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406 Pre-emptive

 Smash!

The exquisite teacup shattered on the carpet and red tea stained a large portion of the expensive wool carpet. However, the man was unconcerned. He stood up with a gloomy expression and at this moment, his expression turned ashen.

"He attacked? Are you sure?"

"Y-Yes, Sir Polk."

Within the crystal ball stood a man dressed in a black cloak from head to toe, lowering his head in fear while on the receiving end of his boss's screams of fury.

"Yes, I saw personally that he killed Sir Little Rosen. Also... Also... Sir McMullen and Sir Bull were also murdered. It was those two Mage and Cleric in the rumors who did it."

"Are they really that powerful? Tell me everything that you saw!"

Polk gritted his teeth and remained silent for a moment before speaking again. The man in black cloak shuddered and hurriedly gave an answer. In the face of his master, the man in the black cloak didn't conceal the slightest details as he reported the exact process of the entire battle. After listening to his report, Polk's expression turned more surprised than furious.

"I can't believe my ears. You're saying that Bull died under the hands of a 13 or 14 years old girl without dealing a single blow and the girl was a Cleric? You're also saying that a Mage defeated McMullen in close range? Are you sure you're not dreaming?"

"I can swear upon my soul, Sir. That female Mage that Sir McMullen faced definitely cast her spells and, I may be incorrect, but based on her battle skills, I think she's at least in the Master Stage."

"..."

Polk fell into deep silence for a few seconds before biting his lips in the face of this grave situation. However, he wasn't that mindful of Bull's death as he was just a senior subordinate of Rosen and didn't have much influence in the Reformist Party. Bull's death might even be a good thing to Polk because that man was as equally stubborn as Rosen. Bull couldn't put up with the behavior of Reformist Party clinging onto the Country of Light Parliament's influence and furthermore, he was simple-minded and not as unflustered as Rosen. His constant venting of dissatisfactions gave the Reformist Party a huge headache, which was why his death could be a good thing for Polk.

But it was different regarding McMullen's death because this Mage was a member of the Starmoon Mage Association. Although he was also Rosen's friend, the Reformist Party sent him for the sake of seeking out the situation in Starlight with his broad knowledge. After all, the Reformist Party had figured out after the Midsummer Festival that this newly promoted Guild wasn't standing on their side, and they might possibly be tougher enemies to deal with compared to Purple Lily and Cole Falcon. It was best to figure out their true strength at the earliest possible time.

Initially, Polk held McMullen in high regards because McMullen was a Mage that reached the outer-inner ring level, and a Mage usually had plenty of ways to escape from dangers. But never did he expect that Canary could instantly defeat McMullen in just mere seconds. Under the repression of rank and strength, he couldn't even cast one-thousandth of his powers, and in the end, he could only harbor a grudge.

Right now, what gave Polk the biggest headache was that this Mage held a high position in the Starmoon Mage Association. And now that he had died under Polk's entrustment of the task, it couldn't be guaranteed that the association wouldn't flip out with him. Furthermore, Little Rosen's death...

Rhode's prediction was right. Even Polk didn't expect this young man to be so frantic because this was as good as declaring war with the Southern Port, which even Purple Lily and Cole Falcon didn't dare to do. After all, the South was a financial hub and those who offended them would have a hard time circulating funds. Furthermore, the cash flows might even be broken due to their strained relationship. Could it be that this young man wasn't aware of it?

Is he just in his prime of youth or is he plotting some other schemes?

Polk rubbed his forehead, trying to shake off this fatigue. He hopelessly waved his hand and made a decision.

"Get everyone to retreat."

"E-Everyone?"

"Darn right, everyone! Just leave a few of them there for surveillance! It doesn't matter if that guy is crazy or not; we no longer have the forces to deal with a guild that has two people at the Legendary stage. Get those bastards to open their eyes wide and not create any more trouble!"

"Yes, Sir! I will do it now!"

The crystal ball immediately dimmed and Polk let out a long sigh. After pushing aside the crystal ball, he fell into silence for a few moments before knocking on the hanging bell beside his table with a small wooden hammer. Soon, an attendant opened the door and entered the room with much respect.

"Prepare the chariot; I'm heading to the Starmoon Mage Association."

Just as Polk was troubling over how he should handle the censure of Starmoon Mage Association, Rhode on the other side had settled all his visitors. After Mini Bubble Gum agreed to the conditions, Rhode got into further discussions with the Church. In the end, the Church agreed to send 50 Clerics to the fortress in the Land of Atonement to accept Mini Bubble Gum's 'Cleric Training'. The duration would be for two years, and within these two years, Rhode would be allowed to dispatch them for adventures or battles to gain a certain extent of experience. Of course, it would also be the Church's responsibilities in the event of any unfortunate deaths. In terms of their levels, Lilia mentioned that most of them would be in the Professional stage and a small handful of them would be in Elite stage. Rhode didn't have any opinions on this matter, and this duration of two years was actually good news for him, because he was clear that in at most a year's time, if the Country of Light was to be invaded by the Country of Darkness, the war would start. Until then, Rhode's success rate would naturally multiply with the support of the 50 Clerics in his fortress. In terms of strength, it wasn't that worrying for Rhode because with the Sphere of Mystery to boost training efficiency by three times, it wouldn't be difficult for those in the Professional stage to reach the Elite stage in two years' time.

After Lilia left, Rhode received Keller, Klautz, and Sereck. Keller's purpose in visiting was within Rhode's expectations as he wished to sponsor Starlight. However, this idea was naturally rejected by Rhode. Although the Keller Family stayed loyal and devoted to the Munn Kingdom, Rhode didn't have the habit of placing the lifeline of his guild in the hands of others. Moreover, considering the bad impression that the fat chick in Keller Family had on him, it was all the more reason he didn't want to mix with them too much. In the end, Rhode compromised to invite the Keller Family to his fortress to conduct ore explorations and excavations. After all, this was the main business of the Keller Family, and although Matt could also contribute partially, his expertise was still on business and not mining, so he wouldn't be as proficient as the Keller Family.

Keller also knew that thorough communications with Rhode were rather difficult after the incident between Rhode and his daughter, which was why he didn't request for too much but just agreed to Rhode's suggestion with a nod. Finally, both sides agreed to the terms: the Keller Family would be responsible for explorations while Starlight would be in charge of monitoring and guarding their safety. The number of ores dug would be split three to seven. As gratitude, Rhode's fortress would exempt the Kellers one year of business tax.

Strictly speaking, this agreement wasn't too beneficial for the Keller Family. But Keller agreed without hesitation. After all, the most important purpose for this decision was to improve their relationship with Starlight. His scheme was similar to Matt's, where both of them recognized the two political resources-Lize and Marlene. Also, Rhode was also admired deeply by Monarch Lydia. Keller only just took over the Merchant Association of the Paphield region and needed powerful political backing, and urgently. To be able to maintain a close relationship with Rhode and Starlight meant the best for Keller.

Keller's visit didn't surprise Rhode, but Klautz's reaction was out of Rhode's expectations. Originally he thought that this owner of Deep Stone City cum Paphield Magistrate had the same intentions as Keller, which was to do business with Starlight. However, Klautz didn't express such an attitude; instead, Klautz only spoke normally and in the end, he promised Rhode that Paphield would become their solid backing. As long as Rhode's guild didn't violate any laws, Klautz could make things convenient for Rhode.

Rhode didn't fully believe Klautz's words. However, Rhode expressed that Starlight, as a new guild in Paphield, would strive to oversee the mercenary groups and guarantee the peace and stability of Paphield as gratitude. No matter what, mercenary groups or guilds were still the 'products' of an authority organization. According to the laws of the Dragon Soul Continent, a guild couldn't have more than 500 registered members and to prevent anyone from taking advantage of any loopholes, they had also set a rule that a Guild Fortress couldn't have more than 1500 people. Considering the future additions of members from the Church, Keller Family, Matt's trade association, and Deep Creek village, these procedures would be thorny, which was why it would be better if things could be settled quickly.

On the contrary, the Mercenary Association which Sereck represented didn't bring any daunting tasks for Rhode. After all, they were also clear that Starlight was still a newborn baby and to immediately request growth wasn't reasonable. As such, Sereck only raised some points to Rhode with regards to basic situations and the necessity of filling member records. However, what caught Rhode's attention was the necessary completion of two five stars missions with the hard indicators of a year, which Sereck mentioned before he left. After all, half a year had already gone and Sereck was worried that Rhode's guild would be forcefully demoted because he didn't complete the requirements. Of course, Rhode already had plans for this.

It was already noon after he sent off everyone.Rhode let out a long sigh while Lapis and Christie prepared their pieces of baggage and were waiting for him. But...

"Sir, just you alone?"

Kavos questioned with doubts and shifted his gaze towards Christie and Lapis with an awkward expression. Other than the huge easel on Christie's back, there were only a few pieces of clothes she would be bringing over to the fortress. On the other hand, there were three pieces of baggage of different sizes beside Lapis. According to her, this was only a small portion of all her luggage.

After receiving Rhode's order, Kavos thought Rhode would bring along a few other mercenaries for the journey back. However, it seemed like things were otherwise. Can Sir handle all this baggage alone?

"Follow me."

Rhode didn't respond; instead, he beckoned for Kavos and Shauna before turning towards the stairs. Both of them exchanged dubious glances and followed Rhode down the stairs after lifting the baggage.

Under Rhode's lead, everyone arrived at a room located on the second basement floor. This place was originally set up for training mercenaries with the Sphere of Mystery. Now that the Sphere of Mystery had been shifted to the fortress by Rhode, this location had been modified for the Summon Gate. Everyone was surprised as they entered the room.

What's this?

A rock-carved large gate built into the wall was seen in the deepest end of the room. At first glance, this gate was no different from any stone carving. However, after careful observation, they realized that there was a hovering whirlpool glinting with magical radiance right in the middle of the pitch-black gate, like a revolving galaxy.

"Sir... This is..."

Upon hearing Shauna's question, Rhode approached the wooden gate and knocked.

"This is a magical portal. It can transport us between the stronghold and fortress... In simple terms, we can go to the fortress in the Land of Atonement and the stronghold here at our will. Understand?"

"There's such a thing?!"

Both Shauna and Kavos were shocked as they knew the importance of this gate. At this moment, Shauna finally understood how Rhode returned to the stronghold in absolute silence.

"I guess both of you are aware that this gate is very important. Within the guild, only me, Marlene, Lize, Anne, Gillian, Canary, and Mini Bubble Gum are aware of its presence. Now that both of you are aware, I think you should be clear that this must be kept a secret from everyone else. Only those who pass the test and show loyalty to the guild will have the rights to know about the presence of this gate."

Rhode paused for a moment and turned towards Shauna and Kavos.

"Shauna, you should know that this is a top secret. I have set up magical sentries here and it will trigger an alarm once it detects an intruder. But I still hope that you can keep this secret securely."

"Yes, Sir, please be assured. I will not leak this secret."

Shauna instantly promised sternly. After receiving Shauna's word, Rhode nodded and turned to Kavos.

"Kavos, check on the manpower we have after I leave and prepare to head into the Land of Atonement. I guarantee there's a surprise for you there. So then..."

Rhode paused before turning his head towards Christie and Lapis.

"We should go... I have a date tonight."