35 Council

December 29, 1349.

As the rays of dawn graced the world, Lucien Eggers entered the main chamber of the headquarters of the Numinous Episcopate. He wore a black robe embroidered with golden threads, the dress reserved for southern royalty. His black hair has become voluminous and wavy, reaching his shoulders. His silver eyes were sharp and clear, observing his audience.

The main chamber was lifted by black-gold pillars that wove higher and higher to support a dome ringed by stained windows, and behind them was the melting night, handing its last light into the chambers.

In middle of it all was the painted table, which was graced by the Angels—Reinette, Sia, Haiter, Hermes, and last but not lest, Azik Eggers.

And surrounding the painted table were chairs, neatly arranged, in which the saints and demigods were present, as was Bernadette, seated quietly in the corner.

Every high-sequence beyonder involved in the assault was summoned to the council that would decide the fate of the Southern Continent, and all attended, presenting their finest selves, given the historic nature of the occasion.

With the entrance of Lucien, everyone stood up from their seats in unison, most out of reverence and respect, some out of acknowledgment and appreciation, and a few out of warmth and kindliness.

Lucien nodded to everyone as he marched into his main seat at the painted table, then peered around. "Before we begin, a moment of silence for those we lost yesterday."

A sombre silence filled the hall as everyone paid their respects in their hearts for their fallen comrades, praying for their safe journey to the afterlife.

The moment passed, and Lucien declared silently, his silver eyes shining with light. "May their souls attain eternal rest. May their names be engraved in the annals of history. May they find repose and peace in the Underworld."

Everyone lowered their heads one last time before taking their seats alongside Lucien, their faces heavy with emotion.

Then, as the sombre atmosphere waned into dignity, Lucien placed an array of newspapers on the table. They were the famous papers in different regions of the world, and all of these diverse papers in different languages now shared a single similarity.

It was their front page, with a photograph of the Beyonders raising the new Balam flag on the ruins of colonialism. It was such a significant and iconic image that when Haiter released it to the public, it spread like wildfire over the world, with all newspaper businesses making overnight changes to incorporate this image on the front page.

Though the images were the same, the context of the news varied completely from one newspaper to another, filled with propaganda, opinions, and stories.

And the majority of them were vehemently opposed to Numinous Episcopate. Some even took it a step further, demonising them and their cause. They were all successful in swaying the public opinion of the Northern Continent against the Numinous Episcopate as soon as the news got out.

This came as little surprise to those gathering for the council, given that they had left Bayam in ruins with countless dead. Nonetheless, reading the demeaning and degrading titles slapped on them and their cause made them feel somewhat uncomfortable.

Lucien took note of it all. "Don't let this get to you." He remarked, pointing at the newspapers. "They can call us whatever names and slurs they want—demons, slaves, apes, lowers—it will make no difference in the coming war." He paused, looking around. "Always remember, history is written by victors."

The uncomfortableness in the chambers waned away like embers, leaving nothing but tension behind as they understood the underlying meaning of his adage.

Lucien continued, leaning forward in his seat as the tension grew in the air. "We have achieved freedom and liberation from centuries of oppression, but the times ahead of us are even darker than the past." He paused, then went on; each of his words was punctured with grandeur and gravity. "Never forget we are not facing Loen or Intis or any of other Northern Countries, but the Gods who stand behind them—the Seven Orthodox Gods!"

"They are the ones who shaped the Order of the current civilization, which we are up against."

"So tell me, do you still want to take this wretched path with me?" the Silent One asked his people, meeting everyone in their firm and resolute eyes. "Good, nothing short of what I expected." He nodded, not being stingy with his praise.

'He sure seems passionate…' Bernadette shifted in her seat as she ruminated. But, in light of what had happened the day before, the parliaments of Loen and Intis should also be convening now, and whenever she thought about this, her clairvoyant senses were tinged with a foreboding.

Something horrible is about to happen. The Queen Mystic could feel it in her bones. But she temporarily suppressed her uncomfortable nerves, electing to refocus on Lucien.

"But victory isn't going to be easy, especially in the coming world war." Lucien said, his voice carrying a sharp edge. "There are still a lot of issues that need to be addressed in our home before we can think about that." His gaze flicked to Sia. "First and foremost, the resurrection of the Balam Empire."

Sia stood up from her seat, taking over from her lord. "The Balam Empire," she said, clearing her throat, capturing the attention of all, "was collapsed and divided after the fall of the Underworld Emperor at the hands of the Seven Gods. The shards of what remained of our glorious empire were seized by various powers, plunging the continent into millennia of anarchy until the arrival of the Northerners. They took advantage of anarchy to colonise us, yet even they couldn't completely extinguish it; they just regulated it." Her tone took a turn into sombreness.

"Even now, after we liberated the Southern Continent, the anarchy still persists, but we can't afford that if we are to resurrect the Balam Empire." Sia continued, looking between Lucien and Haiter. "In light of all of this, we have decided to have a succession ceremony tomorrow in Selkath Palace in Kolain. Every power, either extraordinary or ordinary, of the Southern Continent will be summoned to swear their fealty to our Lord."

"My lady, what about those that deny the ceremony or are absent for the ceremony?" Michele, a demigod of the Numinous Episcopate, asked the question that was on most minds.

"They will be deemed traitors of the Empire." Sia said severely. "They shall be judged with capital punishment," she continued, looking around everyone. "If there is any resistance, we will purge them."

The council swayed in approval, nodding in concurrence with their words, especially the last.

Reinette Tinker nodded along with them. She knew even she and her faction would be summoned to swear their fealty to Lucien tomorrow, and refusing wasn't really an option as much as she desired freedom. It was part of her deal with Lucien, after all.

Honestly, it would be a lie to say she hadn't thought about backing out of the deal despite the dangers, but with all that happened yesterday, that wasn't really much of an option anymore. As much as she hated admitting it, her faction needed Lucien to survive until they could stand on their own.

Sacrifices have to be made if you want to tread further on your path.

It was an eternal law of the cosmos.

There was also the fact that Lucien possessed the characteristic of Suah. She needed that to ascend farther along her path in order to attain her dream, which was always to become above the sequence of Chained and Abyss pathways and slay the Mother Tree of Desire—a ridiculous dream, to be honest, but hey, what are dreams if they are not ridiculous?

"I will grant each of you summons as soon as the council is over. Send them across the southern continent through your messengers to those designated." Sia ordered, to which everyone nodded in compliance. "And ensure their timely arrival in Kolain for the Succession Ceremony tomorrow." She ended, handing the conversation over to Haiter.

As Sia sat back down in her seat, Haiter began. "The next thing on our agenda is the coronation. It will be held after the succession ceremony on the dawn of the new year. It will also be held in Kolain's Selkath Palace, which will become the royal castle, and the city will become the capital of the Balam Empire." He declared, "The Coronation is going to be a big event, unlike the Succession Ceremony. All of our people will be taking part in it, either through ordinary or extraordinary means.."

'So it is…' Hermes inwardly sighed. His guesses were proven correct—this whole succession-coronation event was actually an ascension ritual for Lucien to become the Pale Emperor. This wouldn't have elicited much surprise from him if it weren't for the fact that his student was already an archangel.

From the looks of it, Adam seemed to place extreme importance on him. He was taken aback when the Angel of Imagination directly asked him to tutor Lucien, but he knew Adam typically takes an interest in those who become notable individuals who can change the course of history.

And given that Lucien was surrounded by mystery and secrets from the very beginning, he definitely fulfilled the role of being a key player in the gamble that was history.

But it was still unusual for Adam to place such significance on someone; even that foolish kid, Roselle, did not receive such treatment from "Him."

Hermes didn't have to wait for long; he soon found out why. His student, after all, literally changed the entire world in a single day.

Destiny was on his side, Hermes could at least tell that, but still, nothing could deny that his student was an enigma.

He just pondered if he could grow to be a star that would shine eternally in the heavens or if he would burn and explode in the process like his countless predecessors.

Haiter continued. "About the Coronation, there is still much to be discussed and finalised," he swept his gaze at the high-sequence beyonders of Numinous Episcopate, ordering. "So come to my chambers after you are done with summons."

"Thank you, Haiter." Lucien said. "You may sit down."

"Yes, my lord." Haiter nodded, returning to his seat.

Lucien peered at all in serenity. "The next issue is empire governance." He stated. "Yes, I will be Emperor, but even I cannot be perfect in everything, so I am forming a council of advisors who can help me in ruling the empire."

"The Royal Council."

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