Alice sat on a comfortable chair, looking at dozens of holographic screens. Each screen showed the location and condition of her students. They were either busy training to challenge Token holders in the future, or spread out across Piloq. A handful of students decided to stay in the Colosseum where official matches were held. Petty tricks were not allowed in the official matches, only straight-forward one on one battles.
Her focus had been on Kaleb for the last few hours. Since Michael left Kaleb was busy fighting against others. He once lost his Flag War Token against a Peak Tier-3 Awakened, but that didn't hinder his progress. If anything, losing against an older Descendant gave Kaleb the push he needed to move on and forget about his friends – even if it was just temporarily.
Kaleb had been worried about Michael. His friend left suddenly and hadn't returned for quite a while. Michael didn't even send them a message about his situation. That may not be uncommon but it left Kaleb worried about his friend's well-being.
And then there was Frederik's situation. While Kaleb was certain that Michael wouldn't die, Frederik and his family seemed to be buried neck-deep in never ending problems.
Frederik didn't leave the Origin Expanse in the last four weeks. He might still be in a fight with the enemies that invaded his territory, or he was possibly reconstructing his territory after a fierce battle. Or…he was running away from his enemy after losing everything. The last option was a possibility, but it was not something Kaleb wanted to think about.
He was not actually that close to Frederik, but Kaleb was certain that Michael liked Frederik though he had been a bit annoying in the past. Kaleb had to acknowledge that Frederik's unique personality was a welcome change. It was something he could enjoy every now and then. Nonetheless, Kaleb cared only a little bit about Frederik – mostly because Michael wouldn't want anything bad to happen to Frederik.
Unfortunately, Igor Kolbenheim, Frederik's father, lost his territory. He was unable to reclaim his territory against the forces that barged into his territory, leaving Igor no other choice but to retreat. Igor Kolbenheim used his full power, and a large portion of his accumulated wealth to retaliate against the invading forces. But by the time he decided to use his fortune to fight back with everything he could it had already been too late.
Igor Kolbenheim's Intermediate Summoning Gate had been crushed, his wooden manor destroyed, and the majority of his trusted army had been annihilated. The damage he and his territory sustained was terrifying. Igor lost his powers as a Lord, and his subjects' loyalty in their former Lord plummeted. The string of events that followed Igor's defeat was even more terrifying.
The adjacent territories decided to initiate a large-scale attack against Igor Kolbenheim to take advantage of the easy opportunity. Despite being long-term business partners, the Lords ruling over the adjacent territories didn't hesitate to break their contracts and charge into Igor's territory with one goal in mind: conquest.
Karek Orlando's territory was situated right next to that of Igor Kolbenheim, his best friend. He had been exposed to the same attack as Igor Kolbenheim, but he could exterminate the evil forces with the help of the Orlando family's special force. The Orlando family deployed their Sacred Warriors to ensure the survival of Karek Orlando and the highly valuable Kingdom-level territory. In fact, Karek Orlando's territory didn't meet the requirements of a Kingdom-level territory. However, by putting Igor Kolbenheim's territory and Karek Orlando's territory together they barely fulfilled the requirements to consider their combined lands a kingdom.
This kingdom ruled by two kings crumbled because only Karek Orlando and his territory survived, while Igor Kolbenheim lost everything. Karek sent the Sacred Warriors to Igor's help, but by the time they arrived, the territory had been conquered. Foreign armies had claimed Igor's territory, forcing Karek to fight against the forces of several lords with the Sacred Knights.
After a fierce battle that lasted ten days and nights, Karek and his people won. But at what price?
Karek was able to reclaim Igor's territory, but he couldn't return the territory to Igor. The Elders of the Orlando family intervened. The Elders had never truly trusted Igor Kolbenheim, and they finally had hard evidence to prove that Igor Kolbenheim was not fit to lead a Kingdom-level territory alongside Karek Orlando.
Because Karek Orlando had been forced to ask for the aid of the Elder's Sacred Warriors, he couldn't even retort to them. The Elders had the upper hand and gained more influence in the Orlando family. Using this influence, the Elders convinced the patriarch of the Orlando Family to reject Karek's proposal to return Igor Kolbenheim's territory to him.
Instead, Karek was ordered to claim the territory as his own and to allow the survivors to take refuge. In the span of several weeks, Karek became the sole ruler of the Kingdom-level territory, while Igor lost his earlier status and title. He became an Awakened, a cripple, who lost his eyes and an arm in his desperate struggles against the invading forces.
And now Frederik was forced to fight his own battle against the forces that had invaded his territory. He didn't want to end up like his father. If anything, Frederik wanted to win against his enemies and find ways to heal his father's eyes and regrow his arm. The responsibility for reclaiming his family's lost territory and glory was now weighing down on Frederik heavily, yet he struggled in one of his first large-scale battles.
Kaleb was training hard with Thaor when he received a message from his sister. He first thought that Michael sent him a message to tell him that he was back, but that was just wishful thinking. It was Alice, who asked him to meet in her office.
'Can't she tell me what's going on through Starnet Messenger? Is it really necessary to run arou–...' Kaleb's mind went blank at this moment. He just realized that something big must have happened if his sister told him to rush to her office as soon as possible. Did something happen to Michael? Or was there some news about Frederik?
Kaleb didn't know what the news was about, but he had a bad feeling. He stopped training and rushed over to his sister's office without showering or changing his clothes.
Drenched in sweat and gasping for breath, Kaleb reached Alice's office in no time.
"Frederik lost his territory. He sustained heavy injuries and barely escaped the wrath of his enemy," Alice Zenovia read the message she'd just received in a loud and clear voice.
Those were the first words Kaleb heard from his sister. He stopped in the doorframe and stared at his sister.
Alice sighed deeply and nodded grimly.
"It would be great if that was all, but it's merely the tip of the iceberg," She added right before telling Kaleb what happened after Frederik returned from the Origin Expanse by escaping death by a hair's breadth.
"Jacqueline is going crazy right now. Frederik fell into a coma right after he returned from the Origin Expanse, and the Elders of the Orlando family are trying to force Jacqueline to return to her family's mansion. They want her to resign from the Saphirelake Military Academy and terminate her engagement with Frederik. The Kolbenheim family is much smaller than the Orlando family in reputation, which is also why the Elders of the Orlando family consider the Kolbenheims a lost cause. Frederik's Soultrait is not even that powerful, and it's not favorable for the Orlando Family to produce offspring with stronger inheritable Soultraits."
"That is even more fucked up," Kaleb cursed under his breath. He picked a chair opposite Alice's desk and sat down, his eyes focused on his sister. Kaleb was certain that his sister was not yet done telling him about the events revolving around the Barbaric Couple.
"Well, you know how politics work. We are from a different world than others, if you want to put it like that," Alice said, a sad smile plastered on her face, "Michael has it much better in that case."
Thinking about Michael caused Kaleb to let out a frustrated sigh.
"I guess so…" Kaleb mumbled in response, recalling his own engagement and how it had been canceled all of a sudden.
"The Orlando family wants to become a High Family and create the foundation to join the rows of Superior Families in the next few centuries. However, they're not that powerful yet. A large portion of their fortune originated from Karek and Igor's territory as well. The sole reason they accepted Frederik as Jacqueline's spouse was because of Igor Kolbenheim's territory. It was a bonus that Frederik's territory was also in a unique location. He was bound to make a fortune…not anymore, of course. The medics don't even know if Frederik will be able to regain his full strength or if he will have to live with permanent injuries for the rest of his life."
"So…Frederik lost everything, even his fiancé?" Kaleb asked gloomily.
"Jacqueline is fighting against the Elder's orders, but from the looks of it…its likely, yeah."
"Michael won't like that," Kaleb blurted his thoughts aloud.
"Michael? It's not his business," Alice was slightly surprised about her younger brother's comment, but Kaleb just smiled wryly.
"Of course, it's not his business. But he likes to mingle in other people's business."
"Well, that…is true…" Alice had to acknowledge.
"And he likes the Barbaric Couple, no matter how weird and annoying they are."
"That…is also true…" Alice agreed, which led Kaleb's smile to widen a little.
"That is why I wonder what Michael will do once he finds out about Frederik and the Barbaric Couple's struggle."
"If he comes back you mean," Alice reminded Kaleb, which caused him to slump his shoulders.
"Of course, he will come back. You know how tenacious this bastard is!" Kaleb responded, shuddering as he recalled the tons of times Michael returned from the Origin Expanse severely injured but much stronger than before he departed.
Alice didn't say anything, but the corners of her lips curled upward.
'I wonder how he is doing.'
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