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408 Five Star Missions

 "Hu..."

Walking on the slightly breezy corridor, Lize exhaled onto her hands. At this moment, it was midnight and peaceful within the fortress. Burning flares on the watchtowers could be seen flickering through the windows. However, Lize didn't have the mood to admire the night scenery. As a member of the guild, she had the responsibility of surveillance rotations and also preparing morning meals and drinks.

After the construction of the fortress, Rhode mentioned that there would be increasingly stricter routines in Starlight and one couldn't do as they pleased like back when Starlight was a mercenary group. Normally, there was no fixed timing as to when mercenaries should get up in the morning, take breaks, rotate sentry duties, and even eat three meals. And as a Cleric, Lize naturally took on this responsibility. Although the maiden wasn't as imposing and capable of decision-making, her considerate and feminine attentiveness made her the best candidate for this job.

"Eh?"

As Lize approached the flight of stairs, she noticed a figure seemingly practicing its swordsmanship out in the garden outside the fortress. Lize gradually stopped moving and observed the figure for a while. After all, it was only 6 am and according to the standards of Dragon Soul Continent, the sun had not risen yet. Not to mention, in a place like the Land of Atonement with a weak natural force of order, the number of hours in the night far exceeded the number of hours in the morning. In this place, the sun would rise at 12 pm and set at 4 pm to 5. Got to say, it was really odd to have such differences in time. If that happened on Earth, perhaps it might attribute to some special phenomenon in high latitudes. However, the Land of Atonement and Deep Sone City were only separated by a mountain, and yet, the sun rose from 8 am to 9 am on the other side of the mountain and set at around 7 pm to 8 pm. On this side, the sun rose from 11 am to 12 pm and set from 4 pm to 5 pm. That was really an illogical natural rule.

And due to this, jet lag became the most painful torture for the newly arrived mercenaries. Especially with the unique environmental effects of the Land of Atonement, the mercenaries felt as if they were on night watch two-thirds of the day, which caused them to be extremely tired. Not to mention waking up early, even oversleeping had been normal for the mercenaries. So who exactly had woken up so early?

Lize curiously descended on the flight of stairs and headed towards the garden.

The skies were as dark as ink and the radiance illuminating from the fortress wasn't able to tear apart this deep darkness. Lize exited the fortress and arrived at the garden. Shortly after, with the aid of flare, Lize recognized someone whom she couldn't be more familiar with.

"Mr. Rhode?"

"Lize?"

Rhode laid his sword down and turned around in surprise.

"What are you doing here?"

"I saw someone here, so... Mr. Rhode, what are you do-..."

"I woke up slightly earlier so I decided to take a stroll out here."

Rhode shrugged his shoulders and sheathed his sword. What he said wasn't false. However, it couldn't be considered the truth either. After tormenting Marlene throughout the night, the maiden who couldn't handle Rhode's 'ravage' eventually fell asleep. Right after Marlene fell into a slumber, Rhode left her room. Initially, Rhode intended to rest in his own room, but he didn't feel sleepy at all. That was why he practiced his swordsmanship in the garden after hastily taking a cold shower. Apart from practicing, he used the chance to exercise. After all, one must have the assets to live that loose nightlife.

"Is it time?"

Rhode naturally guessed the reason for Lize to be here and she nodded in agreement.

"Yes, Sir, time is almost up. I intend to patrol for a little more before swapping out..."

"Thanks for your hard work. Don't worry, after the mercenaries have gathered here, you won't be this busy anymore." Rhode patted Lize's shoulder and said softly.

However, Lize chuckled before shaking her head and smiling back at the man before her eyes.

"It's nothing, Mr. Rhode. I don't think this is troublesome at all. Instead, I think this is fine... I know I'm not as smart and imposing as Marlene, so it's only natural for me to help Mr. Rhode in managing your guild. To me, as long as it's within my capabilities, I will do it. I..."

Before Lize could finish her sentence, Rhode placed his finger by her lips.

"You're wrong, Lize. This isn't my guild, this is our guild..." Rhode lifted his hand upwards and knocked on Lize's head lightly. "Don't tell me you've forgotten that it wasn't me who stayed with this mercenary group ever since it was established. No matter what, it wouldn't be Starlight without you. So Lize, I think it's unnecessary for you to be so hard on yourself... Just do what you should do and everything will be fine... Understood?"

"Ah... Yes."

Lize widened her eyes in surprise as she gazed at Rhode. After a few moments, as if she had woken up from a dream, she nodded and answered. If it weren't for Rhode's reminder, Lize almost had forgotten that in terms of seniority, she was the longest lasting member of Starlight. In fact, when Starlight wasn't Starlight previously, she was already here... right?

"Alright, continue with your work then. I'm heading back to rest now."

Rhode nodded and turned towards the fortress. However, after a few steps, Rhode was suddenly reminded of something as he turned back and waved towards Lize.

"Oh yes, don't wake Marlene up for breakfast later. I think she will probably wake up in the afternoon."

"Ah, okay, I understood."

Lize hurriedly nodded and she observed Rhode as he leisurely strolled into the entrance of the Fortress. Up until this moment, Lize tilted her head to one side and began to suspect.

"But... how does Mr. Rhode know that Marlene wouldn't need to eat breakfast...?"

This night was only an accident for Rhode. He affirmed Marlene's feelings towards himself and at the same time accepted them. However, to be frank, Rhode didn't think that Marlene would fall so deep. Although he admitted that he sensed the young lady's likings towards himself, the logic where a woman would go to bed with a man just because she liked the man was too ridiculous. Furthermore, after the night in Golden City, Rhode thought that most females would choose to avoid the topic. Of course, when men were a little more thick skinned and continued to advance, it was possible that the female might accept him. However, Rhode knew of Marlene's unique identity and at that point in time, he didn't have the intentions to tease her. But never did he think that deep down, Marlene would be too shy to speak her mind. Yet right now, she took the initiative to invite himself... This behavior had a distinct inconsistency with her usual self.

After last night, Rhode confirmed that Marlene was hiding some secrets. As an experienced person with females, Rhode had always been very sensitive to the reactions of females in bed. From that frantic night, he realized that apart from her liking towards himself, there was more of self-devotion, just like how a female saint offered her body and life to devote her faith in God.

This was obviously very abnormal. Rhode was no God and furthermore, Marlene's usual actions didn't seem to treat himself as a person worthy of being worshipped. This was why, for Marlene to reveal such an attitude in the act of love-making, was thought-provoking.

Without a doubt, Rhode had no intentions of questioning her thoughts. After this night, he seemed to have a much deeper understanding of this young lady. At least, right after the Midsummer Festival, Marlene didn't stay with Starlight just because she wished to go on adventures.

And that was all Rhode's doubt was when concerning Marlene. Since Marlene didn't wish to tell, then he wouldn't pester her for an answer because it was important to properly maintain personal privacy. Therefore, as long as Rhode continued to observe her, there's no need to question her. Besides, there was something much more serious than this.

"Hu..."

Looking at the list of missions displayed in front of him, Rhode heaved a huge sigh. He flipped each page over one by one. What laid in front of him were the 5 Star missions that the Mercenary Association published for the Guild. Unlike the mercenary missions, these hundreds of 5 Star missions weren't regionally locked and could be said to spread around every corner of the Dragon Soul Continent.

Similar to the game, these 5 Star missions naturally were the most difficult to accomplish and required anywhere from at least 25 members to at least a hundred members. Of course, there were all kinds of purposes in these missions. There were humans, demonic creatures, and some were missions that even required players to defend against the demons and devils crawling from the underground. The difficulties of these missions varied, but all the BOSSes in the missions were at least in their Legendary stage. Their little monsters were basically at least Elite stage and if the players were lucky (or unlucky), they might face some Mutant Elites and Monster Lords.

On this continent, the areas which the Mercenary Association was responsible for were too broad, which was the reason why there were a variety of guild missions. After all, regular armies and guard squadrons were supposed to maintain security on both nation and region-wide fronts. Although sometimes they could crusade against monsters or creatures, in the long run, that would be considered not attending to their proper duties. This was why, those matters that couldn't be resolved by regular armies would be pushed to the Mercenary Association. And due to this, the 5 Star Missions for guilds included different bits of everything.

Incidentally, the Void Dragon Dungeon which Rhode had cleared before he arrived in this world was a 5 Star guild mission: the top tier mission within the 5 Star missions.

This time, Rhode surely wouldn't challenge insane missions like the Deepest Labyrinth. Even though Canary and Mini Bubble Gum were by his side now, they would still be destroyed with Starlight's current strength and standards. Furthermore, there was no resurrection in this world, which made things much more tedious.

Because of this, the 5 Star missions that Rhode chose were mainly much simpler in comparison. However, as NPCs and players had different definitions of threats, there might be some deviations. For instance, some missions that seemed difficult for NPCs were easier for the players. Likewise, some missions that NPCs could complete in a breeze were life-threatening for the players...

This difference in concept brought along unmatched standards between the remunerations and danger levels of the 5 Star missions. Rhode was more inclined to go for missions with lesser possibilities of dangers and with high remunerations.

Without a doubt, remunerations didn't just refer to gold coins...

Rhode stopped his motions and lifted his head towards the sky. What displayed there were the system rewards corresponding to the guild missions.

After careful selection, there were a total of five 5 Star missions before his eyes. All of them were chosen based on their close location to Paphield. Located in the north, these missions also were less dangerous and awarded rich remunerations. Without a doubt, another reason that Rhode had chosen them was that he had cleared these missions with his guild in the game over a hundred times. He could even complete them with his eyes closed.

The first mission was located in the ice-cold region by the borders of Cranmore Lake in the north. Cranmore Lake began to freeze 15 years ago and not even the hot summer days were warm enough to melt the frozen ice layer which gave the locals a lot of trouble... The culprit of this phenomenon was the Ice Devil that escaped from the Water Plane of Existence. It had a strength of around level 65 and wouldn't be difficult to defeat. Furthermore, the remunerations were luxurious. What aroused Rhode the most were the mission rewards that the system would be awarding. After retrieving the Soul Core of the Ice Devil, Rhode could open the doors to the elemental plane of existences within the fortress and summon low-level Water Elemental spirits. Moreover, he could also choose to awaken the Soul Core and obtain a Water Element Summoning Spirit. Regardless of choice, both would be a profitable bargain.

The second mission would require them to go to Land of Ashes and demolish the devil passageway. It was located in the common boundary of the Country of Light and the Country of Darkness. Compared to the first mission, even though the remunerations were less enticing, the system rewards were still generous: a full set of Devil cards.

The third mission was located in an underground cave by the border area of Paphield. Rumors spread that someone witnessed the presence of a Dark Sprite and this spirit was restless. They had huge influence in the surroundings, attacking merchants and locals. The Mercenary Association hoped for a guild to take the responsibility to entirely exterminate the Dark Sprite in the region. As for the system rewards, they were the poorest within all the five missions. Apart from the huge amount of EXP, there would also be a reward that increased the number of dedicated buildings for Dark spirits within the fortress's construction system, which seemed acceptable.

The fourth mission would be situated in Storm Mountain Range. In comparison, this mission was slightly more unique. Legend had it that since decades ago, no one returned after entering this mountain range. The victims were only civilians from the start; however, mercenary groups began to get involved. Similarly, mercenary groups went missing, which alarmed the Mercenary Association and local guilds to form a search party. In the end, the search party consisted of guild members was also gone forever. In order to rescue them, a few powerful Mages also entered the mountain range. What followed went without saying.

And due to this, this mission had been upgraded to a 5 Star mission and its remunerations were the most generous. Not only would the Mercenary Association award 5 million gold coins, they would also put up a sword and shield with Legendary grade: Blizzard Edge and Sacred Shield.

Within the system missions, the rewards that were given for this 5 Star mission were attractive. Apart from the astronomical numbers of EXP, Rhode would also be able to expand his territory according to the size calculated according to the surface area of the Storm Mountain Range. In other words, Rhode's territory would increase by at least half out of thin air.

As for the final mission, it was located in the historical remains above Castel Plateau. Similar to Storm Mountain Range, these historical remains used to be a 4 Star mission. However, a Necromancer appeared out of nowhere and stationed itself there. It awakened Undeads that were fast asleep in the historical remains and panicked the surrounding regions. Although the officials sent out armies and guild alliance had attacked the area, they mostly returned without any results. Because of this, this mission was also promoted as a 5 Star mission.

The system rewards for this mission were rather odd. Apart from an Undead summoning card, the rewards also allowed Rhode to construct a portal for the plane of existence within the fortress to summon low-level creatures as his servants. However, apart from these, there was another reward that interested Rhode: the Golem Guards Defense Formation.

Wow, that's an outstanding defense mechanism for the fortress...

All of these system rewards were great and Rhode had a hard time deciding. To be frank, Rhode wished he could take on all these missions if he could. However, the problem lay on his incapability to complete all the missions.

So then, which missions should he choose?

Rhode sunk into deep consideration.