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“We are very thankful that you are enjoying the food.”
“I have never tasted such delicacies.”
Arkhim, the guild member in charge of intelligence, joined the conversation.
“I know that you are also a chef…”
“Advanced level 2.”
“Huh… Your cooking skill level is very high.”
“I have only cooked with cheap ingredients from markets and dungeon hunts, so it was very limited I’d say. But, I will master it one day.”
“They say ingredients matter as much as the cooking. It seems your interest in cooking was consistent?”
“Yes. I am thinking of putting aside some time to sell my dishes at a townsquare.”
Lafaye analyzed every bit of Weed’s vocabulary and his nuances, but there were no hidden messages.
He truly meant his compliments about the food and went on about mundane stories.
‘Why? What does he want to get at?’
As more time passed, he felt it was pointless in trying to uncover something.
Although they were inside the impregnable military fortress of Lahonya, Weed coming all by himself into the heart of enemy territory was disturbing.
“Can I pack the leftovers?”
“I don’t want them to go to waste…”
“Please do as you wish.”
Weed packed a pile of food into his bag. Finally, the meal table was taken away and the atmosphere for a serious discussion settled in the room.
‘At last we will hear his true motive.’
Lafaye and the guild members were waiting in anticipation of the story to come.
Weed followed with a blunt announcement.
“Assist me in the fight against Kaybern.”
“I am not asking you all to take responsibility for your past actions. We did what we did for our own survival. So, I am making an offer. If you fight alongside us, I will make sure the Hermes Guild prospers.”
Weed left and the heads of the Hermes Guild gathered in Lahonya.
Hostile characters like Calcus were outraged by the missed opportunity to kill Weed.
“So… He asked us to fight Kaybern: to form an alliance for the defeat of the Black Dragon?”
“That is the proposal.”
“Rubbish. You should have turned it down on the spot. Why would we fight for him? Weed the conqueror of the Central Continent should deal with it.”
Calcus’ opinion was perfectly reasonable. The guild members that were present when Weed made his offer thought in a similar way.
‘For whose benefit will it be for us to fight?’
‘Our losses will be huge.’
The meeting was to be broadcasted, so it was just a matter of turning it down in a way that would not upset the viewers.
Arkhim frowned and explained.
“He said we, the Hermes Guild, will be recognized as members of the continent if we are to fight alongside him.”
“The independent governance of the Haven territory will be recognized and no acts of conquest will occur. The conduction of trade and other external affairs with the Central and Northern Continents will not be restricted. However, under the agreement, Haven accepts that it is under the control of the Arpen Empire and associated under the empire’s territory. Furthermore, there are many lands without lords across the continent. 1,000 guild members will be given the privilege to govern the said regions.”
Calcus’ head began to process what he just heard.
“He will accept our independence, cease any attacks against us and 1,000 of our members will be appointed as lords? Then… he means to end the war. Aren’t those conditions very favorable for us?”
It was a groundbreaking offer that rendered the hostile guild members speechless.
The Hermes Guild was dwindling away with members deserting the guild and players’ negativity toward the guild was only continuing to grow.
They would not dare dream of reigning over the Central Continent again.
The Arpen Empire in comparison was growing even more powerful, offering them acceptance of Haven grounds.
‘From now on, a fight against the Arpen Empire must be avoided.’
Things were different from the human wave tactic shown back in Garnav Plains.
The progress of the assault squad was broadcasted every day.
The Hermes Guild called themselves the most powerful faction in Royal Road, but the assault squad was quickly closing in while they prepared against Kaybern.
Furthermore, they heard about the discovery of the Brazier of Sacrifice.
The guild had fallen from its prime and, if users of the brazier were to confront them, another horrific scene like the Garnav Plains would befall them once more.
If they were to lose the war, Haven could be taken away from them.
That was how the other guilds fell after all.
However, if the Hermes Guild loses power, they must face all of the players in the continent as enemies.
Due to the evil deeds they had committed up to the present, every member of the Hermes Guild would be hunted for revenge by the players.
Although no one spoke of it out loud, they knew it all too well.
The moment the guild falls, they will be on the run from all players.
“Although it’s a formality, the Versailles Continent will be completely united under the Arpen Empire if we accept the offer.”
“Correct. In our current situation, accepting the offer means we are forfeiting the ‘Emperor of Unification” achievement. The south and the east will remain unconquered for the time being.”
“There is no longer a chance of our guild conquering the continent, so we are not losing out. No?”
“I would say so. We would be safely ruling over the Haven territory and earn 1,000 lord seats. The territory under our control would double from now.”
The general consensus of the players that heard Weed’s offer felt it was an acceptable deal.
Arkhim let out a long sigh.
“There is a trap in this offer.”
“We, the Hermes Guild, must use the Brazier of Sacrifice to fight Kaybern. At least 10,000 of us.”
Calcus and the players were astounded.
Through what they confirmed on broadcast, the use of the brazier was the worst thing a high level player could imagine.
“That’s too absurd, isn’t it?”
“It is not an easy offer.”
“We must decline it!”
“It’s not an outrageous demand either. Weed, too, will use the brazier. So will the dwarves, his closest acquaintances and many players in the assault squad.
“If they themselves will fight under the effects of the brazier and we are in our normal state, we would be little help against Kaybern.”
“That’s indeed a problem.”
They did not wish to use the brazier, but the gap in combat level would be too great.
“Also, he said the 1,000 lords will be appointed based on their contribution in the battle against Kaybern.”
“Contribution in battle?”
“Yes. That is the reward system that will supposedly encourage active participation…”
“I guess that does make sense. Under those conditions it will be much easier to convince our guild members.”
Since the guild members were to be appointed as lords, they deemed this part of the offer to be acceptable. Even for them, the player who contributed most should get the most reward.
“To fight Kaybern or not…”
“At first I felt awful, but it doesn’t seem like a total loss if they acknowledge the Haven territory in exchange for our assistance.”
“We would lose levels, but they can be regained. Our territory will remain as is…”
“If we end up succeeding in the dragon hunt, we will attain an incredible combat achievement. Just from that alone, wouldn’t we be able to gain back at least 10, 20 levels?”
“That’s all under the assumption that we succeed.”
“If we gather our strength. Weed will be there as well. Since when are success rates favorable? If we decline his offer, we are going to lose out on much more than a few levels.”
The heads of the guild realized the more they discussed that they really didn’t have a choice to decline. If the Arpen Empire were to march on them, they themselves, being major lords, would suffer the most.
Money, power, land.
They were more important than levels.
The leaders of the Hermes guild voted to accept Weed’s offer and they asked for Bard Ray’s advice.
If the leader of the guild, Bard Ray, were to reject, the matter could not pass.
Bard Ray stayed silent for a moment but soon accepted the absorbance under the Arpen Empire and the battle against Kaybern.
Lafaye cleaned out the items in the office of Lahonya. The antiques, treasures and equipment that he stashed away as the second in command were mostly lost when Castle Aren disappeared.
He only packed one bag with the remaining items.
“Whoo… It’s less than I expected.”
Lafaye scavenged his items and gazed at the scenery of Lahonya outside the window.
Back when the faction maintained its power over the Central Continent, they had constructed this military fortress to defend against the most powerful threats they could anticipate.
It was an unassailable stronghold that could withstand the most massive armies, but now it was rendered meaningless.
“The wise said that building a castle will lead to failure and forging roads led to success… It’s not the most appropriate figure of speech, but it seems that the situation turned out that way.”
Lafaye’s voice felt relieved from the world’s pressure. Arkhim was waiting as he stepped out the hallway with a bag over his shoulder.
“Are you leaving for good?”
Arkhim sensed a strange feeling in the meeting.
Lafaye rarely spoke, a dramatic change from his usually assertive self and even in the last moment of the decision, all he did was nod.
“It seems there is nothing left for me to do around here.”
“I don’t understand. Your title and role will be untouched. I think that you should stick around for the rebirth of the guild.”
Since Lafaye had planned the larger schemes, he was quite free from the liabilities of the defeat against Arpen. Weed fought more skillfully than they had assessed him for and the power of the players were greater than they imagined.
The members of the Hermes Guild knew Lafaye had the highest contribution to the guild.
“It is as I said. I am leaving because there is no more use for me.”
“It’s the era of Weed now and the Hermes Guild doesn’t have the power to win against his command.”
Arkhim could not understand what he meant and walked alongside Lafaye to question him.
“What do you mean by that?”
Lafaye was about to explain himself but sighed instead.
“It will be best if you don’t know. Do you want to know anyway?”
“It doesn’t seem like you are implying that the guild must unquestionably follow his conditions because of the power of the Arpen Empire.
“His offer is a poisonous apple.”
“A poisonous apple?”
“I couldn’t imagine that Weed had such an incredible ability in politics. He is truly… skilled in framing the situation to his advantage. He is a man who could break down our guild with just a few words.”
Lafaye felt the need to tell Arkhim a few things before leaving the guild.
He himself fell for Weed’s scheme helplessly, but he felt some kind of responsibility for the oblivious comrade.
“The offer seems to be a simple trade-off on the surface. We use the brazier and battle against Kaybern. Then the anger and grudge of the players on the Hermes Guild will be appeased, and we will be able to maintain our control over Haven.”
“Then it is good for us, no?”
“Weed’s offer in itself is a fair and logical one without question. Things will proceed as it seems on the outside. We will fight until the very end in order to keep what is ours. What awaits us at the end of the fight will be our downfall.”
“The fate of the guild surrendering after being driven into a corner.”
Lafaye said the result of the battle against the dragon had little significance.
“Victory or defeat. Whatever the result may be, the relationship with Arpen will not change. What’s important is the next step… Firstly, our guild members will fight one another to become one of the 1,000 lords.”
“That would be a logical assumption.”
“1,000 core players with excellent combat skill will desert the guild.”
“They could retain their association with the guild. Weed said they are free to do so.”
“They will most likely leave on their own.”
The Hermes Guild members to be newly appointed lords of Arpen.
Harshly speaking, they would find no merit in maintaining a relationship with the guild.
Instead, it will be an obstacle in ruling over the Central or Northern Continent players so their eventual desertion would be inevitable.
“The Hermes Guild is a fence that will only weaken with time. The players will live out their new lives as lords and if there comes a divide against Arpen, they will not stand by the guild.”
“We aren’t so small that the desertion of 1,000 players will lead to our ruin.”
“We aren’t a small faction. But, even the most dense castle wall can crumble in an instant if a hole breaks through. What had tied the members into one will disappear.”
The Hermes Guild sought for supreme power and distributed immense profits to its members. But with the new world, they would all see that it will be much more advantageous to live as lords of the Arpen Empire than stay as a part of the guild.
Adventurers, warriors, lords…
They, who seek a different style of life, will follow in their own path of freedom.
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