It was one of those moments.
Following Konrad's earthshaking announcement, the scene turned into a peaceful breeze where silence reigned, and hearts grew cold.
For an instant, the various state rulers stared at the teenage looking man occupying Ernst's throne, and from their looks, no one could tell what wave swept their hearts.
At last, they processed the words, and as they realized Konrad patiently awaited their replies, they knew he jested not.
"Loads of horseshit!"
The most senior of the state rulers, a late-stage Profound Saint Paragon Spirit roared and stepped forward.
"Sir, I don't know where you hail from, and I don't care. What your aura signature does tell us is that you're human. And it doesn't take a genius to see you overthrew Ernst von Gradl.
Congratulations, but since non-spirits can't be independent rulers, I'm assuming you'll adopt the title of grand preceptor to be king in all but name."
With his lips curled into an amused smile, Konrad nodded.
"However, if you think you can force all fifteen states into submission, think again. If such a thing could be accomplished before, we wouldn't be here, to begin with. I hope you're not so naïve as to think keeping us under house arrest is enough to rob the states.
At worst, our elders will have our successors inherit the throne in our name and elect a new alliance king from their ranks!"
The state ruler exclaimed, and Konrad chortled. At the same time, he summoned the army tokens.
"Oh, I hope they do. At that time, I can use the excuse of usurpation to clean the house."
Hearing those words and seeing how the army tokens were already in his hand, the state rulers trembled. Indeed, since he could seize Ernst's royal seal, how could he not also rob the army tokens.
"Moreover, you misunderstand. You'll submit willingly. When you leave this room, have no doubt that it is of your own accord that you will coordinate with the states' unification. Meanwhile…"
Two beams of light flew into the room, landing before the stairs leading to Konrad's throne.
The light dispersed, revealing Krann and the tenth elder who immediately fell on their knees.
The two obeyed, and following another polite bow, turned toward the state rulers. If Krann wasn't someone they recognized, the slouching winged serpent emblem on his robe clearly hailed from the Holy Flame Empire's imperial family. As for the tenth elder, he was even easier to identify!
"Could this be…Holy Flame's plot? No…something is wrong here.
In what world does the tenth von Jurgen elder call a human being -master?-
Also, where the hell are the von Gradl elders. Damn secluded geezers! Never there when you need them, but always sucking state resources!"
But as guesses flew within the rulers' minds, Krann pulled out a royal scroll to read its content.
"1) The fourteen state rulers shall submit seals and treasury keys!
2) The state rulers abandon their royal titles to become grand dukes.
3) Thirty-five percent of domain revenue shall be paid to the capital as taxes on a yearly basis.
4) The construction of Talent Assessing Centers throughout all cities.
5) The assessment of all children's talent upon birth, regardless of background. Cultivators beneath the age of thirty will also have their talents assessed.
6) The delivery of outstanding talents to the capital to receive key training.
And the list went on…
As they approached the hundredth command, the state rulers' faces had long since been distorted by rage. Even if they possessed better self-control ability, no one could listen to such words and retain their calm.
Thirty-five percent of domain revenue in taxes!
Demotion from king to grand duke!
What was this?
Shame, that's what it was!
"You can't possibly be expecting us to accept this kind of drivel, right? Selecting talents regardless of background, are you trying to break the status quo?!
Thirty-five percent of domain revenues in taxes, are you trying to cripple our growth?!
Demotion from king to duke, are you insulting our ancestry?! Even if we were to submit to you, as Saints, we should at the very least become sovereign princes! How could we possibly become dukes?!"
The state rulers all proclaimed in indignation, causing Krann and the tenth elder to sneer.
"Just with your strength? The Holy Flame Empire only has three Sovereign Princes. But each one of them is stronger than all of you combined!
With such an abysmal gap, you dare wield the same title? With what face? Are you not afraid of having the world laugh at your conceit?"
The tenth elder spat, cutting the raging monarchs who felt their cheeks heating up in shame.
"Tenth elder, you can't be too harsh on them. Those wastes have yet to realize that this…is not a negotiation!"
Krann said while his lips formed a fiendish smile. Vast holy force erupted from his body. And although the energy signature showed a peak-stage Rising Saint cultivation base, the intensity pursued the average secular world Fate-Wrestling Saint!
Instantaneously, the fourteen rulers and silent officials were startled. In tandem, they recoiled in fright. But at their backs, the royal guard's spears awaited, and with one wrong move, they'd end up skewering themselves.
Cold sweat quickly filled their foreheads.
"If master wants to break the status quo, what can you do?!"
If master wants to recruit talents from the billions of masses that lay unused, what can do?!
If master wants you to surrender your crowns and wealth, what can you do?
Submit! You can only submit!"
Krann roared, and the shocking might of his holy force drove the fourteen state rulers onto their knees.
"To say nothing of this, even if he wants you to take the tonsure and parade naked on the street, you still must obey! Utter rubbish, who the hell do you think you are?"
Krann spun, turning toward Konrad to drop on one knee.
"Master, please give the order, and I will immediately have those buffoons corrected!"
Konrad shook his head and summoned fourteen Phantasm Orchids.
"First, give them a chance. Those who willingly submit, you can spare. As for the others…do as you see fit."
The implications of Konrad's words made Krann, the tenth elder, the royal guard commander, and his captains smile fiendishly. And seeing those demonic, smiling faces, the state rulers wondered if they'd fallen into an infernal court.
With a surge of telekinetic power, Krann gathered the fourteen orchids and sent them to the former state rulers.
"You heard the lord. Whoever swallows his orchid willingly, I won't abuse."
Although the situation looked gloom, most of the state rulers believed Konrad couldn't take their lives. At worst, it would be some physical abuse. As members of the spirit race with a revered status, they simply couldn't accept surrendering all they held in such a wretched manner.
Therefore, they refused to submit! At least eleven did. The remaining three immediately gulped down the orchids.
"Good. You three can step aside."
As the three moved to the royal guards' side, Krann waved his right hand, causing a spiked energy hammer to appear within.
Carrying it, he walked toward the resisting rulers whose eyes widened at the appearance of the terrible weapon.
"Wait, wait…we can discuss this like civilized people!"
"Right…men of culture have no need to resort to such means!"
Krann cut and raised the hammer around which flames now coiled. In a diagonal, downward move, he smashed it on the eldest state ruler's shoulder, causing the spikes to dig through his flesh, and the demonic flames to wreak horrendous havoc within his body.
"Used to a life of opulence, don't know the word -difficulty- but want to show backbones before master. If this is not horseshit, what is?"
*BAM* *BAM* *BAM*
The infernal hammer descended in crushing blows, laying the state rulers' body to waste, his blood and bones flying all over the place in a festival of blood and gore while his mournful howls filled the throne room.
Meanwhile, the tenth elder brought Konrad a jug of tea which he poured in deference while the punishment carried on.
As Krann finished with the first state ruler, he shifted onto the second one, and then the third, and the fourth…all the way to the eleventh.
By the time he turned toward him, the eleventh had already soiled his pants. Still, Krann didn't spare him.
As for the officials who'd remained silent and attempted to have their presence ignored, they all trembled in fright.
The punishment went uninterrupted and the eleven resisting rulers now laid in a pool formed by their own blood, flesh, and bones.
Still, their hearts beat.
Krann then waved his hands, causing a massive wave of demonic healing powers to mend the ghastly wounds and restore enough strength for the eleven to return on their knees.
The only difference being that now, they couldn't stop shivering.
"Now, I ask again. Swallowing, yes, or no?"
"Yes, yes, yes!"
Krann needn't speak twice, the eleven all rushed toward their assigned flowers and gulped them down in one go. They then signed the royal order and abdicated both their seals and treasury keys.
Krann really couldn't comprehend the fools. Since they knew they were going to submit anyways, why didn't they do so in the first place? Because of them, he wasted precious time, which the tenth elder used to gain points with Konrad by serving him tea.
With a dejected sigh, he returned by Konrad's side.
"You've done well, very well. I'm pleased."
Konrad told Krann upon his return, causing his dejected face to turn into a beaming one.
"Thank you, master!"
He then cast a condescending look toward the tenth elder. A look that seemed to be saying:
-See, see? While you gain small merit by pouring tea, I handle big tasks!
At the end of the day, I'm still the boss!-
The state rulers turned grand dukes then started the journey back home, returning at full-speed to announce the result of the summit and the unification of the states.
As for the resistance…well, it would meet with unfortunate accidents. From the shadows, of course.
The Water Kingdom Alliance had officially ended, making way for the Profound Sea Dynasty's emergence.
"Master, what is the next step?"
The tenth elder asked while pouring another cup of tea.
"Now, we clean both the elders and the water temple in one night."
Konrad leisurely replied between two sips of tea.