Merritt addressed everyone. "Now that the candidates have their time to expose their plans, the temple members will have 10 minutes to consider their options. At the end of that time, you must cast your votes."

Everyone looked at the box in the center of the large table that was used to record votes on issues discussed at the meeting so as not to reveal who each person was voting for.

Thus, the next few minutes would be even more tense than the factions' moment of deliberation, as the members of each faction would vote first, while the neutrals would think more about their choices.

Each faction member would obviously vote for their own group, which didn't require much thought.

But the neutrals had three options to consider, and given their numbers, they could choose the leader between three options. If they all voted for Julian's group, the tie-breaker would go to Harvey's group. If only one of them voted for another group, Minos' group would be out of the running, and the decision would be between the other two.

Depending on how many voted for Julian's faction, it could be difficult for Wren's group, who needed votes from the neutral members to win.

With 24 members, they needed at least 2 votes to tie with Harvey's group or 3 votes to win if all the other neutral votes went to Julian's faction.

So, the very fact that one decided to vote for Julian could favor Harvey's group because the more neutrals voted for Minos' faction, the harder it would be for Wren's group to win.

Thus, the most calm people at the beginning of the vote were naturally the people from Harvey's group, while the most nervous people were from Wren's group, who needed to get more support.

Julian's group needed more support, of course. Still, given that they needed 100% of the neutrals and a favorable decision from the council of elders, their chances of winning were slim.

Most of Minos' group, with Emperor Stuart, didn't believe they could win.

So they weren't as nervous as Wren's people, just disappointed that a Divine Conclave had just been called.

But soon, the first factionless members of the temple began to cast their own votes, dropping their tokens into the box, which was a device that would display the final result when all the tokens were in.

These tokens were completely smooth, with no numbering or inscriptions of the kind that carry spiritual information. In other words, it was impossible to know who someone had voted for or even whose vote they had cast. Only that array could count the votes for the three possible factions.

That was a vote where you had to choose between the three groups, so there was no way to not choose anyone.

Finally, at the end of the time Merrittt had mentioned, he cast his own vote, ending the ballot.

When his token went into the box, everyone was silent momentarily while the lights in the box-shaped array glowed, preparing to show everyone the result.

This box displayed the result in colors. Each faction had its own, with Julian's being red, Harvey's being blue, and Wren's being black.

When the white light in that array went out, many of the subordinates there held their breath, knowing the result would appear in the next moment.


The members of Harvey's faction rose to their feet at the sight of that bright light appearing on all four sides of the urn, seeing that they would remain in charge of the temple for the next century.

Harvey felt his heart race, for this was probably the most important moment for him of all the meetings in the last few thousand years.

While his group celebrated, the others watched the results, which showed the number of votes received by each group immediately after the winner was announced.

[Blue: 26]

[Black: 25]

[Red: 25]

When the number of votes for each faction appeared, everyone, whether winners or losers, changed their expressions as they saw that the result was extremely close, and the winning faction had not even received a single vote from the neutrals.

Almost all of the neutrals had voted for Julian, while the one who decided the outcome that day had voted for Wren, giving the result to Harvey's group.

Julian felt a terrible sensation when he saw that he had lost by only one vote.

'Shit! If we had one more vote, we would have tied. With me, Aarav, Merritt, and Wren, we could have won this!' He thought, knowing that if he tied with Harvey's group, Wren would vote with his faction, and they would have beaten Harvey.

Unfortunately, someone had voted for Wren instead of him, giving the better result to the faction with more people on their side.

But even though he had won, Harvey was concerned to see that even as the head of the organization, he hadn't received a single vote from the neutrals in the temple.

Wren was the most upset of all, as she felt it was wrong for a faction that could not get the votes of the neutrals to be the big winner.

But she knew there was nothing she could do about it. A vote could not be taken back, and the winner was declared!

"The Blues have won and will lead the temple for the next 100 years," Merritt announced the result, frustrating most of the temple members who hadn't voted for Harvey.

Undeterred, Merritt continued. "With that decided, let's get on with our meeting. Although the Divine Conclave has decided that the blue faction will continue in leadership, we have several matters to deal with at this meeting.

As elder Harvey reminded us at the beginning of this meeting, an ice age is yet to come. In less than 20 years, we must be prepared to deal with the onset of this new crisis.

So, I ask everyone to put aside their defeats and focus on helping the temple. Whether we come out of this crisis with a good or bad result will depend on the joint action of all members. One faction cannot decide this."

All of the faction leaders there knew this and quickly tried to put the outcome of the Divine Conclave aside, knowing they had other matters to attend to.

Minos himself didn't care about the outcome of the previous vote, as he had never considered things beyond his control in his plans. He considered that he could benefit from Julian's faction. Still, he didn't consider that it would come from this faction reaching the leadership of the temple.

In other words, the situation was the same for him as it was yesterday. He was much more concerned about the decisions and agreements that could be made at this meeting regarding the ice age!

Anyway, they would soon begin to talk about rule changes, moves, and business that would be valid for the next few years.