learn from his mistakes. Even though he repented in the end, these kind of stories were only a novelty in books or dramas, in reality, no one wished for these things to happen.
Repent my *ss, in the end, didn't you die? The people you wanted to save had died, and then you also died. What a pointless death!
Primarily, Rhode said these harsh things because he wanted to provoke him. To deal with 'scaredy cats' such as this old man, one must force him into a corner; else, he would definitely stay inside his own little world.
The other half was because he wanted to take revenge on this old man. When he took the quest back in the game, it made his life miserable, and venting his anger in the game was useless. Thus, with the living person in front of him right now, why not kill two birds with one stone?
"At least I dared to face challenges head-on, unlike some coward who could only stick his head into the ground."
After saying his piece, Rhode stood up, fished out a few silver coins and placed it on the table.
"I'll give you a day to think about it. If you agree, you can come to Cyril's Haunted House to find me. By tomorrow, if I don't find you, then we'll never see each other again."
Rhode turned away. Lize who was surprised, also quickly stood up and followed Rhode out.
After the two left, Old Walker sat down again. He clenched his teeth, and his hands trembled in anger. Then he sighed and buried his head deep in his arms, not speaking a word.