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LTBE - Chapter 444.2: Cold Confrontation (2)

Most rulers of powerful countries tended to be powerful transcendents themselves, and Lukas Ackermann was no exception to this rule. What was different about Lukas, however, was that he showed no signs of aging at all. His complexion was glowing as always, and his facial features retained a delicate touch. His slender eyes gleamed with spirit, and there was an absence of beard and mustache on him.

On the whole, he looked like a well-groomed middle-aged man.

However, his disposition was at odds with his appearance. Just like Lilian, he emanated an air of coldness that seemed to come right from his bones. At the same time, he gave off an intimidating air of regality that made others dare not speak carelessly in his presence.

Upon seeing Lukas, Lilian lowered her head and curtsied, though she made no attempt to change her cold attitude and her expression. She knew that any attempt to fawn on him was wasted effort. It was much better to get straight to the point with Emperor Lukas.

“Your Majesty, you summoned me?”

“Mm. I have questions for you.”

After a quick exchange of necessary pleasantries, Lilian dove straight into the reason behind their meeting. Emperor Lukas wasn’t bothered by her straightforward attitude and instead calmly posed his questions.

“I’ve heard about the affairs that transpired during the Challenger Cup. Your defeat was not within my expectations, and it has induced skepticism amongst the nobles. You should be aware that that’s disadvantageous for you.”

“Yes, Your Majesty. I am also regretful about my failure at the Challenger Cup. I’ll slowly address the nobles’ skepticism in the future.”

“You do have to clean up your own mess, but that’s not what I’m concerned about… Lilian, what do you think about the successor of the Ascarts?”

It’s really about this?

It was one of the questions she had anticipated, but Lilian was still alarmed upon hearing it.

“… If I may clarify, are you asking for my evaluation of him?”

“Yes,” Emperor Lukas replied with a nod.

Lilian gave it some thought before answering.

“I believe that he’s a competent individual.”

“Competent? That’s quite an objective evaluation. Answer me, Lilian. Why did you allow Roel Ascart to participate in the tournament?”

“!”

The moment Emperor Lukas, with an authoritative tone, voiced his question, Lilian Ackermann’s amethyst eyes widened ever so slightly. She realized that Lukas must have noticed something. Meanwhile, Emperor Lukas continued staring down at her with his sharp eyes.

“You might not have lost to him, but the complications occurred due to him. Putting aside the daughter of the Cambonytes, Roel Ascart would have posed a considerable threat to you as well.

“Opponents with high burst power are troublesome for you to deal with. The two of you are under the same teacher, so you should have some understanding of his abilities. While it was an unexpected development that the Grade 1 students were allowed to participate in the tournament, you should have been able to veto it if you had tapped into the Austine Empire’s influence.

“That’s why, I can’t help but be curious. Lilian, raise your head and answer me… Why are you so unguarded toward him?”

Emperor Lukas spoke in a placid voice, but it sounded as if he was narrating facts.

Under his command, Lilian slowly raised her head to face him. Her face was as emotionless as ever, but her heart was pounding.

She knew deep well why she hadn’t stopped Roel from participating in the tournament. In the first place, she never saw Roel as an enemy. In fact, she hoped that Roel could clinch the champion trophy even more so than herself. However, she absolutely couldn’t allow Emperor Lukas to find out about that.

Emperor Lukas had ordered her not to come into contact with those from the Ascart House, showing his wariness and aversion toward them. Acting contrary to that was equivalent to defying the emperor’s edict.

Lilian had a strong feeling that if she couldn’t offer Lukas a satisfactory answer to his question, her circumstances would most likely spiral downward. In the war for the imperial throne, there was only one outcome awaiting the faction that lost the emperor’s support.

Amidst the chilling atmosphere, Lilian struggled to search for a correct answer.

Claiming that I’ve forgotten about it or that I’ve gotten careless is out of the question. The immense glory that comes with winning the Challenger Cup has great impact. I would have done everything that I could to increase the chances of my victory.

I can’t say that I didn’t know about Roel’s true strength either. If I really saw him as my enemy, I wouldn’t have given him a chance at all.

Lilian racked her mind for an acceptable reason, but it wasn’t coming easily. Meanwhile, Emperor Lukas’ eyes were growing sharper. Time slowly ticked by. It was right before Emperor Lukas was about to pass his judgment that Lilian finally spoke up.

“Regarding this incident, my emotions got ahead of me.”

“Emotions?”

Emperor Lukas looked almost surprised to hear that term. The gaze he had on Lilian turned even colder. However, an unexpected name came up in the following sentence.

“Paul Ackermann. He was the one who proposed that the First Grade students be allowed to participate in the Challenger Cup. All of this occurred because I didn’t put a stop to it.”

“Paul?” asked Emperor Lukas.

“While he’s an illegitimate child, he has inherited our clan’s unique trait. He is a rare upright individual, and he harbors respect and kinship toward me too. I thought that the Challenger Cup was a good opportunity for him, so I didn’t refute the decision.”

“…”

Emperor Lukas fell silent. He was surprised to hear such a response, but the intensity of his gaze didn’t weaken in the least. Lilian understood that as a sign that her answer was good but insufficient.

So, she placed her hand on her chest and allowed a certain black-haired, golden-eyed young man to surface in his mind before she further elaborated on her answer.

“Your Majesty, I’d understand if you doubt my words. It’s not like me to get emotionally involved. I don’t know what came upon me either, but when I learned of his identity, I suddenly felt a strong urge to protect him. The thought of any harm befalling him was unacceptable to me, and I found myself unable to turn down his request. I have no objections if you deem me guilty for that.”

Confusion was reflected in Lilian’s amethyst eyes for the first time. Bitterness could be seen on her usually impassive face. Her rare show of emotions surprised even Emperor Lukas, and his doubtful eyes started to waver.

Years of observation had given Lukas a thorough understanding of his own children. Lilian and her two older brothers could flaunt their acting skills all they wanted before him, but there was not a chance in the world they could deceive him.

It was for that very reason he could tell that Lilian’s emotions were earnest and that she meant what she had said. This was beyond Emperor Lukas’ expectations.

“Obsession is one of the hereditary traits in our clan. It isn’t your fault.”

The sharpness in Emperor Lukas’ eyes mellowed down as he offered empathetic words to Lilian. Nevertheless, his suspicion hadn’t been fully dispelled yet. He looked at Lilian and suddenly spoke up.

“An internal war has broken out in the Saint Mesit Theocracy, and it’s likely that Roel Ascart will be participating in it as well. Just as you’ve said, his ability will be an asset to the Theocracy. With the imminent arrival of a Holy War, the Genesis Goddess Church’s influence will rapidly expand in the near future. That could pose a threat to our empire.

“That’s why, Lilian… why don’t you eliminate him for the empire?”

“!”

The moment Emperor Lukas issued the command to kill Roel, Lilian suddenly felt the air around her turning stale. His words echoed ceaselessly in her ears, and her heart started thumping. On the surface, however, she managed to maintain a perfect poker face.

She could tell that Emperor Lukas was still suspicious and was attempting to sound her out, but this wasn’t an easy question for her to answer. She couldn’t allow herself to stand on the opposite side of Roel on the battlefield, but how could she avoid that without incurring Emperor Lukas’ suspicions?

Should I accept the order? Reject it? Or maybe divert the topic elsewhere?

Unbearable silence crushed down in the audience room as Lilian struggled to find an answer. Slowly, Emperor Lukas’ expression started to change. Several moments later, Lilian suddenly raised her head.

“Your Majesty, I’ll accept this order if you wish me to eliminate that fool who dares to stand in the way of our empire, but I don’t think that it’s appropriate for me to personally carry it out.”

“You don’t think that it’s appropriate?” asked Emperor Lukas.

“Yes, I do. In spite of our conflicting political affiliation, we’re both students of Saint Freya Academy. It will deal irreversible damage to my reputation in the academy if I were to hurt or kill a junior. I would like to avoid that if possible,” Lilian replied with a calm tone.

“…”

Emperor Lukas quietly stared into Lilian’s eyes for a long time, as if he was boring straight into her soul. Lilian’s heart was almost trembling from sheer tension. The answer she had arrived at was to neither agree nor disagree but instead leave it to Emperor Lukas to decide.

After a long moment of contemplation, Emperor Lukas slowly nodded his head.

“You’re right. It would be inappropriate for you to take his life. I don’t have any intention of killing him either. However, there’s a need to deal a crushing blow to the Theocracy, and their internal war will be the only chance we have before the Holy War. What do you think?”

“Your Majesty, I believe that it’s a good opportunity too. However, it’s a sensitive period right now since the Theocracy has just lost Tark Stronghold to a disaster. Wouldn’t it pique the wariness of the other countries if we were to make a move on them now?”

“You’re right. The other countries will vehemently oppose our actions. The deviants are a problem that we cannot make light of… Lilian, it must have been hard for you to follow my order and stay away from the child of the Ascarts over the past year, right?”

“No, it’s only right for me to do so.”

“You have done well. I am satisfied with your work thus far, but there’s no need for you to work that hard anymore.”

Lilian felt an ominous premonition upon hearing Emperor Lukas’ words. As if a prophecy was being realized, the latter gazed down on her authoritatively and spoke despairing words.

“Head to the eastern border. Don’t meet him ever again,” he ordered.

Lilian’s body instantaneously stiffened.

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.