[Mission completed . Stronghold successfully upgraded . Available room types increased . Probe in intelligence increased . ]
Rhode nodded his head while reading the system prompt . He lifted his head and glanced across the cold and gloomy basement . This place used to be a cellar for the nobles to store fine wines, and now it was just another ordinary empty room . Rhode summoned his system prompt and reviewed the construction menu .
[Build --- Training Ground (LV1) . Confirm to build?]
[Building the Training Ground requires 300 gold coin and Sphere of Mystery . Continue?]
Rhode answered while looking at the Sphere of Mystery floating by his side .
A golden light shone once again .
It was similar to the time when Rhode repaired this building; the golden light radiated from his hand as it formed a web across the entire room . It quickly analyzed the whole basement and transformed into an intangible material . Along with it, the damp, cold and narrow basement suddenly changed drastically .
The basement started to expand and rise rapidly . Solid, blue slabs coated the moist surface . The shabby rocks on the walls quickly transformed into a fireplace . With that, the flames from the fireplace drove the chilly cold away from the basement and brought warmth . In the corner, wooden and realistic human-shaped targets erected . And in the center, an exquisite sculpture emerged from the ground . The figure resembled a swordsman with a sword in one hand, and the other on its chest . The Sphere of Mystery beside Rhode quietly floated to the palm of the sculpture . From where Rhode stood, he could discern some intricacies from within the complicated and mysterious patterns on the sculpture . The whole statue was a small scale formation that could utilize the Sphere of Mystery's mysterious energy .
It seems like everything is going well .
Rhode nodded to himself with satisfaction . And at that moment, someone knocked on the door behind him .
"Come in . "
Rhode replied without turning back . The wooden door opened and everyone entered . When they noticed the change, all of them suddenly became speechless .
"What happened here?"
Marlene was the first to recover . She stared suspiciously at this large training ground . Her memory of this place was vastly different from what it was right now . Previously, when Marlene was appointed to manage the mercenary group, she made a thorough check on every corner of this stronghold . Based on her memories, this should be an empty cellar . But now, what was this?
An illusion spell?
The maiden shook her head . As a Mage, she knew casting such illusions wasn't easy . Moreover, Rhode had never showcased this side of him . And furthermore, the objects that she observed didn't seem to have the slight blurriness that an illusion spell would surely have . Marlene extended her hand and placed it on the wall . The sensation from the dry wood correctly informed her that everything was real .
"Just a little trick . "
Rhode didn't want to reveal anything at the moment . In fact, even if he did reveal his methods, where would he start to explain it? He shook his head inwardly and turned towards the group . There were five members present . Anne, Marlene, Lize, Joey and Randolf . These were the main candidates that Rhode had chosen for the mid-summer festival . According to the festival rules, regardless of group battles or individual battles, every guild was allowed to send only five members and one substitute . After all, this festival only lasted for a few days, and the guilds wouldn't be too happy if it dragged on for too long .
"I think all of you know that we are going to represent Paphield Region to participate in the mid-summer festival . "
Everyone nodded in unison .
"All of you here will participate in this competition with me . "
Although they were already mentally prepared, to hear it directly from Rhode, Anne and Lize couldn't help but feel excited . The mid-summer festival competition can be considered a grand stage that only mercenaries of Munn Kingdom could step on . A small mercenary group's biggest dream was to be accepted and cheered on by others . Marlene had an indifferent reaction as compared to the others . As an heir of the Senia family, she had once participated the mid-summer festival with her family . But at that time, she went as one of the audience .
Just when everyone was getting pumped, Rhode changed his tone .
"To be honest, based on your current strength, none of you are qualified for this competition . I can guarantee that if all of you entered right now, it will be a guaranteed loss . "
Rhode's straightforward analysis of their current status was like a wet blanket, completely dousing the flames in their hearts . However, they quickly recollected themselves and stole glances at one another . The joy and anticipation of entering the competition turned into embarrassment and insecurity . After all, deep within, all of them understood the strength of the mercenaries taking part in the mid-summer festival competition . If it easy to be champion, how could it be a fleeting dream for most mercenaries?
But the sad truth was that their strengths were indeed insufficient to step up onto that stage . Otherwise, they wouldn't still be in this small little mercenary group .
"Has anyone seen the mid-summer festival competition?"
Other than Marlene, everyone else shook their head . Rhode shot Marlene a look and asked .
"How far do you think you will go if you're up there?"
Marlene frowned and grabbed her staff while considering her answer . After hesitating a while, she spoke with a bit of uncertainty, "I'm not too sure… The semifinals… maybe?"
Hearing Marlene's answer, the other four took in deep breaths . Regarding individual strength, Marlene was unmistakably one of the strongest amongst them . But even she didn't have the confidence to reach the semifinals . This would most likely mean danger for the rest of them .
Rhode tapped on the sculpture next to him and casually said, "So you heard her . I need all of you to strengthen up . "
For some unknown reason, all of them seemed to sense that Rhode was rejoicing in their misfortune .
"And now there is a good way to train . I found a Sphere of Mystery during my latest adventure . It can provide a decent training experience, so I will prepare a few enemies for all of you…"
"Sphere of Mystery?"
Marlene cried out in surprise . She quickly walked to the front of the sculpture and examined the floating sphere . Her expression slightly changed .
"This is a… mirage?"
"You know about this?"
Rhode frowned at Marlene's question and asked with surprise . Marlene nodded .
"During my school days, there were similar Spheres of Mystery, where the mirage could produce a training ground and it could even utilize the holder's memories to search for an opponent… I had practiced in there before, but… Mr . Rhode, how were able to find this thing too?"
"Just some luck . "
Of course, Rhode wouldn't speak the truth . He shrugged his shoulders and turned towards everyone .
"So then, are all of you ready?"
Although most of them couldn't understand the conversation between the two, they eventually nodded and got ready . Once Rhode saw that they were prepared, he activated the Sphere of Mystery .
Dazzling rays of light erupted from the floating sphere . The blinding radiance forced everyone to shut their eyes, and when they reopened their eyes, the scene gave them a huge shock .
The training ground from before had disappeared entirely and was replaced with a vast, empty, white space . It seemed to stretch to infinity . As everyone looked around and observed this strange place, Rhode's voice sounded once again .
"In here, your equipment will not have any effects . You can only rely on your own battle techniques . But rest assured, your opponents will have an equal level as you so you wouldn't be overwhelmed . But on the other hand…"
Rhode stopped speaking for a moment and shrugged his shoulders while glancing over at the five .
"Perhaps all of you would feel the difference in skill quicker this way . "
As Rhode finished, he snapped his finger .
"Boom . "
Five human figures gradually walked over from nowhere . Everyone stared at them in confusion .
Those were five adventurers, or maybe could say they look like five adventurers .
There were two males and three females . Ranger, thief, tank, cleric, and mage respectively . Apparently, they were explicitly chosen from each of their classes . But to everyone, these randomly appeared opponents seemed to be dressed rather oddly .
A male ranger stood to the leftmost . He had a warm smile but was outlandish . He was obviously a man, but he had stud earrings on his ears, and even his nose had a weird nose ring . On his back, there was a black longbow made out of wood . Another two blades were sheathed at his waist .
The thief standing beside the ranger was more taciturn . A white mask covered his entire face, and his black caped clothes made him stand out like a sore thumb in this infinite white space . He remained half-squatted, quietly staring at the five .
Standing in the middle was a very sexy female . She seemed to be around twenty over years of age . She held the same golden shield as Anne and had colorful hair which was exceptionally strange . Not only that, she had black earphones in both of her ears as though she was listening to something .
Compared to the three of them who seemed to have a certain spunk, the remaining two were less eye-catching .
The female mage standing opposite Marlene seemed to be the same age as her . She was equipped with a decent blue gown and a staff . A young and inexperienced looking face displayed a sense of kindness . She also had a lively smile, and anyone who met her for the first time would probably think well of her .
As for Lize's opponent, it left her at her wits' ends . Because standing in front of her, was a little girl who could even possibly be younger than Christie . She placed both hands on her hips and stared proudly at Lize . Even though she was obviously smaller and younger than Lize, she had an attitude of a lady boss… which left Lize not knowing how to react .
We finally meet again…
All sorts of feeling welled up in Rhode's heart when he saw these people again . His gaze was warm as he felt the reminiscent sentiments bubbling inside him .
Driss, Blade King, Hot Cigarette Chick, Canary, and Mini Bubble Gum .
The five of them were once the core forces of Starlight Guild and were Rhode's friends . He thought that he would never have the chance to meet them again, but never did he expect to be reunited in this manner .
However, Rhode was clear that the five of them was only a projection from his memories and they didn't have any self-awareness nor soul . Just an empty shell .
But Rhode quickly recovered from his nostalgia . He pointed towards the five adventurers and spoke to the rest, "They are your opponents . 1 versus 1 . Let me see what you got . "
Rhode said with a smiling expression .
"I hope that all of you wouldn't lose too badly . "