The Ten Great Hegemons, the embodiments of supremacy within the Holy Flame Empire. Even after his last show of force, Olrich was far from ranking at the top. With his Holy Flame Seal in hand, he could barely rank six.
Naturally, besides him, any one of those ten had already reached the Fate Wrestling Saint Rank or above.
As for Sovereign Prince Hubert and Head Exarch Gerhard, for a long time, they'd been at the Crossed Tribulation Saint Rank, standing leagues above the rest. Ironically, it was because of Hubert's unfathomable cultivation that Gerhard didn't dare go all out with the imperial family. Such an act would destroy their longstanding precarious balance and allow the winged serpents to restore their dominion over the land.
Hubert had always disliked the imperial capital and often remained in his domain. Years and decades could pass without him stepping into the Holy Flame City, and when he did, he never stayed for long. Therefore, Olrich had never expected him to show himself.
But now, he'd arrived, and since he did, Olrich was bound to lose a lot of face. Hubert may rank below Gerhard in the Ten Great Hegemon's rankings, but in thousands of years, they'd never fought.
The masses just didn't want to rank the Holy Flame Church's leader second. Olrich didn't doubt that if they came to blows, at best, Gerhard could fight him to a standstill.
But that was only secondary. The primary issue was that unlike Gerhard, who always privileged the general situation before his face, and was more politician than cultivator, Hubert had no scruples.
Haughty, unbridled, cruel, and overbearing. He'd lived through four reigns and still stood mightier than ever. Since he became sovereign prince, no one could shake house Voight.
Was it not for Yvonne, his eldest daughter being Olrich's consort, the von Jurgen emperor might not have been able to keep his head for so long.
However, when in front of his many courtiers, Olrich was being referred to as "von Jurgen boy," how could he exert forbearance?
"Sovereign Prince Hubert, I have always respected you as a senior, and my consort's father. However, you should not forget the boundaries between emperor and subject!"
Many felt that the sovereign prince was too arrogant, calling the country's ruler "boy" in front of dozens. Was there a better way to show conceit?
However, they had clearly underestimated Hubert's haughtiness.
He burst into laughter, while descending onto the ground, and stopped right before Olrich, towering above him with his powerful build.
"You are less than one thousand years old, in my eyes, a boy. Thus, I call you, boy. How is that wrong?
You are my daughter's husband and therefore, my junior. Thus, I call you, boy. How is that losing decorum?
You should think yourself lucky, being called -boy- by me, is your glory!"
All the gathered nobles took several steps back as if Hubert's words were about to harm them. Even Konrad stared slack-jawed, flabbergasted by the man's galls. Olrich's bloodshot eyes almost popped out of their socket as they daggered Hubert.
"Olrich, I don't like you. This a fact known to all. In the past, was it not for that imbecilic daughter of mine not being willing to let go of your thigh, how would you be worthy of becoming the son-in-law of Hubert Voight?
You and I both know, you never had the qualifications. In the past, you didn't, in the present, you still don't. Therefore, do not bring the imperial hat in my face, otherwise, out of spite, I might just slap you to death."
"You are going too far!"
Elmar bawled, unable to restrain himself any further while Olrich was on the verge of exploding.
Hubert shifted his attention onto Elmar who boiled with rage.
"So what if I am? I could kill you here and now, and no one could stop me. Even that old fossil hiding in the imperial palace must treat me with courtesy, to say nothing of you!
Within your entire imperial family, only he can meet me as an equal. But how long does he still have to live? In a thousand years, he will be ashes and dust, but in a thousand years I will still be this country's summit!"
"Therefore, von Jurgen boy, never forget, you may be the emperor, but as long as I breathe, you will never rule supreme!"
Immense pressure exploded from Hubert's form, forcing Olrich back, and sending Elmar flying against the ground while his words spread throughout the entire Holy Flame City, reaching the ears of all its intended targets.
This was a statement, to the von Jurgen, and to the church, that the serpent lord had returned to suppress their arrogance and defend his clan!
"Now that our stances have been clarified. Let's discuss justice. Shall we?
When a prince harms a commoner, he must be put to trial and punished according to the law. To say nothing of the fact that the deceased is of noble blood."
Hubert, of course, didn't care about justice. The only truth he knew was that of the biggest fist. However, if he didn't use the opportunity to righteously impeach and brutalize Olrich, wouldn't that be an extreme waste?
If Hubert was the person Olrich dreaded the most, then Olrich was the person Hubert most loathed across the entire Holy Continent.
But as long as that unfilial daughter remained by his side, he could not resort to extreme measures.
Olrich also understood that principle. As for Olrich's fast cultivation improvement, Hubert never put that in his eyes.
He made a grasping motion, and the unconscious von Jurgen guard captain flew toward him. Grabbing him by the neck, he hauled him up for all to see and injected his holy force into his body.
Quickly, the guard captain awoke, but he barely had enough strength to speak.
Elmar inwardly cursed, knowing that the already terrible situation was about to worsen.
"Speak, who ordered the boy's assassination?"
"No one…I did it…on my own."
Strands of darkness rose from Hubert's body and snuck into the guard captain's internal organs, shredding him from the inside.
Hubert didn't stop to ask again, silently carrying on with the internal torture for an hour, and letting the captain's ghastly screams fill the Kracht mansion.
Only when his mind seemed to have surrendered to the pain, did Hubert stop.
"Now I ask again, who ordered the boy's assassination?"
"…his highness, the…fifth prince."
"He said…the Kracht boy was too outstanding…and standing in the way of the crown prince's acquisition of the Kracht estates…so, for the sake of his brother's future, Anselm had to die."
Those words sent the gathered individuals into an uproar. Olrich shut his eyes and released a deep sigh. It was time to cut a limb to save the body!
"That being the case, you never received an order from the crown prince. Am I correct?"
Olrich asked, cutting Hubert's interrogation.
"Which means this was orchestrated by the fifth prince alone. Am I correct?"
"…I only receive orders from him."
"The evidence is conclusive. Holger acted alone and is the only one to blame for the current state of things. He will be exe…"
But as Olrich was about to pronounce the sentence, Elmar's voice thundered.
"No, I am the mastermind."
All eyes fell on him, and in a flash, Olrich seized his neck.
"Bastard! What are you talking about?!"
Hubert waved his hand, using the pressure of his holy force to free Elmar from Olrich's grasp and pull him toward him.
"Interesting, explain yourself."
This was the critical moment. It would be a lie to say Konrad had predicted every single thing that went on, but what he was certain of was that if push came to shoves, the emperor would sacrifice Holger to preserve Elmar's position.
And at that time, the eldest prince would be forced to show his true self.
Since things had reached this point, Elmar would never allow Holger to die in vain. Especially since in his mind, his brother had been set up by someone else.
"Holger is calm and reserved, only doing things I instruct him to. Whatever he did, he received the order from me. I am the real mastermind. Worried about the rise of a new talent, and eager to swallow house Kracht to expend my forces, I resorted to murder.
I am willing to pay reparations, renounce my crown prince title, and never involve myself with the court again. I only hope that your sovereign highness will show leniency and spare our lives!"
Not one man expected Elmar to go to such lengths for his brother. Not even Olrich had seen this coming.
"Good, very good. Olrich, that son of yours is a better man than you could ever be. Alright, the crown prince demoted to an ordinary prince, the fifth prince demoted to commoner, and his cultivation destroyed.
I believe this is a reasonable answer to house Kracht's plight."
"Thank you…your sovereign highness…for your leniency."
Elmar kowtowed. But as his forehead fell onto the ground, he inwardly swore, that one day, he would pay back this slight!"
As for Konrad, Holger's cultivation was never of importance to him. Only his status mattered. Therefore this result was…worth it!