LTBE - Chapter 426.1: I Won’t Let You Go (1)
Roel found himself standing outside a grand city to the backdrop of a night sky. He could vaguely hear a bell chiming in the far distance.
Anyone else would have been baffled to have suddenly been transported from the rural wilderness into an urban city, but Roel gave nary a reaction. He had somewhat expected something like this to happen.
He knew his way around since it wasn’t his first time here.
He entered the imposing city gates, passed by the empty city square, and walked through an elaborately decorated corridor. In the end, he arrived before a set of doors.
As the doors opened, a beam of light shone through, expanding wider until everything came into sight.
It was a room containing a beautiful flower field and a throne on a pedestal.
This was the place where Roel and Artasia first met and pitted their wits against each other. It was after several clashes that they decided to seal a contract, thus resulting in their current relationship.
But this time, the witch waiting for him on the other side of the door wasn’t enigmatic but brooding. He was aware of the reason behind her different attitude.
A trace of golden had started spreading in the throne room, rising from the corners of the wall. The affliction wasn’t just limited to this place; an entire half of the city was already shrouded in the same golden aura.
There was no physical destruction as they weren’t in the real world, but it showed how pessimistic the situation was.
Once the golden aura completely filled the land, the Witch Queen would lose her jurisdiction over this place. That would sever their connection and suspend their contract. Once that happened, Artasia wouldn’t be able to manifest beside him as and when she liked. He wouldn’t be able to borrow her powers either.
This would continue till the golden aura receded or when Roel finally succumbed to the golden aura.
Roel was aware of this consequence when he made his choice, but he still felt guilt-ridden toward the Witch Queen sitting atop the throne.
“For the final meeting before our parting, that expression of yours is putting me in a spot.”
Artasia rose from the throne and looked at Roel with a sharp glint in her eyes. She looked as disgruntled as a woman who just had a fight with her boyfriend.
“You were the one who ignored my advice and insisted on doing things your way. Are you regretting your decision now?”
“… That’s not it. I just feel apologetic to have put you through this,” replied Roel ruefully.
Artasia fell silent.
There was no Race Sovereign in the world who wasn’t proud and lofty, regardless of race or era. Take Grandar and Peytra for example, despite their amicable and tolerant attitude toward Roel, they wouldn’t allow anyone to undermine their pride and honor, especially not an enemy.
In particular, the witches were of exceptional standing and wielded great authority in the ancient era. They were a deeply feared race, such that even the angels, who prided themselves as Sia’s envoys, dared not to carelessly offend them.
It was not too hard to imagine just how prideful Artasia was.
It was a humiliation to her to have been assimilated by the power of another Race Sovereign, but she gritted her teeth and endured it because of Roel. She even stepped forward and took the brunt of the golden aura for him.
Artasia’s anger appeared to have abated a little after hearing Roel’s words. She huffed in annoyance and averted her eyes away.
“I detest how you keep making choices that put you at risk, but at least you have followed the terms of our contract.”
“You’re referring to…?”
“Dilemma,” replied Artasia with a smile.
She pointed a finger at him and continued with glowing eyes.
“The instinct for self-preservation and the desire to save—a sweet dilemma between two wills. It’s an interesting observation for me. I look forward to the outcome.”
“… You still haven’t given up on that yet?”
Roel smiled helplessly upon hearing those words. He was already used to being the Witch Queen’s observation target.
On the other hand, Artasia was finally done venting her anger and instead offered a piece of advice.
“The assimilation of the golden aura won’t just stop here; it’ll only worsen after my disappearance. It’s likely that you’ll be in the final stages of the assimilation by the time you encounter your enemies. The only one who will be able to help you is Grandar, whose attribute directly opposes that of the angels. Your enemies also aren’t as simple as you think them out to be. You need to tread carefully.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m sensing something chaotic and inauspicious. Things don’t bode well.”
The Witch Queen was an existence synonymous with disaster in the ancient era. Something she deemed to be inauspicious was unlikely to be anything ordinary. On top of that, the witches were known to be well-versed in the art of divination, second only to the Goddess of Fate’s authority.
“Your body is slowly weakening, and you won’t be able to receive any support from us very soon. Your ally is in an unstable state and can potentially become an enemy at any moment. Your nemesis is on your way here with something prepared for you.
“What a wretched situation you’re in! It’s even worse than what you have faced in your Witness State,” said Artasia with a derisive chuckle.
“I’d also say that I’m pretty screwed at this point,” replied Roel with a laugh.
“Yet, you still refuse to back down.”
A merry smile slowly formed on Artasia’s lips as her eyes curled in anticipation, hoping to see what would happen next.
“You have put me in a distasteful situation, and I deem it a humiliation. Typically, I wouldn’t have overlooked what you did, but if you present me with an exciting show that far surpasses my anger, I might just find a speck of magnanimity in me to turn a blind eye to your transgression. That’s why, my hero, you’ll have to work hard to entertain me,” Artasia spoke with narrowed eyes, her voice mellow with desire.
Despite the threatening words, Roel wasn’t worried at all. On the contrary, he was thankful for the Witch Queen’s support.
“I’m grateful for that. I must say I’m rather moved by your graciousness.”
“If you wish to earn something, you’ll have to pay a corresponding price for it. Such has been the path of all transcendents from the ancient era till now. Suffering and happiness are like two sides of the same coin, contradicting yet complementing each other. My hero, you really are an evil one to always put me in such situations.”
“How is it that I always turn out to be the evil one all of a sudden?” replied Roel with a helpless tone.
Then, he raised his gaze to look at the Witch Queen and asked with a teasing yet earnest voice.
“Since I’m already a sinner, allow me to go overboard and request the beautiful and noble Witch Queen Artasia for a treasure before our short parting.”
“Oh? Is there something you would like from me?”
“Indeed. You can consider it a prop for the upcoming performance.”
Roel revealed the item he wanted with a smile, and Artasia blinked her eyes in surprise before her lips started edging upward.
“My hero, you really are an awful person to ask something like this of a fair maiden. I’ll admit as much that it does interest me. Alright, I’ll indulge you this once.”
It took some time for Artasia to prepare the item and entrust it to Roel. Having accomplished everything, she bade Roel farewell with a smile.
“It’s about time for you to leave, my hero. That woman outside seems to be at her limit now.”
“Indeed, Your Majesty. I’m afraid I’ll have to take my leave to save the princess first.”
“How unusual for you to address me like that. It sounds pleasing to my ears,” Artasia spoke with a merry smile as she lifted her skirt and curtsied.
At the same time, Roel’s surroundings started to blur.
“I look forward to the day of our reunion. May luck be with you.”
Roel nodded smilingly in response to the Witch Queen’s blessing before his consciousness descended into darkness, resurfacing back into the real world.
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