1

Prince Merov walked out of the portal, followed by his brother Rudolph and sister Sonya.

Merov didn't even spare them a glance and burst a crystal in his hand. Shimmering the ocean under the sun, he disappeared.

"No vigilance when being in an enemy den. This is very dangerous to his life, don't you think, dear sister?"

With hands behind his back and a calm smile, Rudolph addressed the other person.

"Hmph," Sonya crossed her arms and gave him a look of disdain. "You don't have to put up that hypocritical attitude here. Spit out, what's the plan and what's in for me?"

Rudolph didn't expect her to be so blunt but he didn't mind. He took great pride in his self-control, in maintaining that 'Princely' persona.

"No need to be so hostile to me, dear sister," Rudolph spoke in a calm tone. "I've never been rude or hostile to you, have I?"

After the fall of Princess Isadora, he had been groomed to take the crown. Sonya was more than a hundred years older than him and showed no promise. So, she was never on the radar to begin with.

If not for her sister's shadow, it was doubtful if she could even reach the state she did.

"Prince Rudolph, indifference is the worst reaction a competitor could get." Pursing her lips, Sonya said.

Rudolph's eyes gleamed with arrogance and his lips curled up into a smirk.

'You're wrong, dear sister. Ignoring you is the worst reaction. But you're mistaken about something, only you saw yourself as a competitor. Neither I nor Merov ever saw you as one.'

Merov rose to prominence almost overnight. From being a nobody with no lineage to speak of, he was pushed into the spotlight.

Rudolph first ignored him, then laughed at him, then fought him, and then lost to him.

He became the perfect stepping stone, cementing Merov's claim to the throne.

"With his personality, Prince Merov will start finding all the important places and he'd attack them at once. But what if they already knew an attack was coming?" Rudolph's voice was still calm but he now looked cold and aloof.

A metallic dic giving off a potent aura floated over his palm. "What if they prepare a special formation that could damage even the peak rank 7s? Rank 8s are almost impossible to find in a Duchy but rank 7 is very much a thing."

"You two-faced bastard," Sonya cursed. "Do whatever you want, I'm not helping you with this. I will fight him directly and defeat him."

With those words, the Princess disappeared.

"Pfft," Rudolph burst into laughter. 'This woman is out of her mind.'

Following his plan, Rudolph sent a few messages and established contact with the Zions.

After an hour of probing each other, they decided to meet in a remote star system on the edge of Zion duchy.

When he landed on the planet, Rudolph was surprised. There was an uneasiness in the streets, half of the businesses were shut off, and there was a gloomy look in the eyes of people passing by.

'An impoverished duchy as this one is chosen to attack us? They stand no chance against Merov in this state without my help.'

As he walked into the venue—a large administrative building on a mountain peak—Rudolph faintly felt something was off.

A voice in the corner of his mind whispered that he was in danger. Rudolph was quick to dismiss it.

How could these weaklings pose him any danger?

A beautiful Zion woman, 4' tall and curvy in an elegant but slightly racy dress received him along with a man who stood close to her–who Rudolph detected by his 'instinct' to be her husband.

As he stepped closer, the lady threw herself at him. "Mister, thank you for your help. Without you, we'd be devasted."

Rudolph was vigilant at first but after sensing her rank 4 aura, he let down his guard and had a small chat with the duo. Of course, he didn't forget to flirt with the married woman who reciprocated in front of her husband.

Then, he gave her the formation disc which she happily accepted and sent to their capital via a small portal meant for goods.

Rudolph estimated Merov would attack anytime now. That bastard should've taken his time spotting the capital, important cities, their defenses, and the fastest way to destroy them all.

There's a high chance that formation disc would kill Merov. So, Rudolph decided to wait for an hour, do some important things, and then attack the duchy.

He had already sent his autonomous bots to check for all the important locations.

"But why is such an important task relegated to you two?" As he entered the large manor that was supposed to be his accommodation, he questioned the woman clinging to his arm.

"Precisely the reason. We are remote, weak, and unimportant. That's why, we are safe." The woman answered.

And the husband behind them casually took out a remote. At the last moment, there was a maniacal smile on his face.

'Thanks to Duke for making me a hero for killing this whore!'

"Wai—" The woman also realized something was wrong and yelled.

Rudolph was faster and grabbed the remote out of the man's hand. But it was already too late.

A formation disc buried at the core of the planet activated and the planet exploded.

A monstrous shockwave of aura, flames swept through the star system ripping apart space-time. The host star, the ten planets, the hundred-thirty-seven moons—all shattered into pieces.

In the region that was once remote yet brimmed with life, only darkness remained. But in that darkness, a green light flickered.

"Haa! Haaa! Hufff!" Only half of his head, a third of his neck, and a quarter of his arm survived the blast.

There was a worn-out armor phantom floating around him. It was his natal treasure—a special armor which when called upon could counterattack up to 30% of the damage received. But its most important function was, of course, the incredible defense it provided.

A large part of the reason he survived was his < Paragon Body > path. But without the armor activating itself, Rudolph would have had only a quarter of his head left and an inevitable death in a few minutes.

Rudolph didn't understand how this even happened. But he did know that he wasn't going to get anything out of this mission.

'Who? Who was it? Sonya? Merov? I'll kill you! I'll kill you two bastards!'

Seething, the Prince used a precious treasure to hide himself near the space portal. He didn't dare to undergo an interstellar journey in his current condition. But he didn't dare to venture out to the enemy lands either.

On the other hand, a virtual body floated in front of Jataur and greeted him with a fanatical reverence.

"Long Live Duke! Our team checked the traces, that foreigner had died!"

Boom!

Duke Jataur slammed his armrest and burst into loud laughter. "Hahahaha, good, good! One down, two left! He even gave us a treasure! We killed him with essentially no price!"

The Zion star systems have been under full alert for two weeks. Even though Prince Rudolph had a good plan, he underestimated the paranoia of the duke named Jataur.

The Zion duchy recently sold all its wealth, mortgaged its critical treasures, and bought six such formations.

Even at their peak productivity, the duchy would have to slave away at least a hundred years to pay off the principal amount and of course, two hundred more for the interest.

But Jataur didn't care about the price. He simply thanked his lucky stars for the results.

Despite their preparations, Zions would've been helpless to defend any other place than the capital. But Rudolph's arrogance gave them a chance.

The aura fluctuations of the area were sealed off through special treasures. Neither Merov nor Sonya knew about the terrible incident.