While his country underwent drastic changes, Ernst von Gradl awoke within the great elder's quarters.
Beside him, the six secluded elders stood with their inquisitive eyes locked onto him. Seeing them, Ernst immediately dropped on his knees.
"Elders, the house has fallen, the country is overtaken, our rule overthrown and our future in jeopardy! I beseech you to return to activity, cleanse the house and save us from destruction!"
He exclaimed and kowtowed.
Instantaneously, the six elders' eyes widened in a glaring stupor.
"What did you just say? The house, fallen? Our rule, overthrown? What the hell happened in our absence?!"
The great elder roared while seizing Ernst by the collar.
"This…this is how it went…"
Ernst then retold the events, starting with the great war and following with the arrival of the Holy Flame Empire's delegates. With the situation having reached this point, he didn't dare conceal his involvement in the matter, faithfully retelling all that occurred.
Of course, he didn't mention Augusta's fall in details, only stating that upon witnessing his might, she chose to surrender her body to the delegation protector.
The six were startled.
"See? I called it. Ernst, Ernst, back in the days, didn't I tell you that she was more woman than you could handle and would ultimately make your head green? Now, look at this situation. Your head is not just green, but glossy!"
The third elder lamented with a profound sigh, causing Ernst to suppress a blood spurt.
"This is not the time for your nonsense, the situation is serious!"
The second elder cut in a roar of fury before pointing his index at the still kneeling Ernst.
"Ernst von Gradl, back in those days I told your father that you were not suited to be a monarch. Not because you're petty. Not because you're narrow-minded, but because YOU…ARE…A…COWARD!"
The second elder's right palm struck Ernst's cheek in a resounding slap. He spiraled and smashed into the adjacent wall with blood trickling from his lips. Still, he didn't dare argue.
"As the king, as the patriarch, as the leader and culprit. You only had one thing to do, take responsibility! Commit suicide in apology, leaving blame-shifting words such as -I failed to manage my country and provoked this misunderstanding, but I hope our two countries' relationship will not collapse because of this.-
Then, kill yourself!
And we could have effortlessly taken care of the rest.
But you don't have the gals. You dare commit such a blunder and fall into the enemy's trap, but you don't dare shoulder the consequences! Worse, you brought your house to ruin!"
Under the verbal abuse, Ernst trembled, and his cheeks reddened from shame.
But clearly, the second elder wasn't satisfied and sent him reeling with another smack.
"Before house prosperity, before house glory, what is one individual's life worth?! If your father saw you today, how much shame and sorrow would he feel? And how could he possibly call you son?!"
*PAH* *PAH* *PAH*
The second elder gave Ernst the face-slapping of a lifetime. And though usually, the great elder would prevent such things from occurring to preserve the monarch's dignity, today, he didn't stop it.
Ernst's face soon became worse than a pig's badly bruised and swollen with blood drenching his lips. Overwhelmed by pain and shame, he passed out.
"Useless piece of garbage!"
With a sweep of his sleeve, the second elder turned toward their eldest who sat with his eyes shut.
"Eldest brother, the situation is not irremediable. However, we must make a choice.
To entirely go against the Holy Flame Empire, yes or no?!"
As he spoke, the second elder's eyes blazed with determination.
"For those past fifty thousand years, there are only two reasons why we managed to maintain our independence.
A) The Grand Treaty
B) Internal wars cannot breakout without cause.
Right now, we are not involved in any war, but once we butcher that protector, we're giving them cause for assault. But fortunately, the Grand Treaty protects us from their Semi-Saint and above experts. Meanwhile, it is Great Void land they're currently eying.
Therefore, there is hope to turn the table.
We simply need to act swiftly. First, we openly form marriage alliances with Great Void and the Earth Kingdom Alliance.
Second, gathering our three forces for a massive attack, we force Prosperous Wind to capitulate and sign an armistice. Since Holy Flame is eying Great Void territory, their elite troops will be at their border, and not able to aid Prosperous Wind. After the armistice is signed, Holy Flame either withdraws troops or faces our three combined assaults.
Good if it is the former. If it is the latter, we must push them to break the Grand Treaty then send a delegation to the Celestial Church's headquarters to alert them of the breach.
At that time, I really want to see how Olrich von Jurgen dares act arrogantly! Only in this way can we regroup our losses without suffering heavy setbacks."
As the second elder's words ended, the great elder nodded.
"But the premise is that we can kill him. For this, we must make ample preparations. Send words to the Meissner conclave leader in the Water Temple to inform him of the situation and his daughter's betrayal.
Tell him we're willing to forget this slight and have another Meissner daughter be the next king's queen. Our two houses have controlled the Water Kingdom Alliance's political scene for millennia, he will know how to choose.
As long as their four Fate-Wrestling Saints join the six of us, we will have a better grasp of this fight. Also, just in case, get ready to activate the defense formations."
The last part caused the remaining elders' faces to contort in frowns.
"Will that really be necessary?"
"Since that protector dares bare his fangs in such a preposterous manner, he must have confidence in his ability to suppress us. I refuse to believe that he's just relying on the von Jurgen behind him.
Therefore, we must be cautious. In any case, tonight, we remove that malignant tumor and clean the house! House von Gradl's fifty thousand years of inheritance will not collapse because of one human peon!"
The great elder declared and immediately sent mental messages to his most trusted servants.
"Yes, eldest brother!"
At that time, Konrad had returned to his quarters, with the tenth elder at his left and Krann at his right.
"Mhm…why do I feel that this is a perfect day to slaughter?"