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822 Astral Temple

 The flight of stairs paved with crystals emanated a faint radiance that extended toward the end. They floated quietly in the illusory air, unconnected and unsupported by anything. Rhode ascended the stairs and arrived at the entrance of the Astral Temple on the mountain peak. Miraculously, the long flight of stairs that seemed like it required a few hours to climb took less than five minutes. As soon as his feet touched the flat, clean plaza on the mountain peak, he scanned the place and found that the crystal-clear steps behind him had vanished. On the other hand, Celestina flapped her wings and landed lithely on the plaza.

"I've heard about the Astral Temple's big name and now it seems like it is true. Even though it is still lacking in comparison to my castle, it is still acceptable."

Celestina scanned the temple and criticized. However, this was only her subjective evaluation, after all. In fact, Rhode had never seen such an enchanting temple even in the real world.

The temple was around 20-meters-tall with 19 columns sculpted with brave heroes supporting the massive triangular roof. The plaza by its entrance was made of green slab and on both sides were dozens of sculptures of young ladies holding lanterns. White gentle radiance emanated from the stone lanterns. Although it resembled the Undead Creatures' spiritual flames, it didn't let off a chilly sensation. Instead, it brought warmth in this harsh winter.

What was most attractive was the Astral Temple which was built by some mysterious and unidentified material. Its tall, sleek walls presented a night sky with dazzling stars.

Rhode approached the entrance of the entire Astral Temple. The temple emanated a faint radiance while the brilliance from the galaxy flowing beneath his feet shone the interiors of the temple, revealing a hall with three domes above where dazzling stars flickered and transformed into a certain constellation before vanishing. Those were stars that emerged to commemorate and silently tell the history of the heroes.

Rhode received all the information about the Astral Temple from the system. It could summon all the armies of famous heroic spirits in history. However, he couldn't simply summon whoever he wanted. As one of the most mysterious and sacred planes of existence in the Seven Fantasy Boundaries, he had to attain their relics to open the channels connected to the Astral Temple and summon them.

Currently, the Astral Temple was at the most basic level, so Rhode was limited to summoning an army of 100 heroic spirits. It wasn't that he didn't want to upgrade the temple's level, but it was a pity that the upgrading of level wasn't as simple as the Silver Ocean and Fiery Plains where it only required materials and money. On the contrary, the Astral Temple required EXP in order to upgrade! Its source of EXP would be gathered from the army of heroic spirits through battles.

Rhode was marveled by this exquisite design. Fortunately, it was only the Astral Temple that required the EXP, so he was glad that the heroic spirits could be summoned at peak form. If not, who knew how long it would take to train and upgrade them to level 70?

Ring!

A few moments after Rhode and Celestina stood by the entrance, a crisp knock sounded from inside. Then, a petite figure emerged.

It was a little girl who seemed about the same age as Christie. She wore a spotless white robe embedded with golden threads and a pair of dark brown leather boots. She held a silver staff as she walked out expressionlessly, coming to a halt upon seeing the two visitors and bowing deeply to Rhode.

"Greetings, my master, welcome to the Astral Temple."

"You are..."

Rhode sized up the little girl before him-adorable, delicate facial features and dark hair draped over her shoulders-she looked like an exquisitely beautiful puppet. If he were to criticize her for something, it would be her lifeless eyes and expressionless face.

Even though Rhode was also expressionless most of the time, the emotions that he presented were mostly calmness and aloofness. However, this little girl was entirely different. There weren't any signs of life in her eyes. She looked like those NPCs who had completely lost themselves after being mentally manipulated. If she didn't speak a word and stood on the spot, perhaps one would believe that she was just a puppet.

"I'm the psychic of the Astral Temple, Lesa."

The little girl responded immediately. However, her monotonous voice sounded as though a computerized response.

"I shall communicate with the Astral Temple as Master's emissary and use its strength to assist you in times of need, including..."

This little girl named Lesa was as though a human computer as she continuously introduced her 'abilities' and Rhode finally knew her identity. She wasn't a human nor a heroic spirit. If Rhode were to treat the Astral Temple as a system process, Lesa would be the core controlling AI unit. He had to summon the heroic spirits through her and not only that, she could also determine the location for the summons. This also meant that if Rhode had too many soldiers to lead into battle in future, he could choose to bring Lesa and make her summon the heroic spirits after they reached the battlefield. Moreover, Lesa couldn't be killed. As an illusory core, she would simply revive if she were to be killed. Of course, her strength would grow and she would gain more support skills as the Astral Temple upgraded in level. But for now... apart from summoning heroic spirits for Rhode, she was only a mascot.

"May I know if Master wishes to summon the heroic spirits now?"

After nearly half an hour of Lesa's explanation and Celestina nearly dozing off, Lesa concluded. (Yes, perhaps the introduction would be a hundred page thick book if it were published). However, what impressed Rhode was that despite the long-winded descriptions, the little girl didn't stop at all.

"Of course."

"Alright then, please show me the spiritual proof."

Summoning the heroic spirits required a medium and the spiritual proof was his summoning card. This was clearly explained during her detailed introduction. Rhode paused for a second and gazed to the side. Currently, he only had four holy sword cards that he could use to summon heroic spirits. After all, he finally built the Astral Temple, so he couldn't possibly waste the summons on creatures with the water or fire attributes that he already possessed.

Rhode had initially planned to let Celestina summon her subordinates. However, he changed his mind after gazing at her anticipative eyes because he didn't want to summon a group of high-class demons to his fortress-it would basically be seen as taunting Lydia. Moreover, even though the high-class demons could transform into human form, he was also concerned about turning his territory into a chaotic mess.

On the other hand, he didn't need to worry about this problem with Celia. But he also couldn't explain how he managed to get his hands on a Battle Angel Army. One or two of the Battle Angels were fine, but if 100 Battle Angels were to roam the streets, it would surely raise suspicions. Moreover, he also wasn't confident if the Battle Angels would heed his command judging from his somewhat sinister method of work.

Since that's the case, my only choice left is...

Rhode extended his arm and a card emerged in his hand. Then, he passed the card over.

Lesa received it with both hands humbly. Then, she gazed silently at the holy sword card. Her lifeless eyes instantly brightened.

"---Confirmed. Spiritual Proof---Gracier---About to enter summoning mode..."

Lesa lifted her head and looked at Rhode.

"Confirm to use this card as a medium and summon the heroic spirits?"

"Of course."

"Understood."

Lesa replied firmly. The little girl threw the card in midair and watched it spin. Then, she raised her silver staff and tapped lightly on it.

Boom!

A dazzling lightning bolt struck the roof of the Astral Temple in a loud explosion. Shortly after, countless electric arcs shuttled down and formed an oval door that hovered in midair inside the hall.

Then one by one, figures emerged from within the oval entrance.