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77 A Big Net Quietly Spreading

 When Old Walker entered the study room, Rhode turned to him and asked, "So, what really happened?"

"What? What happened?"

Old Walker was a little bit confused at Rhode's sudden question.

"Haven't you mention before that a Shield Warrior was hard to find? But you easily hired one with money?"

Rhode sat behind the desk and knocked the table with his fingers.

"Aren't you going to give me a report?

"Oh, so that's what you want."

Old Walker finally understood what Rhode meant. He sighed and sat down on a chair.

"To tell you the truth, I brought her from the Mark White mercenary group."

"Mark White?"

Hearing this name, Rhode frowned.

"Isn't that Deep Stone City's third-ranked mercenary group? How did you get her to join us?"

"It went like this..."

Old Walker began to explain how he recruited her. At the end of the report, Rhode finally understood why that girl called Anne would be willing to join them.

To put it simply, the whole matter was related to Mark White's internal power struggles.

In their previous mission, the leader of the mercenary group was mortally wounded and did not survive the journey back. Naturally, they had to elect a new leader, so the two vice-leaders who were the next in line for the position ended up competing against each other. As each vice-leader had their respective faction within the mercenary group, the competition between the two became rather messy.

Anne was caught up in the internal struggle and wasn't happy about it. She was an orphan adopted by the former leader and was inexplicably close to him. Now that he had passed, Anne trembled in fury when she found out that the members fought against themselves instead of respecting their deceased leader. Even when she had attempted countless times to mediate the matter between the two factions, it proved to be mostly fruitless. Thus, after some time, she gave up on persuading them.

Perhaps because she was picked up by the leader when she was young, she developed a similar straightforward nature. As the saying goes, what the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve. Since they weren't listening to her, it didn't mean that she couldn't hide from them. That was precisely why she decided to leave the mercenary group.

Even if Anne was the deceased leader's daughter, she had the right to leave whenever she wanted. Mercenary groups had no power to force a member to stay. While the relationship between mercenaries and mercenary groups were somewhat similar to staffs and their companies, in the Dragon Soul Continent, there was no contract to bind their members down.

Even that being said, typical mercenaries would stay in the group forever unless something major cropped up such being dissolved or being wiped-out in a dungeon.

After all, the risk of death while running solo was much higher. And at times, leaving a mercenary group was equivalent to betrayal, making them less desired by others group. Therefore, it a bold move by Anne when she decided to quit the group,

In her case, even if Anne wanted to stay, the two vice-leaders did not want her, just because she belonged to the former leader's faction. Such was life. Despite being a young, talented lass that had an unfathomable gift as a Shield Warrior, the two vice-leaders could not disregard her influence, especially so after she grows up. They were afraid. Afraid of her gathering her supporters and overthrowing their leadership. Yet, if a prominent figure such as her were to quit without warning, many people were going to gossip. Thus, they came up with a simple solution: if someone could afford her for three hundred gold coins, that person could take her away.

Three hundred gold coins wasn't a small sum for mercenary groups. They need the money to feed its members as well as maintain certain group functions. While the total rewards awarded after completing a mission wasn't little, the leader still had to distribute the money among its members, leaving each individual with an even smaller portion.

And even if the larger mercenary groups could afford it, those groups would be aware of the internal conflicts of the Mark White mercenary group. Regardless of who is the leader in the future, Anne wouldn't be able to stay for long.

Most large mercenary groups were associated in one way or another. Unless there was a bone-deep hatred, they wouldn't want to make an enemy out of each other just because of one person. It just wasn't worth it.

Although Anne's ability was nothing less than excellent, large mercenary groups often didn't lack manpower. The addition of one Shield Warrior to their team couldn't increase their combined strength significantly enough to warrant getting involved in Mark White's internal struggles.

Of course, the enemies of Mark White mercenary group also wanted to purchase Anne so they can take revenge. Unfortunately, Mark White's enemies were also Anne's, even though she was currently at odds with the mercenary group, she still wouldn't betray them by joining the enemy.

Lastly, there were those wealthy nobles who wanted to claim her as their concubine or escort.

Anne wasn't stupid enough to accept the proposal of these people. Other than mercenary groups, she wouldn't agree to join anything else.

During this incident, many groups exchanged information with each other. Naturally, Old Walker caught on the news as well, and he immediately recalled Rhode's intention to recruit someone who could hold their ground.

Anne appeared to be satisfied with Old Walker's invitation. A small mercenary group meant less pressure and less troubling situations. Since other larger mercenary groups didn't want her, she also didn't want to join them.

Anne was tired from the constant power struggle in Mark White; instead of thinking of complicated matters, she just wanted to live an ordinary mercenary life and complete missions to pass the time.

-

"So that's what happened."

After hearing Old Walker explanation, Rhode nodded with satisfaction.

"Then, let's talk about proper business... The thing that I asked you to investigate... How is it?"

"Well, the situation sure is a little bit strange, kid."

Old Walker immediately tensed up.

"Following your orders, I've investigated 32 mercenary groups, and you know what I found? Other than their current mission, all of their previous missions were all connected to dead spirits, and furthermore, all of them started at the same time!"

"All of the missions were accepted by them?"

"No, not all."

Old Walker shook his head and waved his hand.

"All the mercenaries understood how difficult it was to deal with the undead. Other than those larger mercenary groups, no one would be stupid enough to risk their lives. Based on what I've heard, these missions were entrusted by someone who had offered a large sum of money, so the mercenaries agreed to take the mission."

"How about now? What's the situation?"

"Only five mercenary groups came back alive. But most of them had suffered heavy casualties... similar to Red Hawk's situation. Hence, many of them are lacking manpower right now. I've also heard that many couldn't even complete the mission, leaving a deep wound on their morale."

"Do you know about the specific location and content of their mission? Additionally, is there any information on their client?"

"This... I'm not too sure, kid."

Old Walker helplessly spread his hands.

"What you've requested are all secrets. They wouldn't tell me even if I asked. But I believe that the Mercenary Association would have some record as these missions must be approved by the association. Anyway, the entire situation is really a mess. Usually, no one would offer so much money even if the mission involves eliminating the undead. Makes me wonder what is happening..."

"I can only speculate for now."

Rhode sat on the chair and pondered while tapping on the desk lightly. For sure, things weren't quite as expected. Rhode tried to recall what happened in the game and suddenly he thought of something.

Right! At one time, many players from the Country of Light suddenly appeared here. If Rhode wasn't mistaken, they came here to complete a very rewarding quest, but about the quest content...

Rhode began to frown.

So that was the case...! Rhode appeared to have remembered crucial, but he still had to continue the investigation to conclude his speculation.

"One thing is for sure, all these things are connected to one another. I will drop by the Mercenary Association tomorrow to look for some clues."

"Mercenary Association?"

Old Walker raised his brow.

"You want to deal with those guys? Don't blame me for not telling you but their lips are tightly shut. It's not going to be easy for you to gather information from them."

"I know what to do."

Rhode shook his head, then he closed his eyes and continued to think.

"Your next assignment is to find out what they are doing. Also, check for any unfamiliar mercenary groups that recently visited Deep Stone City."

"Unfamiliar mercenary groups? Those appear every single day. Deep Stone City is a big city. Isn't it very normal to attract new groups?"

"Indeed you are right. It is normal. But if many groups appear in a short period of time, then it's not normal."

"Do you mean..."

Following Rhode's sentence, Old Walker's face changed. He wasn't stupid; there were many strange things that Rhode asked him to investigate, so he had naturally formed his own speculation about the matter. But of course, he did not know who dared to do something like this.

"There's someone plotting against the mercenary groups in Deep Stone City? Kid, do you have any evidence of this?"

Looking at Old Walker's serious expression, Rhode rolled his eyes.

How could he have any news? If he were a regular joe, Rhode would've only felt that something strange was going on and not bother to take any action.

However, Rhode was a transmigrator. He knew what was going to happen in the future, which was why he was extremely vigilant towards 'odd happenings'.

"When I have news, I'll naturally inform you about it."