The test to determine the person who would become the next ruler of the Empire.
The Garden of the Stars where the candidates for the test gather…
There were numerous palaces surrounding the garden at the center and the candidates resided with their helpers in these palaces.
“…Your Royal Highness.”
Second Imperial Princess Olivia.
She had returned alive from Precinct 9 out in the western part of the Empire. Her body that almost died still had some internal injuries that had yet to recover, but she was able to move around a bit and use a portion of her necromancer abilities.
The First Imperial Prince Palace and the Fourth Imperial Prince Palace… They were both empty.
One of the candidates, who had been in the garden, quickly turned his head away after making eye contact with her.
However, there was a sneer on his face.
Imperial Princess Olivia clicked her tongue.
‘They must see me as a failure now.’
The First Imperial Prince, who was a strong contender, along with the Fourth Imperial Prince, who was determined to be quite skilled, and the former mercenary, Zero, went missing in the polluted lands of Precinct 9.
However, most people believed that they were dead.
‘And although the Imperial Palace never announced it, the rumor is spreading beyond the capital to all over the Empire?’
The Imperial Palace also didn’t seem to be trying to stop the rumors.
In fact, they revealed a list of missing individuals and gave a rough explanation of the Imperial candidate test.
This was normal, as if it was not announced live; it was always announced afterward like this.
Of course, a lot less was revealed than usual.
The effects were nonetheless shocking.
‘His Royal Highness passed away during the test?’
A lot of comments came about how the most likely candidate to become the next Emperor had died.
‘Thanks to that, the incident where the House of Huayans was attacked has quieted down.’
The news that the citizens of the Empire had been talking a lot about was buried by this more shocking news. Of course, Olivia was certain about something.
‘The Imperial Palace and the Emperor will be more focused on the attack on the House of Huayans than the death of his own children.’
The Second Imperial Princess frowned.
‘The Emperors of each generation turned the dead candidates into undeads and controlled them as their subordinates?’
Olivia clenched her eyes shut after recalling the terrible truth that she had heard.
The Capital and over half of the Empire still did not know the truth about the ‘black tree’ and the ‘purification.’ They prevented the people of Precinct 9 from saying anything under the justification of their investigation while keeping things quiet at the capital.
It was simply known as an incident where they were investigating the black rain in Precinct 9 and ran into a large mutant monster that resulted in the noble sacrifices from the deceased in order to protect the wall.
‘It is cleverly different from the truth.’
It was highly likely that it was the Imperial Palace that spread this twisted rumor.
Olivia had seen the pure white sand desert through the video recording device.
No rumors had spread at all about that purified land.
She noticed another candidate make eye contact with her and ignore her before turning her head.
She closed the window.
Olivia was being praised by the Imperial citizens as the person who informed others about the monster with her life on the line while the candidates were treating her like dregs.
All of her helpers were dead and her body was in terrible condition.
She started to speak again.
“Why didn’t you inform people about the whole truth?”
She looked toward a corner of the now dark room. She was looking at a white-haired green eyed person wearing a white priest robe. The area underneath his nose was covered by a white cloth.
She walked over with her crutches to stand in front of the person she was calling her healer in order to have him stay in her palace.
“Oh esteemed purifier. Please answer.”
The green eyes curled up.
Cale opened his mouth to speak.
“The truth is being spread right now. It is just under the surface.”
He had handed the Pope a video recording device and ordered her to spread the truth.
However, they could not inform people about everything from the beginning. One false move and the House of Huayans and the Imperial Palace’s hostility would be immediately focused on the church.
“…Are you informing people about things one by one?”
Cale gently nodded his head at the Second Imperial Princess’ question.
“The truth will slowly spread from outside the Empire to inside the Empire and then to the capital.”
The smile had disappeared from his face and he spoke with a stoic look on his face. Of course, Olivia could not see that.
“…The Purifier has come. That is probably how it will spread.”
Olivia turned away from Cale.
She walked over to the couch and sat down.
She let out a short groan. Her body was not fully recovered yet.
She nonchalantly asked a question.
“Are you keeping an eye on me?”
“With the Dragon-nim?”
Raon, who was on Olivia’s bed eating cookies, opened his eyes wide. He waved his front paw as soon as he made eye contact with Olivia and asked.
“Hey Imperial Princess, do you want some too?”
“…That’s okay, Dragon-nim.”
“Really! Okay! Just let me know if you want any!”
Olivia brushed her face with both hands.
“I have no idea how things are progressing.”
Cale sat down across from Olivia and gracefully responded.
“You’re already aware of everything though, aren’t you, your Royal Highness?”
Olivia let out a short chuckle. She responded.
“The second test starts tomorrow.”
“Furthermore, you are currently tied for first place, your Royal Highness.”
Olivia let out another chuckle.
After the first test, there were three people who were tied for first place without considering the missing First Imperial Prince and Fourth Imperial Prince.
“Heni Wishrop, Zero, and I. The three of us are tied for first place.”
However, the other candidates were looking down on these three.
“People who are tied for first place but have lost their arms and legs. It is understandable why they consider you to be losers.”
Heni Wishrop had lost two of her subordinates.
Zero and Olivia had lost all of their subordinates.
Furthermore, Olivia was not fully recovered yet.
She was the biggest loser of the three of them.
The candidates who remained in Precinct 9 and did not participate in the black tree attack team were not being praised but they all felt as if they were closer to the position of Emperor and were looking forward to the next test.
“Oh esteemed Purifier… There is something I am curious about.”
“Please speak, your Royal Highness.”
Olivia asked the Purifier who was cleaning a splendid mirror.
“…What excuse did Heni Wishrop and Zero give?”
Cale lightly responded.
“They had to give their statements to the Huayans patriarch’s subordinate since he immediately returned to the capital.”
“That must have made things easier.”
“Yes ma’am. It definitely was easy. Although he did use some black magic that forced them to tell the truth.”
Raon interjected at that moment.
“But our Goldie gramps made it useless!”
Olivia’s pupils started to shake.
‘If the patriarch left him to get the testimony, he should have been a highest-grade black mage. They were able to turn that person’s black magic useless?”
She came up with the answer to her question quickly.
‘I guess it makes sense since he is a Dragon.’
The Dragon with the golden dust wrapped around him…
Anybody other than the Huayans patriarch would find it difficult to go against him.
He was a supposedly extinct existence from their imagination. The strength of the Dragon was most likely beyond Olivia’s wildest imaginations.
She could see Cale’s mouth open.
“Anyway, the two of them said that they were recovering the corpses from the rear and blocking attacks from some vines and branches when they got swept up by a sudden red pillar of light that burst out from the central region.”
“And they were in a white sand desert when they woke back up.”
“…And they accepted that story?”
Cale looked at Olivia with an expression that seemed to be asking why she was asking that kind of question.
“They obviously did not since there are people keeping surveillance on the two of their palaces right now?”
“…When you put it that way… I guess so.”
The Huayans subordinate thought that his black magic worked, but the patriarch had placed people to keep an eye on the palaces after hearing the report.
“I’m being watched as well.”
“…You seem to be quite free for someone being watched.”
“It is pretty safe because this identity was procured by the Pope-nim.”
Cale was acting as a priest of a different religion.
It was a religion that was popular not in the Empire but in other nations but there were a few temples in the Empire as well. Thanks to that, he was able to stay in this palace at Olivia’s request.
Of course, Cale staying in this palace could have been allowed so that the Huayans patriarch could keep an eye on him.
‘But so what?
What the hell can he find out by keeping an eye on me?
And if he finds things out?
We’ll just fight it out.’
Of course, there was one thing he had to do before they fought.
“By the way…”
Olivia’s voice was shaking.
“…In the basement of the Emperor’s Palace, are there really the candidates who have participated in the test-”
She stopped for a moment.
She clenched her hands that were shaking.
The Emperor. The Emperor’s palace where her Royal Father resided… In her Royal Father’s bedroom…
“Is it true that the corpses of all of the candidates are there?”
“To be more accurate, they are not corpses but undeads.”
Olivia clenched her eyes shut at Cale’s calm response.
The identity of the black tree, the truth hidden beneath the surface of this Imperial heir test…
Olivia hated the Imperial Palace after learning about everything.
“…I want to destroy it.”
Cale slightly flinched after hearing her mumble in a low voice.
‘Everybody here wants to destroy everything.’
Cale felt as if he saw Olivia’s true personality, but he ignored it. Olivia had decided to help Cale.
That was the only important thing.
Instead, Cale thought about something First Imperial Prince Sanders had said.
‘The candidates who have turned into the undead are in the Emperor’s Palace’s basement.
There was another truth that he had not told Olivia about.
‘…The former Emperors are there as well.’
Even the Emperors had turned into undeads.
The First Imperial Prince had sighed when asked about how he knew that.
It clearly felt as if it was not a coincidence but Cale had not pushed the issue.
Cale was uneasy about that Emperor’s Palace basement.
The reason was simple.
< The moment the final host is born, we will complete this great work of 300 years. >
The final host.
It obviously sounded like the heir who would be determined by this test.
And the Emperors of every generation had controlled the undeads. They were all hosts of sorts.
Cale heard Olivia’s low voice while he was deep in thought.
“When will we be heading to the Emperor’s Palace?”
“I’m not sure.”
Cale looked at the divine item mirror in his hand.
The divine item was vibrating gently but there were no messages on it. Cale gently rubbed it.
The divine item vibrated some more but Cale ignored it.
He raised his head.
His face reflected on the closed window.
‘I definitely look holy.’
Cale had borrowed the hair color and eye color of someone who had been called a noble Guardian Knight.
– Human, Clopeh Sekka does not smile like that! That guy’s outer appearance seemed more like a Saint than even the Saint! Smile more like a good person!
Cale listened to Raon’s advice and tried his best to smile like Saint Jack.
Olivia flinched after seeing that naïve smile on his face.
– D, don’t s, smile like that! I don’t think that is right!
Cale ignored Raon’s comments and started to speak.
“The time should be determined once we find out about the second test.”
* * *
The next day, Cale was looking at the Chief of Staff while standing behind Imperial Princess Olivia in the Garden of the Stars.
The Chief of Staff had a gentle smile on his face as he stood at the center of the garden.
However, nobody other than him was smiling.
Some of the candidates let out deep groans.
Cale turned his gaze.
– This is entertaining.
The ancient Dragon’s voice echoed in his mind.
Mary, who was here once again as Heni Wishrop… Eruhaben was standing next to her. A black Hawk was sitting on Mary’s arm, looking at the paper in Mary’s hand.
Cale turned to look at the paper in Second Imperial Princess Olivia’s hand after hearing her sigh.
The stiff and fancy invitation had the contents of this next test.
“The second test focuses on determination.”
The Chief of Staff gently continued to speak.
“The ability to make a rational judgment, no matter how cold-hearted, is one of the greatest virtues that the next sun of the Empire must have.”
The name of the second test was, < Hide and Seek >.
“The location is within the capital.”
The Hide and Seek would take place within the entire capital.
“The groups listed on there are evil beings trying to put not just the Empire but the continent into chaos.”
Two names on the list of groups stood out to Cale.
< The Fire of Purification >
< Agents of Destruction >
The corners of Cale’s lips curled up.
‘They’re using their brains quite a bit.’
The Huayans patriarch and the Imperial Palace were acting quite smart.
The Chief of Staff continued to speak.
“And those evil beings exist within the capital as well. The discerning eye to locate these leeches pretending to be good while living in the capital. The sense of judgment and determination through this. That is what this test is focusing on.”
The Chief of Staff started to smile.
He pointed past the shoulders of the candidates.
His hand was pointing at the entrance to the Imperial Palace.
“The esteemed individual who receives the highest score will get first place. The people who place first, second, and third will receive small advantages heading into the third test.”
The smile disappeared from the Chief of Staff’s face.
He then spoke in a low voice.
“You will only receive points if you bring them back alive.”
He then added on.
“And the wicked people you capture will be publicly executed.”
The Chief of Staff smiled again.
The corners of Cale’s lips that were covered by the white cloth curled up in a twisted manner as well.
What a bunch of nonsense by the Chief of Staff…
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