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804 A Battle For Them

 Canary's enlightenment worked. All in all, Rhode was most afraid of failure and death, especially because he knew he couldn't be revived. This made him brave, yet conservative when making decisions. He took on any possible mission with his rich experiences and made extra sure that the people around him were safe. Judging from this point, his protection of Marlene, Lize, and Anne wasn't any less than Christie's-just that he wasn't as extreme.

After thinking it through, Rhode came up with a new idea. But before that...

"Sir Overlord, is anything the matter?"

Sovann stood before Rhode's desk and greeted him. After a few days of rest, this miserable-looking refugee finally looked like a decent man with his clean set of robes. Along with his straight, soldier-like posture, his graceful bearing of a Battle Mage was clearly visible. Rhode noticed that Sovann treated him with much more respect and admiration now. Earlier on, Sovann still behaved rather awkwardly.

This was clearly due to the fact that Rhode had accepted them. In Marlene's plan, the refugees played a huge role, so Rhode couldn't possibly let them live as beggars. Sovann had initially hoped that Rhode could grant them the permission to settle down in his territory. But he didn't expect that not only did Rhode agree, he also arranged for accommodations in the fortress. Apart from that, Sovann heard that the 'scattered remnants' of the Battle Mage Group would be accepted as Rhode's private soldiers, where their families could also apply for jobs in the fortress.

Sovann was delighted because he thought that Rhode would chase them out of his territory for bringing a group of injured members. It was due to this that Sovann gained a lot more respect for Rhode and was extremely grateful for his kindness.

"This was what happened, Mr. Sovann."

Rhode fiddled with the feather pen in his hand and gazed at the man. His eyes glinted with the traces of a smile, but Sovann didn't notice.

"I suppose you've heard from Marlene about the arrangements. The Battle Mage Group is powerful, which is the reason why I initially hoped to receive your support. But I didn't expect that such an incident would happen..."

Sovann bit his lips because he was regretful about the current state of his group. Who knew that the formidable Battle Mage Group would end up in this mess? But ultimately, it was the leader's and his responsibility for belittling Lennon's ambitions. They didn't expect that Lennon would 'backstab' them for the sake of authority. Up until this moment, Sovann couldn't understand why. He, Buster, and Lennon were close childhood buddies. Weren't years of brotherhood more important than some illusory authority?

However, such sadness only lasted for a second because Sovann felt dubious. He didn't understand why Rhode brought this matter up. But, shortly after, he received his answer.

"... I think... that the Battle Mage Group shouldn't come to an end this way. Mr. Sovann, are you interested in rebuilding the Battle Mage Group?"

"What?"

Sovann lifted his head and widened his eyes at the emotionless man before him. Sovann had discussed the future of the group with his companions, but they felt hopeless. Their leader was dead and most of the young generation whom they had placed high hopes on were gone. Not only that, but they also would become the overlord's private soldiers. Sovann didn't think so far ahead. But now, he didn't expect Rhode to raise this question.

"S-Sir..."

"You've already gotten the 'Soul Road' Staff. Could it be that there are issues with the revival of the Battle Mage Group?"

"Yes, Sir Overlord."

Sovann nodded hurriedly.

"Even though we do have the 'Soul Road' Staff in our hands, it is a pity that... We failed to complete the inheritance ritual. Honestly speaking, the inheritance of the Battle Mage Group is extremely unique, where only the leader of the Battle Mage Group knows about the secrets. Although I'm the vice leader, I don't have experience in inheritance rituals. Besides, our leader died in battle. Not to mention..."

Sovann shook his head. This was the second reason why he wasn't hopeful that the Battle Mage Group could rise again. According to the ancient traditions, their leader of the Battle Mage Group would pass on his powers to the heir before he died. After the heir gained the powers, a mysterious rune would emerge on his body, which represented that he had passed the test and became the new leader.

It was due to this reason that there wasn't much internal strife in the Battle Mage Group. However, the situation changed after they had gotten the 'Soul Road' Staff. The inheritance of the 'Soul Road' Staff also meant that one could also receive the leadership rights of the Battle Mage Group, which was why Lennon came up with the idea of snatching the inheritance. On the other hand, Sovann could also do the same thing as one of the three vice leaders. But...

"The inheritance ritual can only be completed at our altar. But it has been occupied by the Undead Creatures..."

"We can still snatch it back."

Rhode said nonchalantly.

"The Battle Mage Group's inheritance shouldn't be lost. Besides, strictly speaking, I'm also partly responsible for the current state of your group..."

"S-Sir! It is not..."

Sovann replied anxiously. Indeed, there were grumbles spreading in the Battle Mage Group about Rhode. Just like how some did everything they could to get their hands on the 'Soul Road' Staff, some couldn't accept the reality. After Sovann made the decision of coming to the Land of Atonement, some of his companions complained that if Rhode didn't 'incite' their leader with his strategy, their group wouldn't end up in this state now.

However, Sovann knew that this was unreasonable of them because what Rhode provided them was indeed useful. Even though Sovann didn't know how Rhode managed to do it, the fact that they had gotten past obstacles with the smallest price paid was all due to Rhode's reminder and guidance. If it weren't for the traitor, they wouldn't have suffered gravely. Therefore, their grumbles were meaningless judging from this point. But this was human behavior after all... Humans often pushed the blame to others, especially those whom they weren't familiar with.

Sovann felt cold sweat trickling down his back because he thought that Rhode had heard the nonsense from his companions, which was why he raised this suggestion. If it was true, Sovann would be in for a bad time!

"It isn't your fault, Sir. Besides, it is too dangerous..."

"No no no. I'm not joking with you. I'm serious about it."

Rhode waved his hand. In fact, this was his true thoughts. The Battle Mage Group had always been a powerful force. In the game, the average level of the Battle Mage Group was around 50, which was what Rhode valued in them.

In the entire Light Mainland, the maximum level an ordinary human could reach was 40. Even with the assistance of the Sphere of Mystery to upgrade the leveling process in his territory, Rhode's men like Joey and Randolf hit the cap at level 40. The only ones who broke through the level 40 cap were mixed-blood humans like Lize and Anne or talented humans like Marlene. In other words, ordinary humans simply couldn't achieve it.

To the contrary, the Battle Mage Group succeeded. Rhode observed them closely and discovered that their average level was truly above 50. In other words, they possessed the strength of the Master Stage. However, they were only pure mortals without any talent. So how did they achieve it?

Sovann was right. Rhode indeed didn't have the intention of developing the Battle Mage Group as an independent organization. Instead, he wanted to grow them as his bottom line and raise the strength of his other subordinates using their secret to breaking through the level cap. The Battle Mage Group surely had a unique style of their own. But he had to let them have a sweet taste of success before asking them to hand the secret over.

Of course, completing the mission was still the most important reason.

"... It would be a pity if the Battle Mage Group were to fall. I'm interested in your unique battling style, so I hope that not only your group can provide me with firepower, but also raise the strength of my men..."

Sovann understood what was going through Rhode's mind. Sovann had to admit that if this were the case, he could accept Rhode's explanation. Indeed, just as Rhode expected, every group must have an outstanding capability in order to stay independent in this continent. Sovann knew that Rhode was clearly asking for their 'secret'... But the conditions that he mentioned were...

"I understand, Sir Overlord."

Sovann gritted his teeth and agreed to his suggestion albeit feeling rather unwilling. He could forget about it if the staff didn't exist. But now, it was clearly in his hands and he might possibly become the first person to receive the ancient inheritance in a century. It was impossible that he wasn't tempted.

"As long as I can fulfill the Battle Mage Group's dream, we don't mind going for an adventure once more. We will accept no matter what kind of price that you need us to pay!"

"No."

Rhode waved his hand.

"There's no need to bring so many people. You just need to bring yourself along."

Sovann stared blankly.

After their meeting and Sovann's departure, Rhode sat on the chair and gazed at the system prompt in silence. After a few moments, he extended his arm and rang the bell on his desk. Within a few seconds, Agatha opened the door.

"Inform everyone to gather in the study room."

Agatha headed off and after a few moments, everyone gathered around Rhode. This time, he wasted no time in making his decision known. Everyone had different opinions about his decision. Marlene objected, but she knew that since Rhode had already made up his mind, her persuasion wouldn't work...

"It is dangerous heading into the Eastern Plains. We will face many obstacles and meet high-level Undead Creatures. It won't be as easy as the battle we have from the city wall..."

Rhode gazed at Marlene.

"Marlene, I remember that the Eastern Plains contacted us earlier with hopes to receive a Holy Maiden Statue, right?"

"Yes, Rhode. They have given us the deposit. But their request isn't urgent so I put them at the back of the list."

"I need you to load the Holy Maiden Statue onto the floating boat and let Ann send it to the Eastern Plains."

"Yes, Mr. Rhode."

Even though Marlene didn't understand why, she agreed swiftly.

"As for the people selected for this adventure..."

Rhode pondered, gazed at everyone and gritted his teeth.

"Anne."

"Got it! Leader!"

Anne jumped for joy and brandished her tiny fists. The others didn't have any opinion because Anne had always joined Rhode for adventurers.

"Nell."

"Yes, Master."

Nell took a step forward, lowered her head, and answered softly. After spending days under the sun on the tower, Nell looked like a withered eggplant now and lacked her imperious presence.

"Lize."

"Huh? I'm going too? Mr. Rhode?"

Lize was surprised. Even though she was Rhode's aide-de-camp, he basically didn't bring her along for adventures unless it was for battle. Only then Rhode would bring her and the team of Clerics along. Lize had slowly gotten used to being an aide-de-camp and not a mercenary anymore, so she didn't expect that she would have the chance to join him into the Eastern Plains...

"Lastly..."

Rhode paused. Then, he swept his gaze across everyone and fixed his eyes on a little girl.

"Christie, are you willing to come with me?"

"Huhh!?"

Everyone in the room exclaimed.

"Leader?!"

Anne widened her eyes and gazed in astonishment. Lize covered her mouth with her hands and stared blankly. The others also put up strange, different expressions. They heard clearly that this trip to the Eastern Plains would be especially dangerous and it was apparent from his choice of Anne and Lize for defense. But this time...

Why is Christie going with him?!

"Rhode, what are you..."

Marlene asked with knitted brows while Rhode didn't explain his decision. He merely gestured for the crowd to calm down. Then, they gazed at him while a petite figure pushed her way out gently.

"... Rhode... wants to bring me.. to the Eastern Plains...?"

Christie clenched her fists and placed them on her chest. She looked at Rhode and the latter nodded firmly.

"That's right, Christie. I need your help this time. It will be dangerous and you may even die. Are you willing to come with me?"

"Yes...!"

Christie nodded without any hesitation.

"... I'm willing to... go with... Rhode..."

The little girl replied in a slow, confident tone.