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LTBE - Chapter 443.1: Temporary Parting (1)

In the study room of the Labyrinth Manor, Roel carefully read through the letter he held in his hands. His expression was constantly changing over the span of the letter, but by the time he placed it down, he heaved a sigh of relief.

It was an urgent reply letter from the Ascart Fiefdom, containing answers to the questions Roel had posed not too long ago. The author of the letter wasn’t Alicia but Anna, Roel’s personal maid. She was also the one currently in charge of managing the day-to-day affairs of the Ascarts’ manor.

Indeed, the Ascarts’ manor was left empty yet again after the outbreak of war.

According to Anna’s letter, after Roel’s departure Carter had hosted Chris at the Ascarts’ manor for around a week, and the two of them managed to get on friendly relations during this period of time. However, there didn’t seem to be any significant advancement in their romance.

After Chris’ departure, the Ascarts’ manor was peaceful for a while until they received news about the tragedy that had befallen Tark Stronghold.

The first thing Carter did upon receiving the news was to secretly rush to the Holy Capital to meet Holy Eminence John. The result of their discussion was the ongoing internal war. Everything that Carter did afterward was detailed in the war report that Roel received in the royal palace.

During this period of time, Alicia had requested permission to head to Tark Stronghold several times, but Carter turned her down under the grounds of it being unsafe. Later on, when the internal war finally broke out, Alicia left the Ascarts’ manor together with the military force.

Roel wasn’t too surprised to learn that Alicia was participating in the internal war as well. He knew that Carter had been grooming her as his protégé in military affairs, evident from how she was granted highest access rights to the Ascarts’ intelligence network.

Other households usually send just one or two representatives to fight in a war, but our Ascart House dispatches the entire family, including the ladies. While I was fighting Bryan at Tark Prairie, my father and Alicia were busy suppressing Bryan’s soldiers. It feels almost like an assault on all fronts, he thought wryly.

Roel carefully read through the letter several more times before letting out a helpless sigh. He could only pray for his family members’ safety and hasten his preparations.

Two days had passed since Roel’s return to the Holy Capital.

That would have been ample time to recover for most transcendents, but not for Roel after how far he had pushed himself back at Tark Prairie. Nevertheless, he didn’t intend to alter his plans.

The first thing he had to do was resolve the heretic army’s equipment woes. Most of their armor and weapons were tattered after all of the battles they had been through, to the point that it was affecting their fighting prowess.

There wasn’t enough time to equip them to the teeth, but at the very least, he couldn’t allow his personal army to step onto the battlefield with subpar equipment. The difference in equipment could spell the difference between life and death, after all.

Fortunately, their mission to Tark Stronghold was officially a request from Holy Eminence John, so the royal family was compensating them for any losses they had incurred during the process. It also helped that Nora was taking the helm. With a wave of her hand, Roel received not just compensation for his losses but generous rewards for his contribution too.

Nora knew that Roel wasn’t doing this for money or glory, but formalities were formalities. Besides, the heretic army under Roel’s command would benefit from the recognition too.

In her capacity as the Theocracy’s princess, Nora offered high compliments to the heretic army and even granted audience to its leaders, Rodney, Wood, and Cynthia. She bestowed blessings upon them and proclaimed the Unyielding Sect and Strength Sect as friends of the church. Last but not least, she instructed them to protect Roel well on the battlefield.

This audience was held in the church, and it was a formal commendation rather than a private meeting. It understandably stirred quite a ripple in the populace, considering the Theocracy’s ambivalent attitude toward heretics thus far. Cynthia and the others were moved by the recognition, and they swore to protect Roel even at the expense of their lives.

Only then did Nora finally reveal a satisfied smile.

To celebrate this significant progress for their people, the heretic army threw a wild party in the Labyrinth Villa that very night.

Looking at the excited heretics before him, Roel couldn’t help but feel a little wistful.

It was still fresh in his mind how these powerful warriors had their heads lowered when they first arrived at the Holy Capital. Even passing through the city gates was an unnerving experience for them. Cynthia’s face was all frozen up. Rodney was completely silent. Wood showed none of his usual composure.

But after toiling through many hardships at the eastern border, they were finally awarded the glory they deserved. They no longer had to be fearful of others questioning their identities, and they could finally sit proudly in a tavern without hiding anything at all.

That was what it meant to receive the recognition of the Xeclydes.

Roel was happy for his subordinates, but he didn’t let the celebrations get in the way of his work. He was constantly receiving reports from the frontline in order to remain updated on the latest news.

According to the most recent war report, the allied armies of the Ascarts and Xeclydes had finally arrived at Edgar City. As Roel had predicted, the Elrics decided to pull back their armies into the capital and wall themselves off after losing both of their major fortresses.

The Ascarts and the Xeclydes made an attempt to siege Edgar City, but things didn’t go well. Knowing that their soldiers were already exhausted from the long journey, they decided to temporarily retreat and rest up after the failed first attempt.

Roel didn’t think that it was a bad decision. It would have been ill-advised for the Ascarts and the Xeclydes to launch a reckless assault at this juncture, especially when taking into account the suspicious movements made by the Austine Empire.

The problem was that this meant that the internal war had fallen to a standstill, and that didn’t bode well for the Theocracy.

In the royal palace, Nora frowned after browsing through the reports that were delivered straight from the frontline. There was another document placed on the table in front of her that had come from the faraway Tark Stronghold.

Well-versed in history, she had enough sense to know that the internal war was unlikely to end in one fell swoop. Still, she could hardly suppress the anxiety encroaching on her heart. In fact, she had found herself losing her appetite and suffering from insomnia over the last few days.

Tark Stronghold was practically just putting on a strong front at the moment, but that fact remained oblivious not just to the common populace but even the nobles too.

The church had withheld information regarding the casualties suffered by Tark Stronghold, so no one was taking the matter seriously yet. The church had no choice but to hide this information or widespread panic would surely occur. The Xeclydes already had their hands full with the internal war; they didn’t have spare resources to simultaneously deal with other issues.

On one hand, Tark Stronghold desperately needed reinforcement in case of a large-scale invasion by the deviants. On the other, the internal war was swiftly weakening the overall military prowess of the Theocracy.

There was no doubt that uprooting the cancerous tumor known as the Elrics would greatly reinforce the internal stability of the Theocracy, but the price they were paying might just be too much for them to bear.

“The eastern border is already suffering from a severe lack of resources, but we’re still devoting soldiers and rations to fighting this internal war. Now, it looks like a third party is thinking of intervening in our business. Just what in the world is the Austine Empire trying to pull off?” Nora clutched her forehead as she murmured contemplatively.

On the other side of the room, Roel quietly studied the Theocracy’s map with crossed arms.

A country’s mobilization of its troops was usually guided by strategic intent. Since time immemorial, the three key reasons behind human wars had been territory, wealth, and people. For that reason, the movements by the Austine Empire were baffling to both Roel and Nora.

Bordering two other major countries, the Elric Fiefdom could be considered as the Theocracy’s buffer state. However, that didn’t mean that it was strategic land.

For one, the territory mostly comprised plains that were susceptible to the charge of cavalrymen. There were several mountains in the territory, but they weren’t tall enough to be used as a strategic chokepoint.

Two hundred years ago, when the Elrics were first left in charge of this land, the Theocracy was on extremely bad terms with the Austine Empire. In a sense, the Elric Fiefdom were effectively pawns to stall the enemies should a war break out. It was for that reason that the royal family implicitly allowed the Elrics to expand their army and construct defensive infrastructure, albeit with limits.

In terms of wealth, while the Elric Fiefdom’s land wasn’t barren, it wasn’t exceedingly fertile either. Moreover, there weren’t any mines or precious resources. On the whole, the Elric Fiefdom shouldn’t have had anything that the massive Austine Empire coveted.

Looking at it in terms of people, there was even less reason for the Austine Empire to invade the Elric Fiefdom. It was basically a national tradition for citizens of the Theocracy to hate on the Austine Empire. They would have been nothing but trouble for the Austine Empire to manage.

Besides, it was not as if the Austine Empire was facing a lack of manpower. The continent had been fairly peaceful for the past hundred years since the last deviant invasion, and that had led to significant growth in population. Lack of people was practically a non-existent problem.

Of course, it was not as if they couldn’t think of any reasons for the Austine Empire to invade. After several days of contemplation and corroborating all of the information they had gathered, the Xeclydes’ intelligence network came up with a possible conjecture:

The Elrics had approached the Austine Empire’s Seze House for help.

StarveCleric's Notes:

Do check out the translated manhua at ZeroScans!
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ℭ𝔥𝔢𝔠𝔨 𝔬𝔲𝔱 𝔪𝔶 𝔬𝔱𝔥𝔢𝔯 𝔫𝔬𝔳𝔢𝔩𝔰:
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Library of Heaven's Path
Martial God Asura from Chapter 4320
Written by Bells on Cat Ears (猫耳铃铛). Translated by StarveCleric. Edited by Welmar, Lemonan.