Undisturbed by the ninth elder's words, Olrich briefly studied the reactions of every single one of his clansmen. There was mostly stupor and incomprehension. However, as the reality of his words settled within them, strong rejection brewed.
"Emperors never jest."
Olrich declared, his resolve evident to all those gathered. Konrad, who remained on his knees, found the situation particularly frustrating.
"Konrad, rise, and come stand on my left."
"Yes, adoptive father."
Without delay, Konrad stood up and crossed the stairs to stand on Olrich's left.
From this height, all the faces came into view, their frustration and rejection self-evident. The ninth elder stepped forward and bowed toward Olrich.
"Your majesty, this is nothing short of outrageous. Let's not even mention the eunuch part and status leap. In what realm does a human boy gets adopted in paragon spirit families? How could such an inferior breed be allowed to share in the imperial family's glory?!
This is not the Barbarian Continent! The hierarchy of races doesn't allow such travesty!
Immediately, the six other elders standing on the side lined with the ninth elder and bowed toward Olrich.
"Your majesty, please reconsider!"
As for the consorts and princes, although they found the situation just as outrageous, they couldn't openly reject it. More accurately, they didn't dare.
Adelar frowned. Though he possessed a relatively good understanding of his father's erratic moments, he never did anything that endangered the essence of the imperial family's dignity.
But if this move were allowed to pass, house von Jurgen would no longer have any face on either the national or international stage. He could tolerate anything except for this.
Meanwhile, Nils was the only one who didn't take the whole thing so seriously. Instead, she stared into that eunuch boy's effeminate face, and though he paused with deference by Olrich's side, for reasons she couldn't understand, she found his eyes disturbing.
She frowned but couldn't put her finger on the disturbance's source.
"What is this reasoning? Because other realms don't dare do it, we shouldn't either? Because it has never been done before, we should avoid it? If our ancestors followed such principles, how could we have this empire? And how could you live off its wealth and resources?"
Olrich began, his tone calm but his words aggressive.
"You look down on his human blood and eunuch state. Good, then may I ask you, my good elders. Your cultivation has been in the Holy Rank for centuries at the very least. None of you is less than a thousand years old. Across those years, the country's resources allowed you to cultivate in peace, while the von Jurgen name gave you glory, splendor, wealth, and rank.
But may I ask you, in this long existence, besides using state wealth to reach the Holy Rank, what are your contributions?"
Olrich's inquiry took the seven elders aback, and as they exchanged glances, they didn't know what to reply.
"The answer is, nothing! You have no contributions. Because the Grand Treaty between the Celestial Church and Infernal Cult forbids the use of Semi-Saints and above in regular wars, and because of your von Jurgen status, you've never set foot on a battlefield.
Allow me to be blunt. Your cultivation only serves as decoration. A pretty digit used to tell the world that house von Jurgen possesses X number of Saints. Besides that, you are not doing anything.
Anyone of my human, imperial eunuchs contributes more to the state in one month, than you have in more than one thousand years. Yet you dare look down on them?
Olrich's voice exploded alongside a wave of holy force that banged the elders' eardrums and made them stagger. They teetered on several steps before regaining their footing. Yet, they still trembled, this time, from shame. Olrich's words struck true. Meanwhile, most of the consorts and princes shivered in fright.
"Through this boy, I'm telling those that make my country run that they're held in high regards and that opportunity exists for them to reach the summit should they show enough potential. I'm pioneering an era of progress and freeing up more resources for those that can truly bring them to good use.
Since this is a family matter as much as a state one, I gave you the courtesy of warning you first and letting you get involved in the decision. But in what world, do I require your permission?!"
The seven elders were suppressed, and in this very moment, Konrad was forced to agree that Olrich's imperial might was absolute.
The seven elders dropped onto their knees, unwilling to offend Olrich any further.
"Your majesty, please forgive our impudence."
But as they knelt, Adelar stepped forward.
"Father, please appease your anger. Though the elders spoke out of turn, their words hold merit."
Adelar bowed by the kneeling elders' side.
Olrich's eyes rose from them, to drop onto Adelar's. Though there was the politeness of a son to his father, his gaze showed no dread.
"Oh? Adelar, please tell me, where does the merit lie?"
Adelar straightened his back to stare directly into Olrich's eyes.
"First, father, may I ask you where the backbone of an everlasting dynasty lies?"
"Unshakable imperial prestige."
Olrich replied, without hesitation.
"Right. I agree. Be it through absolute might or the adoration of vassals and courtiers alike, imperial prestige must be unshakable for the dynasty to endure eternity.
Unshakable imperial prestige leads to absolute order and inexistent revolt. The neighboring states then look in awe and don't dare rashly attack. But father, you are about to obliterate our imperial prestige in one move."
Konrad included, all eyes widened upon hearing Adelar's last words. No one expected that he would use such candor before Olrich, of all people. Instead, it was Olrich that showed no surprise.
"True, their contributions are many. Be it in the imperial palace or as servants in various corners of the country, their work allows us to live off the state. Not only the human slaves, but the same thing goes for the beast commoners.
However, if you brought a beast commoner in today instead of that human boy, I'd still object. Low status aside, if by any misfortune, the son of a duke turned into a eunuch and you attempted to take him in as your adoptive son, I'd still object.
Not because I look down on low birth or the castrated state, but because THE WORLD looks down on both.
If you proceed with this, commoners disrespect us. Nobles disrespect us. The church disrespects us. And all states on the globe no longer take us seriously. Though our armies will still rank first in the secular world, can you honestly guarantee that guided by the belief that the country is ruled by a buffoon, they won't start eying our lands?
That is the first issue."
The dissoluteness of Adelar's words terrified all those gathered, and though many of them inwardly agreed, they put greater distance between him and them. The elders on his side were no exception.
Nerves beat on Olrich's temple as he restrained the urge to kill that unfilial son of his.
But undaunted, Adelar carried on.
"The second issue is much more direct. When the country's jeers are aimed at us, how many still dare proudly wear the name von Jurgen? If the house's kinsmen and women can no longer bear its name with their backs straight, haven't we set foot on the road of decline?
The eunuchs are empowered, the imperial family weakened, our prestige thrown into the gutter. Haven't we set foot on the road of destruction?
Therefore, you can create him Imperial Duke. I do not care. You can give him resources and wealth; I do not care. You can give him more training than to any of us, I do not care.
But you can by no means name him von Jurgen and call him your son!"
Konrad could feel Olrich's rage soar, and the throne arms crack within his hands.
Verena, who stood at his right, stared at Adelar with unconcealed surprise. Clearly, just like the rest, she'd never expected such developments.
In regular days, Adelar would have spoken such words in private. But now, he knew that if he didn't take the bull by the horns, he would never get the chance.
This was his only opportunity to prevent this disgrace.
"And what if I insist?"
Olrich asked while his fury reached a breaking point.
"A man's existence comes from his parents. I do not dare take my life without your permission. Therefore, I give you two options. First, you kill me.
Second, you demote me to commoner and remove my name from the imperial family's registry. Thus, I would no longer belong to this house, and its shame would have nothing to do with me.
If you're not willing to take either road, please reconsider!"