“A reward?” Betty tried to fight through the haze covering her mind. Etaceh’s offer echoed in her ears.

Etaceh couldn’t hide her anticipation. “Yes, I need a general to lead my future conquest,” she said. “You’re a perfect fit.”

Betty was beyond furious. “After everything you did?” The Dark Witch raged. “You experimented on people, put a chip to control them, and subverted an entire nation from the inside! How can anyone trust you to keep your word!? You’re the reason my father—.”

“Fine,” Etaceh said, half-expecting such responses. “You've got too much of an ego.” She clapped. “But I’d have a consolation prize.”

The holographic images flickered to life in the throne room, sinking the final hope Betty had with it.

It was a holographic video feed of the carnage happening inside the capital.

King Spade La Louve, wearing golden armor, was accompanied by members of the Military Police. He rode a horse, cutting down citizens and torching buildings at the outer-ring of Curtis. He screamed on the top of his lungs like a madman.

Through the surveillance microphone, Spade’s voice was heard loud and clear.

“Arrest them all! Cut them down!” Spade screamed as his men and women in uniforms tore buildings and people apart. “Everyone here is guilty of the human experimentation project!” Spade yelled the nonsense like he fully believed it. “They will pay to make a fool out of me!”

All over Hecate’s outer-ring, the ‌same things were happening. High-ranking nobles led their men and arm-forces of Curtis to assault defenseless citizens, committing massacres, looting, and robbing. Several men wearing the La Louve’s crest ganged on an old lady as blood stained the walls. Fires engulfed the outer edge of the capital.

Betty was horrified at the devastation shown in front of her.

“Why?” Betty looked at the architect of the massacre. “How?”

“Elizabeth,” Etaceh giggled. “Where’d you think I’m keeping Spade when I take his chair?” Etaceh patted her new throne. “You think I help Xiahana’s little project to oust me out of generosity.” Etaceh said. “A lot of things can happen with wealth, knowledge, and pawns scattered in the city for years. I simply needed to move Hunter out of the way, so he could return to see my grand opening.”

Betty didn’t get it. “This makes no sense,” she was utterly in disbelief. “You spend countless resources to take control of Curtis, just to send Spade away to massacre the people? What kind of strategy is that?”

“How cute,” Etaceh smirked. “You didn’t get it yet.” The Lord of Mechanical Magic smirked. “I refuse to spend countless resources to play second fiddle to Rommy.” Etaceh smiled a little when she recalled the straight-lace wolf. “I prepared all this set-up to reshape Hecate in my ‌ image.” Etaceh shrugged. “Love it? My little design to teach the egotistical insect who is truly in charge of this world.”

Betty couldn’t help but felt the anger, “You spoke like you aren’t—”

Betty, realizing the truth in Etaceh’s tone, confirmed what Xia told her. The enemy she had fought wasn’t human.

“What are you?” Betty started asking the right question.

“Oh, someone wise up,” Etaceh said, relieved. “I’ve been dropping hints like crazy. It’s unbelievably easy to hide my full capability under human limitation. You people love projecting your weakness, convincing everything orbits around your flimsy understanding.”

“Dad and Xia are right,” Betty trembled. “You see us like a pet.”

“Exactly, and that is the only thing you will get out of me, dear,” Etaceh stretched on the throne.

“What do you want with us?” Betty got up. Her strength was returning.

“Keep watching, Elizabeth,” Etaceh motioned to the holographic display of her grand machination. “It will be great.”

The Military Police team, led by Hunter, had the front-row seat to watch the carnage and their reaction was greatly wary.

“We must do something,” Robert said, watching the fires of destruction in horror.

“No, this is a distraction.” Hunter committed the final mistake that officially awarded Etaceh the flawless victory of the Curtis’ conquest run. “Etaceh wants us to expose ourselves.” Hunter looked his subordinate in the eyes. “The damage we take here is an acceptable sacrifice. Everything will solve itself when Etaceh vanishes.”

“Sir,” Robert stood his ground. “How many times have you been wrong tonight? I know you want to protect Curtis, but I’m here to protect the people.” The young man glared into Hunter’s eyes. “I have a feeling your anger is clouding your judgment.”

“Do you want to be court-martialed, Robert?” Hunter threatened his subordinate.

Neptis separated the two and defused the situation. “Stop it, both of you! We don’t have time for this,” she said.

Amid the conflict, it was Carle and Carolina who noticed something strange.

“This is ridiculous,” Carolina said, flinching from the explosion in the distance. “She already has the capital under control. Why is tearing her property down for no good reason?”

Carle answered the question, “She must have a reason.” He stood in front of Carolina, alarmingly, waving at the violence. “This must be—”

Carle got his answer when he caught sight of a knightly marble statue coming to life and tore off the head of one of Spade’s men, leaving behind a fountain of blood.

The team watched stunned, and quickly realized what was going on.

Throughout the capital, golems decorated as monuments and ornaments came to life and began clamping down on the riots, tirelessly saving the citizens.

The statues of eagles wielding repeating enchanted crossbows took out the knights harassing the children. A group of cherubs from a fountain spread throughout the capital, putting out fires. Centaurs in the plaza on the outer-ring of Hecate came to life, galloping through the road and rescuing the injured. Walls all over Hecate opened, releasing swarms of robotic bees which went into full operation, assassinating anything that could be a threat to the defenseless citizens. Countless drones flew from the industrial ring, thinning the force of rogue Military Polices and nobilities with precision strikes of death rays.

Robotic intervention was rapidly rescuing the citizens and suppressing the threat all over Hecate. Meanwhile, men and women in Magic Tower’s uniform ran across the city, setting up camp and tending the injured.

It was a massive heroic undertaking of Magic Tower to restore order of Hecate, and they were succeeding.

As for Spade La Louve, he encountered a swarm of eagle automata, which tore him to pieces.

That marked the end of Curtis, found by Romulus. History recorded, on that morning, Spade La Louve revealed his true color and in a fit of madness led the corrupted nobles of Hecate and the Military Police to attack the defenseless citizens in a bloodbath. Major speculations and statements were conflicting, but most agreed that either Hunter Westerna vanished before the massacre or was an active participant in the tragedy.

However, what was unanimous was the major role the Magic Tower played in saving the capital. The fair and esteem Etaceh, suspecting Hunter and the Military Police’s abuse of power, prepared the Talos Contingency — an army of camouflage golem to protect Curtis against the worst-case scenario.

It was credited to the Talos Contingency and the quick responses of Magic Tower that the tragedy was stopped within hours.

But during the crisis, a miracle was witnessed by every citizen.

Statues of angels levitated into the sky and shone with light, projecting the giant holographic image of Etaceh dressed in saintly clothing for all citizens across every corner of Hecate to see. Meanwhile, scattered throughout the capital, the strange growing lamp accompanying the Magic Tower’s rescue team glowed with White, Red and Blue light.

Everything Etaceh had built for the last two years was for this singular moment. It was the moment of her grand triumph.

With a single speech, she ensured her utter conquest of Curtis.

My fellow citizen,” Etaceh's voice rang throughout the city with aid of the hidden microphone. Everyone in Hecate was beholden to the angelic voice. “I’m sad to be the bringer of bad news. My friend Spade La Louve, our king, had betrayed our trust. He and Hunter Westerna assassinated the wise King Edmond two years ago to pave the way to this gross human experimentation project. The gravity of his conspiracy drove him mad when I and your beloved princess, Elizabeth La Louve, confronted him. In the fit of madness, Spade killed his own cousin, our beloved Elizabeth, and led the nobles on the rampage. His accomplice, Hunter, the false hero, the murderer, fled the scene of tragedy.“

The crowd listened in shock at the news of countless lamps glowing Red shimmered, amplifying the sense of sadness and loss while reducing the effect of rational thinking.

The Impact of Betty's supposed death hit like a meteor. A few children in the orphanage hardly believed their ears, and the rest dropped crying. Meanwhile, several knights who tried to fight against Spade’s forces looked around in dumb shock.

“Today I have lost a student, a daughter, but I refuse to lose any of you.” Etaceh sweet lie continued. “Elizabeth thought of all of you as a family. That makes you my adoptive children. Hunter and Spade had tainted the legacy of Curtis. With Elizabeth gone and Xiahana abdicating, the line of succession had been destroyed. My children, my friends, the price of this sham system and its foolishness is transparent to you. We can’t allow such barbarity to visit us again. We need to unite against the threat of Yulong, and reorganize this entire continent to ensure the era of peace and justice Elizabeth dreams off.”

Etaceh called out to the citizens. The lamp of Mana glowed with an eerie White and Red coloration.

“My Citizen, will you march to the future with me! I’ll deliver a glorious future and prosperity to this continent! Will you trust me, like you always have!”

“Yes,” the member of Magic Tower and a crowd shouted.

The countless lamps brightened.

“Yes, Etaceh!” A person cheered from the crowd.

Like a human wave, it only took a fuse to be lit until the coming of an avalanche. With the emotion manipulation lamps operated on high, the few shouts rose into tremendous cheer.

“We want you, Etaceh!” countless men screamed to the air.

“Lead us to the new age!” Another group said.

“Etaceh! Etaceh! Etaceh!” The entire city chanted.

“My beloved citizen,” said the recording of Etaceh. “I’ve heard your voice loud and clear. As a woman who pioneered this age of artifacts and industry, I’ll now be your new queen. The era of Curtis is over! This country’s name shall be the Advanced Research Empire Intelligentsia, and I will lead you as the Empress — the Prime Intelligentsia!”

“Etaceh! Etaceh! Etaceh!” Thunderous chanting erupted from the city.

“All hail, Empress!” a man yelled. “Long live the Prime Intelligentsia!”

That day, Curtis died, and from its ashes Advanced Research Empire Intelligentsia rose.

Princess Elizabeth La Louve had officially died that day, and the era of the Louve family came to a tragic end.

Hunter watched Etaceh grand show in stunned silence, which rapidly evolved into rage.

The celebration that erupted through the capital was the full testament of his defeat. Curtis had fallen, not by internal rot or an invasion by an enemy state. No, the entire country and its infrastructure was defeated from within, by convenience and indoctrination. Lies became truths. In Hunter’s narrow mind pursuit of Etaceh and stability of a nation, the citizens predictably abandoned him.

The man who prized the country as a concept and saw people as pieces to continue it was utterly defeated when those vital pieces were seduced into service by another machine. The man, who disregarded the heart, lost to a manipulator of one.

And he was seething.

“We need to kill that bitch,” Hunter resolved to kill Etaceh even though he had to die.

Inside the throne room, Betty witnessed the rise of Intelligentsia through the holographic image in utter disbelief, as mechanization planned by Etaceh — the Prime Intelligentsia — unfurled before her.

“You ask me what is so powerful about manipulating emotion,” Etaceh answered the old question. “Well, here is the answer, it is damn good for convincing the entire nation to give you the throne.”

Around Etaceh, countless mote of light gathered. It was faith power fueled by the fanatical worship of the entire city, so empowered the energy became visible to a human eye.

“Hey, Elizabeth,” the newly Lord of Mechanical Magic wanted to give her pet one last parting gift. “Let me show you something.”

The entire city shook.