"Duke Nor...ton! What... What were you thinking?!" yelled Auguslo uncontrollably as he slapped the desk, causing it to shatter and crumble.

He was absolutely furious, so furious he even forgot to call Lorist 'Brother Locke'.

"Tell me, Duke Norton, what do you want?" Auguslo stared at Lorist, eyes literally bloodshot.

No sound could be heard in the hall. The dukes and counts were dead silent. Had Lorist not been a swordsaint and had House Norton not been the most powerful faction in the kingdom, Auguslo would've had Lorist torn apart alive and ate his flesh.

Auguslo was to become emperor in two days. And now House Norton had massacred his bastard's people in the most crowded street in the capital. Killing was one thing, but they even cut off the victim's heads and stacked them in the middle of the street!

The king had been modeling for a couple of famous artists when he learnt of the affront. He wanted to have his heroic form captured in a portrait to be hung alongside the seven other Krissen emperors.

He had kept one pose for two hours already and had just a few minutes left to go… There wouldn't be any time for this later, so he'd sent his guards out to deal with things and bring Lorist to him once he was done.

But his guards didn't come back. Instead, his bastard son ran to him like a fox being chased by hounds, snot and tears dripping on the floor to beg for help.

Wecksas told him he'd done nothing but admire the duke's women and invited them to a ball when the duke flipped out. He tore up the invitation and declared he was just a bastard and had no right to interact with him. The butler he had sent to deliver the invite spoke up on his behalf and was cut down.

The duke even had his men beat up the watchmen that tried to intervene and said that he would put anyone to death that stood up to him. A few bystanders criticized him from the crowd and he had them beheaded as well.

Auguslo couldn't believe his ears. He charged out of the palace with a troop of guards. He found the unit he sent out earlier standing by as Lorist's men tore up his son's guild's shop.

He almost cut the commander down right there, but the man told him he could not intervene since the duke was keeping an eye on the shop personally.

Kenmays had left with Lorist's women and sent someone to fetch Xanthi and the children. He was just returning with Loze.

Lorist had wanted to catch Wecksas, but the bastard had already run to the emperor.

Auguslo saw Lorist nearby, watching his men tear down the shop. It took all his energy not to scream.

"Come with me. We need to talk."

Lorist at least listened to him this much. He had his men stop and go to his women before leaving with the king.

Dukes Handra and Fisablen were present when the three arrived, Shazin and Felim were present as well. The other nobles arrived at almost the same time too.

Auguslo exploded the moment his ass touched the throne. He didn't care that the man at whom he was shouting was a swordsaint and a duke. He'd done something unforgivable and his dignity as a king demanded he respond accordingly.

"Well? Are you deaf? Duke Norton, why did you go on a killing spree in my city? You don't take me seriously, do you? Do you think my orders are jokes? Answer me! I'll hear what you have to say before deciding how to deal with you. You have to answer for this!"

Auguslo calmed down slightly as he vented and started thinking of a way to wrap this up. He couldn't really deal with Lorist, but he had to do something to put him in his place. He couldn't have his authority as emperor undermined before his reign even began. He also decided he would have to take away the noble's power once he ascended, starting with House Norton, so he'd best put those policies first on his agenda.

You better back down and lower your head. I'll have you hang the men involved in this, then pay a large some in reparation. How much should I deman? Ten million? Maybe eight... It can't be less than five!

Duke Kenmays rushed in.

"Your Majesty--"

"--Shut up! Duke Norton isn't a mute, he can explain himself!"

Lorist stood in the middle of the hall in front of the throne as if this had nothing to do with him. He let the king finish flailing before he finally spoke. When his voice left his mouth, the entire room froze, even Auguslo felt a chill run down his spine.

"I came to your ascension at your request, and brought my wife, mistresses and children to give you face. I didn't come here to have my women stopped in the streets like prostitutes and harrassed. I'd thought you were a king with some brains, that you could see right from wrong, who was the victim and who the perpetrator, but it seems you're blind. So you call me a crook? Fine then, I'm a crook. I'm sure you don't want a crook at your ascension ceremony, so I'll go home now. And don't worry, Your Majesty, you won't see me in the capital again, neither any of my people. We'll have nothing to do with this ceremony, this city, or this fucking king."

His piece said, Lorist turned and left. He didn't even bother opening the chamber's door, he simply slammed it off its hinges as he left. It flew several dozen meters, landing in a garden on the side of the main pathway, crushing an old fountain with a statue of Auguslo as its centerpiece.

The room died a little behind him. What was going on? Did Duke Norton just declare he would have nothing to do with the king again? This was just one step short of declaring rebellion!

"Stop him!" cried Auguslo.

"Take one step and you die!" roared Lorist, turning around and staring the king down.

The latter was suddenly plunged into a world of frozen blood. His hand hung in the air and drool ran down his chin. His knees threatened to give way and his bladder to spill under the swordsaint's killing intent. It was even worse than when he faced the old Union's swordsaint.

Despite the worst of the killing intent being directed at the king, the other nobles also had to clench their thighs to keep their clothes dry.

What was going on? Why would the duke be so furious? Was he not the one in the wrong?

Lorist pressed everyone down for a eternal seconds before turning and leaving. Nobody dared to stop him this time.

The hall was dead. Kenmays snapped out of his stupor first. He bowed to the king curtly and charged after Lorist. Shazin and Felim recovered as well when they saw Kenmays leave and followed. They didn't even bow to the king on their way out.

Auguslo collapsed into his throne. His fury was gone, replaced instead with an all-consuming dead. He replayed the last couple of minutes in his head and felt his blood boil furiously again. When his replay came to the duke's gaze, however, the fire was snuffed out immediately.

Had he just killed his empire before it had even been formed?

When he returned his attention to the hall, only his father-in-law was left.

"Fa... Father-in-law..."

Auguslo smiled difficultly. He was technically Lorist's uncle now, and he'd even been planning to have the duke and his wife call him as such.

"Can… can you face the alliance if we don't include Lorist?"

"What nonsense is this?!" the duke shouted, finally losing his cool.

Only a fool would force a conflict with that house. He doubted they'd win even if the whole continent fought against them as well! Even without Lorist they had enough power to flatten the entire continent if they wanted to.

Lorist was actually not the thorniest aspect of that faction.  A single swordsaint could be handled. There were ways of dealing with swordsaints, but their military was unconquerable.

"But he-he's really gone too far... Didn't you see? He killed so many people… what was I supposed to do? He didn't even admit his mistakes and threatened me! It doesn't matter that he's a swordsaint, he's a noble first, my vassal at that. He can't behave that way. We should march our forces on his lands. Losing a battle against them would still be better than not answering this provocation. My honor demands I answer this."

"At least find out what really happened first. I've tested Lorist's limits before, he won't flip out like this for no reason. You must be missing something. I also know him a little, he won't kill innocent people easily, granted, did wipe out a million people in Hanayabarta..."

Ugh, the old man was right. Lorist wasn't a rash person, he always had good reason when he acted violently like that. Auguslo was very weary of House Norton's might, but he had to admit he admired their duke. He knew his saving grace was that the duke had no ambition for the throne, otherwise he'd have killed Auguslo many years ago. That said, he wasn't in absolute control of his faction. He might be pressured into taking action by those around him with more ambition. That was why he couldn't stand for him to have that much might.

He couldn't do away with that faction's power, however, so his only option was to give them as little reason to act against him as possible while slowly eroding away their influence.  He reluctantly gave in and called up some witnesses to the day's events. Everything was quickly laid bare.

Auguslo was in a fury again when the last witness left.  How dare his bastard of a son cause this much trouble! That useless shit just couldn't help himself, could he? He couldn't diligently build his own influence, nooo, he had to use his father's name at every corner!

Did the bastard not know he'd be dead already if Lorist was not so timid?! Stopping noble women and forcing them to attend his balls… was there a greater insult to a noble than to have their women toyed with? No wonder Lorist lost his cool! He was the greatest man in the kingdom besides Auguslo himself… how could his honor stand something like this? And from a bastard, no less!

Only, why would he direct that anger at him? If he knew Lorist well, which he liked to think he did, he would have just explained what had really happened with a smug smile on his face.  Hold on… did he think he was behind everything? Indeed, it made sense, why would his spineless son dare do something this audacious if he didn't have the king's backing?

"Dukes Norton, Felim, Shazin, and Kenmays have left the city. They're heading for Jillin Harbor with their families and forces," a guard reported as he rushed in.

"What?!" Auguslo yelled, "Why didn't anyone stop them?"

The guard didn't answer. Auguslo finally realized no one dared stop a duke, especially not when four were travelling together, and when one was a swordsaint. That could only be done if the army was mobilized with an imperial decree, but was there a good reason? The dukes had not committed treason, and mobilizing the army would be an open declaration of war. Not to mention, the dukes came with their families, so if even one of them was hurt by the soldiers, then not a single noble would continue to support him and acknowledge him as king.

Auguslo was in full panic. Duke Fisablen yelled, "Go chase them, quick! Hold them back for now. I'll look for the other nobles to join us to convince them to stay. The grand ceremony is taking place two days later, and the four dukes must be there, especially a swordsaint like Duke Norton! The consequences are unimaginable if he isn't there!"

Auguslo snapped out of it. "I'll chase them down on horseback. I'll be counting on you for the rest, Father-in-law."