A chilly wind swept through the prairie, producing a breezy sound. Once again, the sun rose on the horizon, indicating the arrival of a new day.
Lize opened her eyes slowly.
The first thing she saw was the pale golden rays of early morning light which spilled into the room from the half-opened window. She instinctively moved her hand towards her eyes to shield against the sun as she blinked and squinted at the leaves just outside the window. Her soft and fluffy bed emitted a scent of fragrance which made her reluctant to leave her idyllic retreat to the dream world. But after a while, as her consciousness began to strengthen, she narrowed her eyes and sat upright while hugging a pillow in her arms, subtly resisting the notion of getting up.
Finally, she had her own home.
Looking at the plain, yet homely room before her, she could not help but feel a sense of warmth inside her heart. Never had she imagined that one day, she would have a place to settle down like this, but now it had finally become a reality. This meant that she did not have to live in that shabby guest room or the taverns in the future. She did not have to worry about where to put her favorite things anymore. Now that she had her very own room, she was incredibly satisfied on the inside.
On the night when she was first introduced to her room, she immediately ran to the bedside, jumped, and landed flat on the bed, rolling side-to-side over and over again. Due to her excitement, she could not fall asleep that night. And that was just the beginning. These days, she began to savor this place even more. She started to immerse herself in this room fully. The already spotless room was being cleaned by her again, and she also picked a few flowers which she placed in a vase to decorate the room.
"Alright... time to get up!"
Lize raised both of her hands, stretched her waist, and undressed. After taking a warm bath, she walked out from the room. In the stronghold, she was responsible for the cleaning. Of course, having her own home wasn't all sunshine and bunnies. Unlike the tavern, she had to prepare her own food and wash the dishes all by herself. Although Rhode wanted to hire several servants to help with the household chores, he didn't have enough money for that luxury at the moment, therefore he could only live and adapt for now.
Whether it was her being a good mood or not, after waking up, she felt exceptionally rejuvenated despite yesterday being an extremely tiring day.
Speaking of Rhode, what was he doing?
After tidying her clothes, she made her way to Rhode's bedroom and knocked on the door gently.
There was no answer.
Isn't he in?
Lize was puzzled and knocked the door again, but there was still no response.
The next moment, she heard the sound of a bird chirping from the window.
After being continually exposed to Rhode's summoned spirits, naturally, she had already familiarized herself to the sound of the Spirit Bird. Thus, when she recognized that familiar sound, she hurriedly made her way to the window and looked down. And as expected, Rhode was there.
A figure stood quietly in the garden. When he stretched his right hand forward, a small bird flew and landed on his arm. Wherever the bird flew, a turbulent storm surged behind it. Sometimes, a deep crack would appear on the ground which was full of weeds.
When the Spirit Bird lifted off, Rhode made a gesture with his hands, and in the next moment, the invisible turbulence that trailed behind the Spirit Bird ignited into flames. As the bird soared, it drew a sphere of fire in the air and swiftly darted towards Rhode. When Rhode was about to be swallowed by the sea of flames, it suddenly subsided and turned into a brilliant, white sword.
A burst of sword energy rushed past and cut the falling leaves.
Under the breeze, they danced melodiously, and upon the flames; they were scorched.
Three meters around Rhode had turned into a barren land.
When she saw Rhode put away his sword, Lize opened her mouth and called out to him.
Hearing that soft voice, Rhode looked up and nodded in return.
"Good morning, Sir."
After greeting him, she felt a little bit awkward. According to the rule, she should call him 'Leader,' but they were almost the same age, so she felt quite embarrassed. Moreover, in Lize's heart, her leader was Carter. That was why she still could not call Rhode 'Leader' right now. Luckily, Rhode did not seem to care about this minor matters like this. After she apologized to him, he accepted her reasoning.
Really, he was the definition of a perfect man.
Looking at Rhode, her heart could not help but thump. Young, handsome, calm and steady. He ticked all the qualities of a woman's dream man. Moreover, he was also hard working. Of course, she had to admit that he could be domineering sometimes, but that just added his charms.
If only she could...
When her thoughts began to trail off, Lize quickly shook her head. After that, she saw Rhode coming over.
"Mr. Rhode, is that old man really coming?"
Perhaps, in order to cover up her embarrassment, she attempted to change the topic. Although she was a long-time citizen in Deep Stone City, she had never imagined that this old man held such an unusual background. Clearly, Rhode knew about it beforehand, and since she already accustomed to his secretiveness, she did not ask further.
Rhode grabbed a towel hanging on the side and wiped the sweat from his forehead, "I don't know." He shrugged ambiguously. "I've done everything that I could. The rest is up to him, if he has a tiny bit of determination left, then I think he will come. But if not, then he won't come. Of course, with or without him, our plan wouldn't change."
Rhode's words were as straightforward and calm as usual. He was not going to let anyone doubt or refute his words.
"Lize, I hope that you are ready. Pavel Cemetery is a very dangerous place; and if it's only the two of, the danger level will be quite high. The situation will be trickier than the Fog Ruins."
"Yes, I understand, Mr. Rhode. I will get ready."
"Very well. Then I will head back first. As for breakfast... I'll have the usual."
After they started living in the stronghold, Rhode and Lize's living habits seemed different from before. Perhaps it was because they lack money, Rhode did not construct a dining room. Thus, the both of them had their meals in Rhode's study room. Now, they were totally accustomed to it. Have to say, habits are really terrifying.
As Lize quickly made her way to cook breakfast, Rhode returned to his study room on the second floor and began to plan for their next move.
Even if he was labeled as the 'walking library' before, Rhode could not entirely remember the details for every single quest. Right now, he tried to recall the dangers that might occur in Pavel Cemetery and record it down. Next, he would think of the counter to that dangerous situation. If he was lucky then it would be a three-man quest, but if not, then he had to plan for a backup. Of course, a two or three man quest would mean that he had to change a lot of tactics as compared to when he was a player.
Since he could become the No.1 Guild Leader in the Dragon Soul Continent, Rhode did not only rely on his talent alone. Hard work, good observation, time management and foresight was critical to success. When an opposing guild was still figuring out what to do against a BOSS, Rhode had already finished the quest with his guildmates. That was the difference between them.
'It's all about the details!'
That was Rhode's policy. Success and defeat hinged on the details of the plan.
When Rhode deep in thought, a knocking sound came from the front door.
"Who is it?"
Although the knocking sound came from the first floor, Rhode's senses had reached a degree that he could clearly catch what was happening downstairs. When he noticed that someone was at the front door, he eventually put down the pen in his hand and walked out of his room.
Did the Old Walker finally break his curse after thinking over? Coming here that early? That is certainly unexpected.
However, the one who actually knocked on his door was not that fallen old mercenary, but Hank from the Mercenary Association!
What is he doing here?
Rhode stared at Uncle Hank's awkward and embarrassed smile. After that, he glanced at the person behind him. He discovered that the person who was wrapped in a cloak behind Uncle Hank was a woman.
What's going on?
"Uncle Hank, are you looking for me?"
"Yes, Mr. Rhode. This... Can I talk inside?"
Rhode nodded his head and welcomed the both of them in.
From Uncle Hank's expression, it was apparent that he was surprised after discovering the luxurious hall in front of him. In fact, before coming, he had assumed that their two-man stronghold must be quite shabby. But looking at the spacious hall which was clean and tidy, he couldn't help but widen his eyes. It was totally different from his imagination and looked at Rhode surprisingly. Although Old Hank never entered the Haunted House before, he knew that it had been abandoned for many years, there were even a lot of people that died here. It was utterly impossible for a dilapidated house to look like this!
How did this young man do it?
Old Hank was finally intrigued by Rhode's mysteriousness. Having worked at the Mercenary Association for so many years, this was the first time he had seen someone like Rhode. From just his appearance, he was no different than many other men, but looking at him now, it appeared that his judgment was wrong.
"What business do you have with me, Uncle Hank?"
After inviting the two of them in, Rhode opened his mouth and asked. At the same time, he also glanced at the girl beside him. He was sure that the this 18 or 19 year-old-girl was related Hank's sudden visitation.
Sure enough, he was right. Hank revealed an awkward smile and said, "It's like this, Mr. Rhode. This young miss... wants to join your mercenary group."