(Alpha Star System- Planet Gaia)

(Underground Complex- Peterlor Estate)

Sophie quietly walked through the garden with numerous thoughts plaguing her mind.

Even the sweet scent of the flowers and the freshly cut grass was not enough to snap her out of her stupor.

The opening ceremony had ended two days ago. The official rite of succession would begin at the end of the week.

All eligible members of the Imperial Family would be allowed to compete in the arena with no outside help.

Only the strongest would survive.

Some may say that this was a barbaric ritual more suited for the dark ages rather than modern times, but Sophie disagreed.

This ritual was an equaliser.

All that mattered with one's cultivation level and fighting ability.

It did not matter who your parents were, the alliances that you had struck or the nobles that you had persuaded to join your side.

There was no one who could help you once you entered the arena.

The hybrid girl furrowed her brows as she approached a wooden bench in the corner of the garden and sat down gracefully.

She stretched out her arms and yawned sleepily.

The dim lighting coming from the artificial light source inside the underground city made the environment appear as though it was nighttime.

She could hear the faint sounds of metalloid androids moving around the city performing maintenance tasks and general upkeep.

Ever since she had entered the void stage, her senses had basically gone into overdrive. She could even hear the footsteps of tiny insects dozens of miles away.

In fact, Sophie had to intentionally dampen her sensory abilities otherwise all that information would get too overwhelming for her mind to handle.

The hybrid girl powered on her wrist communicator and absentmindedly scrolled through the news feed on the virtual Net.

Apparently, a rebellion had occurred on a colony in the Delta System.

The native species on the planet had attempted to overthrow the noble family assigned to their home.

The rebellion had failed and in retaliation the viscount in charge of the planet wiped out eighty percent of the native population.

A cruel and heavy-handed tactic.

And a stupid one.

Sophie let out a heavy sigh as she looked up at the dome of dirt that was the 'sky' in this place.

She would one day have to make choices like that.

Some of the lunar colonies and territories that House Peterlor owned did have native intelligent species left.

Her father had put a policy in place to create 'reserves' and 'habitats' for these species but rebellions and fighting did still occur on occasions.

How should she solve those disputes?

Sophie leaned back against the hard wooden bench and tried to drive those thoughts from her mind.

It would do her no good to stress about a situation that had yet to occur, but it was definitely an issue that she would need to consider in the future.

The kind of ruler that she wanted to be…

The hybrid girl focused her attention back on the screen of her wrist communicator in an effort to distract herself.

She scrolled some more and finally saw a post on a popular social media site that got her attention.

The post was about a list of the five candidates most likely to become the next leader of the Imperial Family.

1) Theseus Sisrelis – the crown prince and the one who had the highest chance of being the next ruler.

2) Alexandra Sisrelis- the daughter of the infamous 'blood mage'. She had inherited her mother's talent and her terrifying cultivation techniques.

3) Isabella Sisrelis- a military veteran with several successful campaigns under her belt as the head commander of the ninth order division.

4) James Sisrelis- leader of the mercenary group 'The White Wolves'. Extremely dangerous with an unpleasant personality.

5) Frederick Sisrelis- a member of a private research group responsible for creating several vaccines and cutting-edge medicinal treatments.

There was a picture of each person next to their description. Sophie glanced at each picture and saw very attractive men and women staring back at her.

Members of the Imperial Family had good genetics and they had been modified in the womb to increase their natural attractiveness and beauty.

The only similarity between the five half siblings were their eyes. Each of them possessed piercing green irises that were identical to Cleo's.

Sophie powered off her wrist communicator and quietly relaxed in the empty garden. She did not know who was going to be the eventual ruler of the Imperial Family.

Each of the names mentioned were strong individuals and hell… there could even be some wild cards and unknown faces hiding great strength who were not on the list.

The Imperial Family was massive so those with a claim to the throne numbered in the tens of thousands.

Man… those emperors and empresses really needed to keep it in their pants!

Sophie giggled softly to herself and then turned in the direction of the footsteps that she heard coming from the front of the garden.

The gate slowly opened and a beautiful girl with raven coloured hair and sharp green eyes stepped forward.

Cleo was wearing a simple white nightdress that hung down to her ankles and covered most of her body.

Still… Sophie felt her heart skip a beat as her girlfriend smiled gently at her and then walked over to the bench.

Cleo sat down next to her lover and rested her head against Sophie's shoulder. There was a brief moment of silence as both girls enjoyed each other's company.

"Why were you here by yourself?" Cleo asked curiously as she stretched out her palm and lightly touched Sophie's hair.

"Just needed some time to think," Sophie replied warmly as she tilted her head to the side and gently pressed her lips against her girlfriend's cheek.

"Worried about who will be the next leader?" Cleo asked in a serious tone.

"Don't be… no matter what happens… I will always be on your side. Plus, I'm pretty sure that my brother isn't going to be emperor anytime soon."

"Why do you say that?" Sophie asked with a glimmer of curiosity in her eyes.

"Because he is the favourite. The fights during the ritual can end in death or one can allow their defeated opponent to surrender."

"They will not let him live…"

Cleo's words had the barest hint of a warning and for a moment a shadow passed across the young woman's face.

Sophie held her girlfriend's palm and the warmth of her fingers jolted Cleo out of her dark thoughts.

"You think your siblings are that power hungry?" Sophie asked quietly as she leaned against the princess' soft body.

"I know they are," Cleo firmly replied with just a tinge of bitterness to her voice.

"They only care about personal wealth and power. Believe me when I say that the emperor's death was a godsend to them."

"Finally, they have the chance to gain the ultimate status for themselves. They will stop at nothing to reach at that throne."