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 The matter of Carody was put to a side. It just wasn't important enough to think about for Rhode right now. Instead, the training for Marlene and the others' were more crucial as the festival was arriving soon. Rhode wondered if after the few days if hellish training would be enough for them to study the attack patterns. While he didn't expect them to be able to comprehend the patterns fully, but at least they would gain some valuable experiences. In any case, skill mastery could be honed over time. Therefore, Rhode felt that it was time to proceed on to the second phase!

It was another day at the training grounds. When everybody arrived, to their surprise, they discovered Rhode standing in front of them.

"I have seen all your performances these few days, well done," said Rhode who hadn't appeared for a seemingly long period of time.

When they heard Rhode compliment them, their expressions became awkward. They didn't feel like they made any significant improvements worthy of praise.

How was this 'well done' when they were still battered black and blue every single day like a newbie?

"I guess that all of you have already learned something regarding battles," Rhode ignored their expressions and continued speaking, "So now we are going to enter the second phase."

Everyone looked at each other curiously and saw excitement, confusion, anticipation, and worry in their eyes. They had barely made it in the first phase, and how would the second phase even look like?

However, Rhode didn't intend to explain to everyone just yet. Instead, he activated the Sphere of Mystery and within the white space, the five human figures appeared once again.

"Today we'll spice it up a little."

As Rhode spoke, he walked towards the side and pointed towards Joey.

"Joey."

"Yes, Leader. Here!"

The young thief immediately ran towards Rhode excitedly upon hearing his name.

"What do you need me to do?"

"I will change your opponent today. You'll face her."

He pointed towards the dainty and mischievous little girl.

Everyone was shocked momentarily.

A cleric?

It was common knowledge that a spellcasting class would be at a disadvantage when fighting against a thief class. If the little girl had better stats than Joey, then perhaps she would win, but now that both sides were equal in strength, how could she dodge Joey's agile attacks?

Rhode remained nonchalant at everyone's dubious gazes. He made the rest watch by the side and announced the start of the battle.

"Begin fight!"

Joey did not understand Rhode's underlying motive, but he still obeyed and switched to his concealment mode. But at this moment, his eyes suddenly widened in shock. It wasn't only him that was surprised, even Randolf by the side exclaimed.

How could Joey's companion not know how his concealment skill worked? Joey was at passable thief at best, that was all. However, when Joey cast his concealment skill, it felt incredibly smooth! It was totally unlike the previous time he saw it! Just a little bit more and perhaps he would be able to reach the peak of the thief class.

Joey's ridiculous rate of improvement was naturally due to his daily training. Each time he was beaten badly, he grasped and modified his movement technique. As the illusory figures were too tough to beat, he didn't realize that his strength was improving drastically. However, Rhode who monitored each and every one of them closely, was clear of their rate of growth. If he were to create a growth chart using their data, it would be an upwards trend graph.

While they might not be able to level up when utilizing the Sphere of Mystery to train, but the vivid improvement to their mastery of skills was impeccable. Rhode had successfully trained these NPCs as real players! It didn't matter if the level was slightly low. As long one had a firm foundation in skill mastery, levels would come easily later. Rhode always emphasized that it was essential to master the skill as early as possible.

It was akin to a sports athlete who hid weights on his calves during practice runs. And after the removal of these limitations on the competition day, their speed and endurance would shoot through the roof!

This was precisely what happened to Joey. Back then, when he was faced with the overwhelming pressure from his opponent, he hadn't realized his own development. Now, Joey knew that he was no longer his old self. The techniques and skills that had been rather taxing to cast could be accomplished as easily as breathing.

An opening!

Joey switched his stance and circled towards the rear of the cleric. The petite little girl glanced at her surroundings, seemingly incapable of detecting the thief's concealment. All she did was cast a barrier over herself and stood still.

"Is he going to be okay?"

Lize whispered as she observed the situation quietly. She couldn't see where Joey was and didn't know how he would attack. If it were her in the little girl's position right now, she wouldn't have done much better. For a cleric, casting a barrier over herself wasn't anything new, after all, that skill was the bread and butter of any cleric in battle. However, what skill comes next? What kind of ability would be effective against a thief's ambush?

The girl stood in the same spot and played with her fingers. She didn't attack just like when she was facing Lize. Is it because she was unable to detect Joey? Or did she have other reasons?

However, Joey didn't have to worry about such problems. He suddenly appeared behind the girl's back and drove his dagger towards her!

Ding!! Along with a clear and crisp sound, the girl's barrier flashed and vanished. Joey played out various situations in his mind and was elated that it was going as planned! Then he drew the dagger on his other hand and swiftly slashed over!

But a sudden movement shocked everyone.

A dazzling radiance exploded in Joey's face and obstructed his vision. However, this young thief's reaction was superb. He knew that this was her diversionary tactic. He decided not to retreat as he was aware that Clerics do not have weapons and the one that should be escaping was her. In his mind, he concluded that this move was to probe him and create distance between the two of them. Thus, he refused to fall for the bait and pressed on his assault.

But at this moment, Joey suddenly felt a solid resistance on his left hand.

"Ding!"

What happened?

Facing this weird response, Joey was momentarily distracted. Could it be that this girl had cast another barrier? However, he forcibly cut off his hesitation and launched another attack. But this time, he clearly knew he was blocked.

Impossible! Did she actually just cast another defensive barrier in mere seconds?

Doubts began to grow in his mind as he continued probing. He didn't believe that this girl would be powerful enough to capture his attack intervals and cast a barrier every single time. And even if she had done it, what's the point? Casting a barrier required high spiritual energy, and not to mention casting two consecutively in such a short period of time? Will she even be capable of standing later?

After the blinding radiance scattered, the young thief's eyes widened at the scene in front of him in disbelief.

The girl stood in front of him, not budging an inch. She didn't cast another barrier like what Joey had guessed. Instead, this girl was chanting a powerful spell softly. From the radiance coagulating on her hand, it appeared that a spell was being prepared for a long time.

How is this possible! I've been attacking her continuously, how is she able to continue casting her spell?

Joey was startled. He launched another attack once again, but this time, he saw his dagger crashing into the barrier and bouncing off. It wasn't until now when Joey finally realized that a circular golden barrier had completely enveloped him.

"Defense Wall!"

Lize screamed when she saw what happened.

Defense Wall was the advanced version of Defense Shield. Its defensive abilities were a lot stronger, but it had a weakness. It could not freely follow the caster around. Also, as its name suggests, it created a wall to protect the people inside while obstructing outside attacks. But the people inside wouldn't be able to launch an attack outside the wall as well. Lize had learned this skill, but she didn't often use it. This skill was only used in emergencies where the party was facing an imminent wipe. After all, there were too many limitations and its usage occupied a different role in battle as compared to Defense Shield.

But now, this girl did something that Lize had never thought off. She actually cast the Defense Wall onto the opponent!

What's going on?

Before Lize could comprehend fully, the spell had completed consolidating. And at the same time, the little girl removed the barrier from the Defense Wall.

A series of bright and colorful magical flashes flourished, and as a thief without high defensive abilities, there was only one ending...

As Joey blasted away, everyone became dead silent. Rhode lifted his head and scrutinized for a moment, and then he extended his arm.

"Next up, Marlene. You'll face her."

Rhode pointed his finger towards the Shield Warrior.

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