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150 On The Way

 The skies turned gloomy.

A chilly wind blew through the forest, sending chills down their spines.

"Kid, seems like it would be raining soon."

Old Walker sharpened his gaze as he carefully observed the thick clouds above his head. Rhode nodded towards Old Walker and stopped. He glanced at the path leading deep into the mountains, but it seemed to be devoid of human traces.

"How much longer before we reach our destination?"

Old Walker went into thought for a moment before replying, "Maybe... another half a day to a days' time?"

"It's getting too late to continue. Get Shauna and the rest to search for nearby shelters."

"Okay."

Once he heard Rhode's decision, Old Walker turned around to whistle at everyone and made a hand signal which only mercenaries could understand. Shauna immediately brought Randolf and the rest away, in search of a suitable shelter and also to collect ingredients for tonight's meal. The others that had nothing to do were just to rest by the side.

This was one of the few changes that Rhode made in the mercenary group. Usually, the mercenaries wouldn't search and pick magic herbs without being asked. Other than those herbs that could temporarily heal wounds, others were useless to them. But now Rhode requested them to pick up any magic herbs once they found any. Besides, they have an alchemist who could specially refine them. With Lapis, these were put to good use. As long as these herbs were refined into potions, not only it could be used for healing, but it could be sold for extra money as well. The only shortcoming was that the material sources and types were too limited. However, Rhode believed that as time passed, it wouldn't become a problem.

Rhode strictly distributed a set of potions to every mercenary - Three bottles of flaming agents, two bottles of healing agents and one bottle of defense agent. The flaming agent could be smeared on their blades to imbue fire elemental damage to their weapons while engulfing it in flames. This was because it would be advantageous towards undead creatures. As for the defense agent, it could generate a semi-translucent shield of wind in front of the user that helps to block attacks.

While the grade of the ingredients they could find wasn't of high quality, the effects of these potions were still in high demand. The rarity of these potions was enough to make the mercenaries excited. In the market, potions were luxuries which most of the mercenaries wouldn't be able to afford.

Even for Shauna, who was a mercenary group leader before, could only watch from afar and admire these costly items. Ordinary mercenaries might even require to spend their life savings to purchase these precious potions and would only bear to use it in true life and death situations. And now? They actually received so many bottles without spending a single cent.

To most people, this sounded exactly like a dream come true. In truth, their 'work' was the spent time picking up random herbs that they usually ignored in their daily life.

Therefore, everyone immediately dispersed and searched for herbs in the hot and humid forest. Of course, there wouldn't be many rare magic herbs near areas populated with humans. Currently, Rhode didn't have the luxury to hire an exclusive team whose job was just to pick herbs, so he could only live with what he had.

If possible, Rhode hoped that Marlene could produce magic scrolls. Unfortunately, the thing was, this missy did not imagine herself doing hard labor when she stepped out from her comfortable home. Thus, she lacked the materials and equipment to craft the scrolls. The pricing of scroll crafting materials was extremely high in the market, and Rhode wasn't financially ready to splurge yet, so he could only sigh.

Rhode turned towards the three maidens happily chatting by the side.

Anne was being hyperactive, as usual. Now that he thought of it, during the period where they could not perform missions, Anne seemed to be in a hibernation state like a bear, always displaying signs of sleepiness. And the moment she receives this new mission, the young maiden immediately displayed her endless energy. She stood in front of Marlene and Lize, gesturing wildly with her hands while looking almost hysterical as if debating about an exciting topic.

Whereas for Lize, her demeanor seemed to have changed slightly. After the battle with the Black Cloaked Mage, she became much happier than before. Rhode didn't know what exactly happened to her, but he was glad that she changed for the better. To an adventurer, a positive mindset was crucial to survival. Now that Lize overcame her fears, it was certainly a good thing.

As for Marlene, she sat elegantly by the side. Just like the good old days, she revealed a beautiful and gentle smile while listening to the two having a conversation. Despite having a similar age as her peers, her attitude and temperament gave off a feeling of maturity.

What made Rhode suspicious was Marlene informing him that the Senia Family agreed to her request and allowed her to stay. Unless there were any urgent matters, she could choose not to leave. This surprised Rhode, and no matter how much he thought of it, he couldn't understand why the Senia Family made such a decision. Since he couldn't understand, he decided just to let it be. Because no matter what, with such a reliable assistant by his side, it would only be beneficial.

Shauna was quick. Before the rain started to pour, she found a cave not far from the main path. After scouting the area, ensuring that there were no wild creatures or traces of bandits, everyone gathered in the cave. And before they could settle down, heavy rain started falling...

"Hu..."

Smoke started rising in the cave, dispersing the thick, chilly sensation from the storm. Old Walker prepared delicious broths for everyone to resist the cold in advance which made everyone feel much better after a hard day of work. Everyone sat around the bonfire and began to chatter. Some of them also started maintaining their weapons and equipment by the side in preparation for the upcoming battle.

This scene warmed Rhode's heart and brought back some old memories. In the game, players would not stop and take shelter even in the midst of a storm. But before facing the final boss battle, they would also gather around and chat before heading to fight the final battle.

Rhode felt that everything right now seem a little far away.

He didn't belong to this world.

While it could be said that he is very familiar with this world, Rhode wasn't considered to a hardcore player. He would rather spend more of his time discussing about new handphones with his closest buddies, talk about politics, latest music trends or even grumble about how bad their day jobs were or how the property prices plummeted overnight.

That should be his life.

But now...

Rhode shook his head and shut his eyes as he reminisced his previous life.

We always have to change.

Rhode sighed at this thought.

And at this moment, he suddenly heard a crisp bell ringing.

Clink...

Rhode opened his eyes and looked out of the cave. As the light from the bonfire shone on the silhouette, it eventually revealed a skinny little figure at the entrance. The figure held a long wooden stick with a bent tip. Hanging from the tip was a golden bell which released a dull brilliance under the glow of the flames. And right behind that little figure, 5 to 6 lambs could be vaguely seen.

As the garrison chief, Shauna quickly went up to the figure and spoke a few words. Afterwards, the red-haired mercenary turned her head around and reported to Rhode.

"Sir, it's a shepherd. She wants to take shelter here, should we let her in?"

"Please come in."

After hearing Shauna's report, Rhode didn't feel like he should say much. So he nodded lightly and eventually turned his head away from Shauna.

After all, this cave was quite spacious, so just another human and few lambs wouldn't be much of a problem.

Shauna didn't delay as she quickly invited the shepherd in, allowing everyone to finally see her face.

She wore an oversized white cloak that was obviously too large for her size. It covered the whole of her tiny body. From her stature, this shepherd may only be slightly younger than Anne. Perhaps 12 to 13 years old. Her pale and thin arms that gripped onto the wooden stick looked almost like a skeleton. Facing the mercenaries, the shepherd cleverly bowed to express her gratitude. She skillfully drove the lambs into the deeper part of the cave and proceeded to sit down.

"You will get a cold sitting there, why not sit by the bonfire with us?"

Lize noticed the shepherd's thin figure and invited her.

The shepherd curiously raised her head and glanced at everyone with hesitation in her eyes. She slowly stood up and walked to the side of the bonfire to take a seat while Lize smiled by the side and gave her a bowl of hot soup.

"Here, have some to warm your body."

This time, the shepherd gestured with her hand to reject her offer.

"Don't have to be shy. Wouldn't it be bad if you catch a cold?"

Marlene tried to help convince the shepherd. In fact, everyone could see her body shaking uncontrollably under that oversized cloak.

This was clearly a sign of hypothermia.

"..."

However, the little girl continued to shake her head to reject their offer.

At this moment, Anne, being herself, playfully peeked under the cloak out of curiosity. Suddenly, she screamed and jumped back.

"Leader, you gotta see this! This is too much!"