LTBE - Chapter 453.1: Please Don’t Leave Me (1)
A terrifying hurricane ravaged the plains as rain began pelting down from the sky.
The clash between Roel and Duke Brookley brought aberrant weather upon the plains. Faced with Grandar’s almighty punch, the towering wall of fluid emitted a brilliant blue light and began undulating like the ocean, attempting to neutralize the incoming force.
It wasn’t very effective.
From the moment the two forces clashed, the fist clad in crimson flames and lightning began to vaporize the wall of fluid from within, triggering explosions after explosions within its compact form. This resulted in the fluid scattering all over the battlefield as searing hot rain.
Meanwhile, the soldiers beneath this hulking phenomenon were forced to stab their swords into the ground just to keep themselves from being blown away by the hurricane. The brawny horses were much less fortunate, as many of them were helplessly swept away by the tempest.
Even the massive trees in the jungle swiftly toppled under the winds.
It felt as if the battlefield had been reduced to a showdown between Roel and Duke Brookley, though this clash didn’t last for too long. The towering wall of fluid eventually dissipated under the force of Grandar’s punch.
However, Duke Brookley had made his escape in the meantime, knowing that the situation wasn’t in his favor.
He had already confirmed Roel’s identity from the moment Grandar appeared—’the young man who summons ancient gods’. This was an opponent he absolutely couldn’t let his guard down against.
He also knew what Roel’s goal was.
Similar to how he had targeted Alicia in order to defeat the Ascarts, Roel was thinking of forcing the Sezes’ elite troops to retreat by defeating him.
It was the correct choice, for this was the most plausible way for an individual to single-handedly turn the tables on the battlefield.
Had it been under normal circumstances, Duke Brookley might have just accepted the challenge. However, he chose to retreat this time around, not just because he was in a bad condition, but also because he was apprehensive of Roel’s strength.
The youngest ever champion of the Challenger Cup was stronger than what was reflected in the Sezes’ intelligence reports.
There was a huge gap between Origin Level 3 and Origin Level 4. Duke Brookley would have considered pitting his exhausted body against Roel if he had yet to make a breakthrough, but his instincts were dissuading him from fighting Roel now that he had become a full-fledged high transcendent.
For top-notch prodigies who stood above their peers, a breakthrough of a single Origin Level could easily spell a world of difference. Not to mention, Roel had proven himself capable of rivaling enemies stronger than him in the Challenger Cup.
In view of these considerations, Duke Brookley issued the order to retreat.
The Sezes’ elite troops were surprised when they heard the low grumble of the war horn signaling them to retreat, but they didn’t hesitate to obey orders. Thus, the soldiers began retreating in an orderly fashion to their base camp.
Duke Brookley quickly reconstructed another towering wall of fluid to hold back Grandar so as to cover the soldiers’ retreat. Knowing that just this much wouldn’t be sufficient, he also directed the falling pelts of rain toward Grandar’s surroundings in order to loosen up the ground around him, thus decreasing the giant’s mobility.
Despite pushing himself to his very limits, Duke Brookley only managed to maintain the towering wall of fluid for several more minutes before it collapsed under Grandar’s punches. By then, the Sezes’ elite troops had already successfully separated from the Ascart soldiers and were a fair distance away.
It was possible for Roel to pursue them, but he decided against it after a moment of thought.
The Ascart soldiers were far too fatigued after the intense battle to give chase. Roel could probably cause a huge ruckus even if he charged into the Sezes’ base camp alone—he was the strongest transcendent here now that Duke Brookley had exhausted himself—but the damage he could inflict as an individual would be limited, not to mention that it would be a risky move.
Even high transcendents were hesitant to go against a well-trained army all alone.
Roel stared at Duke Brookley, who was still eyeing him warily from a distance, and let out a soft sigh. As expected of a renowned general, the latter was sensitive to the tides of the battlefield and gave a swift response to every change. It was also amazing how well-trained the Sezes’ elite troops were.
An individual could easily turn tail and flee when given the order to retreat, but an army couldn’t do the same without collapsing their defense line, which would create an opening in their formation. For that reason, an army had to maintain its defense line even while retreating.
This was easier said than done, especially with the immense pressure Grandar was exerting on them. Any ordinary army would have lost their nerves and fallen into chaos. Yet, the Sezes’ elite troops managed to maintain their formation at all times while steadily backing away.
In terms of discipline, the Sezes’ elite troops might have been superior to the Ascarts’ personal army.
After ensuring that the Sezes’ were a safe distance away, Roel finally tore his attention away from them to look at the Ascarts, or to be more exact, a silver-haired girl standing by the edge of the jungle.
The nerves that had remained taut over the last few days were finally cut some slack.
In a dim forest, Roel quietly listened as the Ascarts’ commanders reported on the casualties. Behind him, Alicia was cleaning off the bloodstains on her arm with clear water.
Shortly after the Sezes’ returned to their base camp, the Ascarts retreated into the forest. Roel quickly caught up with them on horseback. They traversed a meandering beast path that led straight to the heart of the jungle, where a temporary military base had been constructed.
It was beyond Roel’s imagination for the Ascarts’ base camp to be constructed at a place like this. Even those who possessed beast taming abilities held a deferential attitude toward the wilderness, and the notion of resting in a jungle was nothing short of insanity to them.
How could one possibly rest when a demonic beast could leap out from the shadows and rip them to shreds at any moment?
Not to mention, this jungle had a ruler.
When demonic beasts grew powerful enough to match high transcendents, they usually became the ruler of their territory and established symbiotic relationships with the demonic beasts residing in the region. In the case of this jungle, it was an Eight-legged Colossal Deer dubbed the Emperor of Calamity.
Taming these rulers was viewed to be an impossible feat by conventional standards. It was possible to strike deals with these rulers, but renting their home was out of the question.
Demonic beasts were highly territorial creatures. It was a natural instinct for them to react aggressively if a trespasser was detected in their territory. Given so, it was nigh impossible to persuade them to allow an army to set up its base camp in their territory.
One would probably have to tame the ruler of the territory in order to pull off such a feat.
How in the world did Alicia pull it off?
As usual, Roel was unable to find an answer to that question. He felt like Alicia was becoming increasingly mysterious, especially with the recent breakthroughs in her bloodline and transcendent abilities.
However, it wasn’t the time to be bothered with that.
He patiently waited for the commanders to finish their report before informing them that reinforcement was due to arrive tomorrow. This piece of good news lifted their morale, which was relieving given the heavy atmosphere that had been looming over the base camp ever since their return from the dispiriting battle.
Meanwhile, Alicia sat by the corner of the command center’s resting room with a lowered head, her eyes staring intently at the floor. Even as the other commanders stepped out of the tent, she didn’t rush to Roel’s side as she usually would have.
Even back when they were on the battlefield, Roel had noticed that there was something amiss with Alicia. She was in an extremely low mood, and it looked almost as if she was afraid of his gaze. Ever since the quick greeting they had exchanged, she had been quietly sitting there with her head lowered, all the way up till now.
This left Roel in a panic.
It had been a long time since their last meeting, and the happenings at the eastern border made it such that they couldn’t even spend New Year’s Day together. Alicia should have been excited to see him under normal circumstances, so her reaction was baffling.
C-could she be suffering from PTSD due to the gruesome sights on the battlefield?
Roel’s heart thumped nervously. He wanted to ask her directly about it, but he wondered if that was the right thing to do.
… If it really is PTSD, it’d be best for me not to agitate her for the time being, right?
These considerations forced Roel to maintain a nonchalant appearance even though he felt like he was going to suffer from a heart attack with the way things were going. In the end, when he was finally done with all the work he had on hand, he plucked up his courage to ask Alicia what had happened.
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He first waited for a while longer, thinking that it would be good to give Alicia some time to think things through herself. However, when he realized that she had no intention of opening up on her own accord, he took in a deep breath and rose to his feet. He tried his best to maintain a calm face as he began making his way toward her.