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356 Third Stage of Talent Tree

 The next reward wasn't as impactful. 'Stronghold level +3' might sound great, but it wasn't essential as the current Stronghold level was still quite low, so it wasn't difficult to raise its level.

'Stronghold level +3' increased Starlight's Stronghold from low to intermediate - unlocking various facilities such as the 'Sentinel Tower,' 'Guard Tower,' and 'City Wall.' However, the production of them wasn't free.

The range of the Stronghold also expanded by one-third which was slightly better than the new facilities but at least it was better than nothing.

Other than these changes, the 'Hidden Reward' left Rhode slightly surprised. It didn't benefit Rhode directly - instead, it added a new structure called the 'Summon Gate.' Even in the game, it was considered a rare structure.

After constructing the Summon Gate, players belonging to the mercenary group would receive a Summoning Rock. Unless the players were in a magic-interference area or prohibited from teleporting with sealing spells, they could instantaneously return to their Stronghold after activating the Summoning Rock.

Furthermore, higher-ranking members could even pinpoint a destination and open a portal to transport others to that location.

In the game, all the top ten guilds had this structure as the benefits of it were evident especially during long journeys or when facing troublesome BOSSes.

They could send a one-man forward party out while others spend their time doing important things in the Stronghold. Once the forward party reaches the specified location, he or she could activate the Summoning Rock and transport all the members instantly, saving time and resources.

In the game, the Summon Gate was categorized as an ancient relic; thus, ordinary NPCs wouldn't be able to lay their hands on it. Some areas with considerable development in magic like the underground cave beneath Golden City possessed it as well.

Rhode knew where the Summon Gate was - and of course most people had no idea of it at all. But anyway, it was basically impossible to ambush other capitals using the Summon Gate because most capitals possess barrier enchantments against teleportation. Therefore the most significant benefit of the Summon Gate was to use it against BOSSes.

Rhode felt a little odd seeing this here. The thought of being able to teleport just like a player caused him to have second thoughts of the truth of this world. Was it still just a game?

Moving on, whether it was the Summon Gate or the Sphere of Mystery, all of these were merely worldly possessions. The next item was the most important of them all.

Experience Points (EXP).

After receiving the EXP from the mission reward, Rhode's level once again had a new breakthrough. However as the EXP requirement for each level increased along with his levels, Rhode only managed to level up by five. He barely hit level 28 and wasn't able to reach the 30th mark. He received a total of 13 Skill Points with an extra three from the mission reward.

These 13 Skill Points seemed like a lot, but Rhode knew that it was only enough to upgrade one Swordsmanship by two levels. Both Starfall and Dark Swordsmanship were Rank 'C,' meaning that Rhode could only upgrade either one of them to Rank 'A.' But even so, Rank 'A' was already considered very powerful. To put it simply, a Rank 'A' Swordsmanship would be equivalent to the Legendary Stage. However, whether his body could support a Rank 'A' Swordsmanship was another problem altogether.

Facing this dilemma, Rhode shook his head and closed the Swordsmanship interface. Instead, he guided his thoughts and opened the long-neglected talent tree.

Whether it was the 'Summoning Master' or 'Soul Messenger,' Rhode had already activated both of their third stages. The 'Summoning Master' tree featured: > , >, > and the 'Soul Messenger' tree had: > , > , >.

>: The Spirit Swordsman's first Aura Skill. Within the AoE of the aura, the level of summoned spirits will increase by +1/+2/+3. Can be superimposed with other auras.

>: Passive Skill. When your summoned spirit attacks, there's a chance to curse the enemy with its own attributes. Can be dispelled and resisted. Strength of level +1/+2/+3.

> : Passive Skill. Summoned spirits will increase their resistance against attacks on their weaknesses +1/+2/+3.

>: Active Skill. Available once per day. Once the summoner successfully hits its target with this skill, the Spiritual Energy of its target will be extracted for himself. Can be resisted.

>: Summoner can pinpoint a target and summon all his spirits at the designated target. Duration +1/+2/+3.

>: Summoner can select a summoned spirit in his party to transform into his looks. No changes to the attributes, levels, and skills of the spirit. Duration 1 minute. Able to transfigure +1 +2/+3/+4 spirits.

Rhode didn't hesitate for long before making his decision. While both talent trees had decent utility, there weren't many skills he would use. Therefore he quickly used 6 out of his 13 Skill Points to max out > and >. Then, he allocated 4 points to > and > before dumping 3 points into >.

No matter what, Rhode required maximum proficiency of his summoned spirits. Even though Rhode had the ability to maintain a vast amount of spirits simultaneously, he was greatly limited by the duration. With Legion Horns, Rhode could pinpoint a target and all of his summoned spirits would be instantaneously summoned at the designated target. Although the skill could last up to three seconds, Rhode believed that three seconds would be enough to turn the tide of the battle.

Rhode chose Taboo Ring because Composition Adornment didn't live up to his expectations. As for Soul Extraction, its effects were far more beneficial than the previous skills. Since Rhode was a Spirit Swordsman with a maximized talent in enhancing Spiritual Energy, his Spiritual Energy had far exceeded other swordsmen. However, it still lacked when compared to the casting classes.

As a Spirit Swordsman, he needed a lot of Spiritual Energy to maintain his summoned spirits. Therefore, it would be the best if he could replenish his Spiritual Energy during battle - and this talent was perfect for that. Anyway, this talent was also a necessity for Spirit Swordsmen who chose the Soul Messenger talent tree.

As for > and >, Rhode chose them for support purposes. Rhode could cloud his enemies' judgment and reinforce the resistance of his summoned spirits.

At least with Enhanced Resistance, his summoned spirits wouldn't be knocked out in one hit from its elemental weakness. The weaknesses of pure elemental spirits were obvious, so Rhode didn't wish that such situations would occur.

"Hu..."

After tapping on the final talent tree interface, Rhode let out a long sigh. He could feel a wave of power surging through his body. Perhaps if he were to fight Barter right now, he wouldn't need to rely on the set effects to defeat him.

In the end, it can be said that Rhode's real objective wasn't as simple as other guild leaders. During the last moments of the fight against Waltz, Rhode didn't believe that Waltz could acquire the Demon Bracelet through luck alone. In fact, he could almost guess who was secretly backing Waltz.

The people backing Waltz were indubitably Rhode's enemies, and now it appeared that they were about to take things into their own hands. Without a doubt, Rhode wouldn't allow them to have their way because everything that he did in Paphield and the midsummer festival put him on the other side of the fence. Thus, Rhode had no choice but to gather his strength to resist the opposition.

But before that, he had something important to do.

The closing ceremony would take place the day after today and Royal Highness Lydia would be granting the victor a wish.

Could she grant his wish?

Rhode lifted his chin and gazed at the horizon that was slowly turning brighter.

The sun had begun to rise.