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31 Deep Stone City

 As one of the busiest cities in the Northern Paphield, the Deep Stone City had a distinct characteristic that differs from the other cities. Owing to the deep pit under the town, Deep Stone City was originally a small town, but after a number of natural resources were discovered and excavated from the pit, it was converted to a bustling mining town. As such, the entire Deep Stone City was built above the pit.

If one observed the layout of Deep Stone City from above, the town was like an obverse wall decoration on top of the conical pit; it looked small and inconspicuous. But the interior of the town made it an impressive city. The road's width fits at least four carriages, and those small holes from afar that people assumed were caves, were actually big caverns that housed people. In Deep Stone City, every house, shape, and object complemented each other to form a visual experience that each visitor would remember distinctly.

Similarly to other cities, Deep Stone City also had its own public segregation, which was divided from the top to the bottommost of the town. The noble district was located at the top, where the nobles could enjoy the sun and bathe in the cool, fresh river and generally live a comfortable life. Next was the commercial district and the residential district, which occupied the three layers below the noble's district. Lastly, the lowest layer was the slums; not only the people there lived in perpetual darkness, but there was also a shortage of basic necessities. There were even rumors that the devils could casually make a meal out of someone in the depths of the dark pits. Only desperate people or specialized miners would enter the dark pits of the town.

"Deep Stone City..."

As Matt walked down from the carriage, his expression tensed up. He stood on the roadside while staring at the darkness not too far in front of him. A vast, colossal pit stretched from end to end, and Matt couldn't help but let out a sigh.

"Although I have visited many times, every time I see the city, I just can't help but gasp. Holy Spirit bless me, I really cannot believe that someone could actually dig out such a huge and bottomless pit."

Matt licked his lips in awe and turned towards Rhode who was standing beside him before continuing, "Mr. Rhode, have you heard that in this city, even the oldest miners don't know what's inside this huge pit. It is truly a mysterious and wonderful thing. I mean, after all, it was them who dug the pit, right? But in the end, even they do not know what was inside. Hard to imagine, isn't it?"

"Indeed so."

Rhode nodded, but he did not continue to say anything. Unlike Matt, of course, he knew what was at the bottom. It was one of the Top 10 Secrets of the Dragon Soul Continent. For ordinary people, perhaps they would not dare to take the risk to find out. But players did not care about death. If they could solve the mystery, then it won't matter even if they died a hundred times.

However, sometimes the price isn't worth the trouble.

After entering the city, the first impression the party received was silence. Contrary to their expectations of a bustling mining hub, every inch of the town around them was quiet, and the only thing that broke the silence was clinking of iron when the carriage rolled forward.

Unlike Matt, Rhode wasn't fascinated by the magnificence of this mining town. He only looked up towards the blue sky, his eyes gazing at the mountains in the distance. As though his vision could pierce through the rocks, he saw the Golden City Castle resting on Fairy Lake and also the person who lived inside... It was 'that person,'...that slender, charming, yet strong figure.

Suddenly, Rhode seemed to have returned to the time where the last rays of sunlight crept on the blood-stained hills. Under the dimming evening sun, a person donned in a gorgeous armor was kneeling on the ground with a hundred thousand army standing at the front of her.

The blood-stained, crimson sunset traced her silhouette. When she lowered her head, her usual gleaming, well-groomed golden hair had lost its grandeur as it swept in the wind messily, and the breeze caused the broken feathers on her pure, white wings to lightly sway. However, there was no hesitation in her eyes as she turned towards Rhode. Her pale lips slightly parted, revealing a brilliant smile.

"Is that so... very well..."

She whispered to herself, and then closed her eyes.

Suddenly, everything was shrouded in darkness.

For a second time in his life, Rhode found his goal. And at that moment, he firmly decided to give up his free player identity and create a guild. With that shift in mindset, he began to change the entire game world. Eventually, he succeeded in altering the three eras using his own two hands. But he wasn't satisfied because, in the depths of his heart, there was a trace of regret.

He thought he had lost all hope to make up for it.

But now, a new chance to make amends had appeared.

Rhode knew what would happen to this continent. It would be an unprecedented catastrophe for all living beings. Even now, as everything appeared to be quiet and serene, he knew that this was just the calm before the storm. Short and fragile, like treading on thin ice, this peace might be destroyed at any time, and only chaos awaits.

However, Rhode wasn't in a hurry. He knew that it was useless to be anxious. From this point in time, if everything went according to the history he knew, then there would still be roughly one to two years of stability. It was enough time to complete his preparations. After that, he had to consider how to survive in the calamity.

If he could, he wouldn't use this risky method, but he understood how terrible the calamity was, and the whole Dragon Soul Continent would not be able to escape the catastrophe. It would be better if he made some measures in advance before facing it.

Returning to the present, Rhode pulled his cloak and hid his face. No matter if it was the real or virtual world, his facial appearance would easily stir up trouble. Thus, it was better if he avoided it completely.

"Mr. Rhode."

At this time, Ben brought his two men and the fatty young miss to his side. Perhaps, it was because he returned to his territory, his attitude was more confident than before.

"It's all thanks to you that we could arrive back in time."

Rhode's eyes then swept across the people behind Ben.

"She should be okay, right?"

He casually noticed the paleness on her face.

Upon hearing Rhode's inquiry, Ben could only reveal a helpless smile.

"The young miss is alright. It's just that she's still in shock. Ms. Lize had already healed her, so there's no problem physically."

Ben then hesitated for a moment, but he still raised his head and continued, "That... Do you have time right now? The young miss would like you to visit her house to repay your life-saving grace..."

"I still have something to do, so I won't trouble you any further."

Rhode shook his head as he turned down Ben's invitation.

"It's not a big deal."

"It's that so..."

Hearing Rhode answer in this manner, Ben felt awkward. Helen, who was standing behind him also felt disappointed, but no one caught sight of her expression.

Although his might wasn't something noteworthy, as a guard captain, his skill with words was decent. Since Rhode had clearly drawn the line, he did not try to force it any further and eventually revealed a relaxed expression. Despite not having spent much time with Rhode, the pressure he felt wasn't light whenever he was with him. He trembled all day, afraid that he might say something wrong. Now that the source of his pressure was on the verge of leaving, of course, he wouldn't dig his own grave by forcing Rhode to stay.

"Since that's the case, then I wish you a pleasant journey. When I return, I will report this matter to Master. I believe that Master will certainly be thankful for your help."

After finishing his sentence, Ben and the fatty young miss quickly departed. It wasn't until the distance between them were quite far would Helen then once again turn her head to look at Rhode. Then she showed an angered expression out of nowhere.

"You stupid man. Didn't you say that you will bring him back home and tell Dad to punish him?!"

"Young miss, now is not the time to speak such nonsense."

Facing this stubborn girl, Ben could only force himself to smile.

"You and I certainly know just how strong that man is. What if something happened to us if we annoy him?"

"But he dared to hit me!"

Helen stomped her feet furiously and clenched her teeth. She did not dare to get angry in front of Rhode, but now after he left, she could not keep it in anymore.

"Even my father had never hit me before!"

Ben could only helplessly shake his head at Helen's words. He did not want to be involved with Rhode anymore. Even though he wasn't clear about the difference in strength between Rhode and the Keller family, he did not want to create any trouble intentionally. Even if the young miss was unhappy, he wouldn't do anything about it.

"Well, I'll make sure that I will finish him next time."

She stared fiercely at Rhode while announcing her displeasure. At the same time, it was as though Rhode heard what she said, and he turned his head to stare back at her. Helen's face immediately paled and subconsciously cover her mouth. Ben also quickly turned around and walked forward.

"It's time to go, young miss. If we aren't back before Master arrives home, then there will be more trouble."

"Ah, uh, yes, yes."

Hearing this statement, Helen also nodded in agreement. She still had a lingering fear towards Rhode. Once she noticed that he had turned away, she slowly calmed down and quickly walked away.

"Mr. Rhode, we have arrived."

Upon hearing Lize's reminder, Rhode immediately turned around and saw Lize nervously standing in front of him. After a moment, he opened his mouth and asked, "This is your last chance, Lize. You can choose to refuse."

"No, Mr. Rhode."

However, Lize firmly shook her head and returned his gaze with a complicated emotion.

"I have been thinking for a long time. I know that I am not a suitable candidate, and I understand that I am very naive regarding this aspect. I realize that I have no experience, nor do I know what to do. But what I know is that without virtue, courage, and faith, I won't be able to achieve my goal. If you can help me achieve my dream, then I will not refuse your offer."

Her eyes were firm and clear, without a trace of hesitation. But Rhode did not back down.

"I think you've already seen my way of handling things and I want to know what do you think."

"Eh?"

Lize was caught off-guard facing Rhode's unexpected question and she immediately lower her head.

"I..."

"Just be frank."

Although it appeared that Rhode was a few years older than Lize, at the moment, Lize could feel an intense pressure while standing in front of Rhode. It was just like the pressure that she had felt from the mercenary leader and her father.

"I... I do not know."

Eventually, Lize shook her head.

"I really do not know, Mr. Rhode. I can tell you very sincerely that your method is totally different than what I have imagined. But... at least I don't hate it."

"I understand."

When he heard Lize's answer, Rhode nodded his head in satisfaction. He stretched out his right hand and placed it on Lize's shoulder.

"I will not let you down," Rhode said coolly.