SIEGE OF THE THRONE (III)
Dawn had passed and a midday point had arrived with sun blasting golden rays across the world in a symphonic cascade of colors and warmth. Earth was silent, not a pebble to be found rolling, not a leaf to be spotted falling as though the entire world was waiting in anticipation, eyes peeled to the expanse of the azure sky where swarms stared at each other like bands of locusts, readying to devour each other.
Three major battles were taking place at the same time; at the very bottom were individual cultivators of both sides contending, adding up to three hundred people altogether. Among these was Prince Annel as well as Marquis Thorne and Drevor one one side, with Eldest Prince and Princess standing on the other.
Further up the skyline was a major battle between two armies - Royal Family and the rebels, former being led by Duke Rog’thar and Duchess Astharh, including three legions - Sons of Sun, Children of the Stars and Daughters of the Moon legions, while the rebel army was led by Duke Fercrow, a middle-aged man clad in purple armor wielding sword and shield while commanding three Legions - Dragon, Crow and Sky - from atop the warship, formulating a massive formation meant to contend against the <Formation of Sun>.
The last of the battles, and the one unfolding highest up in the sky, also had a small divide, with one side reserved for the fight of Dukes Erdicth, Mardent, Callus and Ishel and Devon, while the other side had Evelyn contending alone against the three Sky Seers and thousands of people of Three Imperial Counties.
In any war, especially one contended so openly, there’s always that brief moment of reticence, when even nature goes lull in solidity. It’s, to many, a moment of doubt; a moment of hindsight over how all of this could have been avoided for, regardless if cultivators or mortals, death was a reality for many. Yet, perhaps even more so than mortals, cultivators feared death.
Still, that moment lasts for as long as it’s necessary for a thought to move a lip and for the first battle cry to break out into the silent world and usurp the order, shaking the hearts of those who’ve heard it. The first to cry out among tens of thousands present was actually Evelyn - she spread her arms whereupon two bolts of black lightning coiled round her fingers as she cried out into the sky, partly because of anger and partly because of anguish.
After all, it hurt her to know so many people among those who were most supportive of the throne over the years went against her. It meant they didn’t trust her, didn’t trust her ability to rule and to push the Dynasty further along the path of glory. She felt betrayed by the very people she had hoped to count on to guide her.
Her eyes flashed with berserk anger as she turned into a gulf of darkness and streaked across the sky faster than the eye could follow, striking like a bolt of lightning from the clear sky. Yet, before she had a chance to harm anyone, a golden veil sprung from nothingness and blocked her path, causing her to bounce backward through the sky.
Rather than taking a breath and giving away the momentum, she shifted midair forcibly, cracking one of her ribs in the process, and dove straight back down at the veil. Black bolts of lightning spread through the sky, shrouding the sky in pitch-black darkness. Thunder boomed repeatedly, affecting the space itself, causing it to vibrate.
Evelyn was Peak Numinous Realm cultivator, just a single breath away from becoming an Exalted. However, due to the quality of Cultivation Method that she inherited from her Father, as well as rigorous training she received, she could match three Sky Seers, all of whom were at Early Exalted Realm.
She paid little to no heed to the thousands surrounding her from the Three Imperial Counties; rather, she didn’t even consider them enemies in the first place, as none had even crossed into Numinous Realm to begin with.
A few dozen miles away from her battlefield, Ishel and Devon had begun their own. They didn’t speak or offer a witty insult or two, merely drew their weapons out and lunged at the Dukes in front of them. Status, besides the Imperial one, didn’t exist in their eyes. They didn’t recognized Barons, Marquises, Counts, Dukes... the only title they recognized was that of an Emperor - especially so because the two of them were chosen to protect the Empress till the end of time, in life and death.
Yet, on the very first day of her noble rule, her right was challenged by the unworthy; they had come parading in front of her home, shaming her in front of her own people, and declaring her unfit for the Throne. To Ishel and Devon, it wasn’t merely because she was the Empress that it incited the rage within them; the two had watched Evelyn grow up from her cradle, undergo one trial after another, surpassing all her brothers and sisters in strength and wit, at last deserving her title of the Empress.
What Duke Erdicth and others did to them wasn’t merely a matter of betraying the Throne; it was a personal insult. They didn’t care who people before them were - they had already sentenced them to death regardless, and it was with that fervor that they struck with impunity, disallowing them to gather their bearings.
Unlike the Seers, Ishel and Devon were Exalted of the highest order, with their Cultivation Method being second only to Royal Family’s, even a tier higher than the rest of their brothers and sisters within the Legion. The two were almost unequaled when facing same-realm opponents, and Dukes - who themselves were as well at Middle Exalted Realm.
One of the reasons why Divine Dynasty could rule supreme for so long over the entire continent was exactly because of the fact that they had a lot of cultivators who crossed the first tidal barrier - one of crossing from Numinous Realm into Exalted Realm. It was the first barrier that truly distinguished the talented and the average ones, the hard-working ones and the uninspired ones, and the rich ones and poor ones.
One of the most basic necessities to become a person of the highest standing in the Divine Dynasty was exactly to be at least of Early Exalted Realm. Every single Duke, as well as two Duchesses, were all Exalted; however not all Exalted were Dukes, which served to both incentivize competition between nobility as well as to instigate tensions as to avert their intentions from the Throne.
Meanwhile, secondary strata of the three-legged battle had also clashed with Duke Rog’thar commanding <Formation of Sun> and firing it up, creating blazing wings at two ends of the formation and transforming the body into an angelic-like giant with luminous features. The giant towered at a few kilometers, making the warship actually appear like a boat before it; however, Duke Fercrow himself had also activated the formation - <Dragon’s Fury Formation> - transforming the warship in such a way that it became the head of a massive mirage of a Dragon, which appeared only slightly shorter than the angelic giant.
The two clashed with fists and claws, causing thunderous booms to echo out for hundreds of miles on, swaying trees with emerging wind and rousing it from its slumber. Each step the two took would cause a small quake, yet it couldn’t topple a single building within the City of Sun, as all were enclosed tightly in the city-wide formation.
The least impactful of battles was the one led closest to earth; as they were individual, people were spread out in a large area, leading to fewer earth-shattering collisions. That was not to say, though, that battles weren’t heated; Annel himself would attest to that, as he’d finally realized just how strong his Eldest Sister and Brother were. He himself was Peak Illumine Realm cultivator, while the two of them were at Middle Numinous Realm.
Even with the help of Marquises Thorne and Drevor, who were both at Early Numinous Realm, it was turning into a prolonged battle where the three of them were actually being pushed back despite outnumbering their opponents.
Meanwhile, perched up in a saddle between the trees, Lino had the pleasure of enjoying a spectacle without being a part of it, something he realized was quite a rarity in his life. However, there was a distinct lack of shock on his face, even a trace of disappointment; he expected to see at least one Imperial - realm higher than the Exalted. As was clearly displayed, though, they seemed to be rarities even here.
“... is Althone observing the battle?” Lino suddenly asked.
“Yes.” the Writ replied in its usual, robotic voice.
“Quite a sadist, he is,” Lino smiled strangely as he spoke. “Forcing his daughter to fight a man who was more of a father to her than her actual father ever was. Is he hoping to teach her some sort of a lesson?”
“...” the Writ had already gotten used to Lino’s rambles; as to not go insane, Lino developed a strange habit of voicing out his thoughts out loud, as though to implicate a conversation with the Writ.
“... things can’t be this simple,” Lino said, his eyes turning into slits. “Surely, those Dukes aren’t such morons as to think they can take the throne with their shitty strength, right?”
“... there are additional three auras of Imperials within the vicinity of the battle,” the Writ said. “Althone is yet to spot them.”
“Hoh? Really now?” Lino’s lips suddenly curled up in a strange smile. “I wonder... how much merit can I get by informing the former Emperor that not everything is within his control and that his daughter may very well die if he doesn’t do anything?”
“Where is he?” Lino asked.
“Sitting on the Throne.”
“... ah, that’s boring,” Lino said, jumping up onto his feet. “I was hoping to explore another exotic location. I don’t like retracing my steps. Ah, whatever, let’s go and visit the revered Emperor and see how willing is he to listen to a beggar.”