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 The shield swung down.

Rhode dodged Anne's attack, which had brushed him. Like a spirit emerging from between the gap of the golden shield, Rhode stretched his hand back and grabbed Joey's arm as he leaped over. Then, Rhode turned around and threw Joey to the front.

Joey knew that he was about to collide into Anne's shield and both parties tried to avoid the collision. However, just when Anne extended her arm to grab Joey, Rhode suddenly emerged behind Joey. He jumped over Anne and dashed toward Lize, who stood behind her.

Lize was taken aback, but she was reacted swiftly. She raised her arms and two beams of light descended from the sky. However, the beams failed to shroud Rhode as he nimbly sprung off Anne's shield. As a result, the beams struck Anne instead.

"L-Lize!"

The defenseless Anne was instantly weakened and fell on her bum. Before Lize was able to make amends, her vision flashed and Rhode emerged before her. Then, a suffocating pain emerged from her neck, instantly dissipating her charged spells. She instinctively took two steps back and gasped for air. At this moment, Rhode landed a heavy punch on Lize's tummy.

"No!"

Lize knelt on the ground. On the other hand, Marlene sulked and hurriedly raised her staff. She aimed at the pitch-black figure, but hesitated after witnessing Lize's plight. This moment of hesitation cost her her best chance to strike.

Marlene didn't know when did Rhode appeared by her side. All she felt was Rhode's slim, steel-like fingers clutching her wrist. In an instant, the intense pain forced Marlene to drop her staff.

"This is the end."

Rhode released his hand and said with his usual emotionless face.

"Phew..."

Everyone stared blankly. Randolf had been knocked out from the very start. Joey laid flat beside Anne and hadn't recover from his daze yet. Anne laid weakly and could only wait for Lize to dispel the curse from her.

However, Lize was retching and wouldn't be able to recover for a while to treat Anne.

"All of you performed okay, but not great," Rhode said.

After the warm-up matches, he knew that these guys had become rather complacent and arrogant. Besides, even though they knew that they were mentally-unprepared for the atmosphere in the warm-up matches, that didn't mean that their skills and techniques were unformidable. This was why Rhode didn't mind getting their heads straight on where their exact weaknesses were.

"Anne, there are still flaws in your mastery in handling the shield. It's not necessarily better for your shield to transform into all sorts of shapes and sizes. The different forms of your shield each have their unique structures, strength and speed. Even though normal mercenaries can't take advantage of them, that doesn't mean your opponents can't either."

Rhode turned to the rest.

"Lize, your battle techniques aren't skillful enough yet. Such techniques focus on rhythm, but do remember that you should be the one in control. If your opponent doesn't follow your rhythm, you must immediately think of a way to turn the tide and not just stand there blankly getting beaten."

"Yes... Mr. Rhode."

Lize stood up forcefully and gritted her teeth. Rhode twitched his brows and looked at Joey.

"Joey, you are irascible-too irascible. Remember, your opponent won't be dumb enough to reveal their weaknesses for you to take advantage. Thieves should pay particular attention to killing in a single strike, so be too mindful on how many times you attempt to attack. Before the opponent reveals his weakness, you must be aware of whether it's a chance or trap."

"Okay... I-I understand... Leader..."

Joey said even though he was still seeing stars. Although Anne managed to change her position in time for Joey to not crash his head fully on her shield, he was still dazed from the strong collision.

"Marlene."

And at last, Rhode extended his hand and patted on Marlene's shoulder as she rubbed her wrist.

"It's necessary for Mages to prepare their stance before casting spells, so you must be mindful of your opponent, who will be taking advantage of this. We are all clear that if Mages failed to prepare their spell casting stances, they won't be able to do anything. You have to prepare yourself to react to such situations."

"Yes, I will improve, Mr. Rhode."

Marlene sulked slightly even though she didn't perform as badly as she did during her test to join Starlight. However, she had no less frustrations. After all, during the test, Rhode put in more effort and took advantage of her own hesitation; if she wasn't worried that Lize would be hurt from her magical spells, she would have possibly struck Rhode.

But it was too late for regrets now.

"I hope all of you can take note that your opponents in the Midsummer Festival may be stronger than me. With your current standards, you will need to put in all efforts in order to defeat them. Don't be hesitant about whether your moves are honorable because that doesn't matter. What's important is that you must think of winning all the time. There will only be failure without victories."

Of course, that wasn't exactly the truth. In terms of levels, the opponents in Midsummer Festival wouldn't be weaker than him. However, in terms of technique masteries, even an opponent who was 10 levels higher than him wouldn't pose much of a threat. Of course, he couldn't explain that to Marlene and the rest as they wouldn't be able to understand anyway and he was better off exaggerating for them to be mentally prepared.

They were still incapable of belittling their opponents.

At this moment, Starlight had temporarily stopped all activities. There were 40 lucky winners that managed to get into Starlight via applications. Rhode wasn't too worried about their abilities because he had designated areas for each classes to polish their techniques.

Next, it would all depend on their mentality...

Right now, Starlight couldn't afford to be busy over these matters anymore. As participants in the Midsummer Festival, Rhode had decided to bring along all members in order for them to experience the atmosphere and blend everyone into the group. Of course, this was also to impose their presence. After all, mercenaries from other guilds were also participating and if Rhode didn't bring more people along, they would be looked down upon.

As for accomodations, the association had arranged them for Starlight quite meticulously. Therefore, Rhode didn't need to fork out even a single cent. Everyone was excited after knowing they could participate in the Midsummer Festival. Most of them had already started packing their stuff and getting ready to move out.

And because of this, there were no other mercenaries other than Rhode and the rest in the underground training room.

Knock knock knock.

Someone knocked on the door.

"Come in."

The door slowly opened and Christie peered out from behind the doorway. Upon spotting Rhode, she revealed a warm smile and scuttled over.

"... Rhode... This letter... someone from the guild sent over."

"Guild?"

Rhode knitted his brows. He gently caressed Christie's hair and took over the letter.

Then, he opened his eyes wide.

Change in address?

What's going on?

On the letter written in black ink: "The venue for the Midsummer Festival has been relocated to Golden City. There are no changes to the official date, so we hope all guilds will participate on time."

Although the tone of this news was official, Rhode felt strange because he remembered clearly that the Midsummer Festival had always been held in Clayschild in the game. As for Golden City... that was even more impossible! Not to mention, the venue would still be held at the Sacred Arena?

How was this possible?

This was the first time that Rhode realised that there were differences in his memories and reality.

Suddenly, a system prompt emerged before him.

[Triggered Prestige Mission; Building systems in a Mercenary Group - Honorable Peak]

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