The appearance of the two highest ranked women of the imperial harem only heightened the tension. While in other times, many would revel in their beauty, with the situation at hand, none dared lose sight of the priorities. Of the three high exarchs standing against them, two were paragon spirits while the last one was a flame spirit.
Although in the spirits' hierarchy, Elemental Spirits ranked below True Spirits, because of the unique connection between elemental spirits and their respective Divine Lord, their status within the Celestial Church was sky-high.
In the Holy Flame Church, four of the high exarchs were flame spirits. The rest were all paragon spirits.
Hearing Olrich's overbearing words, the high exarchs let go of their last bits of restraints.
"-All things within this empire belong to me.- Good. Very good. It seems the centuries made you forget how you took your throne and why you were able to hold onto it. To think that one day you would dare say such words in my face, Olrich, I underestimated you.
But since we made you, we can also crush you!"
Killing intent bloated the sky, alongside terrifying waves of magical power as the three high exarchs drew their magical circles.
"Sixth Circle Spell: Searing Sky!"
Each of the high exarchs summoned six red magical circles which revolved around their form and coalesced into three gigantic pentagrams that stretched across the sky.
The three pentagrams glittered in red light, turning half of the darkened sky into a crimson red furnace from which rained a deluge of fire.
The heavenly firestorm descended at breakneck speed, threatening to obliterate everything beneath the sky across a hundred miles. If Olrich fell under its might, the lives of the thousands of contestants below would be forfeited.
It was unknown who said it first, but thousands of the spectators unanimously began running for their lives, shooting from their seats to rush toward the nearest exit. The more lucid, however, remained still. They knew that no matter where they went, the descending firestorm wouldn't follow them. There wasn't enough time to escape its reach.
The only path to survival was to stay below the emperor, hoping that he could avert the catastrophe.
Seeing the descending fire deluge that stretched across several miles, Olrich was unfazed. He stretched out his palm, summoning six red magical circles.
"Sixth circle spell: Devouring Flame Gate."
A large red gate emerged from between his magical circles and flew toward the descending firestorm. The gate opened, releasing boundless devouring power that swallowed the raining firestorm whole before vanishing within the clouds.
The reddened part of the sky returned to a dark grey color.
The three high exarchs immediately changed tactics. Using their fate power to suppress Olrich's cultivation. Ethereal fate chains flew into Olrich, and in an instant, he could feel his very destiny being plucked by them.
Still, the same disdainful smile remained plastered on his face.
Olrich raised his left palm, and a pearl white imperial seal appeared within. Upon seeing it, the three high exarchs frowned.
"And here I was wondering where your courage came from. Do you think that useless Holy Flame Seal of yours can even the playing field?"
Initially, the Holy Flame Seal was a high-grade Holy Artifact. In the past, it was the foundation of the holy emperors' domination of the continent, and an artifact their ancestors carried out of the Celestial Church.
However, more than fifty thousand years ago, a head exarch of the Holy Flame Church managed to place a powerful lock onto it. That lock made refining the Holy Flame Seal impossible. Since then, it only served as the imperial seal, a symbol of authority without actual might.
This was a well-guarded secret known only to the high level of the church and the imperial family.
Olrich said nothing, tossing the Holy Flame Seal into the air. Dazzling white flames erupted from it, shattering the fate chains and sending the three terror-stricken high exarchs flying backward.
"You…broke the lock?"
"The times have changed. I'm no longer the feeble third prince or the newly ascended emperor who desperately needed your help to cling onto his throne.
I am Olrich von Jurgen, the holy emperor!"
Olrich cupped his hands, causing the Holy Flame Seal to release three dazzling white flame arrows that pierced through the High Exarchs' chests, and sent them tumbling onto the ground, vanquished.
With charred chests and blood gushing from their throats, the three high exarchs struggled to return to their feet. Since he possessed a natural resistance to fire, the flame spirit had it better. However, even for him, the fire grade was too high to cope with.
A full power high-grade Holy Artifact was comparable to a Star Taming Stage Saint.
Although Olrich couldn't make use of its full power, he could effortlessly defeat Fate Wrestling Saints, and fight Fate Destroying Saints to a standstill. In the vast Holy Flame Empire, one hand was enough to count the number of people capable of suppressing him.
It was incomprehensible. Not only did his cultivation speed become abnormal, but he also managed to destroy the lock implemented by a previous head exarch?
Olrich gave them no time to dwell on their thoughts, ready to execute one as a warning to the others.
The palm-sized Holy Flame Seal expanded, reaching thirty meters in width, then dropped onto one of the two paragon spirits.
Seeing death approaching with great strides, the high exarch despaired, but at that time…
A dazzling grey lightning bolt came from afar, striking back the descending Holy Flame Seal. With a grasping motion, Olrich pulled it back into his hand before lifting his gaze toward the blow's origin.
Two streams of grey fog approached from the distance, and from them emerged two individuals.
One of them was a paragon spirit woman with short silver hairs stopping at the nape of her neck and a chilling silver gaze that seemed to disdain all things under the heavens.
Her features were somewhat similar to Verena's. The same hourglass figure, the same small nose, and a generous bust her high exarch cassock couldn't hide.
Although she'd lived for more than a thousand years, her face still remained that a mesmerizing fairy and carried no hint of her ancientness.
Seeing her, Olrich retracted his Holy Flame Seal and clasped his hands in greetings.
"Mother, your son greets you."
"Greetings empress dowager!"
Verena and Else followed suit, paying their respects to the dowager as the custom demanded.
At her left was a middle-aged man wearing a gold and white cassock with a large white hat sitting on top of his head. While he didn't emit any kind of extraordinary force, the sheer pressure emanating from his eyes was enough to suppress all dissidence.
He was the head exarch, Gerhard Herberger, the Holy Flame Empire's number one expert. And seeing his mother standing by his side, a sour taste spread within Olrich's mouth.
As expected, the first words that came out of Amalia's lips weren't pleasant to hear.
"Olrich von Jurgen, today you not only trampled the dignity of the church but slew an exarch and almost caused the death of high exarchs. You are rebellious and impious. Even emperors must answer to heaven's will. For your crimes, the lightest sentence should be abdication and lifelong imprisonment.
However, his beatitude, the head exarch, is merciful. If you now repent, beg forgiveness, and renew your oath of allegiance to the church. We can forgive your misdeeds.
In any case, three months from now, Nils von Jurgen will wed the Great Void Empire's crown prince."
Besides the five hovering in the air, of the people gathered, Elmar and Holger included, not one wasn't bewildered.
How could such words come from the dowager? Wasn't she Olrich's mother and Nils' grandmother?