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569 Frozen Sorrow

 The razor-sharp ice splinter collided with the steel shield. The Ice Devil was surprised that a human could resist its all-out strike and the strong recoil slowed its movement. Then, Marfa heard Anne's yell and charged forward with his mercenaries. They raised their weapons and slashed with all their might.

Dazzling blade rays flickered in the air. The scarlet flames on their blades struck the Ice Devil's body and spread wildly to its erected tail. It howled in grief as its tail broke off abruptly. After losing its tail and balance, the gravely injured Ice Devil crashed into the ground. However, it hadn't given up just yet. It let out a blood-curdling screech like a cornered animal and crawled to its feet. It lifted its head high and the elemental radiance in its eyes was never this brilliant. It felt as though the sun had paled in its presence.

But that was only for an instant.

Rhode dove down with his daggers laid in a crisscross stance like a dazzling meteor streaking across the sky.

Perhaps the mercenaries would never forget this scene.

The Ice Devil let out a heart-trembling below with its widened jaw. At the same time, a shining light column shone from above and punctured the Ice Devil's skull. The immense impact swept along a powerful whirlwind that dispersed in all directions. It was so quick that the Ice Devil had no chance to react at all. The ice surface sank under the pressure and formed a ten-meters wide depression. At this moment, the Ice Devil still maintained its upright posture as though time had frozen. Then, its massive body collapsed as though an invisible large hand had pushed it to its side.

"Oh, Lord..." The mercenaries muttered and held their breaths. Although they knew that Rhode possessed powerful strength, they were dumbfounded to personally witness his raw force. After this thunderous strike, weakness and fear brewed in the mercenaries' minds. Perhaps there were no other choices for them apart from shutting their eyes and waiting for death if they were to suffer the fate of this attack.

However, the awestruck mercenaries didn't stay dazed for long. Rhode emerged rather miserably before them and swiftly gestured to them. "Run!"

The deep sound of rolling thunder boomed from underneath the ice surface and an enormous crack emerged...

Rhode stood by the shore and heaved a long sigh of relief as he gazed over the Frozen Lake. After losing the influence of the Ice Devil's elemental powers, the abnormal lake had finally restored to its original state. The melted thick ice layer cracked and floated on the lake water while the shed gigantic ice layers caused a splash as it fell into it. One might misunderstand that one had arrived at the Arctic Ocean if one were to view this picturesque scenery. As Rhode admired this breathtaking view, Marfa came up to him. "Sir, is it over?"

Rhode turned around and gazed at Marfa's concerned, yet excited expression. This felt as though Rhode had returned to the game when the group of newbies he had led surrounded and looked at him emotionally after clearing a dungeon BOSS. But Rhode came back to his senses quickly and nodded.

"That's right, the mission has ended. We have succeeded."

"Oh oh oh!" The mercenaries broke out in cheers. They pumped their fists in the air and their faces were filled with unprecedented happiness. Lize and the two Clerics beside her smiled widely as they gazed at their celebrating companions.

It was no wonder the mercenaries were this excited. Although the mercenaries had engaged in countless battles with monsters under Rhode's lead, most of the time they were more of bystanders while Rhode, Gillian, and Celia were the main attackers. Of course, tt was still great news that the mercenaries could gain victories, but they felt rather regretful if they had to watch from the sides every time. This time, even though Rhode was still responsible for the main attacks, the mercenaries didn't stand by idly. Instead, they unleashed their strength and fully committed themselves to the battle, to which they felt a deep sense of accomplishment and thrilling emotions.

Rhode nodded in satisfaction. This was also why he didn't ask Gillian to come along. Even though Gillian was a Fire Elemental Lord with sealed powers, she wouldn't find any problems dealing with the Ice Devil due to the conflicting elemental attributes. However, Rhode didn't do so because he discovered that it wasn't great for the mercenaries' morale if he simply relied on himself and his powerful companions to complete the missions and battles. Moreover, the mercenaries didn't work hard under Canary and Bubble's guidance just to watch idly from the rear. This time, Rhode also didn't summon Celia and Celestina apart from symbolically summoning the Spirit Bird and Hell Hound to stir up his mercenaries' fighting spirit.

Indeed, the mercenaries unleashed their true potential when their main 'carries' weren't around. Of course, although they appeared somewhat miserable against the Ice Devil, it wasn't simple to deal this amount of damage. Even though Rhode attracted most of the Ice Devil's attention and was the main attacker, he wouldn't have annihilated the Ice Devil that easily without the mercenaries' containment from the side. Rhode had gained much more confidence in his mercenaries after this battle. The fact that the mercenaries performed this well against an Ice Devil whose level was this much higher meant that they could deal with the future equal-leveled BOSSes without any issues.

Everyone returned to the Greenery Town and this time, the residents' attitude toward them was entirely different. After the Law Enforcement Officer informed them that the creature that had plagued the entire Cranmore region for centuries was finally annihilated, the residents were elated. They swarmed to the edge of the Frozen Lake and sweet tears welled up in their eyes. The residents who remembered the original view of the Frozen Lake had passed on and no one in the Cranmore region knew what it looked like under the thick ice surface. But now, they finally got what they asked for.

Rhode and his mercenaries received passionate hospitality from the Greenery Town's residents. The Mayor had even hosted a grand celebration feast on the public square to welcome and express their gratitude to the heroes that brought hope to the Cranmore region.

Although the mercenaries were a little discontent that the residents tried to chase them away and were now welcoming them with grins from ear to ear, the mercenaries swiftly threw that tiny resentment to the back of their heads. Besides, the Mayor had also represented the town in apologizing to the mercenaries during the feast. This was why the mercenaries didn't haggle over the dispute and indulged themselves in the delicious food and wine.

"Seems like they're having a lot of fun," Rhode said with a smile. Instead of joining in with them, he stayed behind in the hotel room alone because he disliked noisy events. Moreover, there was something more important to deal with.

"I haven't seen this familiar prompt in a while," Rhode muttered under his breath.

Rhode didn't accept any other missions after abiding by Lydia's orders in heading to the Paphield defensive line. Frankly speaking, Rhode was rather doubtful about the trigger mechanism for missions in this world. If it was in the game, a mission like defending the Paphield defensive line would be considered a trigger mission. However, it was totally different in this world. Most of the missions weren't granted by the system and only some missions related to the construction of the Fortress, as well as the Spirit Swordsman, were triggered by the system. Due to this reason, even though Rhode had technically reaped a lot from accomplishing the Paphield defensive line mission, there wasn't a single EXP and reward recorded in the system. Also, the rare 'Fiery Rose' triggered mission resulted in a rare failure.

Due to this reason, Rhode sighed at the sight of the [Mission Completed] system prompt. Then, he focused his attention on the prompt before him and tapped lightly with his finger. A sweet-sounding notification popped and lines of system prompt emerged.

[Mission - Frozen Lake. Completed]

[Received 772000 EXP. Upgradeable]

[Please select mission reward]

That's a generous amount of EXP.

Rhode let out a whistle. In fact, this was why he cared so much about the system mission. In this world, Rhode didn't need to share his EXP with others. He would receive all the EXP for every completed mission and he could level up at lightning speed. If he were to share the EXP just like he did in the game, perhaps he wouldn't have transcended into the level 40 Master Stage now. As his levels grew, the EXP requirement for leveling also increased. If he were to share the EXP equally with his mercenaries after completing the Frozen Lake mission, perhaps he would level up only once. But now, he got to enjoy the entire EXP by himself and that was about a gain of two to three levels. This was simply a golden opportunity bestowed by the heavens.

However, Rhode didn't choose to level up yet. Instead, he turned his gaze to the mission rewards.

There were two mission rewards for the [Frozen Lake] mission. One of the rewards would open the passage to the Water Plane of Existence and he could summon low-level Water Elemental Spirits. Previously, Rhode had thought about accepting this reward, but he stopped yearning for it after he received the Fantasy Key from completing the Castel Plateau Ruins. The Ocean Elves that were summoned using the Fantasy Key were much more reliable than the low-leveled Water Elemental Spirits and Rhode wouldn't be that foolish to waste this opportunity. Therefore, he focused his attention on the other choice.

[Please select mission reward - Water Elemental Attribute Spirit Summon Card]

Rhode hesitated for a moment and tapped lightly on the pattern of the card.

The system prompt burst out in golden rays and fused with the card brilliantly. A spinning card emerged out of thin air and landed on Rhode's palm. Unlike all the cards in Rhode's possession, this card was entirely blue with white complex patterns around its edge and it let off a biting cold chilliness. On the top corner of the card front, a pure white mark of 'lll' caught his attention. Then, a string of system descriptions appeared before him.

[Received Frozen Sorrow 1/10, Snow]

[Snow (Water Elemental Spirit. High Position): Master Level Lord Spirit. Infusible. Controls element. Ice Seal. Freezing property. Skills held - Breath of Water (The gentle water flow can heal all pain and nurture without end)

Water Elemental Master Attribute (Water Spirit's Temptation)

Lord Manipulation (Can summon lower-ranked spirits apart from Lords. Maximum of three)

???

???

???

Growth Rate: 0%]

Rhode twitched his brows as soon as he read the final line. He scanned the front of the card and saw a clear crystal ball with indistinct human shapes within it. There were also two huge numbers of 5 and 7 at the bottom of the card.

Offense 5 Defense 7. This card was apparently used for defense and healing which was a satisfactory result for Rhode. He possessed mainly attacking cards and lacked such supporting and defensive cards. The reason why the Spirit Swordsman could become one of the three best solo classes was due to its ability to summon card spirits to make up and replace the strength of a team. And a perfect team needed an attacker, supporter, healer, and meat shield, no less. Currently, only the Centaur Knight and Nether Tentacles were considered defensive cards and he didn't have any support and healer cards at all.

Even though this card seemed similar to Gillian, they were entirely different. Gillian's card attributes were incredibly overbearing while this Frozen Sorrow card attribute was correspondingly weaker where even the original attributes of the Nether Tentacles was stronger. On the other hand, its offensive points were only slightly above the Spirit Bird. If this was the best that this card could go, it wouldn't be considered a precious variety among all the summoning cards.

However, the growth rate of this card proved its uniqueness - It was a card that would grow and could be considered more of a card that was created by a Spirit Swordsman than a card awakened by the Soul Core.

Awakened and Created. Both were totally different.

Take Gillian, Starmark, and Succubus, for example. Their attributes could be upgraded from leveling up. Instead of saying that they could be leveled up, it was more appropriate to say that removing their seals would allow them to regain their original strength and state. Their peak attributes would be achieved when they regained their true form. Just like the Spirit Bird-Rhode had advanced its stage once and its attack attribute increased only a little, so he knew that its future was bleak. Even if he successfully upgraded the Spirit Bird three times, its attack would increase by 3 points at most.

However, created cards were totally different. It was like a child that was just born and it didn't know anything apart from its talent skill. The path of its growth laid firmly on the hands of the summoner. Due to this reason, there were no fixed numerical values for the cards that were created. During its first advancement, it might possibly increase its defense due to the player's defensive preference. However, if the player had decided to focus on its attack instead, its attacking value might even surpass its defense during the second advancement.

This was the difference between created cards and summoned cards.

What an excellent luck.

Rhode shrugged. He placed the card to the side and continued reading.

At this moment, the system prompt caught his attention.

[Mission Completed Reward. Received 1 Sword Creation Point]

What's this?

Rhode's curiosity piqued.