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143 Recovery Period

 For the sake of safety, Rhode eventually decided to destroy the tunnel connecting to the altar. Back when it was a game, the choices you make may end up with a different ending. However, just in case, Rhode still chose to be cautious. After Celia surveyed the surroundings and confirmed that there were no leftover traces of demons, Rhode detonated the entire whole underground mine and escaped from the tunnel, secretly returning to surface. With the exception of Old Walker, no one knew what Rhode had done. In fact, even Old Walker didn't know much. As for the residents of the underground, the explosion was merely "just another collapse", which was not unusual to them.

However, for the next few days, Deep Stone City was rowdy. The cause of this uproar wasn't because of the collapse of the underground mine, but rather, it was something that affected all of Paphield's mercenaries.

Two days after the collapse of the mine, the Mercenary Association announced that the Jade Tears Mercenary Group would be disbanding.

The piece of news spread like wildfire.

No one could predict that such an ambitious mercenary group which had ran several successful mass recruitment campaigns would suddenly choose to disband. This way of disbanding was used only when the mercenary group had too little members! Once the Mercenary Association tended their application for disbandment, there was no going back for the Jade Tears Mercenary Group!

Many people speculated what happened to the Jade Tears Mercenary Group for it to take such a drastic turn within half a month.

Many of them quickly found the answer.

After all, within the circle of mercenaries, much of the news weren't secret at all. Even if they most of it were rumors, the information was still reliable to a certain extent. Not to mention that the disbanding of a mercenary group was such a big matter.

Therefore, soon enough, they found out that the Jade Tears Mercenary Group sent out two-thirds of their strength into the Twilight Forest for an unknown reason. The outcome was obvious. Those mercenaries sent to the forest did not return. The angered leader, Frank, then brought his remaining members to who knows where. No members remained after that.

As a result, the original, buzzing mercenary group was left with only a few newbies and no others. Frank's disappearance also led the Jade Tears Mercenary Group into confusion and disarray.

Initially, they followed a plan made by Frank, who gave them a sum of money for recruitment. But now that he was gone, his men naturally had no source of income. Once they lost their core incentive, the mercenaries didn't want to stay any longer. They felt cheated and demanded reparations for their work, and threatened to leave. Well, they couldn't be blamed. The situation was the same as you landing yourself a job from a career fair, and after working for a month, you realized that the company had declared for bankruptcy without you knowing. Moreover, your boss also went missing, together with your payment for the month. Who could tolerate all of this?

Frank knew the importance of the unholy spring water. So he only brought along the best he could find in his group. After Rhode blew up the mines, there was no second in command to take over the Jade Tears Mercenary Group. The remaining mercenaries panicked and raged; eventually opting to apply for disbandment.

Furthermore, according to the rules stated by the Mercenary Association: after a mercenary group disbands, a certain sum of money will be distributed to the leftover members. Obviously, that was their goal.

Even if they couldn't squeeze any money out from the Mercenary Association, they could sell the mercenary group for money. Considering the name and the leftover equipment in the group, it wasn't surprising that it could be sold.

The outsiders felt slightly emotional about what happened to the Jade Tears Mercenary group. But they soon turned their focus to another very important factor: How did the majority of its members and the leader go missing suddenly?

That was the main question. Of course, no one was dumb enough to assume that the "missing" from the official announcement meant literally missing. No one would believe 40 or so fully grown men who had varying experiences as mercenaries to get lost in a forest that mostly everyone was familiar with. If one actually believes that, then there must be a problem with their intellect.

Many people were certain that they got killed.

But... killed by who?

Naturally, Rhode and his Starlight Mercenary Group were the number one suspects.

The reason was simple. He had enough reason to do it. Besides, during the previous Mercenary Association meeting, every mercenary group leader heard it for themselves that Rhode wanted the Jade Tears Mercenary Group to completely vanish. At that moment everyone thought this young man was just boasting, so they did not take it too seriously. But now that Jade Tears Mercenary Group was facing complete disbandment, they suddenly realized - Did that kid meant it for real?

That wasn't all, according to the rumors spread from internal circles with the Mercenary Association, after the group sent its application to disband, the association sent people to investigate on the Jade Tears Mercenary Group members. According to them, it proved to be true that Frank sent a large group of people to the Twilight Forest. It was confirmed that they were sent to deal with the Starlight Mercenary Group. But they did not return thereafter. Frank was angered when he heard the news and from that day onwards, he started behaving suspiciously; only bringing his strongest members out in the morning and only return late at night. And finally, they also went missing.

The Mercenary Association also sent people to interrogate Rhode. Of course, Rhode reacted as if he knew nothing. This caused the association to feel helpless. Moreover, leader Hiller from the Burning Blade Mercenary Group stood up for Rhode. Thus, the Mercenary Association could do nothing about Rhode anymore without concrete evidence. They returned to the headquarters without any results. Because of these chain of events, the association made an official announcement which accepted the notion for disbandment if Frank did not appear within a month.

After the official announcement, many mercenaries could not help but sigh. Times change too quickly. They thought that the rise of the Jade Tears Mercenary Group would be the scariest future opponent, but instead, they became a shooting star in the sky. Just like that, when they brought much commotion within the mercenary groups, they suddenly went out without a trace.

Because of this incident, the mercenaries realized that there was an even deadlier presence than the Jade Tears Mercenary Group.

Rhode.

For Rhode to be able to destroy the Jade Tears Mercenary Group wasn't much of a surprise. What made people shocked was the fact that he finished them off so cleanly and without attracting much commotion to himself. Many mercenary groups felt fear deep in their bones. Usually, any confrontation of mercenary groups would leave some sort of evidence. But this time, they couldn't even find a clue. There were no corpses, no evidence, nothing.

Just how strong was this young man that had the power to remove a whole mercenary group without leaving any traces behind?

As they thought of this, many mercenary groups started to understand how fearful the up and coming Starlight Mercenary Group.

The last thing they wanted was to end up like Jade Tears Mercenary Group.

Mercenary group leaders weren't stupid people. The knew that although plenty of mercenaries come from poor backgrounds, there were actually some rich mercenaries hidden amongst them. They had the time and money to seek thrill and adventure so they became mercenaries. Relying on their hidden funding, they were able to support themselves as mercenaries. One could only see how much money they spent to destroy a moderately powerful group such as the Jade Tears Mercenary group. Rhode's Starlight Mercenary Group was currently ranked third; Hiller of the Burning Blade Mercenary group clearly supported Rhode. That meant that Rhode's group wouldn't have many foreseeable conflicts between the top three groups.

Usually, there will be a conflict between the top three groups because they were the ones closest to being able to promote to a guild status. However, in Paphield Plain, the situation seemed a bit odd. The Burning Blade group had been moving up and down the ranking for a few years. And after years of struggling, they seemed to accept the fact that they were not able to upgrade themselves to a mercenary guild anytime soon. The second in command, nicknamed "forever number two", was the Dark Fang Mercenary Group. As the name suggests, it had no intention for the number one spot. Originally, the mercenaries thought that both of those big names would go head to head against the Starlight Mercenary Group, but on the contrary, Hiller's friendliness towards Rhode destroyed their expectation.

Maintaining a good relationship with the top mercenary group and legendary figure Sereck from the Mercenary Association was already considered to be a great feat. But the powerful Starlight Mercenary Group could even make dozens of people go "missing"...

Currently, the Starlight Mercenary Group became the number one group that everyone in Papheild Plain wanted to avoid. They commanded their men to keep a distance from the Starlight Mercenary Group and not start any fight with their members. Taking extra caution to not speak about Rhode's his girly features. This was because due to unreliable news, this may be the main reason why Rhode destroyed Jade Tears Mercenary Group.

If just one insult could negate all your hard work building up the mercenary group, not even the greatest idiot would do it.

Nevertheless, they didn't intend to gang up on Starlight Mercenary Group either. Jade Tears Mercenary Group lured people by throwing money, causing some people to dislike them. But Rhode's group didn't display any unruly attitude at all! Instead, they actually helped other mercenary groups many times. This left good impressions of themselves amongst the other mercenary groups. If you think of it logically, who would like to work with bastards that take advantage of situations when there is someone who prefers to save others from all kinds of danger. If they maintain good relations with the Starlight Mercenary Group, they might even receive their help in the future. As for the Jade Tears Mercenary Group, when any accidents happen, those bastards definitely wouldn't help, but rather take advantage of them.

Rhode was aware of how the others felt about him, but he chose to remain quiet. These things would surely bring him plenty of benefits in the future. Mercenaries liked to battle ruthlessly, but Rhode had no intention to waste his time on those meaningless fights. Now that he had shown his mercenary groups' capabilities, the other mercenary groups wouldn't dare to mess with them.

However, if Rhode was to nitpick something, it would be that lucky Barney and the half-assed Elve who managed to survive.

Despite feeling slightly irritated as he could not finish off those annoying fellows, but to him, they were just little bugs that didn't require attention.The first thing after returning to the Mercenary Association was to focus on his leveling problems.

After finishing off Frank and his minions, adding together the experience he obtained from completing the mission, Rhode finally achieved level 18. Just two more levels and he could reach job advancement. Currently, he had 9 Skill Points. He stored 2 when he was level 16. Gained another 4 of them after leveling up twice. And lastly, the 3 skill points awarded for completing the mission was like a cherry on top of the cake. This was a huge harvest.

But how to use these Skill Points?

Rhode couldn't decide!