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LTBE - Chapter 422.1: Faint Hope (1)

A black-haired man and a golden-haired woman stood face to face in the middle of Tark Prairie, their lips sealed to form a tight mana circulation. Slowly, the golden-haired woman began to regain consciousness. 

The moment she returned to reality, she remembered everything as if she had just awoken from a dream, be it her fight against Grandar, Artasia’s black butterflies, or Peytra’s petrification. All of these details flashed across her mind one by one before eventually halting on the composed face of the black-haired man when she plunged her hand into his chest. 

“!”

The recollection of what she had done to Roel left her so horrified that her blood seemed to have frozen in place. Taking quick shallow breaths, she slowly lowered her head and gazed upon the glaring wound in the latter’s chest. Her body began to tremble. 

“Roel, I-I…”

“You just came back. Stop looking around and rest a bit.”

Sensing the intense fluctuation in Nora’s feelings, Roel quickly covered her eyes. 

He was in terrible shape. His mana was depleted, his body was severely wounded, and the side effects of the Crown’s Stones were soon going to set in. However, he knew that he mustn’t collapse right now. 

Nora had succumbed to her divine instinct due to having witnessed Shrouding Mist devouring Tark Stronghold whole, leading to the disappearance of her father and many others. If Roel were to collapse right now, it would expose another opening in Nora’s mental state for the divine instinct to exploit. That would have rendered his efforts futile. 

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry…”

Warm tears fell on Roel’s icy-cold hands, and a hoarse voice kept murmuring apologies to him. They had known each other for many years now, but this was the first time Nora had broken down into tears before him. Seeing her in such a state pained his heart. 

“You don’t need to apologize. What a troublesome princess you are,” Roel feigned a complaint with a smile. 

Perhaps due to the damage he had taken, his mind was slowly blanking out. All that was left were the raging emotions within him. He let go of all logic and obeyed his instinct, gently leaning in to kiss the woman before him on the lips. 

What was different this time was that the woman reciprocated his sentiments. 

As if fearing that he would suddenly disappear as well, Nora’s response was unprecedentedly intense. A passionate kiss mixed with the saltiness of tears; the feelings between them that had aged over many years poured out and intertwined together. 

It felt like a long time before Nora’s tears finally stopped. As she regained her composure, her face began to turn bright red. It was then that their lips finally parted. 

The golden aura had already dissipated by this point, reverting the surroundings back to normal. 

Roel began retracting the frost aura around Nora while the latter slowly undid the petrification with her assimilation power—it was possible now that Peytra wasn’t around to channel the petrification, but it still took some effort. Soon enough, Nora regained her mobility. 

She directed a look at Roel, and the latter nodded in consent. Tears flooded her eyes once more as she swiftly extracted her hand from the latter’s chest.

Despite having killed tens of thousands of deviants, creating multiple mountains of corpses, she still felt nauseated when she saw Roel’s blood splatter out. She felt like something was crushing her heart. 

She instinctively reached out to hug Roel while swiftly casting a series of spells to perform emergency care for him. By this point, Roel was already starting to nod off from his accumulated fatigue.

“You’ll be fine. Nothing can possibly happen to you if it’s only to such an extent…”

Nora carried out the treatment with trembling hands while trying her best to comfort Roel. The latter felt assured to see that she was back to her normal self.

“I’ll just… rest for a while.”

“W-what? No, you can’t do that. Roel, you must hold on! Roel…”

Worried that Roel would never awaken from his sleep, Nora desperately called his name again and again, but it was to no avail. From the moment he was assured that Nora would be fine, he felt exhaustion setting in like never before. The sheer willpower that was barely keeping him awake was finally cut loose, and he plunged into darkness.

… Please read this novel in HostedNovel.com -StarveCleric

There was already a crowd where Tark Stronghold was previously located. Hundreds of blazing torches staved away the darkness of the night for the diligent soldiers constructing a defense line. 

Following Roel’s departure, the Theocracy’s Third Knight Order immediately sent envoys over to the Knight Kingdom Pendor and Rosa Merchant Confederacy’s base camps, but the distance made it impossible for reinforcements to arrive right away. 

The ones who were currently doing the constructions were the logistics team from Balk Town. 

These people already viewed Roel as their leader after he stepped forward to protect them that night. His orders were also supported by the town mayor, Carmen, especially the part about constructing a defense line at the mountain valley. 

The disappearance of Tark Stronghold was a disaster for humanity, but Roel’s words provided them a glimmer of hope. They were convinced that this was a ploy by the evil cults, and they were determined to stand strong to guard Sia’s honor and humanity, as well as their faraway family and country. 

Roel had spoken those words to construct a common enemy and get the knights to pull themselves together, but little did he know that his words would swiftly spread, and everyone eventually came to take it as the truth. 

In the darkness of the mountain forest, Bryan Elric looked at the brightly lit mountain valley with a slight frown, his eyes flickering enigmatically. Behind him lay hundreds of evil cultists awaiting his cue. 

Unlike the criminals of the Connoisseur Guild, Bryan had been stationed in Tark Stronghold several times in his long lifespan. He had a deep understanding of the fortress, and that was why he was skeptical even when he heard about its plight from the Collector. 

He could hardly conceal his shock at all when he saw that the humongous fortress had vanished without a trace, but more than that, he was confused about the soldiers’ swift reaction. 

From experience, he knew that the soldiers would be gripped by fear and chaos after having lost the head of their command chain. There should have been not a single person at the mountain valley at this moment, but things were different from what he had expected.

Soldiers were arriving every now and then. There was a steely look on their faces that hinted that they were intending to fight against all odds and make things work out, no matter the cost. 

That was why Bryan was frowning. 

This unexpected situation messed up his plan, posing an obstacle for his advancement into Tark Prairie. Fortunately, there weren’t too many high-rank transcendents deployed here, and they were too busy constructing a defense line that it was unlikely that they would be able to stall them. 

Besides, it was not as if Bryan had come unprepared. 

He first assessed the strength of the army camping at the mountain valley. Then, he took out a pocket watch from his shirt—it was an exquisite magic tool inscribed with a beautiful angel. Its clock hands moved at an oddly slow speed compared to normal watches, depending on the degree of awakening and concentration of Angel Bloodline in each Xeclyde. 

There was a gleam in Bryan’s eyes when he saw the lifelike inscription of the beautiful angel closing her eyes once more, but he wasn’t affected by it for too long. Instead, he turned his attention to the moving clock hands and carefully calculated the time.

Around three days.

It was the countdown to the moment Nora’s bloodline awakening reached its crucial phase, and it was the opportune moment for Bryan to assassinate her. As long as he made a move during this time period and either pushed her toward complete Seraphication or killed her outright, it would be his victory. 

The only thing that was standing in the way of a chaotic era was the Xeclydes’ lineage, and that was the obstacle Bryan had to eliminate before the Elrics would get a chance at resurgence. On top of that, he would be able to get rid of the other hateful lineage as well, thus achieving two birds in a stone. 

Bryan thought about the Collector’s words, and his eyes slowly grew sharp. The presence of an awakener in the Ascart House had changed fate, but he was far from being cornered yet. He still had a chance to turn things around.

With such thoughts in mind, he stowed away the pocket watch and gazed at the faraway prairie. Murderous intent was brewing in his cold, sinister eyes. 

“Let’s go.”

With an unfeeling order, the group marched out of the mountainous forest and began charging their way toward the faraway prairie. 

StarveCleric's Notes:

Do check out the translated manhua at ZeroScans!
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ℭ𝔥𝔢𝔠𝔨 𝔬𝔲𝔱 𝔪𝔶 𝔬𝔱𝔥𝔢𝔯 𝔫𝔬𝔳𝔢𝔩𝔰:
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Written by Bells on Cat Ears (猫耳铃铛). Translated by StarveCleric. Edited by Welmar.