Old Walker strolled towards Rhode and made a gesture to the bartender who immediately whipped up a large pint of cold beer. Old Walker grabbed the handle and gulped down in one go, wiping his mouth satisfyingly as he grinned at Rhode.
"It's done. The person you asked me to hire is waiting in our stronghold. Shall we go back and have a look? It cost us 300 gold coins... it's quite expensive..."
"I hope that the person you've recruited will meet my requirements," said Rhode as took back the money from Old Walker. "otherwise, I will cut your wage to make up for the loss."
"W-what?! Hold on," Old Walker's expression stiffened, "I did not hear you say anything about that back then!"
Rhode shrugged as though it had nothing to do with him."You didn't ask, so I didn't mention."
Then he stuffed the money back into his pocket, ignoring Old Walker's contorting expression.
"You actually dare to deceive me!"
"I did not deceive you, Mr. Walker," said Rhode nonchalantly.
"If the person you've recruited met my requirements, you shouldn't be worried. Or… are you playing with me?"
"O-of course not."
Old Walker stroked his beard angrily when Rhode accused him of not doing his job properly and chose to keep silent in the end. Indeed, if he was confident, he did not have to be afraid! However, the expression that he had, made him look like he had done something wrong!
When Old Walker thought of this, he shifted his gaze to Marlene who was silently spectating the drama. Since he already knew that she wouldn't back him up, it was useless for him to say anything else.
"Anyway, I'm quite confident that I've found the one you're looking for. Don't look down on my age, I'm no fool. You can verify it for yourself if you wish."
"Alright, that's good. Let's find Lize and return home."
Rhode didn't dwell on the topic any longer; he nodded his head and turning around.
The place that Lize temporarily resided in was just an average guesthouse in the Mercenary Association. According to Old Hank, she had shut herself in the room to practice her spells. In fact, she was so hardworking that even when Rhode's entourage arrived at her door, they could hear her muttering some kind of spell.
Rhode raised his hand to stop Old Walker from disturbing her. Once he heard no sound from behind the door, he knocked on the door twice.
"Who is it?"
"It's me, Lize."
"Eh?!! Mr. R-Rhode! Please wait, I'm coming!!"
When she recognized Rhode's voice, the pitch on the other side of the door immediately went one octave higher. After that, a myriad of sounds of multiple objects moving began to escape from behind the door; the wooden floor even trembled slightly as though an earthquake was occurring.
The chaos only lasted for five minutes. Soon, the door slowly creaked open which revealed Lize's beaming face, though some traces of sweat on her forehead were evident.
"W-welcome back, Mr. Rhode and Marlene."
Lize frolicked towards Marlene and held her hand in hers.
"It's great that you guys finally are back. I've been extremely worried! Is everything alright? Did anything bad happen? "
Lize began bombarding both Rhode and Marlene with questions, the worry on her face was evident. Marlene, however, revealed an unnatural expression, though Lize didn't seem to be aware of it. Her face was filled with joy as her worries were all swept away in one go.
Back then, after Rhode embarked on the mission with Marlene, Lize discovered that she couldn't sleep in peace. The constant worry in her heart prevented her from relaxing. Therefore, when she finally saw Rhode and Marlene unharmed, a huge load seemed to have left her chest. Although Rhode did tell her not to worry, she knew that the enemies were from the Country of Light. So how could she rest easy when she clearly understood what kind of power they had?
"Everything went as planned." Rhode nodded and smiled. "...But now isn't the time to talk about that. I will explain the details once we return to the stronghold. Go and pack your belongings for now."
Lize nodded and made her way towards the bedroom to pack her belongings.
It felt quite odd; she had been living in this guesthouse for as long as she could remember, but now that she owned her own home, staying here wasn't as enjoyable as before. Although there were room service and three meals a day, she couldn't comprehend why she longed for her own home. Therefore now that she could finally return home, her joy-filled face was even more jubilant than before. She quickly packed her belongings and exited the Mercenary Association with Rhode.
Currently, it was late in the night, and the streets were no longer crowded. Instead, the only people on the streets were soldiers who were patrolling the area on their horses.
While strolling down the road, Rhode inquired about Lize's progress since he was also curious how much she could pick up.
"I'm still trying! Mr. Rhode, as long you give me enough time, I can definitely learn the Arrow of Light!"
Lize spoke with confidence when she described her progress. Studying spells weren't easy; let alone having a breakthrough. Frankly speaking, Lize wasn't weak. However, the lack of spells and skills suppressed her true potential. By learning more spells, Rhode was confident that her overall strength would breakthrough to the next level.
However, noticing her excited expression, he felt that it would be better not to tell her.
"Being hardworking is a good trait to have, but you still need to pay attention to your body. It can become dangerous if you're too rash. To become a good caster, you must learn how to keep calm. Take it easy; learn one step at a time." said Rhode, then he raised his brow and gazed into Lize's eyes. "I've heard from Uncle Hank that you didn't step out of the room for a few days because of studying. Although your perseverance is commendable, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's a good thing. You must understand that your position in the mercenary group is irreplaceable as a supporter."
"...Yes." Lize's excitement dimmed and she immediately lowered her head. Marlene quickly ran to her side to comfort her.
"Mr. Rhode is right, Lize. You cannot be anxious when learning spells, let alone Spirit magic. I can feel your resolve, but I believe that if you can calm down, it will be only a matter of time before mastering it. Take it easy, Mr. Rhode is thinking of your health."
"Yes, I understand. I was too excited. Thank you, Marlene." Lize smiled helplessly.
"No problem, but..." Marlene returned Lize's smile and then shifted her gaze to Rhode.
"Mr. Rhode, have you learned magic before?" she asked curiously.
"Of course not. But even as a swordsman, one cannot learn swordsmanship when anxious. I assumed mages must also be the same. Anyway, just be careful. Don't get too carried away otherwise the end could be tragic." Rhode answered her question indifferently.
He certainly hadn't learned swordsmanship before. As a player, they could just learn any skill by adding skill points. That was why they didn't need to feel wary about being carried away. The reason why Rhode cautioned Lize to be careful was because he wanted her to be safe, and also he had received a quest about a similar incident.
At that time, a female mage NPC was so incredibly desperate to breakthrough that she took the risk to practice a high-level summoning skill which ultimately backfired, causing her to summon an uncontrollable tentacle monster. What happened later... one could just imagine.
If it happened to a stranger, Rhode wouldn't mind feasting his eyes on it. But if it happened to someone he knew, then it would be a completely different matter altogether.
They chatted until the entrance of the stronghold. Under the moonlight, they saw someone standing by the door, as if enjoying the night breeze. Noticing the group approaching, the unknown person waved towards them.
"Ah, old man, you're finally back!"
Marlene and Lize tried to stifle their laughter, but they failed in the end.
Old Walker face turned pale. He glared at the unknown person and shouted. "How many times do I have to tell you, brat! Don't call me old man!"
"You can call Anne 'brat,' then why can't Anne call you old man?"
(ED: The unknown person is speaking in 3rd person.)
Everyone finally saw the appearance of the unknown person who had her hands on her hip.
Just by the door, was an energetic young girl with a charming face and golden, curly hair. Her eyes were lavishly green; and her long, slender legs were slightly leaning to a side. Back in Rhode's world, this girl could've easily been an idol or a celebrity.
The only thing that didn't match her appearance was a golden shield which was at least a meter in height. At one glance, Rhode could tell that it was the Shield Warrior's standard gear, the Charge Shield. It was a rather unique piece of equipment as its main body was divided into two different sections.
In most situations, the Shield Warrior would fight with the two parts attached. They would slip their arms between the enarmes to hold the shield in place. When faced with certain dangerous circumstances, they could activate a trigger near the enarmes and divide the shield into two parts, extending the base row further downwards. Additionally, a golden pole extruded out at the bottommost base point which granted the Shield Warrior the ability to dig the shield into the ground, giving them a chance to hold their position.
(ED: Enarmes is the strap at the rear of the shield. The Base Row is the lowest section of the shield.)
As a whole, it had a delicate structure, so the Shield Warrior must combine other regular shields to increase its defense. Otherwise, once the inside mechanisms receive damage, it wouldn't be able to function until repaired.
However, Rhode also knew that the Charge Shield was classified as the fifth most heaviest equipment in the whole of Dragon Soul Continent. Most people wouldn't be able to hold it as the shield's weight could rival two-handed swords. Even for the players, if they didn't choose the Barbarian or Dwarf race, it would almost be impossible for them to lift it up.
When Rhode saw the girl waving her shield around singlehandedly, it made him wonder if that shield was just a fake.
"Old Walker? Is this the person you're talking about?"
Rhode's face remained indifferent, but his question still showed revealed his attitude towards this matter.
"Who else can it be, kid?"
Old Walker immediately stopped arguing with the young girl and stood beside her, facing toward Rhode's direction.
"Don't judge a book by its cover. Let me tell you; this girl right here is strong. If it weren't because of the money, eh... you wouldn't be able to recruit her."
"...Oh? Then I want to hear how strong she is... And, why didn't you find a man?"
"Hehehe." Old Walker grinned mischievously and walked towards Rhode, whispering in his ear.
"Simple. Do you think it's easy to look for a Shield Warrior? If you could find it easily, then you wouldn't ask me to do it, right? And as for her gender.... heheh..., since you're a young man... what do you think?" Old Walker's grin widened, then he shook his head slightly and said, "You don't have to thank me. Since we're both men, I can understand. Just look at her appearance, the money didn't go to waste, right?"
Rhode immediately walked forward and ignored Old Walker. Before Rhode could say anything, the girl jumped towards him.
When she was right before him, her actual height was revealed in all its glory. Rhode was 180cm tall and couldn't be considered as short. On the other hand, Marlene and Lize only reached half of his head, but this girl — this girl was almost as tall as him!
The girl stretched out her hand for a handshake and said, "Are you the leader of this mercenary group? You look very young! Pleased to meet you, big sister!"
The air immediately turned frigid.