There's nothing better than one's home.
That was the first thought that came into Rhode's mind when he opened his eyes. It was currently morning, and the sun had already risen on the horizon, sending a bright, warm ray of light through the window, signifying that a brand new day had begun.
Although it had only been one day since his return, Rhode didn't choose to relax but instead, he sprung up from his bed, changed, and went to the back garden to practice swordsmanship. It was a habit from the game that he couldn't easily forget. After logging in, he would search for a place to warm up and once done, he would find other things to occupy his time. This daily routine improved his basic statuses and increased his agility in battle. Therefore, after transmigrating, he still brought his habit along with him. At the very least, his routine would bring a sense of familiarity and put him at ease.
The stronghold was peaceful in the morning. On the third floor, Rhode occupied the largest room in the stronghold which was the study and his bedroom combined. As for the female mercenaries, all of them lived fairly comfortably in the guestrooms on the second floor. Only Old Walker slept on the first floor in the servant's room — but of course, this was only a temporary arrangement. Rhode wasn't satisfied with the current accommodations, but since they were low on cash, it couldn't be helped.
When Rhode was walking down the stairs, he could hear a lively voice calling out to him.
"Ah leader, good morning! You woke up so early."
It was that one girl who would dare to talk to him in that manner.
"Aren't you the same?"
Rhode shook his head and glanced at Anne who was standing by the balcony.
"I say, Miss Anne. Are you heading out with that kind of attire?"
Tracing Rhode's gaze, Anne looked down at her clothes in curiosity. Right now, she wasn't wearing the light armor she wore last night. Instead, only a thin undergarment covered her slender body which 'proudly' emphasized her upper half. When the wind blew, Rhode could vaguely catch a glimpse of pink through the translucent cloth Anne wore right now.
"Hmm? It's fine, isn't it? After all, it's cool and refreshing having dressed like this."
As the girl spoke, she raised her arms and stretched her waist, revealing even more tender skin under the thin cloth. Rhode had to admit, Anne's figure was certainly ideal. She had the necessary curves while still being slender at the same time. Furthermore, her lazy demeanor could be somewhat tempting for certain individuals.
"Isn't it a little bit too refreshing...?"
Rhode's eyes fell on her chest and immediately made an evaluation, a second later, he quickly shrugged and said, "After all, this is a mercenary group. I hope you can mind yourself."
"Ah... that's boring! Back when Anne was still in Mark White, father would ask me to do the same. Now that Anne is here, leader is telling me the same thing."
Anne twitched her mouth in dissatisfaction.
Then she added, "Men sure are weird. Leader, Anne clearly didn't strip. But if she did, will guys be excited about it? For Anne, even if a man is naked, Anne wouldn't feel excited at all."
Black lines stretched on Rhode's forehead. When he first saw her, Rhode guessed that things wouldn't be simple, but now he was convinced that Old Walker had given him a big headache.
At that moment, a savior finally appeared.
"Hm...Ms. Anne? You've woken up? I heard Mr. Rhode's voice..."
While rubbing her eyes, Lize yawned as she staggered sleepily out of the room. When she saw Anne's clothing, Lize's eyes immediately snapped wide open.
"Anne! What are you doing?!"
"Eh? Anne was only going out to get some fresh morning air?"
"You'll catch a cold like this! That's not right, why didn't you wear any clothes?"
"But Anne is wearing clothes? You see, you see, isn't this clothes?"
"Waaaa, don't lift it up!! Mr. Rhode is here! Please behave!"
"But Anne is behaving? It isn't as though Anne is naked. This layer of clothes shouldn't be a problem, right? Only seeing beyond this layer of clothes is the problem, right?"
"That's not it!! M-Mr. Rhode, please leave. Ms. Anne, come with me, you absolutely cannot go out like this!!"
"Eh...But it's very comfortable like this..."
"No means no!!"
After staring at Anne who was being unwillingly pulled back into the room by Lize, he turned his head away, sighing. Anyway, he was lucky enough to witness such a 'beautiful scenery' in the early morning.
Rhode had to admit; she was indeed a unique individual. She had a cheerful, lively, energetic and straightforward disposition but was also someone who had close to zero social awareness. If she wanted to do something, she would just do it her way and would not think of how other people would perceive her. To put it nicely, she could be described as a bold and steadfast individual. On the flip side, she was someone who acts before thinking. Rhode finally understood why the two vice-leaders from Mark White wanted to kick her out...
Marlene and Lize also quickly realized this point.
After the 'incident' in the morning, everyone finally gathered to have breakfast. When Rhode and Lize were the only inhabitants of the stronghold, they could eat casually but now that there were more people, Rhode had to tidy up the table to have breakfast.
Old Walker took on Lize's duty of cooking three meals a day and surprisingly, his cooking was actually good! It was so good that Marlene even praised the food he made. Of course, everything would be perfect if he would stop drinking beer at every meal.
"All of you can have a rest for today," Rhode said and began discussing today's schedule while holding a piece of steaming hot bread in his hand.
"I need to go to the Mercenary Association to gather information. You guys can do whatever you like but just don't create unnecessary trouble. If anyone of you wishes to go out, please bring someone along with you."
Marlene raised her brow as she picked up her handkerchief to wipe her mouth.
"Something happened?" she said.
Rhode shook his head. Even he wasn't too sure about what was happening, but it would still be good to give Sereck and the others a heads up.
"I cannot say anything for now. I'm just going to check the situation."
"Do you want me to follow you, Mr. Rhode?"
"There's no need. You must be tired after traveling together with me for so many days. You don't have to go today."
This time, Lize raised her hand timidly.
"Do we need to prepare for anything?"
"We will depart in two or three days; you can just prepare for that."
"Okay, I understand."
When everyone was busy discussing, Anne, who sat quietly among the ladies, suddenly interrupted.
"Big sister Marlene, Big sister Lize, Anne feels that this is quite weird. Why don't you guys call leader as leader?"
Both Marlene and Lize were caught off guard for a moment.
"In Anne's former mercenary group, everyone called the leader as leader. Why are both sisters calling the leader by his name?"
Both of them displayed an awkward expression, even Old Walker who was sitting beside also felt somewhat uncomfortable and raised his pint to cover up his expression. However, Rhode helped them out from their unspeakable dilemma.
"All of them have their own reasons. Marlene is only temporarily joining our group. As for Lize, I'm sure she has her own reasoning. Moreover, I don't really mind what you call me. It isn't mandatory to call me leader, so feel free to call me anything you like."
"So it's like that..."
Anne blinked her beautiful green eyes and took another curious glance at everyone. Then, she did not say anything else and once again focused on the food before her.
Lize, Marlene and Old Walker finally felt relieved, but they still had a hint of complexity in their eyes.
At this moment, there was a knock on the door.
Lize quickly stood up and got the door. She spoke with the people outside in a low voice for a few moments before accepting a letter. Then she returned to the table with an odd expression.
"What happened Lize? Did something happen?"
Marlene asked curiously when she saw Lize's expression. Lize passed the letter over and said, "Mr. Rhode, it's an invitation from the Mercenary Association. Mr. President and Sereck want to see you; they hope that you can go there to solve a dispute."
Rhode felt a little bit strange. How could there be any dispute between him and Mercenary Association?
"It's like this..."
Lize's current expression became even more strange, she looked at Marlene with worry, and then back to Rhode.
"According to the messenger, Mr. Clinton from the Country of Light approached the Mercenary Association and claimed that you had killed his subordinates. He asked us to give an explanation and compensate his loss.."
"That's simply outrageous!"
Before Lize could finish, Marlene slammed the table and stood up in anger.
"Those group of bastards... it was clearly them who had sent people to assassinate us in the forest. Hah. Now they're twisting the truth! Must we stay still and give up our lives to satisfy them?"
Then Marlene turned around and stared at Rhode with anger in her eyes.
"Mr. Rhode! Let's go to the Mercenary Association together! I want that bastard to understand that our Munn Kingdom isn't that easy to be bullied!"
"Enough. Marlene, don't get too worked up."
Rhode was unexpectedly calm. He reached out and took the letter from Lize, carefully scrutinizing the contents. After reading, he shoved the letter into his pocket and stood up.
"Go and have a rest. I'll go to the Mercenary Association by myself. I think there must be some kind of misunderstanding."
"Mr. Rhode, how can it be a misunderstanding? Isn't it obvious? The people of the Country of Light have refused to let this matter go..."
"I have a different opinion about it."
Rhode waved his hand and dismissed Marlene's complaint.
"We've never done such a thing, that's why there must be some kind of misunderstanding. Clinton accused us of doing it, but I still don't know what is he talking about."
Everyone was speechless.
All of them stared at Rhode who was as calm as a cucumber, acting as if nothing happened.
(ED: Anne is adorable.)