LTBE - Chapter 452.1: Fighting the Main Force (1)
Under the radiant glow of the rising sun, Duke Brookley’s fluid sphere glimmered more brightly than ever. He had compressed a great amount of his mana into that single fluid sphere, morphed it into the form of a water spear that was barely the size of a finger, before unleashing it with utmost precision.
It had appeared to be little more than a droplet of water in the sky before its moment of release, but when it surged forth with unstoppable momentum, it emanated a glorious radiance that melded into the sun rays as if it was the manifestation of divine retribution.
This was one of the spells Duke Brookley was famed for, having used to snipe down enemy generals before the start of the battle. Many powerful transcendents had failed to react to this attack and fell in regret.
Today, its target was the silver-haired girl surrounded by soldiers.
The name, Alicia Ascart, didn’t really register to Duke Brookley, and the two of them hardly knew each other either. Yet, the moment he unleashed the attack, he felt a rush of guilt.
Thus far, there had never been an underaged girl who had died to this attack, and there should have never been one in his principles. However, choice was a privilege in times of war. Soldiers often had to make decisions that they personally didn’t agree with on the battlefield.
Of all possible adjectives that could be used to describe a person, there were only two that really mattered on the battlefield—friendly and hostile.
The miniature water spear swiftly bolted forth with a shrill whiz along its trajectory, though it hardly registered amidst the ruckus on the battlefield. Till the moment it struck its target, there was not a person who noticed the assassination. It was only when the impact transferred to the ground and raised a cloud of dust that the advancing Ascart soldiers finally realized that something was amiss.
A loud explosion ensued, but Duke Brookley didn’t bother watching the commotion. Instead, he raised his head and gave the order for his soldiers to charge forth.
The Sezes had hardly any information about Alicia Ascart and her abilities on the intelligence report, but it was common sense that a girl of her age couldn’t possibly be too powerful, not to mention that she was a beast tamer.
There was only so much time and energy that a transcendent had, after all. The more competent a transcendent was in a specialized field, the more lacking they would be in others. A beast tamer as powerful as Alicia Ascart was bound to be individually weak.
That was why Duke Brookley had no doubts that the child who had brought so much trouble to his elites had already departed from the world, and the death of the enemy commander usually stirred chaos that made it an ideal timing to launch a follow-up attack.
What he didn’t know was that the silver-haired girl obscured by a cloud of dust was still alive. Fresh blood was flowing from her arm, but the cause wasn’t his devastating water spear but the girl’s own dagger.
The sensation of a cold metallic blade breaching her skin was uncomfortable, and equally so was the viscous blood that flowed from her arm and dribbled all over the ground. The explosion that occurred in the middle of the Ascarts’ charging army induced a short moment of chaos, but she held her gaze firm.
As the chief of the Ascarts’ intelligence bureau, Alicia had access to all intelligence reports. She knew that her enemy was a renowned general of the Austine Empire, Duke Brookley. He was a high-level transcendent known for his long-ranged sniping spell, which allowed him to turn the tables against his enemies on numerous occasions. It stood to reason that Duke Brookley would surely attempt something if he sensed that the situation wasn’t in their favor.
As the commander of the Ascarts’ personal army, the least she could do was to devise some countermeasures.
In Duke Brookley’s eyes, the Origin Level 4 Alicia Ascart was a weakling that wouldn’t stand a chance against him at all. However, one should never forget that strength came at a price on the Sia Continent. This meant that as long as Alicia paid the corresponding price, she could utilize spells far surpassing her limits.
Vow of Devotion—this was a forbidden spell that took the life of an individual in exchange of attracting all long-ranged spells within a set area. It was only used by the death warriors nurtured by powerful households and some spellcasters in the military.
Be it to protect one’s liege or to create an opportunity for one’s comrades, the individual who invoked the Vow of Devotion was doomed to lose their life, regardless of whether they were successful or not.
But Alicia was an exception to that rule.
The notion of ‘paying with one’s life’ ultimately meant the sapping of one’s life force. Most humans were born with similar amounts of life force, which was why all humans who invoked the Vow of Devotion, no matter how powerful they were, would die shortly after.
However, Alicia happened to possess an endless source of life force due to her miraculous bloodline. She was able to pay the price required to invoke Vow of Devotion just by slicing her wrist and letting blood flow. She directed the target to be one of the white birds floating around her, thus surviving the assassination attempt.
The dust finally scattered and Alicia showed herself once more.
Duke Brookley couldn’t help but widen his eyes in disbelief. He had slain countless powerful enemies ever since he brought out this assassination spell on the battlefield, so he couldn’t fathom how Alicia could have possibly survived his attack. In any case, it raised his evaluation of her.
“That child…” he murmured in astonishment.
He had known that the Ascart House had produced generations of powerful transcendents, but he didn’t think that even a foster daughter of theirs would reach such caliber. It came as a huge shock to him, but he swiftly placed his feelings under control. Instead, an even stronger killing intent burst forth from him.
I have to get rid of that silver-haired girl.
That was what Duke Brookley’s intuition was telling him. With greater determination than before, he levitated another glowing blue fluid sphere into the sky. Similarly, Alicia also began manifesting more white birds, ready to unravel any attacks that would be thrown in her direction.
The assassination attempt on their commander had infuriated the Ascart soldiers. They roared angrily and hastened their charge. On the other hand, the Sezes’ elite troops had also gotten into their formation and were ready to fight back. The earth quaked under the soldiers’ heavy footsteps, signaling the commencement of another battle.
All sorts of spells gushed into the sky and fell upon the enemy formation, reaping away lives amidst their splendor. The miniature water spears and white birds also began their cat-and-mouse chase.
After a night of prelude, the armies of two military powerhouses were finally confronting each other, fighting for both glory and the future of their respective countries.
Given the chaotic battle, Duke Brookley was unable to find a good opportunity to bypass the numerous Origin Level 3 guards protecting Alicia to assassinate her, especially when he was in a weakened state after fighting against the Emperor of Calamity.
On the other hand, Alicia was also unable to fully unleash her prowess since the recovery of her life force was slowed in the absence of the moon.
As a result, the battle continued with no notable intervention from the commanders on both sides. It didn’t take long for the plains to be dyed red.
Alicia was planning to fight a battle of attrition, so she had instructed her forces not to get tied down by the enemy forces and simply kite them around. Unfortunately, the situation wasn’t progressing as smoothly as she envisioned. The Sezes had seen through their plan, such that their cavalrymen pursued them relentlessly despite accruing fatigue over a night of battle.
At the same time, after realizing that it would be nigh impossible for him to assassinate Alicia in his current condition, Duke Brookley changed his plan. He first gathered a large amount of glowing blue mana around him before furiously pumping it into the ground. The surge of blue mana swiftly destroyed the structure of the ground, changing the battlefield’s terrain.
“Wait a moment, this is!”
“Shit, this isn’t good. Escape!”
The Ascart soldiers didn’t pay much heed to the dampening ground due to the blood seeping into the earth, but over time, the ground started turning into a bog. The cavalrymen were no longer able to freely charge across the battlefield while the footsoldiers found themselves unable to effectively retreat. The reduced mobility made it much harder for the Ascart soldiers to shake off the Sezes’ elite troops.
Terraforming spells were mana inefficient and slow to take effect, but they played a strategic role on the battlefield. It was the same spell that Duke Brookley had used to stall the Emperor of Calamity last night, but he was using it now to drag the footsteps of the Ascart soldiers.
His goal was clear.
You’re trying to prolong the battle and slowly exhaust us out? Try it then. Let’s see how you can kite our troops now that you aren’t able to maintain your mobility.
Duke Brookley had used up nearly all of his mana on this terraforming spell, which was highly risky since he wouldn’t be able to intervene anymore if any unexpected situations occurred. This was as good as entrusting the battle and his life to his soldiers.
This act of trust raised the morale of the Sezes’ elite troops to the peak.
Duke Brookley raised his sword up high, and for the first time, he charged to the very forefront and slaughtered the enemies. His presence on the battlefield filled the Sezes’ knights and warriors with courage, inducing an adrenaline rush in them that overwrote their exhaustion, allowing them to fight with even greater fervor than before.
An uplifting war horn echoed throughout the battlefield once more.
This was not a good sign for the Ascarts. They were lacking in terms of absolute military prowess compared to the Sezes, which was why they had chosen to resort to attrition warfare. The crux of attrition warfare was to slowly wear down the enemy while sustaining minimal losses, but at this rate, the Ascarts’ was going to crumble before the Sezes’.
Alicia immediately noticed the change in the situation, but she had no countermeasures to that this time. It was beyond her imagination that Duke Brookley would take on such a huge risk and personally join the frontline. It was a huge gamble for him, but it was clearly paying off.
It was finally dawning on Alicia just how formidable her enemy was.
As expected of the patriarch of the Seze House.
It might have looked like a reckless move for him to abandon the command center and personally leap into the battlefield, but he made that decision knowing that he was the strongest transcendent on the battlefield. He knew that his very presence would serve as bait.
We would be falling into his trap if we take the risk and focus our efforts on taking down Brookley. It would change our war of attrition into a decisive confrontation.
But at the same time, the terraforming of the battlefield has caused our mobility to take a nosedive, making it much harder for us to retreat. There’s a good chance that we’ll suffer heavy losses at this rate if we don’t fight back, especially with the Sezes’ troops in such high morale.
We were already at a disadvantage from the very start, and suffering such a heavy loss will further worsen our position.
He was able to make a series of correct choices within such a short period of time, leveraging all of the advantages he and his army have. It’s no wonder why he’s a renowned general in the Austine Empire.
Given the situation, we can only minimize our losses.
Without any hesitation, Alicia ordered the Ascart soldiers to retreat, bringing the defense line further back toward the jungle.
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Meanwhile, the heretics of the Unyielding Sect stepped forward to fend off the advancing Sezes’ elite troops—they were the only ones impervious to the bog due to the blessing of the Primordial Earth Goddess.
Alicia also stood her ground by the edge of the jungle, unleashing her spells to hold back the enemy forces. She was determined to stand alongside the Ascart soldiers in this fight.
Just like that, the two armies clashed once more.
No one noticed a mechanical eagle with silver wings approaching from the sky’s horizon, its jeweled eyes gazing upon the chaotic battlefield.