Duke Redgrave's POV
After the ceremony, some high nobles and guests remained and talked to their hearts' content. Who would dare leave when the Norian Jarls were still here?
The current topic nowadays was the upcoming traditional ascension of the Noria Empire. Since the Demon Hierarchies were destroyed - some people just needed something to talk about and shift their attention from the restless feeling of change.
Compared to the peaceful ascension of the Glarios Kingdom where the King would only choose one to bestow the royal name, Regnier, and together with the ring artifact Gormal (it was usually his direct and legitimate heir), the Norian Emperor would declare a warring state amongst the fiefdoms who sought the throne.
Whoever wins the war will be granted the Norian royal name, Gudbrand, and the spear artifact Hallr.
One of the running candidates to win the war was Jarl Amund Brandr. In fact, he was at the forefront. Together with his blood-brother, Jarl Runar, they also dominated the battle against the Demon Hierarchies and had raised their reputation as war gods.
The Noria Empire is the biggest out of all of the neighboring kingdoms, its population even more so. Even when there were still many demons rampaging about, this tradition was still in the culture and core of the Norian people.
This helped the masses to recognize the raw strength of the succeeding ruler to act as a spear to defeat demons. Seeing the emperor fighting against demons, winning the battles, and protecting them gave tremendous relief to the Norian people.
This tradition seemed to be really effective as the Noria Empire flourished year after year, compared to others. Well, except for another empire who, as others would say, could stand against the Noria Empire.
Opposing the spear that could defeat demons is the shield that could endure countless battles against raging creatures. That would be the Rishan Empire.
The Rishan Empire focused on building and improving their fortress rather than honing their battle skills. This enabled the Rishan people to defend their borders while making crafts, researching, and refining their ways of living. In fact, the Rishan Empire is the most advanced out of all the neighboring kingdoms.
With their attention to technological details, in terms of agriculture, trade and economics, politics, and infrastructure, Rishan Empire surpassed others. This made their empire develop further and prosper even more.
But in some people's eyes, they were deemed as cowards when fighting against demons as they hid behind their walls.
The throne ascension of the Rishan Empire is a bit tricky. The royal family name is Xie and the title bestowed to the emperor is Huang Tian, together with the crown artifact Jianyu.
The princes with the royal name Xie could all compete for the throne, title, and artifact. They rely on tricks and schemes, underlying currents, skills in strategy, politics, acting, and speech. A good reputation was also a must. Virtues, values, good character, clever mind, and heavenly words and luck must be embodied by the successor.
All of these were important in order to fight for the favor of the masses, nobles, and the emperor.
Now, the representatives of the two empires are here, both a candidate for the throne. Do they hold good intentions or seemingly hide another?
"Once again, I offer my salutations to the twins' birthday, Your Grace," Icarus nodded at me and I thanked him in response.
Guests from the other kingdoms were now seated at the enormous table, together with the royal family of Glarios. Stiff and excited smiles, whispers, and small laughs, combined with their elegant wardrobe made my head ache.
On the table were polished silverware, fancy decors, and delicate pastries. There was a faint sweet scent coming off from the desserts but it was overwhelmed by something heavier.
The smell of tea reminded me of autumn where leaves gently fall. However relaxing the setup, it was destroyed by the mood. The atmosphere was rather tense, I must say.
King Henry, seated at the head, was hard gazing at all the men at the table. His expression was ineffable. King Henry was always hard to read.
The women were exempted from this nightmare.
I never was good at this, making small talks. Actually, I'm not good at talking at all.
My seat was between Icarus Philippe from the Holy Empire and the Grand Duke Blackbourne. I can never rely on the Grand Duke for helping me out in this charade.
We are alike in this aspect, I guess.
Jarl Amund who was on the opposite side, sitting beside Crown Prince Alfred, spoke to me, "It is a good celebration, welcoming children to the world. The world's hero is indeed blessed, having a set of twins."
I remembered that despite my having the same age as Jarl Amund, he did not have any children or wives. The fight for the throne was that bad. You could never fully protect your companions.
But Prince Alfred was the one who replied, "Thank you for coming all this way, Jarl Amund. To be honest, we never expected someone from the Noria Empire to come. We did send out an invitation but we never received a reply. This is also a good outcome."
"Oh, I have to tell you, I'm not attending as a representative. The emperor never ordered an envoy to come here. I only came because I wanted to see the hero's children." Jarl Amund laughed.
Everyone at the table: ...
Jarl Amund: ᕦʕ •'ᴥ•'ʔᕤ
Jarl Runar: ʕ – ᴥ – ʔ
Was this the power of being carefree? He seriously does whatever he wants.
King Henry broke the silence and everyone turned to talk at the person beside them, not knowing what to make out of the Jarl's attitude.
Despite that, Prince Alfred chatted with Jarl Amund and had a good smile on his face.
The Rishan prince was at the corner of my sight, sitting beside Jarl Runar, silently watching. Prince Harold was also here, meekly sitting beside Ingra.
I glanced at Ingra Blackbourne and his indifferent face, not caring at all, and then at Icarus who was sitting so piously on the right side of the King.
Icarus caught my glance then suddenly leaned in and whispered, "You must tread carefully, Your Grace. There will be troubles coming your way if you don't decide wisely. I suggest planning for the future, considering your current situation."
Before my confusion spread to my face, I controlled my emotions so that others would not notice. Troubles in the future? What is he saying?
And my current situation... I guess the Elder knows.
I was in the Holy Empire three years ago, exactly after defeating Lucifer. I recuperated at the Grand Priest's temple, hoping my divine power would return to its normal state.
Yes, the consequence of winning against Lucifer was that my divinity was gone as if it vanished into thin air. Just like how Lucifer turned to ashes.
I did not know how it happened. After fighting Lucifer, I felt faint, and it was only afterward I realized my powers had gone.
The Grand Priest took a look at my state and said that it was an aftereffect of fighting with Lucifer. He told me that before Lucifer died, the demon must have tried to kill me along and had cast a spell.
"That spell should have killed you but because of your profound divinity, it blocked the spell instead," the Grand Priest told me.
My memories flashed, thinking about what happened at that moment. Lucifer - a six-winged creature stood in front of me, his body disintegrating with embers of the fire. His mouth appeared to be moving but I couldn't hear it well.
"Your divinity seems to have been sealed yet it's truly not. It's still flowing naturally within you but it's locked within your body, unable to get out, " the Grand Priest explained why it seemed that I lost my powers.
The Grand Priest never knew how to recover my divinity. He comforted me, saying it was the price for the world's peace and I was the savior - the hero in everyone's heart.
He continued with a sad expression, "Although your divinity is there, the fact that it doesn't want to obey you... If you force yourself to use your divinity, your body won't be able to take it."
The Grand Priest only sighed and shook his head.
It's like it's within my reach but I won't be able to hold it in my hand.
Even though I could not fully use my powers, I was lucky to be alive, the Grand Priest said to me.
However, how could I face everyone as the hero when I was in that predicament? How could I stand beside Princess Lillian when I have nothing to give her?
A hero has-been?
That was not fair to her.
I told my situation to King Henry. I almost accepted my fate and planned to stay at the Holy Empire, and away from Lillian.
I'm sorry, Lillian.
Despite that, King Henry advised that we should keep it a secret. He said that as the hero, I should give everyone a peace of mind, and telling people I lost my divinity would surely bring unease. At least for now.
To my shock, the Grand Priest agreed, and instead of natural divinity, he inlaid an artifact in my sword - a rare small gem that could hold an enormous amount of divine powers. "It was really hard to find a gem that could hold divinity. I guess this will be my gift to you, hero."
Almost everywhere, I carried my sword so that I disguised myself as having been able to use my divinity - like a hero who defeated Lucifer should be able to do.
I gripped the sword's handle at my waist. But what troubles could it bring?
My reputation down the drain? The Redgrave House torn to ruins? People demanding compensation for the lies?
Icarus looked at me and it appeared he knew what I was thinking. "It may be more serious than what you think." He even made his voice softer so that no one could hear but us.
"You'll have to guard against the royal family, Your Grace. Protect your children well and don't let them near royal artifacts."
Why? Guard against the royal family? Royal artifacts?
I managed my confusion so that it would not show on my face.
Icarus leaned back and properly sat on his seat. He talked amicably with the others, giving out a small smile acting as if nothing happened.
I wanted to ask questions but it may not be appropriate to speak more about it in the first place, considering the surroundings. I must keep a steady mind and plan out everything.
I was so engrossed in my own thoughts that my reaction was so late when someone shouted, "Demon!"