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LTBE - Chapter 457.2: The Sculpture that Was Left Behind (2)

While Roel was deep in thought, Alicia entered the commander tent with a teacup in hand, only to pause at the sight of the black-haired boy sitting on a chair.

“Lord Brother, did you… become smaller?”

“Ah?”

It was also then that Roel realized his transformation. He lifted his arms and noticed that his clothes had gotten much larger. His hair was also longer than before.

“Haa, I guess there’s no avoiding the side effects. Luckily, my age regression appears to be milder this time, so it shouldn’t last too long,” said Roel.

As he didn’t have to sustain Time Devourer for too long against Layton, the side effect that diminished his cognitive ability didn’t occur. His physical body had also only regressed for around a year or two. Overall, it didn’t pose much of a problem.

Search h0sted n0vel for the original.

Instead, the fractures and internal bleeding he was suffering from were much more troublesome.

Thus, Roel didn’t think much of it and continued focusing his attention on deciphering the secrets behind the crystal.

However, the other person in the room wasn’t as nonchalant about the situation. Alicia’s face had already started to redden, and her breathing hastened in excitement.

This is a Lord Brother who is of the same age as me!

To her, the age regressed Roel was almost like a limited-time collectible. More importantly, she was the only one who was here with him!

“Lord Brother, may I ask you to stand up for a moment?”

“Hm? Sure, I could do that. Is there anything you need from me?”

Roel acceded to her request and rose to his feet.

Alicia first placed the teacup on the table before walking up to Roel. She stopped right in front of him and straightened her posture.

“… Lord Brother is still taller than me.”

“Ah, is that what you’re concerned with? You were much taller than me the last time I regressed.”

“It’s unfair that you’re older. Still, I’m happy to be able to see an underaged Lord Brother again. Hehehe,” Alicia said as the edges of her lips inched upward to form a smile.

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She couldn’t resist the urge to lightly poke Roel’s cheeks.

Roel sighed softly in response to Alicia’s teasing. He had known that this would happen from the moment he broke his promise and used Time Devourer once again. Since his previous age regression, an equation had already been formed in his head:

Miniature Roel = Toy

It was a little frustrating to him, but he chose to allow Alicia to do as she pleased. After all, she had suffered quite a lot during this period of time.

There was no way she would have felt no stress when leading an army onto the battlefield for the first time. If his temporary miniaturization could relieve Alicia of some of his pent-up stress, he didn’t mind indulging her a little.

As Alicia fondled his cheeks, Roel was suddenly reminded of an anomaly that occurred during his confrontation with Layton Seze.

How did Alicia bypass the encirclement of my Time Devourer? Normal spatial movement spells shouldn’t have been able to bypass my dusk winds. 

“Lord Brother?”

“… No, it’s nothing.”

Noticing Roel’s sudden stillness, Alicia tilted her head questioningly at him. Roel fell silent for a moment before he shook his head with a smile, choosing to suppress his doubts.

Forget it, it isn’t anything important anyway. It’s a good thing that Alicia is becoming stronger. I might as well spend my time deciphering this family heirloom instead of harping on this matter. 

Roel exhaled softly before turning his attention back to the crystal.

The war seemed to have come to a standstill after the conversation between Roel and Layton.

The day that Cynthia and the others arrived on the battlefield, the Sezes chose to pull their forces further back, which further de-escalated the tension on the battlefield. Both sides held their positions for two days, not doing anything yet seemingly having the same thoughts in mind.

It was only on the third day, when an emergency report arrived from the frontline, that the battle with the Sezes officially concluded.

Edgar City had been taken down.

Understandably, a huge commotion broke out in the Ascarts’ base camp when this long-awaited news arrived. The soldiers excitedly discussed the matter amongst themselves as they awaited the final call from the command center.

Meanwhile, Roel was busy reading the war report in the commander tent.

While Alicia and Roel were having a stand-off with the Sezes’ elite troops, the main force of the allied army hadn’t been slacking around. Worried that something might happen to his children if the war were to drag out, he quickly drew up a battle plan based on the military intelligence he had gathered from his previous probing attacks and finally launched an all-out attack three days ago.

After a full day of intense fighting, the Theocracy’s allied army finally found a breakthrough and successfully scaled Edgar City’s walls.

Having lost their greatest advantage over the allied army, the morale amongst the Elrics’ garrison troops plummeted to the ditches, leading to the swift collapse of their forces. When dawn finally arrived, the city gates opened from the inside to reveal the flags of the allied army, thus ending the legend of the ‘Infallible Fortress’.

With the successful siege on Edgar City, the curtains were finally drawn on both the Theocracy’s internal war and the Austine Empire’s swelling ambitions.

By noon, the Sezes had already pulled their troops back from the Theocracy’s territory.

The Ascarts’ held still in face of the Sezes’ retreat, watching quietly atop a hill as the enemy’s army flags receded into the distance.

Roel held conflicted feelings toward the Sezes. On one hand, even if they had moved under the Ackermanns’ orders, they had interfered in the Theocracy’s internal war and threatened the stability of humankind for their personal interests. Ascart soldiers had died fighting against them. It was hard for him to overlook all of these.

But at the same time, he understood that the Ackermanns would have simply pushed someone else forward had the Sezes had refused to intervene, even if it was less effective. Whether the Sezes had gotten involved or not would have made little difference to the Theocracy’s plight.

On top of that, he felt thankful toward Layton as well.

Layton had been guarding the Ascarts’ family heirloom over the centuries despite the risks it would have brought upon him and his family. Now that he thought about it, the old man might have ordered the mobilization of the Sezes to allow for a meeting between them, which would have been impossible under normal circumstances considering Layton’s sensitive position.

Of course, such a decision came at a cost. Both sides had no choice but to cross blows given their opposing positions.

However, the truth was that Layton had always been in control of the situation. He could have single-handedly stopped the fighting if needed to. In fact, his appearance on the battlefield had effectively prevented the Ackermanns from further exploiting the situation.

On top of that, Layton had also expressed his goodwill toward the Ascarts, saying that Roel could look for him whenever he wanted to. In fact, Roel had wanted to do that, but he knew it wouldn’t be a wise move to do so now.

No matter what, it was a fact that Layton’s appearance was to the detriment of the Austine Empire, especially when he didn’t do much on the battlefield at all. The Ackermanns were likely to be in a sensitive mood now that their grand ambitions had been foiled, so it would be best to avoid doing anything that would grate at their nerves.

Having driven away the enemies, Roel and Alicia led the Ascart soldiers on a triumphant march back to rejoin with the allied army. Roel hadn’t fully recovered from his injuries, but the side effects of Time Devourer had already passed.

This awful war was finally over.

Several days later, Roel casually strolled through Edgar City under the accompaniment of the heretics and the inquisitors, each of them fully armored and scanning the surroundings vigilantly. Their wariness was understandable since their destination was the headquarters of the Theocracy’s largest evil cult, the Connoisseur Guild.

The Connoisseur Guild had constructed a massive magical realm using the entire Edgar City as a medium, and the entrances were the mirrors in Elrics’ manor. To prevent word from getting out, all vital positions in the Elrics’ manor were occupied by the evil cultists themselves.

The inquisitors were the first ones to pass through the mirror, and only after ensuring that it was safe that Roel entered the magical realm constructed by his mortal enemy.

The members of the Connoisseur Guild had already escaped when they received news of Bryan’s death and the outbreak of the internal war, so there wasn’t a single person in the headquarters at all. That could have been the reason why the space looked exceptionally large.

The group walked by an open vault, which was unsurprisingly empty since the evil cultists would have taken everything valuable away with them. There was also an auction hall with all sorts of item lists lying around.

However, Roel wasn’t interested in any of this.

He couldn’t care less about the dirty business the Elrics had been up to over the years. He only had one goal here, and that was to uncover the trails of the Collector. To his astonishment, he encountered a problem just moments after he began his investigation.

The office of the Collector had mysteriously disappeared.

Even though the Collector had never made a public appearance, he was the one who determined the organization’s directions and plans. The disappearance of his office meant that they would be losing a vital lead, and that was unacceptable to Roel.

Fortunately, the evil cultists had provided them with the rough location of the office, where the clergymen discovered traces of spatial magic in the vicinity. They tried to mend the space, but the results were less than ideal.

“Lord Roel, this room has been destroyed for quite a while now, so I’m afraid that…”

Roel held onto a half-destroyed white sculpture in his hands while looking at the empty space before him with an icy gaze.

In the first place, the Collector’s office was a product of spatial magic, making it highly unstable. It was hard to repair the space when it had been intentionally destroyed. All they had managed to salvage from it were some tattered furniture and a half-destroyed sculpture.

From this, it could be seen that the Collector was a meticulous man.

The tattered furniture wasn’t of much use, so the only useful clue was the half-destroyed sculpture. The sculpture happened to depict a scene that Roel was very familiar with—the meeting between Nora and him amidst mountains of carcasses.

The only difference was that the Roel in the sculpture was collapsed onto the floor.

“A prophetic sculpture… Hand this over to a sculpture appraiser to see if we can track down the creator of this piece,” ordered Roel.

“Yes, Lord Roel.”

Artworks often embodied the unique traits of their creators. It was possible to deduce the origin of the creator through analyzing the sculpture, though it was easier said than done. Nevertheless, this was the only clue they had on the Collector.

After searching through the Connoisseur Guild’s headquarters, Roel departed from Edgar City. While leaving on horseback, he couldn’t help but direct a glance back at the war-torn city, and it left him with mixed sentiments.

Ever since the disappearance of Tark Stronghold at the eastern border, Roel’s life had been deviating from what he considered to be normal. The fight with Bryan had been a close shave, the assassination attempt by the Collector left him despaired, and the ensuing internal war and scheming had been nothing but vexing.

But it’s now all over. My life can finally return to normal. 

Roel turned his head back forward, as if shaking off the bad luck that had been clinging onto him. He patted for the antique box he had carefully stowed away in his suit before galloping off.

StarveCleric's Notes:

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ℭ𝔥𝔢𝔠𝔨 𝔬𝔲𝔱 𝔪𝔶 𝔬𝔱𝔥𝔢𝔯 𝔫𝔬𝔳𝔢𝔩𝔰:
100,000/Hour Professional Stand-in
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.