December 29, 1349.
Backlund, Loen Kingdom.
The City of Cities looked dim and wane, mirroring the eyes of its residents; even the brilliant rays of the sun didn't seem to be able to melt the gloomy veil draping the city. It was as though the City was losing something precious, something valuable, something invaluable.
Hope, it was.
That fickle yet constant struggle against the trend of times was receding from Backlund like a tide, leaving nothing but Despair and Death in the wake of the events of yesterday.
The Great Smog of Backlund.
At noon yesterday, a deadly yellow cloud of smog and pollution began to spread from the East Borough to the rest of the city. All those that came into direct contact with it died like falling trees, while those that had indirect contact with it were infected with a fatal plague.
Although the Spell Singer of God created a hurricane that blew the smog away before it could spread throughout the Backlund, there were still grave consequences. According to preliminary estimates, a total of over 21,000 people died while the subsequent plague was still claiming lives.
But even such an event paled in comparison when the news of what happened on the southern continent and seas hit the city like a tyrannical bolt from the Lord of Storms.
The rebel armies of Balam attacked and destroyed the military bases of Loen and Intis in the colonies and the seas, leaving no survivors. Even the colonial governments had to fall under their control. Ultimately, they had liberated the Southern Continent from colonialism.
That was the official declaration issued unanimously by the governments of the northern countries.
Anyone with a brain could tell that there was more to this, such as how measly rebels managed to destroy some of the world's strongest bases, how such a coordinated and well-planned operation went unnoticed until it was too late, who exactly were these rebels, and how did they become so powerful? Was it because they believed in a new evil god, the Reaper?
And so on and on. There were too many mysteries and unknowns to unravel for those curious and wondrous minds, but they had little to no time for them in the face of the trend of the times that were like storms sweeping the Northern Continent.
It would be an understatement to call what followed after that "devastating". The losses were astronomical. The death toll was heavy, far outweighing the initial estimates, with most lives lost in the City of Bayam.
As for the material losses, it was all the more ruinous—the destruction of a major part of their military as well as the loss of their colonies caused the economies of Loen and Intis to be left in shambles overnight. Both of the countries were heavily dependent on their colonies, so losing them had a drastic effect on them.
And the dreadful fact was that people had just begun to face the repercussions, but once they completely settled down, true hell would descend on the world.
The first signs of its arrival were already emerging in the Parliament of the Loen Kingdom. All of its members were gathering in light of what happened to debate and decide their response.
The Parliament was located near the centre of Backlund. It was a majestic and grand structure, embodying the wealth and power of Loen. Its broad and guarded entryway was swarmed by throngs of reporters, trying to soak up every bit of information from the members of parliament who were arriving in their carriages for the historic occasion.
But all fell silent as the last carriages arrived at the parliament bearing the emblem of the royal family, and from one in the middle, George Augustus III emerged, draped in his opulent robes. Flashes of light swept him along with fervorous queries as soon as he stepped out, but the King of Loen merely nodded in answer to reporters, traipsing off with his escorts into the parliament.
He was soon joined by Ariana, the Angel of Concelament, and Harrow, the Angel of Calamity. They entered the assembled legislature together, in full view of everyone. Hushed whispers arose around the parliament chamber, most about his imminent address, some concerning the identity of the ascetic woman and strenuous man trailing him, while the rest kept their grim silence—all following them as they reached the centre podium.
George Augustus III ascended to the podium, standing before the array of microphones as flashes of camera light swept through his figure along with expanding whispers, but he merely raised his hand, making the legislative chamber fall into a pin-drop silence.
And all of the eyes were turning to focus on him. It came not only from the parliament but from everywhere—Intis, Feysac, Feynapotter, Lenburg, Masin, Balam, and even the Astral World.
Under the attention of the World and Gods, the King of Loen cleared his throat and began by acknowledging the legislative members regally.
"Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Speaker, and Members of the House of Commons and Lords."
George Augustus III paused, looking back at the eyes focusing on him from the world levelly as a reckoning silence filled the expanse, then he shattered it grimly.
"YESTERDAY, December 28, 1349—a date that will live in infamy—the Kingdom of Loen was suddenly attacked by rebel forces of the Empire of Balam. It will be recorded that the attack was premeditated for many days or even weeks. During the intervening time, the rebels have managed to deceive and blindside us from the threat they posed."
The legislative members watched on in indignation. They have been shamed; their reputation as the most powerful country in the world was put to question after what happened.
"Their attack on the oversea and colonial bases of Loen Kingdom has almost crippled our military and naval forces. And the colonial government of East Balam has unanimously surrendered to them."
The King of Loen met the eyes of all gravely. "I regret to tell you that over half a MILLON lives were lost yesterday."
The Parliament erupted in an uproar. Even though they expected the losses to be astronomical, hearing them directly still shook their hearts. Such a large number of lives lost in a single day hadn't ever happened in recorded history. Many members felt faint as they thought about what this ultimately implied for them, their families, and their kingdom.
"Silence!" Mr. Speaker banged his gavel heavily, but it wasn't enough to suppress the chaos that descended on the parliament. "Silence!" He banged his gavel again.
"Everyone!" George Augustus III intervened, looking at the chaotic chambers. Then, all their chaos moved to his tune, spinning and weaving into a twisted harmony.
Immediately, the members of parliament went silent, returning to their seats and regaining their focus on their King, though there was an intensity to their eyes that hadn't been there before.
An intensity that the King of Loen knew all about. He had seen it countless times among the slaves working in his mausoleums. It was a desire, a desire deeply rooted in the hearts of humanity.
George Augustus III smiled in his heart as he continued with his epochal address. "The rebels of Balam pose an immense threat not only to our nation but to the current ORDER of civilization itself. They intend to destroy everything that our forefathers fought so hard to create."
The intensity in everyone's eyes grew with each of his words, capering and dancing to his twisted tune of Vengeance.
"We CANNOT allow that, but if the events of yesterday were anything to go by, then the rebels are unlike anything we have ever faced. No amount of debate and decisions here will amount to anything when we make first contact with our enemy."
Instead of shouts of outrage at the blatant disregard from their own King, the members of Parliament remained in silent resignation. It had become obvious to the wisest of them that their king had a hidden agenda and was taking advantage of this situation to push and implement it, though even after realising this, they ultimately raised no objections.
It was not that they didn't want to, but they couldn't in the face of their King, who was uttering such cold and hard facts that left no room for opposition at all.
Maybe he was deceiving them into following his will, twisting and distorting the facts to make them dance to his tune like puppets, but even if they knew this, what could they do other than dance along.
'The truth is the best form of deception, after all.' Earl Hall thought, looking at his king, then closed his eyes for a moment before opening them, the intensity burning brighter than ever. 'Alfred…'
"The facts of yesterday speak for themselves; this new enemy is no longer a factor that we can face through conventional and traditional means. We are entering unfamiliar territory, so now more than ever, we must unite behind a single front, a single person, who can guide us to VICTORY."
The King of Loen proclaimed, each of his words punctured with a regality, all coming together to bore on the parliament. And they responded, standing up one by one from their seats with grimness.
On cue, Ariana and Harrow emerged from behind George Augutus III, taking out dark and blue spectres covered in diamonds, rubies, and sapphires, all shining with a divine light, from within their robes.
As soon as they were revealed, the world held its breath, for those were the famous divine spectres. It embodied God's authority on earth, enabling its wielder to convey and represent the will of the Gods.
Under watchful eyes, the King of Loen extended his hand and humbly received the divine spectres from the Angels. Following that, his escort brought out his crown and regal cloak, which Ariana and Harrow placed over him in acknowledgment.
Then George Augustus III turned and faced the world, declaring for all to witness and behold.
"I believe that I, George Augustus III, the Emperor of Loen, interpret the will of the Divine, of the Legislative, and of the People when I declare that the Parliament is permanently dissolved and the Loen Kingdom is reconstituted into an Empire—SO HELP ME GOD."
Immediately, the members of Parliament, who had all stood up, bowed to George Augustus III in acknowledgment. They chanted together in twisted harmony.
"God save the Emperor!"
"God save the Emperor!"
"God save the Emperor!"
Flashes of camera lights filled the chambers of Parliament, capturing the epochal moment. And underneath it all was a faint rustling from a flipping book, but when a hand holding a silver cross extended out, it abruptly stopped, revealing a page containing a glimpse of a grand story.
"On December 29, 1349, in the light of assault by Numinous Episcopate, George Augustus III, with the support of Evernight Goddess and Lord of Storms, dissolved his Parliament and reconstituted his Kingdom into an Empire by proclaiming himself Emperor."