LTBE - Chapter 434.1: I’m Not Him (1)
Intense quakes shook the mountain valley where Tark Stronghold previously stood, forcing the soldiers to temporarily halt their construction work. Demonic beasts in the nearby mountains were also agitated by the shaking and uneasy birds could be seen circling the sky above.
The startled soldiers eyed the tinge of redness in the distant horizon, wondering what could be happening there.
In the depths of Tark Prairie, Grandar was stronger than ever under the effects of Howl of Crimson Lightning and the golden crown fragment. He focused his overwhelming strength into his fist and hurled it forward, utterly destroying the gray miasma and the evil god behind it. The horrifying mishmash of fragmented souls dispersed into the surroundings, returning to the earth.
The culprit behind the assault, Bryan Elric, fell in defeat.
I have lost.
Just barely an instant after this thought surfaced in his mind, the blow from Grandar followed through and landed heavily on him, drowning out his existence with a blinding crimson aura. The gray sword in his hand shattered, and he lost every sensation in his body.
In his final moments, there was not the slightest hint of desperation, grudge, or even pain on his face; just a look of daze.
As the crimson aura enveloped his vision, the knight saw the liege he had pledged fealty to. It was a man whose body was shrouded in crimson lightning. He still had the same defiant smile as he did two centuries ago.
A silent murmur drifted away with the wind before being covered by a deafening explosion.
The explosion was so huge that it blinded everyone in the vicinity, compelling them to halt whatever they were doing. The heretics lowered their bodies and placed their shields down in front of them, whereas the inquisitors assumed a prone position on the ground.
The evil cultists immediately realized that something was amiss. They scrambled off despite being robbed of their vision, but it was already too late. The crimson lightning chained to obliterate those who weren’t affected by the army buff spell, reducing most of the evil cultists to cinders.
In the wake of the crimson lightning came a series of scorching shockwaves.
Roel and Bryan’s clash had plunged the surrounding mana into a state of chaos, resulting in its rampage. It whipped up a devastating heat storm that ravaged the surroundings, battering those in the vicinity.
Both the heretics and inquisitors could only put up their defenses and hold their positions against the ensuing force. They were fortunate that the destructive force was scattered instead of being directed at any of them, making it still barely manageable.
Even Roel was rendered helpless before the storm. He had no choice but to wait for the tempest to subside.
It took a long time before the furious winds and the light started subsiding enough for Roel to open his eyes once more.
His first instinct was to lower his head and check his condition. His blurred body, which was previously on the verge of dissipation, had now turned fully corporeal. After confirming his safety, he scanned his surroundings and saw that the gray miasma and sorrowful wailing had vanished without a trace.
This battle was a complete victory for him.
However, he couldn’t bring himself to smile at all. He quietly raised his head and gazed into the distance.
Following the devastating storm, the surrounding land had turned into a desert. Bryan could be seen lying atop of the sand, his powerful aura no longer to be felt and his body riddled with holes. Having lost the protection of the evil god and his fragmented souls, he could no longer regenerate freely from his injuries.
Roel stared coldly at the fallen man, feeling not the slightest shred of sympathy for the defeated knight.
Bryan was not a man worth pitying. He had taken countless lives over the course of his life, showing no hesitation to kill even if the other party was his son. A vile man like him deserved death.
But there was something in their final clash that caught Roel’s attention.
Bryan had neither avoided nor retaliated against the crimson lightning. Instead, he chose to silently accept his demise, almost as if he thought it was an acceptable outcome for him to meet his end at that attack.
Roel was confused until he finally saw the look in Bryan’s eyes.
Bryan’s flesh and blood had already withered up with black smoke puffing from his body. Yet, there was serenity in his eyes when he stared at the sky above as though an old man having fulfilled his final wish. Even when Roel entered his vision, there was an absence of anger or hatred on his face. He quietly asked a question, one that Roel had expected.
“Howl of Crimson Lightning. That’s His Highness’ spell. Are you…”
The dying knight stared at Roel intently, hoping to receive an answer to his final question. Seeing the pleading look in his eyes, Roel let out a soft sigh and answered his final doubt.
“I’m not him.”
Bryan let out a feeble sigh of deflation, his eyes glooming in disappointment.
“But the spell I cast does belong to Wade. I encountered him through my bloodline ability and defeated him. This was his parting gift to me.”
A look of realization flashed across Bryan’s eyes. A second later, his lips formed a faint smile. His reaction confused Roel.
“You don’t mind that I defeated him?”
“That’s not something for me to worry about… It appears that His Highness is very fond of you. He doesn’t hold a grudge against others over his personal affairs. He chose to entrust his spell to you; it’s a symbol of his acknowledgment. As his knight, I’m obliged to obey his will. It might have been my fate to die in your hands.”
“… Is that so?” replied Roel placidly.
It was impossible for him to feel sympathy for Bryan after what the latter had done, but he couldn’t help but contemplate how whimsical fate was.
The once noble knight chose to become a vile criminal and stain his prided sword with sins. Even so, Bryan continued to hold onto a silhouette of his liege. Normally, those who had lived for a long time tended to be exceptionally frightened of death, yet he showed nothing of that sort. He was oddly calm, as if it was only right for him to die under the spell that once belonged to his liege.
Roel had no idea what drove Bryan to turn into the monster he had become.
It could have been to exact vengeance for his old liege. It might have been out of regret for causing the downfall of the once great Elric House. It could have also been an obsession over success.
However, if one thing was certain, Bryan had lost the ideals he had once prided himself on. He might have ceased being himself the moment that happened.
The chilling night wind swept across the desert, producing a soft rustle. There was a moment of silence as Roel gazed at the fallen Bryan before he spoke.
“Nora is his descendant.”
Bryan’s eyes were on the verge of closing when he heard those words. He forced himself to open his eyes once more and stare at the young man standing over him. In his moment of daze, he saw a figure overlapping with Roel. It was a proud golden-haired knight holding a gleaming sword.
That was the old him.
“The old knight has lost to the new knight,” murmured Bryan bitterly.
Looking at the young man who had taken over his role as the new guardian of that house, it suddenly dawned on him that he hadn’t just lost to Roel. He had also lost to the old him.
“… Be careful of that man. He knows your clan well.”
It could have been out of gratitude to Roel for revealing that piece of information, or perhaps it was intended as a gift to his successor, but Bryan gave out a final piece of advice. It caught Roel’s attention, especially when he recalled the robed figure and the hand that smothered his flame.
“Who is he?”
“No one knows. He has been observing you for a very long time. Be careful, it isn’t the end yet. This might just be the beginning…”
Roel’s eyes turned grim.
Bryan looked at him quietly for a moment longer before slowly closing his eyes. Mana continued leaking from his body until he breathed his last. His soul scattered along with the night wind to unknown lands.
Bryan Elric was finally dead.
The centuries-old grudge between the Ascarts and the Elrics had finally come to an end. An old powerhouse had fallen, marking the end of a generation.
Witnessing the death of his enemy placed Roel in a pensive mood.
Bryan Elric was both a meritorious subject and an evil sinner. He had vanquished many enemies for the Theocracy and protected humankind from the deviants on several occasions. But at the same time, he attempted to exert his dominance in the circle of nobility to instill chaos within the country and stage a rebellion.
If Wade had survived and succeeded in his revolution, Bryan might have been celebrated as one of the founding fathers who brought about a new era in the Theocracy.
It didn’t matter to Roel either way, and he had no interest in exploring Bryan Elric’s duality. The only thing important to him was that Bryan was an enemy that had to be defeated.
“This might have been the best outcome for you. You’ll finally be able to return to his side. Farewell.”
With a quiet mutter, Roel turned around and walked away from the desert.