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Bullsh*t, even though he had said that, the reason wasn't because he actually thought they would lose, in fact, he feared they would win. If they claimed more territory under Emperor Shruti's rule and Saru's command, the Shruti Clan's position as Dharma Incarnate would be unshakeable for countless more generations.
He said a woman was unfitting to lead? He was still peddling that same nonsense?!
Years ago, when Saru was born with Indra's Faith Seed, Grand Elder Vata had kicked up a fuss, saying that it was a male's Faith Seed, so how could a woman inherit it? He even went so far as to suggest that the Faith Seed should be stripped from her and passed on to the recently born little prince of their Vata Clan who also showed outstanding talent.
Back then, the Hanu and Shruti Clan worked together to suppress the Vata Clan, forcing them into a long silence that only kicked back up when the Key was meant to be passed down…
At the time, Grand Elder Vata once more insisted that the Key should be given to their little prince. The Shruti Empire had always had male rulers, so why did it seem like Emperor Shruti was grooming an Empress?
Riling up public outrage, Grand Elder Vata almost had his way. The Shruti Empire was simply too conservative, even the most open minded of citizens couldn't imagine having an Empress rule them all. Through their history, Empresses had always been silent side pieces to the Emperor. But suddenly, a Princess had inherited both Indra's Faith Seed and their Key? It was unacceptable.
At the same time, while the tides were turning in their favor, Grand Elder Vata made a final push, believing that this was the instant of time his Vata Clan could flip the tables.
He insisted that if Emperor Shruti wanted to keep Saru as his heir, it was fine, but if that was the case, she would have to marry their little prince.
As expected, this matter garnered massive public support. The little prince was touted as a grand genius who was born under an auspicious sign no weaker than Saru herself. It was truly a Heavenly Union that would bring their Clan great prosperity. If they married and had children, it would no doubt usher in a new prosperous bloodline.
The Dharmic Protectors and the Dharma Incarnate Clans rarely, if ever, intermarried. This was an unspoken rule put in place such that the roles could be perfectly balanced.
The Dharmic Protectors would intermarry within the lesser noble clans, as would the Dharma Incarnate, but never amongst themselves. This allowed the divisions of power to be clear and sturdy, a system that had worked for many generations.
But, Grand Elder Vata actually wanted to break this precedent!
Not only had he gained public support, 80% of the noble Clans within the Palace walls took his side. They didn't believe that either side was in the wrong and simply felt that Grand Elder Vata's solution was the most apt.
On one hand, Saru kept her Faith Seed and the Key, while the true hidden ruler would be the little prince of the Vata Clan. Of course, they insisted that the little prince change his surname to Shruti, something that the Grand Elder happily obliged to.
However, the Grand Elder overplayed his hand.
After being pushed into a corner, Emperor Shruti laid down his pride and asked his brother-in-law for help. This was how the engagement between Saru and the Atlas Prince came about.
It was truly a master class move. How could the Vata Clan refuse a marriage alliance with a top 9 quadrant? Though their Empress was a member of the Atlas Clan, the connection was too weak. After all, in the eyes of the Shruti Empire, a woman wasn't worth much even if she was a beauty.However, if they married through two generations, the ties would become incredibly solid. After the exchange of two women, the foundation of their alliance would be unshakeable.
Of course, the fact that Saru and the Atlas Prince, Adonis, were cousins was something no one cared about.
To cultivators who cleansed themselves with the energy of the heavens, they often ignored blood relations as long as they weren't too close. A situation like the Raven Clan was a product of excessiveness.
Like this, the Vata Clan Grand Elder could only grit his teeth and fall into silence. He had taken one step too far and all his plans had come crashing down. If he pushed it any further, not only would he make the enmity between his Clan and the Shruti deeper, the public and the nobles might flip on him.
After these events, the Grand Elder took to teaching the little prince personally. In fact, the little prince had never stepped a single foot into the tower, almost as though in solidarity with his Clan and in protest to the 'unfairness' he was subjected to.
It was no wonder Emperor Shruti threw so many parties after Saru came back. Her grand performance was so eye catching that the Grand Elder could only take the severe slap to his face in silence.
Their Shruti Clan had actually birthed a True God!
This was a large part of the reason Emperor Shruti finally loosened the reins on Saru after she came back, even waving his hands helplessly when she spoke of not wanting the marriage. The protective barrier the engagement provided was no longer strictly necessary.
However, the matters had once more flipped. The devastating losses to the Kitsune actually put the Shruti Empire as a whole in jeopardy… And because he pushed for this as their Emperor, he was taking the brunt of the blame.
The shameless part was that the Grand Elder mentioned Saru's losses as she commanded the eastern army, but hadn't they all lost?! Wasn't your little prince hiding away without stepping onto the battlefield?!
Grand Elder Vata's grievances were well known. Despite being the most outstanding talent of his generation, he never had a chance to compete for the Emperor position all because his family name was proper. He could have been their generation's True God, leading their Empire up just like Emperor Atlas had led his, yet he was shamelessly suppressed, blocked from challenging for the right to wield the Key.
He refused to allow his great grandson to suffer the same fate! Even if it meant dying without accumulating Karma as an Ancestor, he would bear that burden!
Saru silently gripped her small fists, her brother Tej's lightly patting them to comfort her.
Their Shruti Clan was indeed wrong those few generations ago… But that didn't mean Grand Elder Vata was right now.
Suddenly, a foreign voice filled the silent meeting hall.
In an instant, Saru's blue eyes lit up like stars in the night sky. Even with his voice masked, even with his face covered, even with his oddly colored hair, she recognized him immediately.
Her Heart Sutra sang to fiercely for it to be anyone else.
The heads of numerous elders snapped toward an unassuming figure, silently shaking his head.
How the hell did he get in here?! They were instantly all on high alert.
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