"How do you know about our problem?!" One of the mermen asked.

"Do you know where those children are?!" Another added.

The third one was more antagonistic. "Are you the one responsible for them missing…?!" He uttered. His trident came closer to John.

"Now, now. Please calm down," John said. "Please call your leader out. Of course, if you don't consider those missing children as important, we will leave. It's your choice."

The mermen gave John a hard stare. With the way John acted, they were convinced that John's group was the kidnapper. Maybe this group now came to demand ransom for the kidnapped children.

"Hmph! Go call the sea mother," one of the mermen ordered his comrade. That merman left and swam at high speed toward their town. The remaining two remained on guard with their tridents pointing at John.

John stayed still and whistled as he waited. The whistling annoyed the two mermen, but John didn't stop.

"Is all this provocation necessary?" Bowler asked John via message.

"No, but it's entertaining watching their annoyed faces while waiting. What else should I be doing while waiting?" John replied. Bowler had no idea how to respond to that.

After more than ten minutes, a large group of merfolk came. Some of them rode large red sharks. The leading was an elderly mermaid wearing an intricate ceremonial garb. Her garb was decorated with jewelry and multiple ornaments made of tiny shells.

John used his Inspect on the leading mermaid and found her to be a level 70 Mythical merfolk. Her name was Ama Marak. John also scanned the others, but they were all lower level and lower grades compared to Ama.

The two merman guards, who waited with John, turned to Ama and bowed deferentially when she arrived. "Sea mother," they greeted her.

"This is the outworlder who has the knowledge about our missing children?" Ama asked.

While she was speaking, the merfolk that came with her surrounded the players. Bowler and the others looked at them worriedly.

"Sea mother, we bear you no ill will. There is no need for such a show of hostility," John said.

"Silence, outworlder!" A merman scolded. "Sea mother has not spoken to you, and do not address sea mother with such casualness, or else we will skewer you and feed you to our sharks!"

"I'm just saying, if you made us your enemies, you can forget about finding those missing children," John said, not at all intimidated by the threat.

The sea mother waved a hand. Everyone moved back and stood behind her. She then said to John, "Tell me. Are you the one responsible for our children's disappearance?"

"No," John answered flatly.

"But you know where they are?"

"I do."

"Liar! You are certainly responsible! You have taken them out of this gulf so we can't find them, have you? And now you come to ask for ransom!" One of the merfolk behind shouted.

Ama turned to him with a stern look. He moved back with an apologetic bow, "Forgive me, sea mother."

"Well, I'm not the one responsible for your children's disappearance," John said. "He is wrong about the children's location. They are still in this gulf. But he is not wrong about me coming here asking for ransom."

The merfolk behind immediately shot him hostile looks. Bowler felt like throwing something at John. He sent him a message, "Can you please stop being you for a minute?!"

"Don't disturb me, please," John replied to Bowler. His eyes never left the sea mother, who in turn also stared back at him intently.

"Explain yourself, outworlder," Ama demanded.

"Your children have been captured by another being. Not us. But we have coincidentally found out about this. That's why we come to you. To offer you our help in getting your children back, because we are the benevolent kind of outworlders."

"Didn't you just say that you also ask for ransom?"

"Even benevolent outworlders have needs," John shrugged.

"Tell me the price for your information," Ama said.

"I want you to grant me the blessing as the top-tier summoner from your race," John replied with a grin.

Ama frowned. "You want a special class from us?"

"Not just any, but your best one," John confirmed, still grinning.

Peniel had informed that special class was acquired through luck, but building a good relationship with a faction can also trigger the faction to grant one. A minor race could be considered a faction as well, a minor kingdom faction. So, they should have some special classes available. In theory, if John built a good relationship with the race, he should be able to secure one if the leader of the race deemed him worthy. However, he didn't have the patience to play the long game of building relationships. Since an opportunity had arisen, he decided to exploit it.

Ama was obviously displeased by John's request. Their race did possess special classes. But like every other faction, it's not like they could give out special classes as they like. There was a limit to the ones they possessed, especially the top-tier ones. There was only one for each class category. So, giving one out meant they lose possession of that class until the owner of that special class died and lost the class.

"Let me tell you this information for free. When we found out about your kidnapped children, there were still many that survived, but some of them didn't make it. The longer we delay, the more children you will lose," John said. He didn't let the sea mother ponder for long.

The other merfolk behind were getting more agitated after hearing John's words, but they stayed silent as they didn't want to receive the sea mother's rebuke again.

"If you help us bring back our surviving children, then all right. I'll grant you our best special class for a summoner," Ama finally agreed.

At the same time Ama conceded to John's demand, John heard a quest notification. The quest was to help the merfolk return their missing children. It was an SS-grade quest. The rewards were the standard exp points, gold coins, mana cores, and a first-rate special class for the Summoner class.

John's grin became even wider after hearing it.

"You outworlders are a detestable lot, aren't you?" Ama said with disgust.

"No, sea mother. It is only me," John said without shame.

"Now, tell us where our children are!" The sea mother demanded.

"First of all, please know that the being that kidnapped your children is not something that I nor you can deal with alone. We need to work together on this."

Hearing this, Ama frowned again. "Not something we can handle? Wait… You are not talking about the ancient dragon turtle, are you?"

The merfolk could be considered the de-facto ruler in this gulf. Even countries would take care when they traveled through the water above this gulf, much less down here in the sea. The number of creatures they had to be careful about in this gulf could be counted on one hand. The dragon turtle was at the top of the list.

John hadn't mentioned anything about the one holding the children being something that the merfolk couldn't handle precisely to not let Ama guess it was the dragon turtle. Only after the formal quest notification was heard that he let out this hint. The merfolk was already bound by the world system, so they had no choice but to grant him the rewards as long as the quest objective was fulfilled.

"Impossible!" One of the merfolk behind could finally not stay silent any longer. "The dragon turtle had co-existed with us for centuries. No way it now chooses to provoke us!"

"What if I tell you that it just gave birth to an offspring not long ago?" John said.

"What..?!" The merfolk behind were taken aback.

Ama also seemed to not expect this. "If that ancient dragon turtle had an offspring, it is not out of the question. Our race was the best sustenance to be found nearby for its young offspring…," she muttered.

"Could it be that Nogg was right?" One of the merfolk behind said.

"Nogg?" John asked.

"Nogg Drowner, one of our best warriors. But a bit rebellious and unorthodox, hence his words rarely carry weight," Ama informed. "He had been rambling about the dragon turtle possibly being the one responsible for our missing children. We have dismissed his words. He left four days ago, saying that he is going to investigate further. We haven't heard from him since."

"We considered him to have angered the dragon turtle for trespassing its territory and was eaten," One of the merfolk behind said.

"Well, you are probably half correct about that," John said, remembering Life Runner's report about one adult in captivity.

"If it is the dragon turtle, my folk will be at a disadvantage," Ama said. "It had a skill that could practically turn most of us powerless. We won't be able to do much against it…"

"I know," John said, grinning again. "But I have a counter for that."