LTBE - Chapter 418.2: A Person, A Town (2)
In a crepuscular castle, Bryan Elric entered a dark room. It had been a while since he was last here. There was a long table with two cups of fragrant hot tea and a single candle faintly illuminating the dark surroundings. Beside the candlelight sat an enigmatic man, whose face was concealed between the boundary of light and dark.
He was the only man of the Connoisseur Guild who could conceal his face from him, as well as the leader of the only large-scale organization that operated in the country controlled by the Genesis Goddess Church.
He was like an enigmatic phantom, out of sight and out of reach. Even entering this room required the highest access rights. Very rarely would mumbles of his existence be heard in the surface world. He possessed experience and capabilities that few could muster the courage to challenge, almost as if he was seeing things from a higher dimension than the masses.
“They have made their move,” said the Collector.
His voice sounded like a gentle whisper from the distance, yet it relayed a terrifying truth.
“The time is ripe. You have mastered what I have given to you, and the Gate is already in place. Your chance has come. All that’s left is for you to make a choice.”
“… That’s different from what you told me a few years back.”
“It is. Bryan, the world is ever-changing. Fate is fluid. The accident with the Ascart House is one. The death of your child is another. Looking at that child of the Ascarts now, I don’t think your defeat back then was unjustified.”
The Collector’s magnetic voice reverberated in the enclosed space, sounding both like an explanation and a lamentation.
“It was unexpected that an awakener would reappear in that clan. That was also the reason why the prophecy unraveled. Those are random forces beyond the control of mortals. Such is the reason why your Elric House fell to its current plight.
“If that’s the case, why should I believe that it’ll succeed this time?”
“That’s because times are changing, Bryan.”
Faced with the cold-faced Bryan’s question, the Collector grandly raised his hands, as if he was portraying the world to his guest.
“You’re seeing the calm before the storm, but the countdown on the apocalypse has already started. Primordial beings are awakening one after another. All the participants are vying for resources to get a lead over the others. The sentient Calamities are working to gather power for the Mother Goddess. Similarly, the servants of the Savior are also joining the fray.
“It’s an era where the tempo of fate starts to break down. Unique as the Ascarts are, they are far from being invincible. This is your final opportunity. The successors of the Tripartite Alliance have awakened under his interference. They are on the verge of breaking out of their cocoons.”
Bryan’s complexion looked even colder than before, but the Collector had accurately struck on his weak point. Given the current circumstances in the Saint Mesit Theocracy, if Nora were to undergo another awakening, the landed nobles who were spectating the situation would likely collapse toward the Ascarts and the Xeclydes. That would have rendered his century’s worth of effort futile.
“The resurgence of the Elric House has always been a route fraught with difficulties. With the arrival of the chaotic era, the Theocracy will be centered around the Xeclydes once more. Your wish will be shattered by the tides of change. You should know that better than anyone else, Bryan, no, Felder Elric.”
The Collector called Bryan by his old name and spoke aloud his predictions for the future. Bryan sharply narrowed his eyes and assessed the man sitting on the other end of the table. Then, he asked.
“… What can you gain out of this?”
It was an abrupt question, but it cut right into the core of things. The Collector paused for a brief moment before bursting into laughter.
“I am but a collector. Authority does not interest me. You are the one who wields true power in the Connoisseur Guild. Your action piques my interest and rouses my expectation; that’s sufficient for me.”
“That might be the case, but… you seem to know quite a lot about that clan?”
Bryan continued staring at the Collector with impassive eyes. The latter fell silent as the two of them met each other’s eyes. It took a while before the latter finally responded.
“… You don’t trust me?”
“No, I just wish to know how you came to know of things.”
“… That’s an easy question. I go back a long way with them.”
“Yes indeed. It’s nothing but ancient history now…”
In this dark room, the Collector looked at the man whom he had associated himself with for over a hundred years now, and for the first time, he began revealing information about himself. What he revealed caused a crack in Bryan’s mask of placidness.
“That would explain things.”
It took a long while before Bryan’s widened eyes slowly reverted back to normal. He rose to his feet and looked at the man partially hidden in the shadows.
“I have no more questions. I’ll accept this final chance. May we meet again.”
With those words, Bryan turned around and left the room.
The Collector silently watched as Bryan walked away. Only when the latter’s silhouette completely vanished did he finally mutter to himself.”
“That obstinate fellow. What a waste of my tea.”
The Collector looked at the steaming hot cup of tea placed on the opposite end of the table and sighed lamentably. Then, he turned around and looked at the floating sculpture he had recently obtained.
The meticulous attention to detail hinted at the sculpture being the work of a master, but it was an incomplete work of art. It depicted an angel-like woman standing valiantly above countless fallen corpses. However, what the Collector was particularly interested in was a young man standing hidden amidst the corpses.
An expectant smile formed on the Collector’s face.
“What will you do this time, Roel Ascart?”
Those residing in Balk Town had undergone huge ups and downs in a single night.
From their peaceful everyday life to the encounter with the enigmatic monstrosity, and finally the flood of relief from having survived the ordeal; such huge changes in emotions left many feeling mentally drained. But more than that, they were more aware of their current situation.
“Lord Roel, what do we do now?”
After the fog retreated, Carmen and the leaders of Balk Town huddled together on the town walls. At the center of the crowd, Roel was still calming his hastened breathing with both eyes closed.
His mana was in chaos, and his face had also turned pale. Activating two Crown’s Stones had depleted most of his mana, but he thought that it was necessary for him to do so.
He wasn’t in the Witness State but the real world. The fog was a true calamity originating from the ancient era. He didn’t think that he would have been able to drive it away using just a single Crown’s Stone. The only way to intimidate it into retreating was to simultaneously summon Glacier Creator and Tempest Caller.
Otherwise, there was no way he would have been able to save everyone.
He was in a bad condition, but there was something much more important that disallowed him from feeling relief—what was the situation at Tark Stronghold?
He was able to drive the fog away with his Crown Origin Attribute and Crown’s Stone, but was there anyone in Tark Stronghold who could do the same? Would they really be able to withstand the assault from one of the Six Calamities? More importantly, was Nora in the fortress when the fog struck?
Prince Kane had written in his letter that Nora needed to continuously slay deviants in order to vent her aggression and placate her bloodline. It would be a blessing if she wasn’t in Tark Stronghold, but if she was, would she be able to deal with the Six Calamities herself, especially since she had never encountered any of them before?
This also brought about the question of why one of the Six Calamities was appearing at a place like this.
Is it the doing of the Saints Convocation? No, they don’t wield such great power. They can still control its egg, but not a fully matured Calamity like this. If so… could it be the Mother Goddess?
Countless thoughts bombarded Roel’s mind, leaving him so anxious that he didn’t even want to wait for a second longer. After a momentary rest, he issued his order.
“Those of the Third Knight Order will be following me to reinforce Tark Stronghold. The rest of you will continue standing guard here. Also, report the situation to the Holy Capital right away.”
After issuing his orders, Roel led the knights toward the stables. He suppressed his discomfort and climbed onto one of the steeds before leading the unit into the shadows of the night.
Find the original at h*sted novel.
Their journey was uneventful after the assault of the fog. All they could hear was the galloping of the horses and the rustling of the wind. The knights had grave looks on their faces, and they were deathly quiet along the way. Their attention was focused on their surroundings, both land and sky, so that they could react right away if the fog dared to encroach on them.
Amidst this nervous atmosphere, Roel and his group finally arrived at the vicinity of Tark Stronghold. However, what they felt wasn’t ease of mind but confusion and horror.
“Why… is there light?”
The stunned knight captain murmured to himself as he pulled on his reins. The knights behind him also slowed their steeds to a halt. A heavy atmosphere loomed over the group, leaving Roel confused. However, when he noticed the crack of light by the horizon, his eyes also widened in shock.
Wait a moment! Light? Why is there light?
Roel was failing to make sense out of the situation, and there was a simple reason behind it.
The sun rose from the east, but Tark Stronghold was also located in the east.