The sight of his eldest son kowtowing to a vassal pricked Olrich's chest and trampled his dignity. However, since Elmar had already stepped forward, there was nothing else Olrich could do.
Rage, outrage but, more importantly, disappointment filled his gaze as he stared at that son of his. Having raised him from the cradle, how could he not know of his disposition. Decades ago, he'd almost jeopardized his position for a woman. Thankfully, Olrich managed to reverse the situation and bring him back on the right tracks.
Since then, Elmar had never disappointed him again, never showing weakness. Olrich believed that time and nurture would erase that soft side of his. However, he was once again proved wrong!
Elmar could be cruel and merciless toward those he possessed no feeling for, but when asked to the same to his loved ones, he didn't have the will.
Without that level of ruthlessness, how could he become emperor? In the race for the imperial throne, being the most talented cultivator was never the highest quality. Only heartlessness guaranteed success!
At least, that was Olrich's philosophy.
He shook his head, utterly disappointed. At the same time, his hatred for Hubert reached new heights.
Hubert's eyes rose from Elmar's to lock on Olrich's. His overbearing gaze shaming the von Jurgen emperor.
"What? Dissatisfied? You only have yourself to blame for this day."
Hubert began in a mental message.
"Were your father still alive, a von Jurgen prince would never suffer such a slight. Even I would be forced to act with some restraints. However, thanks to you, thanks to your callousness and greed, he lies six feet under.
Now even that old fossil will not step up for you. At least, unless your house faces destruction, he will not emerge.
All this is thanks to you, the greedy fool. You should have just remained a smooth-talking prince."
Hubert's mental message further shamed Olrich who had no way to argue. The winged serpent lord was entirely right. Three centuries ago, Olrich's father was at the peak of the Fate Destroying Saint Rank, only a step away from the Crossed Tribulation Saint Rank.
If he still breathed, he would have long since broken through and become able to meet the Voight patriarch as an equal. However, if he still breathed, Olrich would also never sit on the imperial throne.
And thanks to both his suspected involvement and how he took the throne from its intended heir, his strongest elder still refused to support him. Yet, Olrich had no regret. For the sake of power and supremacy, all who stood in his way would perish!
"All those who step on me will never have a good end. Today you may laugh, but regardless of how long it takes, I will surpass you. And when that time comes, I will show you no mercy!"
Olrich inwardly pledged while veins popped all across his head.
"Rest assured that I will personally execute the sentence. Prince Hubert, you no longer have to meddle with this matter."
He then pulled Elmar by the collar and vanished in a white haze.
Meanwhile, all across the city, many powerhouses eyed the scene from afar.
Within the Holy Flame Church, the Celestial Faction's leaders gathered around the Head Exarch, Gerhard.
"Your Beatitude, why did you no longer intervene?"
When Wolfgang's cry of outrage spread throughout the Holy Flame City, the church indeed intended to make its move and use the opportunity to strike back at the imperial family under the banners of piety and righteousness. However, when Hubert's darkness spread, Gerhard stepped back, merely observing the scene from afar.
"Since Hubert made his move, I naturally can no longer join the fun. Regardless of the reason, the church and the Voight standing side by side to suppress the von Jurgen sends a poor message.
In any case, with Hubert present, Olrich can only suffer."
The surrounding exarchs nodded in approval.
"That emperor is truly unlucky. Who would think that at the critical moment, that despot would return? He definitely wasn't present within the city beforehand."
"Luck is an element in both success and failure. However, this matter is fishy. According to Hubert's habits, he would not come before several years. I suspect two possibilities. Either someone warned him of what was about to occur, giving a reason to appear at the critical moment, or the Voight are involved in the boy's murder.
Perhaps, they were the one who set up the scheme to frame the imperial family."
Unbeknown to him, Gerhard was quite close to the truth.
"Following this matter, the Voight and even the entire serpent race's arrogance is bound to soar. Shouldn't we find an opportunity to suppress them?"
Gerhard immediately dismissed the idea.
"No need. The Voight, by themselves, are not a threat. In terms of the number of Saints and Semi-Saints, to say nothing of us, even the imperial family is a step above them. Hubert is the real danger and by himself makes up for that gap.
As long as he cannot break through to the Star Taming Stage. The balance remains. But if he succeeds…"
Both Gerhard, Hubert, and the hidden von Jurgen elder were at the peak of the Crossed Tribulation Saint Rank and needed only one step to achieve Star Connection. Unfortunately, that step was too hard to take. Across the empire's hundred thousand years of history, only one man reached the Star Connecting Saint Rank: The Holy Flame Empire's founding emperor.
Afterward, none managed to reach that level. Gerhard knew his situation better than most. Unless he received the help of the Celestial Church's high-level, there was no hope for him to break through in a lifetime, he'd reached his limit.
As for Hubert, he had no idea.
"Unfortunately, we failed to groom a useful pawn within house Voight and cannot use the same old trick. A pity…"
Within house Slesinger, the Slesinger Duke's laughter thundered.
"When all is said and done, we still need father-in-law to handle the situation. Good, very good!"
By his side, his wife, Koloman's mother, poured him tea.
"Father's only redeemable quality is his boundless love for his children. Of course, when I informed him of the ploy, he would come to make it a resounding success."
Following Konrad's order, Koloman used his mother's resources to dispatch assassins and coordinate with Holger, all for the sake of framing Elmar. It wasn't a simple task.
When Koloman came to her claiming that under the guise of patching the two houses' relations, he'd befriended the fifth prince during the competition and was asked for assassins to help in the murder of the worrying Anselm Kracht, the Slesinger matron was skeptical.
It wasn't that she didn't trust her son's words, rather that she distrusted Holger. After all, unless the fifth prince was desperate, how was the friendship of several days enough to entrust such a task to him?
Even when at Konrad's direction, Holger made a trip to house Slesinger within the dark of night, to reaffirm that this was their last chance to patch their relationship with the imperial family and the empire's future ruler, the Slesinger matron remained skeptical, fearing a trap.
However, hatred soon prevailed over reason, leading her to follow Koloman's plan of providing assassins to the fifth prince. According to the Slesinger matron's script, after slaying Anselm, her assassins would turn against Holger's guard captain and incapacitate him, giving the Kracht enough time to catch him red-handed.
However, fearing that it wasn't enough, she contacted her father, warning him of what she'd done to force him to show himself if things didn't go as planned and support the ploy.
Which he masterfully did.
As for the assassins' death, it was never part of her plan. Wolfgang believed having only the guard captain remain would raise many doubts and not paint a convincing enough picture. Therefore, he executed them.