While the hundreds of mid-level officials hadn't been subjected to the Phantasm Orchids, following Konrad's mental orders, their families were all seized by the high-ranking officials' forces.
Therefore, all those pedantic scholars who usually swore by "righteousness,""order," and "the common people" now facilitated the glaring takeover. And as soon as the play ended, Konrad got to work.
The former state rulers were forced to dispatch their treasuries' reserves to the capital, using Semi-Saints as couriers and space treasures as containers. Konrad seized all he needed, and following a redistribution of resources, left them enough to keep their domains running without disturbance.
The rest fueled the capital's activities. At the same time, he also had them dispatch their Semi-Saint and Saint-level experts to feed the imperial guard.
Meanwhile, the construction of talent assessing centers throughout all cities was a massive, unprecedented project estimated at two billion purple crystals.
Setting aside that sum was one of Konrad's first deeds. And with all powers concentrated within the capital, the country went from decentralized to centralized in a heartbeat.
With well-placed purple crystals and Phantasm Orchids, he also started bamboozling the foreign countries' intelligence networks within the Profound Sea Dynasty.
Messengers were then dispatched across the country to inform all citizens of the new state of things. At that time, foreign dignitaries and spies brought back both the news of the country's abrupt, peaceful unification under the von Gradl rule and the appearance of a mysterious grand preceptor.
As for the spies that snuck into the palace to obtain more in-depth information, they would all return empty-handed.
Through the army tokens, Konrad had the generals gather a three-million-man strong army set at the border between the Profound Sea Dynasty and the Great Void Empire.
He then sent a Semi-Saint messenger to the Holy Flame Empire to inform Olrich of the country's readiness to assist and the princess' impending arrival for marriage.
Though startled, Olrich cared little about the Water Kingdom's transformation. He only cared about how it affected his schemes. Since nothing changed, he carried on with his plans.
"Great Void's nefariousness knows no limit. For the sake of petty benefit, they don't even hesitate to forsake the principle of righteousness and help the Earth Kingdom Alliance's evil!
Enough is enough! We've tolerated them for far too long. It is high time we teach them a lesson, avenge the murdered Prosperous Wind imperial kinsmen, and return the Holy Continent to purity!"
Using the righteous banner of assisting his in-laws and stopping unlawful assault, Olrich dispatched his forces, sending legions of Holy Flame soldiers to descend upon Great Void's eastern border and seize its cities.
Initially, the Profound Sea Dynasty's troops should have crashed on the western border. But as soon as Holy Flame forces began their assault, the Profound Sea Dynasty announced its neutrality, withdrew its forces, and cut all alliance talks with the Holy Flame Empire.
At the same time, the delegation members sent back messages.
"The newly formed Profound Sea Dynasty has been treating us with profound courtesy. Therefore, your majesty, we've decided to settle within the capital for some time.
We wish you the best of luck in this war and your future endeavors, long may you reign!"
Olrich almost spat blood, and seeing the seal he personally bestowed upon Konrad, he inferred they'd all been taken hostages.
And indeed, the Profound Sea Emperor soon sent him another message.
"Your majesty's ninth son, tenth elder, and delegates are finding my country hard to leave. The world is chaotic, perhaps when the war ends, they will find the desire to return home.
In the meantime, I hope we can maintain peaceful relationships and avoid tragedies."
After reading the impudent words, Olrich tore the paper to shreds.
"How dare the immature whelp threaten me?! Once I'm done with Great Void, they can be sure I won't spare them!"
Olrich roared. Alas, although his forces still trumped Great Void's, without the Profound Sea Dynasty's support, the war was doomed to drag.
Especially since, while claiming neutrality, Profound Sea secretly supported Great Void and the Earth Kingdom Alliance's military effort by supplying them with rations, explosives and all kind of military equipment.
Everything besides effectively dispatching troops.
Thus, although the Holy Flame Empire had yet to meet defeat, the Holy Continent was gradually settling in a stalemate.
If that wasn't enough, Olrich faced other problems.
Across those last few days, starting with the Profound Sea Dynasty, all countries saw the emergence of a new group of prophets heralding catastrophic disasters for the Holy Continent!
Those prophets claimed to serve the Profane Prince, the "One True God" who enraged by the Holy Continent's heathens and unbelievers, would soon send calamities to obliterate them.
Since wanna be prophets appeared from time to time, no one took them seriously. However, all attempts to seize those troublemakers ended with them vanishing out of the blue, causing fear and apprehension to start spreading throughout the populace.
Still, that was only a small issue. The real problem was within his backyard.
Adelar awoke, rising with a strength that left Olrich with only two choices:
Destroy, or get destroyed!
Within his chambers, Adelar von Jurgen's eyes opened, the left now crimson red while red fog swirled around him. Laurens, who stood by his side was scared witless by the dreadful force erupting from his elder brother and immediately dropped onto his knees.
"Congratulations, second brother, on achieving sainthood! Please forgive my reckless move that hastened your plans!"
Laurens both congratulated and apologized. However, Adelar remained undisturbed.
"After two centuries of accumulations, father's pesky seal is finally broken. The pill's effects are even better than I anticipated."
Adelar rejoiced while standing up. Stretching out his arms, he let his blood fog erupt alongside the full might of his rising holy force, and his cultivation skyrocketed!
Early-stage Rising Saint, mid-stage, late-stage, early-stage Profound Saint…
His cultivation kept rising until it reached the peak of the True Origin Saint Rank, and there, it stopped. Meanwhile, spiritual and demonic energies intertwined within his holy force. And although their cultivation now stood at the same level, Laurens didn't doubt that the intensity of his brother's aura surpassed that of their father's.
And that aura wasn't even stabilized…yet.
Laurens barely restrained the urge to soil himself.
"The situation called for a prompt reaction. You did what you had to. I don't blame you."
"T-thank you, second brother."
"Summon the seventh, the eight, and the eleventh elders. Unfortunately, because we took this step a bit earlier than expected, I will have to use them to perfect my foundation."
"As you command!"
Laurens exclaimed, then excused himself, leaving Adelar alone within the room. With a one-hundred-eighty-degree rotation, he turned toward a nearby mirror and stepped toward it.
Facing the mirror, Adelar intently stared at his crimson left eye, and gently brushed it. His emotionless face softened.
"Mother, if an afterlife there is, I hope that from it you can watch how your son uses the accursed lineage of Ashara's blood fiends, our accursed lineage, to seize the empire, and avenge your death."
While clenching his left hand, Adelar extended his right palm toward the mirror, resting it on his reflection.
"Three days…I only need three days.
In success, I shall glorify you.
In failure, I shall join you…never to part again."
Unable to bear the pressure of Adelar's palm, the mirror shattered, and its pieces dropped onto the ground.
Adelar closed his eyes, and the blood fog surrounding him instantly vanished.