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Mariposa scoffed, "Friends? I suppose next as a show of good faith you'll want to give me everything for free. Then maybe we can go on a picnic inside the Towering Oak Forest."

It was obvious that Mariposa did not believe Metronome's words. There was only one rule that was carved in stone for those of the Seven Dreams Consortium and that was "Profit above all else."

The Seven Dreams Consortium always had a strong presence in the gaming community as a behemoth when it came to getting their hands on something you wanted or needed.

However, their presence within RML was even more terrifying than that of the other games they've played. It would not be an understatement to say that the Seven Dreams Consortium had control over the majority of uncommon and rare items that were put up for sale in the auction house. Of course, this did not include rare items gathered by the top guilds themselves.

The major difference between a top guild and the ream Seven Dreams Consortium were their goals and what they hoped to accomplish. A top guild's goal was to become the strongest within RML through their combat prowess. But, for those of the Seven Dreams Consortium, their goal was to simply earn and acquire as much as possible.

The eleven players at the head of the Seven Dreams Consortium who made all the major decision were a group of players known as The Administrators. Or at least, there should have only been eleven players according to Mariposa's most recent information about them. That was the main reason she brushed off Metronome's comment and called his identity into question.

"If you make such a sincere offer, I'll be hard-pressed to refuse your kindness. Though if you insist on a picnic, I prefer sandwiches over steamed buns." Metronome responded with a straight face. He knew that he had the advantage in this situation where he knew about Mariposa, while she knew nothing of him. This automatically gave him the upper hand.

"Metronome, you should watch yourself!" Masterworks snapped as he glared in Metronome's direction. Mariposa was a valued VIP customer that demanded a certain level of respect. If she took offense to what Metronome said and decided not to do business with them anymore, they could potentially lose a huge amount of profit! That was unacceptable!

Masterworks turned back towards Mariposa with a smile on his face and said, "You'll have to forgive him, he's still new to The Administrators and he isn't quite yet familiar with someone of your stature. Please, why don't we sit an discuss this matter so that we can both have a better understanding."

Mariposa ignored Masterworks and kept her gaze locked onto Metronome and started to size him up. Now she knew why he seemed like an unfamiliar face, he had just joined The Administrators!

What threw Mariposa off was the fact that she was unable to read Metronome as easily as she could others. Usually, she had a pretty good idea of who a person truly was the first few moments after they met. However, there was this thin veil that was placed around Metronome that let others look right through him and yet pass him at the same time. It was a strange feeling for someone like her.


"You should know that I'm looking for 2,000 Jugris Leafs and 4,000 Violent Lotus Seeds. Can you truly provide such an amount by yourself? After all, it looks like your Seven Dreams Consortium has no intentions of meeting my demands. All they can do is talk in circles!" Mariposa said.

"Of course, it will be a private matter between me and the guild leader of Sleeping Gardenia, therefore, there will be no need to get the Consortium involved. It is a risk I will take alone. Though my original requirements still stands. I wish to become friends." Metronome responded.

Mariposa furrowed her brows. It troubled her that Metronome insisted on that requirement. Why did he want to be friends with her so badly? Her status? Money? Beauty? A favor? There were too many unknowns. However, she did not have the luxury to turn down his offer.

If she failed to show Izroth her guild's ability to get things done, then he may wander off to another guild at some point. That was a risk she was unwilling to take even if Izroth already gave his word on the matter.

"If guild master Mariposa doesn't mind, I would like to discuss the matter in private." Metronome said as he made a gesture towards a room in the back. The room was no bigger than a small office space, however, it was spacious enough to serve as a temporary private room when people came in with sensitive matters to discuss.

Mariposa nodded and replied, "Very well, but if you waste my time with nonsense and there's nothing to show from our talks, then don't blame me for being impolite. He Huian, come with us."

Metronome, Mariposa, and He Huian stepped into the private room and closed the door behind them. Those who were outside of the room would be unable to hear the conversation going on inside.

"First off, allow me to properly introduce myself. I am Metronome, the twelfth administrator. It's a pleasure to meet you. Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, I wonder if you'll entertain me with the reason for your needing such a massive quantity of Jugris Leafs and Violent Lotus Seeds." Metronome said.

He then continued, "I don't have to tell you that both items are of uncommon quality used mainly in pill crafting by apothecaries. While a few hundred would not be an issue, the amount you're asking for is in the thousands."

"It's a need of my guild, that's all the information you need to know." Mariposa replied without hesitation. Even though Izroth had made it clear that he did not mind if they revealed his identity, Mariposa wanted to keep it under wrap until at least the opening of his shop. Therefore, she felt that she had no need to indulge Metronome's curiosity.

Metronome shook his head and said, "Come now, this is not the way friends should speak to one another. In fact, shall I tell you a little interesting story? You see, I personally delivered two of the same items to a player earlier today. He also requested some Jugris Leafs and Violent Lotus Seeds. Of course, the amount he asked for was much smaller by comparison."

"What does that have to do with us?" Mariposa asked with a frown.

"Oh? I would assume it has everything to do with you. After all, I believe it's someone you're already well acquainted with. Another interesting point to notice is the sudden absence of Five Cycles Pills in the auction house. I've heard from certain sources that Sleeping Gardenia has recently come into ownership of quite a few Five Cycles Pills. So tell me, does the name Izroth ring any bells?" Metronome said as he observed Mariposa's and He Huian's reactions.

Mariposa narrowed her eyes as a serious expression appeared on her face. As for He Huian, she revealed a brief moment of shock, but she managed to conceal it quickly. However, Metronome had already gathered all the information he needed from those short reactions.

"It's true that I do know someone by the name of Izroth. In fact, he and my younger sister are quite good friends with one another. However, I still fail to see what that has to do with our current conversation. It's not uncommon for people to purchase the same items and it certainly is far from the mystery you're making it out to be. As for my methods of obtaining Five Cycles Pills, I have to say you're quite well informed of my guild's internal matters." Mariposa said calmly.

"I have eyes and ears everywhere. It pays to be well informed of a large variety of matters. Also, friends are honest with each other, you know? The relationship I'm speaking of is the one between the Pill Emperor and Sleeping Gardenia." Metronome said in a straight forward manner.

Both Mariposa and He Huian kept a straight face, however, they were inwardly shocked when they heard Metronome's words. How was it that he figured out the truth? Or maybe he still did not truly know and was only waiting for them to confirm his suspicions? However, the more Mariposa thought about it, the more she believed that it was useless to continue hiding the matter.

Mariposa sighed and said, "Judging from the other members of The Administrators lack of interest, I assume you have not yet disclosed this information to any of them, right?"

"I'm glad you've decided to speak freely. You are correct. At the moment, I am the sole member of The Administrators who knows that Izroth is, in fact, the mysterious number rank Apothecary within RML, the Pill Emperor." Metronome said.

"How did you find out?" He Huian asked curiously.

"It's my job to know these things. It's how I make a living. Though I have to admit, I still had some reservations about such wild speculations. However, I figured if I could meet with guild master Mariposa personally, I would be able to confirm my suspicions. Also, you yourself just helped me finalize my suspicions 100% with your statement. I must thank you." Metronome said with a smile on his face.

"You-" He Huian was startled. She had no idea that he was still not 100% certain due to the level of confidence he spoke with. She felt as if she had just been deceived and it was in front of Mariposa no less!

Mariposa held her hand up and said, "It's okay, He Huian. This is my fault, not yours. I was careless." She had fallen right into Metronome's trap. From the moment she personally stepped through that door and into the building, Metronome had already received his answer. If she had never personally come to this place, then Metronome would have still had his doubts.

However, she did learn one thing about him from this entire situation. He was someone you could not afford to let your guard down against even for a second. Otherwise, he would find a way to devour you whole. This was the first impression Mariposa had about Metronome.

"So, what do you plan to do now that you know? Tell the other members of The Administrators? Ask for a favor to keep it quiet?" Mariposa questioned.

"Not at all. You see, I personally believe that Izroth will accomplish great things in the future. He's someone I want to form a close personal relationship with. However, for reasons unknown to me he appears to always keep me at arm's length. Therefore, until I'm able to form a more solid relationship with him, I figured I should form one with the next best source." Metronome explained.

He then continued, "Not to mention, having any kind of relationship with the Pill Emperor will generate profit one way or another, even if its just second hand. Needless to say, I would like an exclusivity contract so that your Sleeping Gardenia deals with me personally when making any kind of transactions with the Seven Dreams Consortium. In other words, a priority supplier."

"Next best source, is it? Why do I feel as if you've just insulted my Sleeping Gardenia for one player?" Mariposa said in an almost joking manner.

"I meant no offense, it's simply my true purpose. Consider this a way for us to help each other. Izroth will have to interact with Sleeping Gardenia who will, in turn, have to interact with me. That creates a little something called a window of opportunity for me to interact with Izroth more often. So, tell me, now everything laid out on the table, will you accept my offer?" Metronome asked seriously.

Mariposa closed her eyes appeared to be in deep thought. However, a few moments later, she opened her eyes with a look oh clarity present.

"He Huian, what do you think?" Mariposa asked.

"Plainly speaking, we'll need a reliable supplier for items that we'll have trouble obtaining ourselves. I hate to admit it, but this situation is ideal considering he's already aware of Izroth's identity. At the very least, he seems to have no intentions of causing us any trouble, not at the moment anyway. We should accept." He Huian said. Even though she was still upset with being tricked by Metronome, however, she still answered truthfully.

Mariposa nodded in agreement as she then turned to face Metronome and said, "Exactly my thoughts. Very well, Metronome. I look forward to working with you. I can't and won't make any promises about helping you build your relationship with Izroth, however, I can say that I won't try to stand in your way of doing so."

"Excellent! We can draw up the contract right away." Metronome said in a friendly manner.

It did not take long for Mariposa, Metronome, and He Huian to draw up a contract and sign it. Now, a formal business partnership had been formed between the two parties.

However, neither of the parties involved could have imagined just how huge of a shift in the power structure of RML this contract would create in the future.

...

Woosh!

Izroth sliced one of the final Lava Beast in half and returned his Sword of The Storm to its sheath. The path to the corridor that was blocked by numerous Lava Beast was now completely clear of them. It was at that moment Izroth caught sight of a sign that only appeared after the entrance of the corridor was cleared of all monsters.

'Hm? The Ancient Hall of Tempris?'

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