"What will we do now?" Sarah leaned her head on Varian's shoulder and interlocked fingers. "Even if only three of them come here, it's three rank 7s, right?"

Varian stared at the sunset with his wife on top of a mountain house, his gaze blank and his mind lost in thought.

Sarah's words registered in his brain but no answer came up.

Pala kingdom had its own customs of picking a crown prince. Anyone from the Palarei race would be eligible.

Since the current king, a peak rank 9 powerhouse was going to retire in a few hundred years, he added specific conditions that filtered out thousands of aspirants.

It was just one rule.

[You cannot be older than 666 years.]

Varian didn't know the reason behind that number but he did know that the three main contenders of the race perfectly satisfied the condition.

Prince Merov, a genius overwhelming the entire Pala kingdom. At the mere age of 300, he had reached peak of rank 7.

Even the geniuses trained by the empires would reach peak of rank 7 in 250 years. When the intervention of divine rankers still gave him these empire geniuses only a fifty year lead, it was telling of Prince Merov's monstrosity.

In contrast, even the elite geniuses of Pala kingdom usually took 500 years to reach the same rank. This man was the most dangerous.

He served in the military, won honors and respect, bathed in blood and lived on war.

If anything, he reminded Varian a bit of himself. Albeit a more realistic version.

The second candidate was Prince Rudolph. The orthodox heir in the direct lineage of the present king.

He had the support of the kingdom's Martial Saint, one of the three peak rank 9 experts alongside the king himself.

450 years old and peak rank 7.

Interestingly, this was also the guy whom Bella was betrothed to—which makes him Baldur's brother-in-law.

The final candidate was a bit unexpected and seemed out of place.

Princess Sonya.

550 years. Peak rank 7.

The oldest, least talented.

But her identity made it impossible for others to dismiss her. She's the younger sister of the legendary princess, Isadora.

Varian exhaled deeply. The fresh, cold air on the hills filled his lungs and cleared his stress.

He wrapped his arm around Sarah's waist and lowered his head. "We'll have to do something. I can't kill them unless necessary. We need something…"

Sarah looked into the distance and tried to think of a way out. What could they do when the enemy was coming right at them?

These candidates knew there was something off with this place. Unless they get a satisfying answer, they won't leave until they get to the bottom of it.

So, how do they solve this?

Sarah thought hard for a while before suggesting. "How about we ask the Secretary and everyone to think about it?"

"That could help." Varian's tense expression eased and he smiled a little.

— — — — —

Emperor's Palace, Capital City Kiah:

"Oh, look who's here. A visitor from another galaxy?"

At the entrance of her office, after slamming the door shut and ensuring no one could listen, Secretary Alison started speaking in a dramatic tone.

"Our emperor wasn't seen last week or month or two months. So, this distant visitor, whoever you might be, please come back when our emperor returns, which would be probably in a hundred years."

Varian's lips twitched as he watched his secretary's antics. "I thought we were supposed to maintain professionalism in the office place."

Alison covered her mouth and the corner of her eyes turned red. With shoulders trembling, she said in a breaking tone. "I've committed a great sin, Your Majesty. So, kill me for my unprofessionalism. At least that'd save me from the piles of ever-increasing, never-ceasing work."

She pointed to the hills of holograms floating around in the corner of the office with a sarcastic expression.

Varian looked at the heavy bags under her eyes and rubbed the back of his head out of guilt.

"W-We'll do something about it, I promise." He said.

Alison looked at him with a distrusting expression but sighed in the end and motioned for him to sit in her chair.

She slumped into a visitor's chair and placed her hands on the table. "So, Your Majesty, what's your reason for seeing me?"

"…Woah, that's treating me as a bit too utilitarian. I might've come to just check up on you." Varian said.

"Did you?" Alison narrowed her eyes.

"Well, yeah. I did come to check up on you." Varian said with a straight face. "And now that I saw you, I remember something I need your help with."

"…What a smooth liar. You'd have made an excellent Casanova and an even better politician." Alison sighed in pure admiration.

"I'm a very honest guy, okay?" Varian protested. "Anyway, we'll have to come up with something for…"

Alison's fatigue disappeared at a visible rate as she listened. In the end, she was sitting in a military posture, like a war machine. Her gaze was serious and her breathing was regulated. It didn't take a genius to realize a lot was going through her mind.

A few minutes later, she realized he was still in the room and asked. "How long do we have?"

"…A few weeks at least and a few months at best," Varian replied. "Oob's interference with the signal was unsuccessful but it did mess up the speed of transmission."

Alison closed her eyes for a moment and ran along some thoughts. Her brows frowned tight and she said while keeping her eyes shut. "Give me two hours. I'll gather everyone, discuss, and get back to you.

But for that to work, I need all the information you have. Anything and everything. Even trivial stuff."

"Here." Varian presented a translucent stone—a memory stone—condensed using his soul power.

It contained the events that happened in the tower and the items he had. Of course, he withheld the secrets and mentioned a lot of things vaguely.

There was not a word about slivers, ares tribe, or a rank 9 supposedly dead pseudo-god.

He hoped they could work something out. If not, the only way would be evacuating everyone and killing those princes or worse, fleeing from this region and waiting for them to leave.