Peace finally returned to the night. But in that peace, dread still lingered. Unequal dread, that is. If both male and female denizens of the royal palace were terror-stricken by Konrad's demonic powers and awe-inspiring might, at least the consorts and concubines had already "surrendered" in the night of debauchery.
Therefore, they knew what to expect and weren't as startled as the maids and eunuchs. Still, even Augusta was forced to admit that she'd not expected such a shocking display. Although following the revelation of his demonic nature, she didn't expect Konrad to lose to the elders, the strength he showcased still surpassed her calculations.
When the von Gradl elders and Water Temple leaders perished, she was the first to heave a sigh of relief. Better than anyone, she knew that should they triumph, her father would never spare her. A cruel and unforgiving man, he would undoubtedly use her life to "cleanse shame and restore family honor."
While she wouldn't dance on his grave, asking her to shed tears for a man who raised his daughters as expendable chess pieces was, indeed, too much to ask.
And as soon as Konrad's servants finished the distribution of orchids, all apprehension vanished from the royal palace. But as they crossed the road back to their chambers, although she let nothing appear, Konrad could feel some unsettlement within Yvonne's gait.
"What's wrong with you? Did my head consort get startled by a trivial worm's last words?"
Arching her eyebrows, Yvonne stopped in her tracks and turned toward Konrad who observed her with a gentle smile.
"I said it before. When I seize the throne of supremacy, you'll be by my side. Regardless of what title I wield, you will be my counterpart. No one, nothing can stop this future from occurring. Anyone who tries to stand in the way of that aspiration, we shall obliterate. Therefore, you shouldn't pay any heed to the words of the defeated.
In the future, we will have many such curses. Must we take them all seriously?"
Hearing Konrad's reassuring attempt, Yvonne chortled.
"You misunderstand. Those are not my concerns. If I need to bother you with it, I will, of course, tell you."
Satisfied, Konrad pulled Yvonne by the waist.
"Good. If my wife could get flustered by a ruined fool's words, I would truly be disappointed."
With a soothing smile, Yvonne leaned against Konrad's chest.
"If we can't even show this bit of confidence in ourselves, how can our profane reign stretch across eternity?"
She jested, and arms in arms, the two returned to their quarters for a night of passion.
What Yvonne failed to say was that back in the Holy Flame Empire's imperial palace, unsettling rumors circulated. Rumors whose consequences were hard to fathom.
Word was that after nine thousand years of cultivation, the top von Jurgen expert, Adalwin von Jurgen finally found the road to Star Connection and was on the verge of a breakthrough.
If he succeeded, the entire cultivation pattern of the Holy Flame Empire would experience shocking changes. At the very least, the Voight and the Holy Flame Church faced great dangers.
After all, if there was one thing both Olrich and Adalwin could agree on, it was that those two forces were their von Jurgen dynasty's greatest obstacles.
At dawn, the pair awoke, and Yvonne assumed her cobra form to coil around Konrad.
Afraid to trigger their new lord's ire, the officials didn't even wait for the sun to properly rise before gathering in the throne room. Dozens of high-ranking officials methodically lined up, forming orderly rows and columns before the throne.
The fourth prince then stepped in, except that this time, his princely attire was replaced by a white mourning robe and headband. Seeing those items, the officials were "startled" and went into an "uproar."
"Why is his fourth highness donning mourning clothes?"
"Is it possible that something happened last night?"
"How could this be, and where is the king? Following the country's unification, shouldn't he be here to assume the imperial crown?"
Although the officials had already been briefed on last night's events, they still needed to put on a good show. The fourth prince dragged his slouching body toward the bottom of the stairs leading to his father's golden throne, then turned toward the officials.
"Officials, pillars of the state, it is with abysmal sorrow that I must announce the death of our monarch, my beloved father, Ernst von Gradl."
The fourth prince announced with a deep sigh and lowered his head toward the ground with his eyes shut.
Hearing the "shocking" news, the officials' mouths and eyes widened in a glaring show of stupor.
"Last night, Great Void assassins broke into the royal palace to murder the king, the elders, the crown prince, the second prince, and the third prince. Having received the news, The Water Temple tried to come to our aid, but to no avail. Their leaders perished in the fight.
Initially Great Void wanted to use the opportunity to destroy our entire main line and ruin our country's foundation. But thanks to the commotion that ensued, they alarmed a righteous elder who, unable to watch idle, raised his sword in defense of the royal family, slew the invaders, and saved those last few of us."
With another sigh, the fourth prince turned toward the golden throne, dropped onto his knees, and kowtowed.
"Father, your son was useless and failed to protect you! Please forgive my incompetence, and may you rest in peace!"
Following the fourth prince's example. The officials paid their respects to the deceased monarch.
"Your majesty, please forgive our incompetence, and may you rest in peace!"
All thrice kowtowed toward the golden throne, then returned to their feet.
"Now, everyone, allow me to introduce you to the hero to whom all von Gradl owe their salvation. Surely, you know him well. Protector, please step in!"
In a purple haze, Konrad appeared at the entrance, dressed in a white robe and black overcoat. With his "pet cobra" coiling around him, he took a step forward, vanished, and reappeared before the fourth prince.
"Protector, without you, my house would have disappeared from this world. Please accept my bow!"
The fourth prince proclaimed, with warm tears and a theatrical bow. But as he bent, Konrad stopped him and lifted him back up.
"Your highness needs not show me such deference. I only did what righteousness commanded. My only regret is that I couldn't come in time to save the monarch."
Konrad sobbed, then turned toward the gathered officials.
"Though we all grieve the king's loss, even for one day, a country cannot remain without a ruler! As the eldest surviving son, it is the fourth prince's duty to assume the throne.
And now that the state rulers have decided to remove the frontiers and unify the country under the von Gradl rule, the fourth highness should officially abandon the royal style to don the title of emperor!
Henceforth, becoming the Profound Sea Dynasty's first emperor! Any objections?"
"None whatsoever! Long live the emperor!"
The officials instantly replied and fell on their knees to greet their new monarchs.
"Since everyone requests me to shoulder this responsibility, I cannot decline."
With a helpless sigh, the fourth prince accepted the position, henceforth becoming the Profound Sea Emperor.
"As emperor, my first act should be to reward your valor. Moreover, I understand that I'm muddled and wasn't raised for governance. We live in chaotic times, the neighboring states are at war and assassinations run amok.
Therefore, protector, I not only beseech you to accept the position of grand preceptor and serve as my state's highest official but I also humbly request that you take on the mantle of regent!
Please help me shoulder my heavy responsibilities and bring my state to prosperity!"
The Profound Sea Emperor pleaded with his hands clasped in a submissive bow.
"Alas, I'm a Holy Flame Dignitary!"
"Lord, the Holy Flame Empire is mighty and doesn't need you while our foundation has been shaken and requires you to solidify it!
His majesty is right, for the sake of righteousness, for the sake of the common people, we all humbly beseech you to accept this position and guide us to prosperity!"
"We beseech you!"
The dozens of high-ranking officials begged in theatrical kowtows.
At that time, as if gathered by mental messages, hundreds of mid-ranked officials assembled beneath the stairs leading to the throne room and similarly kowtowed.
"The world is chaotic, the state is in jeopardy, the common people face sufferings! For the sake of righteousness, we beseech you, lord, to accept this position and become our country's guide and teacher!"
The pleading voices of hundreds of officials seemed to shake Konrad to the core of his soul, and warm tears dropped from his eyes.
"What virtue! What morality! With such words, how can I still decline? For the sake of the common people, for the sake of righteousness, I accept! And as grand preceptor, as the country's guide and teacher, I swear to uphold this morality and lead the Profound Sea Dynasty to the Holy Continent's summit!"
As Konrad's words echoed, tears and emotions filled the imperial palace.
"Thank you, grand preceptor! But chaos never ends, one conflict replaces another, and the common people always face sufferings!
Therefore, for their sake, we also request that your regency lasts an eternity!"
The Profound Sea Emperor exclaimed, and his officials repeated after him.
Helpless, Konrad sighed and replied:
"Though it profoundly grieves me, I accept! As long as unrest plagues this land, my regency shall continue!
And if eternity is what it takes for unrest to subside, then throughout eternity, I shall be regent!"