Chapter 15:

Emperor’s Day (2)

Mad God

“Next!” came the flat, cold voice from the tent, and when Zern stepped in, he felt like the weather outside was spring itself compared to what he felt when his eyes met with the examiner's gaze. It was simply the harshest winter, throwing his senses into -30 degrees.

He was a middle-aged man with a short, graying mohawk, wearing black leather armor, and some kind of acid burned his whole left face. Instead of an eyeball, a black hole looked back at Zern on that side of his face, and it was hard not to stare at it. He couldn’t help but gulp while the instructor’s cold, steel-colored eye scanned him.

“Here,” he said as he presented a sheet with ten questions.

After filling out the form with his name, address, birthplace, and date, some more questions about his personal life needed answers, like his wife’s name, if he had any. It was a bit weird, but he did not question it. He just filled everything out and presented it back. His voice was like a blade’s, without emotions and filled with sharpness. Zern felt he was back in the training course for the Guards.

The man took a glance before slamming a stamp on the bottom of it with a force that made Zern instinctively flinch. Finally, he placed it on his left into a big pile of other documents before turning his gaze back to Zern.

“You did not lie.”

“O-of course not.” he nodded, looking at him questioningly.

“We are from the Empire’s Intelligence Agency. Long before this competition started, We screened everyone who signed up. You would be disqualified or even detained if you lied on the form.”


“Go through. In the following tent, another agent will test your strength. Next!”

When Zern left, the examiner had a satisfied expression; he liked the initial fear or even disgust that the participants had when they first saw his face. But that slight smirk went to a frown when the next one who came in was a young man holding a little girl in his hands. It was a first, that's for sure, especially seeing the girl sucking on her thumb like a baby, having the time of her life.

“What’s this?!” he grumbled, standing up, releasing a dark and menacing aura, and looking at them furiously.

“Ah, sorry, I… just couldn’t wake her up.” Leinor replied with an apologizing smile, “She probably had a long night working on her cultivation.”

“Enough! What even does a girl like her doing here?! Who are you to act like this?! Do you think this is a playground to bring your little sister to play around?!”

“No, she is my fiancé-”

“Preposterous! Disqualified!”


“Get out! Now!”

“Mmm… what’s going on…” Ren moaned as she woke up because, for the past hour or so. She snuggled quietly to Leinor, grabbing onto his neck like a kitten.

“Who is this one-eyed Willy?” she yawned while munching on her saliva, almost making the instructor choke on his.

“You both are the shame of the Empire! You are under arrest for disrupting his Majesty’s event!”

“Dear, you should fire him. He failed at his work!” Ren whispered but not too softly so the examiner could hear everything.

“Fire me? Do you think you are-” but he couldn’t continue as his surprise and shock finally let his brain continue working. His legs were clanking together from the intensive shaking that immediately followed. As the gears turned, he finally recognized Leinor’s facial features and almost started crying.

“Mmm? Why is it so quiet now?” Ren stretched, enjoying herself.

“Ren, you are so bad….” Leinor murmured, gulping back his laughter.

“Fufufu, I’m born this way, babyYYEAOW! Don’t pinch me there!” she said while flailing around in his arms.

“Stop it and be a good girl.” Leinor scolded her with a smile.

“Uuggh…. You are no fun…” she pursued her lips, sulking a little but settling down.

“Sorry, Mr. Jarrus.” Leinor smiled.

“N-no problem, P-prince.” Jarrus stuttered a middle-ranked agent in the Agency, at the Harmony Realm but reached it only after four complete refinements. He was surprised the Prince knew about his name, but instead of happiness now, he felt fear more than anything.

“Can we continue?” Ren cut in.

“S-sure. This way.” he nodded, holding the tent’s flap behind him to let through them.

“Thank you, and please don’t mind her.” Leinor nodded before disappearing from the tent, and Jarrus just collapsed on the floor.

“Calm down, Jarrus, calm down…” he repeated before climbing back to his chair. “I hope tomorrow I’ll still have my job….”



“You’re my fast pass for the nonsense bureaucracy~.”

“Oh, come on….” Leinor replied, rolling his eyes but still holding her in his arms while arriving at the next tent.

Inside they found another black-dressed examiner with a severe expression standing behind his desk. He looked like he was between 40 and 50. His short, black hair and primly kept goatee paired with his amber eyes, kept back aura, made him less frightening than the previous one, still nobody would underestimate him, who got through the first test.

“Prince, Young Lady, “ he said while greeting them, not humbling himself.

Ren just smiled, then jumped out of Leinor’s embrace and gave a courteous bow, fixing her winter dress.

“Director Orchell,” Leinor said while cupping his hands.

“There are ten rods on the table, representing a different stage of body refinement. All of them are made from harder and harder alloys. Please select one to demonstrate your prowess by breaking them. Note that the higher level you demonstrate, the better your seeding will be in the tournament.”

Leinor nodded as he stepped forward first, going for the 7th immediately and breaking it with one hand. Orchell’s eyes shone with approving light and recorded the result immediately.

“Exceptional, so young yet so advanced. Glorious days are looking out for our empire.”

“Please, Director, I’m not the genius here.” Leinor looked back, gazing at Ren.

“Hm?” Orchell tilted his head.

“Ahahaha, he’s just shy.” Ren laughed, grabbing the 8th and breaking it with two hands, shocking the director. “Between the two of us, I’m more of a show-off than he is.” she giggled with innocence, but Orchell found it stifling.

“Young Lady… this…”

“Mmm? What? Is it not good enough?” she blinked, looking like an innocent preteen girl, but she raised her hand towards the 9th rod.

“It’s enough.” Orchell nodded immediately as he feared if she broke that too, he might never advance with his cultivation from the sheer mental shock.

“Oh! That’s good! What's next?”

“For the age test, you just need to squeeze a drop of blood onto this crystal,” he said as he placed a small, transparent, round-shaped gem before them.

Leinor easily pricked his fingers, and when the drop of blood turned crystal ruby red, Orchell just nodded, taking it away, doing the same with Ren’s.

“You’re finished, you can go home, the competition starts tomorrow, at ten in the morning. Here are your seedings. I’m giving you this now as I don’t think others can top your performance.” Orchell smiled.

“Woah? I’m first?” Ren blinked her eyes, surprised, and saw Leinor had the number 2 on it.

“Based on age and prowess… yes. Both of you are the youngest participants. After you are the son of Rawanz, Poli, then Zern from the Unth family.”

“Oh? Zern isn’t in the top 3? Interesting. Who is this Poli guy?”

“Don’t you remember?” Leinor smiled. “When I first saw you at my birthday banquet, it should have been Rawanz, the finance minister’s big day, as his son, aged 13, shows off his talent. Then came a five-year-old girl and blew his achievement out of the water. That's him, Poli. Still, he is extremely talented, and it shows.”

“Oh, I think I remember something like that. Huh! Well, he wasn’t making any waves, so I didn’t hear about him until now, so no wonder it’s news to me.”

“Yeah, he disappeared after that. I bet he silently worked, concealing himself, and wants to show off now. Ouch.”

“Ahahaha, it could be exciting! Maybe I should hold back before the finals?”

Orchell only smiled at the two, hearing their conversation without any intention to disrupt them.

“That's not your style.” Leinor shook his head.

“True, I see Zern or You do that. Anyway! Let’s go, I’m so hungry, invite me to breakfast!” she moaned as her stomach rumbled with agreement, grabbing Leinor’s hand and dragging him out of the tent.

“Youngsters…” Orchell sighed before placing the blood-filled crystals into a small box lit up with a blue symbol and disappearing.

Back in the palace, the same two boxes soon arrived on a big table, carried by an almost invisible chameleon-like demon. Dermitos and his father Carthus stood next to it with satisfied expressions.

“So, will they be the first candidates as disciples when the Forefather comes back?”

“Yes, son. When he returns, you will pass down the throne to one of your children, probably to your firstborn. I studied them. He will be a good Emperor. His twin will be a disciple, too, and your third… still undecided. But Leinor… is special. He will be one of the core disciples just like that little troublemaker fiancé of his.”

“A Sect… why wasn’t I told about it?”

“Because it would disrupt your governing of the Empire. Now you should focus on slowly passing the power to… to….”

“Feynor. You really should learn the names of your grandkids.”

“If he shows strength, I will.”

“That’s why Sentios hates you.”

“He was weak, and you showed the same weakness by only sending him into exile.”

“I won’t kill my brother. He lost, but that's all. He still has the same blood as me.”

“And now he is in the Kingdom of Ten, doing who knows what. You are lucky you made so many good decisions that overshadow this blunder.” he said with a tinge of scolding.

“Enough. This discussion always ends up with us arguing. Let’s get back to this Sect thing. Can you explain it more?” Dermitos waved his hand.

“The Forefather came up with this around a thousand years ago as he contacted us when Aerthus IV had died. After leaving the Empire to his son, he went west and crossed the Western Desert.”

“He did? I thought it goes on endlessly!” Dermitos exclaimed, his eyes enlarging.

“It does not. But below the second level of Harmony, the Outer Harmony Realm, it is suicide if you attempt to cross it. You need to be in tune with nature, or you will die wandering the dunes. Anyway, He reached the other side. We don't know that much as communication is sparse and difficult, we only send messages if it’s an emergency through our bloodline connection, but when he contacts us, he always lays down plans that we follow. The last message was that he was on his way back. He wishes to assemble every talented individual in the empire in the next few years, and when he arrives back, we will have enough manpower to do what he planned. The Sect will be independent and above the Empire, as he said. The Empire will be only the tool that helps the sect to gather resources, be it consumables, materials, or people.”

“I’m excited to meet him!” Dermitos sighed. “It sounds like a great change is upon us.”

“Yes. But crossing the desert is dangerous. He estimated it would still take him 20 years to get back. Since we last exchanged messages, it was luckily down to 6 or 8 years, depending on the weather. Anyway, the reward for the competitions will be resources for cultivation, and the excellent talents will be given a “new” title, “Imperial Prospects.” This will do until the Forefather is back; later on, they will become official disciples.”

“What about us and the talented Generals or older, stronger people?”

“Depends. Those at the Harmony Realm who reached it above the 8th refinement can become Masters of their own and accept disciples. But this can change; it is He who decides! Those who are advanced between 5th and 7th will have different roles, like enforcers, trainers of younglings, caretakers of the sect’s properties, agents sent out on tasks, and other roles. Those below this can never dream of being part of the Sect. They will run the Empire instead.”

“Fascinating… It will be a powerful way above what I assumed. If we can gather up to 100 people that are talented and do reach Harmony, then we will be unstoppable.”

“Hundred?” Carthus smiled, patting his son’s shoulder. “The Forefather wants the Sect to have at least a thousand disciples by the first century and to be at least a quarter of them in the Harmony Realm. This is only just the beginning. Ahahaha, I look forward to it! A glorious time awaits us!”

“Yes… Yes, Father!” Dermitos nodded, totally fired up, and he couldn’t wait for tomorrow to come.