LTBE - Chapter 454.1: Slowly Pushing the Boundaries (1)
In the tent, Roel looked at Alicia’s tear-stained face with slightly widened eyes. For a moment, he suddenly had a feeling that the two of them had been transported back into the past.
‘Please don’t leave me.’
It had been a long time since he last heard such frail words from Alicia.
Back when they were younger, the diffident Alicia would follow him around, clutching tightly onto his sleeves as she nervously scanned at her surroundings, almost as if she was keeping an eye out for things that could hurt her.
But as Alicia grew up, she had become stronger physically and mentally. She was no longer the weak girl she once was.
Recognizing that, Roel had tried to distance himself from her so that she would learn to become more independent, but his attempts were often foiled the moment she shed tears.
“I won’t leave you,” Roel reassured her.
His response was instantaneous, almost as if such instincts were primed into him. He reached out and embraced her tightly, and she returned the hug upon receiving his promise. It took a while before her emotions finally calmed down.
“But Alicia, you’ll have to step onto the battlefield with me if we don’t part ways here,” Roel attempted to dissuade her.
“I know, but I still don’t want to leave your side. I feel more worried when you aren’t by my side,” Alicia replied with tearful eyes.
Roel fell silent upon hearing those words. He carefully considered Alicia’s feelings and the current situation before finally nodding in agreement.
The truth was that it would make no tactical sense to send Alicia away right now.
He would have to dispatch a sufficiently powerful force to safely escort Alicia away from the battlefield, but that was a luxury they currently couldn’t afford. Furthermore, the loss of Alicia’s ability to mobilize the demonic beasts would have been a fatal blow too.
Furthermore, Alicia’s outstanding performance thus far had allowed her to build up prestige amongst the Ascart soldiers. Given the disadvantageous position they were currently in, it was much better for Roel and Alicia to stay together so as to instill confidence in the soldiers and keep their morale high.
Sending Alicia away at this juncture might suggest a pessimistic outlook for the battle against the Sezes’ and diminish the soldiers’ morale.
These considerations led Roel to drop the idea of sending Alicia away from the battlefield.
At the same time, Alicia fell into deep thought as she recalled her initial goal. She had chosen to join the battlefield not just out of a willful desire to be with Roel. More than that, she had wanted to prove her own worth.
Loneliness had been clinging onto her ever since she was forced to part with Roel, but that feeling had grown more intense than ever with Roel’s recent surge in reputation.
The Challenger Cup was the epitome of honor for those of the younger generation. Alicia was earnestly happy for Roel when he defeated all of his opponents and clinched the champion trophy, but as his name continued to grow further, a peculiar feeling started to overtake her.
All this while, she had been the only one who understood Roel’s strength and personality, but with his victory in the Challenger Cup, more and more people were getting to know him. It felt like something intimate to her had been made public and was slowly being wrestled away from her, leaving her with a profound feeling of loss.
On top of that, she started to feel an inexplicable sense of distance from Roel.
Roel’s absence on New Year’s Day had a huge impact on Alicia. Worry and loneliness gripped her like never before, leaving her unable to fall asleep. That made her ever more conscious of a single fact—just being his family member wasn’t enough for her.
She wanted to prove that she could stand alongside him, just like Nora and the others.
For that reason, she didn’t want to leave the battlefield no matter what happened.
Roel was unaware of her motivations, but he slowly understood her determination regarding this matter. He exhaled softly and started asking about how she had fared in his absence.
“How was New Year’s Day? I wasn’t able to make it back in time to celebrate it with you.”
“It was the same as always, at least in terms of formalities.”
“That means there was something different from usual?”
“Mmhm. Because Lord Brother wasn’t with me, I couldn’t feel happy despite the festivities. I got afraid when I heard about what happened on the eastern border. I was frightened that you would never come back. I had nightmares every night. I wanted to head over to look for you, but Lord Father refused to allow me to head there no matter how I pleaded with him…”
“… I’m sorry.”
Alicia’s tearful complaint about the emotional turmoil she had been put through brought a pang of guilt to Roel’s heart. He patted her back and apologized to her. At the same time, he felt an even greater aversion to this war.
If the tragedy that had befallen Tark Stronghold was a natural calamity beyond anyone’s control, the Theocracy’s internal war was a scheme concocted by the Austine Empire, a farce that threatened to shake the survival of humankind. Most important of all, it had hurt the people whom Roel cared about, and that was unacceptable to him.
“Your arm was bleeding earlier, Alicia. Did the Seze Duke do it?” Roel asked as he lightly touched the area where Alicia was bleeding from earlier on.
“No, it’s the price of a spell I cast. Don’t worry, I’m fine,” replied Alicia.
Find the original at h*sted novel.
The wound she had inflicted on her arm earlier had already fully recovered under the absurd recovery ability of her Silverash Child Bloodline, to the point where a scar couldn’t even be found. Even so, the image of her bloodstained arm continued to haunt Roel. He solemnly swore to end this darned war as soon as possible so that they could return to their daily lives.
Alicia was able to vent all of her pent-up emotions in Roel’s consoling embrace. She soon succumbed to the mental fatigue she had accumulated over the days and gradually fell asleep in his arms.
Roel looked at the silver-haired girl that was fast asleep in his arms and gently planted a kiss on her forehead. Then, he raised his head and gazed coldly into the distance as he began formulating a plan to push back the enemy troops.
Meanwhile, in the Sezes’ base camp, Duke Brookley was staring contemplatively at an intelligence report on Roel Ascart.
So many things had happened in the span of a single day that even a veteran general like Duke Brookley needed some time to fully digest the situation. He was also aware that this was the only reflection time he had, for the battle would soon resume at sunset.
Without a doubt, Alicia Ascart would, once again, send the demonic beasts against them at nightfall. The colossal beast he had struggled to deal with would likely join the battle as well, but that was currently of secondary concern to him.
What he was the most worried about was the young man who turned the tables on them earlier in the day—Roel Ascart.
That man was indubitably their number one enemy on this battlefield.
As if his overwhelming strength wasn’t troublesome enough to deal with, the ancient gods that man had contracted could easily shatter the morale of their troops. Even Duke Brookley himself felt a shudder run through his spine when he stood before the crimson giant, let alone the other soldiers.
He had indeed received intelligence reports regarding Roel Ascart inheriting his ancestor’s ability to summon ancient gods, but he hadn’t expected the ancient gods to make such troublesome enemies. There was no way he could have known since he had never encountered any ancient gods himself.
A feverish warrior could simultaneously fend off multiple enemies through sheer tenacity. Imagine what it would be like if that same effect were to be applied to thousands of people. That was the role that morale played on the battlefield.
Conversely, an army that had lost its will wouldn’t be able to put up a fight.
It wasn’t unheard of for a powerful army with low morale to crumble before enemies much weaker than them. In fact, if Duke Brookley hadn’t ordered for a timely retreat, that might have just been the plight of the Sezes’ elite troops.
It should have been a relief that they had managed to avert the worst-case scenario, but Duke Brookley could hardly bring himself to feel that way. The divergence in the resources of the Ascarts and the Sezes had given rise to different winning criteria for each of them.
While the Sezes had successfully dished out a blow to the Ascarts and safely retreated without taking much damage, their failure to cripple the Ascarts in a single swoop would soon prove to be fatal.
Duke Brookley could already foresee what was going to happen next.
Now that their troops had accumulated significant fatigue after a day of fighting, it would be much harder for them to force a second decisive confrontation with the Ascarts. This meant that they would be dragged into the Ascarts’ pace and forced to fight in a battle of attrition.
It was highly disadvantageous for them to stall out the fight, for the Ascarts had more resources at their disposal. There was Roel Ascart and the Ascart soldiers in the day, and Alicia Ascart and the demonic beasts at night. This relentless, around-the-clock attack would eventually wear down their soldiers until they were forced to drop out of the war.
It was such perfect coordination that even Duke Brookley was unable to figure out a way to break out of this quandary. He could only stare at the military map and sigh again and again.
“These two siblings from the Ascarts are more troublesome than I could have imagined. And they are only at Origin Level 3 and Origin Level 4?” Duke Brookley murmured to himself with a frown.
He was starting to regret making an enemy out of the Ascarts upon realizing the massive latent potential they possessed. If two young brats were already able to make such a huge impact on the battlefield at their current levels, what would they be capable of once they fully matured?
Putting all things aside, wouldn’t they be invincible in any environment that had a proliferation of demonic beasts?
It felt like the only two choices he had were to either retreat or bring in reinforcements, but neither aligned with the Sezes’ strategic goal. Their interest in intervening in the Theocracy’s internal war was starting to thin.
This put Duke Brookley in a dilemma.