The 'bounty' set by the Truth Union was something known by everyone.
It had been two whole years yet nobody had really taken on this bounty.
Firstly, it was the duty of Secret Rite Tower's knights to root out evil and keep the peace. Also, most people didn't have a need for such superfluous justice.
Secondly, even if the black magician Wilde had been grievously hurt, he was still a Destructive-rank after all.
A crippled Destructive-rank was still a force to reckon with.
Even a half-dead Destructive-rank could still slay Pandemonium-ranks with just a twitch of the lips as long as he could still harness the aether.
Nobody beneath Destructive-rank strength would dare take on this bullet.
And would any Destructive-ranks be in need of money?
They were all great beings, and would any need to do the job personally should they want to kill someone?
Thirdly, a failure would harm their own reputation, so the gains wouldn't make up for the losses.
On top of that, even Joseph, Wilde's greatest foe hadn't even taken up this bounty, so why should most people join in the excitement?
To top it off, Wilde's whereabouts were still unknown till now. There was no way of verifying whether he was still alive without any accurate information.
Previously, there had been some rumors that Wilde was within Norzin, but there hadn't been any follow-up since.
Accepting this job meant spending a great deal of effort to first find the missing Wilde which was a tough task itself.
With these lines of reasoning, Wilde's bounty being taken on for the first time in two years wasn't out of the ordinary.
Walter Leonard, the Truth Union's Head of Alchemy rebutted disgruntledly when he heard what was said. “If mine is a messy research project, then your mechanics department is just absolutely useless. All you do is research stuff like 'fully-automated hair washers' or a 'dual-purpose muffler glove'. In my opinion, the vice-chairman should cut your expenses.”
Following that, he asked with a weird look on his face, "Was there really someone who took on Wilde's bounty? I wonder which great Destructive-rank is bored or has too much time on his hands."
Leonard then noticed something on the chessboard and said triumphantly, "My dear Feige, I suspect that you used this to divert my attention so that you could cheat your way to victory."
Head of Mechanics Department, Rowell Feige slapped the table and exclaimed in a high-pitched voice. "Hey, do I look like such a person?"
"You don't look like one." Leonard shook his head. He then shifted one of his chess pieces and said confidently, "You are one!"
Feige sighed, "Even though you have accused me wrongly, I still treat you as my best friend."
Leonard sneered, "Anyone can be a friend of the cunning, merciless, and greedy Feige when money is involved."
Feige shook his head. "You have grossly misjudged me. However, I have to say this, all of my research is useful. The 'Clay Idol' plan is reaching its final stages. We are able to proceed with the final step once we obtain the philosopher's stone.
"And it's all thanks to Lady Doris' help. The philosopher's stone from the Coffin of Eternal Rest is much better than the ones you alchemy masters produce."
Leonard shot the other old man a mystified look. Tugging his ear, he said mockingly, "I've heard the phrase 'Proceed with the final step' many times but after each time, a certain someone would clutch a failure report and continue requesting funding for experiments. Sometimes, I really wonder whether it is all a big fraud to get more funds."
"It's because you people provide us with inadequate philosopher's stones!"
"Don't try giving excuses. Clearly, your department's skills are lacking!"
The two old men glared at each other for a moment, then humphed at the same time and returned their eyes back to the chessboard.
After a while, Leonard couldn't help speaking up. "You haven't told me who exactly took on the bounty?"
Even though he could just use the Truth Union's internal network to do a search, he would feel that using such 'external help' was a little shameful.
"Ha," Feige let out a strange laugh, pleased that the Head of Alchemy Department had been the first to speak. "I just knew that you wouldn't be able to guess it. The one who took on the bounty this time isn't any Destructive-rank but a Pandemonium-rank hunter instead."
"A hunter? Pandemonium-rank?" Leonard raised an eyebrow. "Are you kidding me?"
His line of thoughts immediately changed.
No, if the Truth Union could permit this person to take on the bounty, it meant that he or she would indeed have at least a 50% probability of completing the mission.
But if this hunter was only a Pandemonium-rank, then the answer was clear—
"Destructive-rank advancement accreditation?"
Someone wanting to advance in rank on the Truth Union's yearly list required proving oneself with deeds.
For example, someone defeating a Destructive-rank in a battle would be evaluated as a new Destructive-rank.
Those that didn't fight all the time could also go through a standard aether test, just that they would have a 'standardized test' indication behind their names. Somehow, it would make them seem a step lower than others, so most people would usually gain their accreditations through battle deeds.
"That's right," said Feige with a nod. "Pandemonium-rank hunter, 'Pale Nightwatcher' Burton Ackerman has suggested taking Wilde's bounty to prove himself.
"During the standardization test, he was able to display Destructive-rank strength after injecting himself with sordid blood. Thus, we approved his application."
Leonard nodded his head. "I see, but can he really find..."
"What are you two talking about?" Andrew suddenly walked in and interrupted the conversation between these two. He sat down on the couch beside them and tossed his communications device away.
The Truth Union vice-chairman sighed, "I never imagined this..."
"Vice-chair, what's wrong?" Leonard asked.
Andrew had a complicated look in his eyes as he lamented, "300 years have passed. I've aged considerably yet she's still exactly the same and even her manner of speech hasn't changed one bit. It makes me feel as if I'm in a dream."
Leonard thought to himself that this was probably melancholy from seeing an old crush once again.
Elves like Doris are beings with longevity after all. What's there to lament about?
However, it would be better if he didn't say it aloud for the sake of his funding.
Feige asked, "Vice-chair, what exactly is going on with that bookstore? Has the Iris Clan really proclaimed him as their lord?"
"Not him, but the entity behind him. Secret Rite Tower has already sent over their case file. Check it out yourselves."
Andrew's brows creased as he said this with a veiled loathing in his eyes. "I also never imagined that there would be an unnoticed Supreme-rank in Norzin. But the file was personally written by Joseph and we have to treat it with importance... Since his stance is friendly, we can choose to feel him out slowly. However, such an entity being in Norzin would ultimately be troublesome."
"So, you are saying?" asked Leonard.
"We wait and see." Andrew stood up and said calmly, "Wilde and this bookstore owner have some connection. Guide Ackerman over and let him be our eyes."