98 When Everything Went Wrong

    A few hours had passed since the beginning of the evaluation stage.

    The disciples had been split into categories, and each category represented one of the different titles.

    Each participant would be valued based on the quality of their education, the fantasy and intuition shown during the demonstration stage, and tactic, proficiency, and power shown during the competition stage.

    It was common knowledge that being the last one standing during the competition, aside from winning the title for one's master,  wasn't as important as utilizing a smart tactique, or as the ability to pick the right moment to join the fight.

    The circumstances of each cultivator was different, and that was why the gathering of experts, other than being a gathering of the most powerful cultivators in the Krehan empire, was also a scouting for the most talented disciples of the younger generation.

    After all, the empire's future was only as good as the next generation was, and those who would end up leading it, would not be picked from the most powerful amongst them, but from the most talented, intelligent, and quick witted young men and women in the country.

    Only the three best cultivators of each discipline would advance to the premiation stage.

    The evaluation had ended, and three people for each discipline were now standing in the middle of the stage, separated from one another.

    The most notable amongst them, were:

    The third prince, which was part of the small group of spear wielders;

    The second prince, that was one of the only two spiritual cultivators adept in sound essence;

    Hiya, Alesia, and the first of the two seventh rank martial cultivator adept in the use of the sword;

    The winner by default of the competition for the title of Ruler of Time, which was a young man called Ineas;

    Finally, Daniel, the first princess, and a young man called Azaos, stood for the group of cultivators adept in spatial essence.

    Each small group had a disciple whose evaluation was higher than the rest. These disciples were the third prince for the spear, the second prince for the sound, Hiya for the sword, Ineas for time, and Daniel for space.

    Daniel was waiting patiently in the front, while the other two stood behind him. He had just learned that there would be a reward for the most talented disciples, so he was reasonably excited to see what kind of reward such a large and powerful empire would give to the best of the best amongst the youngest generation.

    His excitement reached the peak when he saw what was rewarded to the winners of the minor competitions.

    Hutch, the winner of the competition for the title of Guardian of the Axe, had received ten beast cores of the seventh rank, and a set of twin hatchets of perfect quality.

    The same was for the other competitors that belonged to other disciplines, and had received the highest evaluation. On the other hand, spiritual cultivators would receive ten beast cores of the seventh rank, along with an essence treasure of the mid-high level matched to their discipline.

    And that was only the reward for the disciples of minor disciplines.

    When the third prince had received an enchanted spear of the perfect quality, along with twenty beast cores of the seventh rank, Daniel could not help but tremble in place from excitement.

    Unfortunately, what he saw next left him petrified.

    Not only did the third prince receive the beast cores and the enchanted spear, but he was also patted on the shoulder by the evaluator himself, the black-cloaked man.

    At first, Daniel thought that this was something that only regarded the members of the imperial house, as the black-cloaked man probably knew them.. but when he did the same during the premiation of Hiya, Daniel felt two big drops of sweat run down the sides of his face.

    He used the concepts of bending and repulsion of the space to prevent people from accidentally touching him when in the midst of a large number of people or cultivators, but he was aware that, if someone forced their way through the bent space with the use of a more powerful essence, his invisible protection would immediately collapse under the invader's superior power.

    The difference between the spatial art he had created, and an actual spatial defense, was the same difference between wearing a plate armor, and wearing a hat. The hat was very effective if one wanted to go unnoticed, but it couldn't be considered a defensive instrument by any means.

    Daniel watched as the black-cloaked man approached him after gently patting Ineas' shoulder.

    "You are quite the young man.. Here is your reward." Said the black-cloaked man before handing twenty beast cores and a cubic shaped rock to Daniel.

    This rock wasn't made out of stone, but of space essence. The space essence was so condensed that it had taken a physical form. Daniel couldn't imagine what sort of natural phenomenon could have create something like this, but without thinking too much about it, he made the items disappear into his spatial ring before they could even touch his hand.

    The black-cloaked man suddenly raised his arm and moved it towards Daniel's shoulder, but before he could touch him, Daniel said in a loud voice, "I would like to say a few words, if I am allowed."

    The black-cloaked man, just like the masters, the rest of the disciples, and the imperial family themselves, clearly did not expect this request. He abruptly stopped his motion, and looked back at the emperor for confirmation.

    After the emperor nodded in response, he turned to look at Daniel, and said "You have one minute."

    Daniel tried to sell a deep breath of relief as one of preparation. He then took a step forward, and while looking at the imperial family he said, "As you all know, I am not part of the Krehan empire. I have arrived here close to a year ago, and I've spent this past year enjoying the hospitality of this great empire's good-willed people. Unfortunately, it's time for me to be on my way home.. But before I'll do that.. I would like to thank the imperial family, and their loyal subjects, for granting me the opportunity to be part of such a fantastic tradition."

    After Daniel stopped talking, the crowd started applauding soundly.

    He not only had complimented their culture and country, but had also thanked the imperial family and all of them for allowing him to be part of their traditions. They couldn't help but feel pride well up in their chests at the sight of such a talented young man's respectful behaviour.

    In the balconies, Edmund was looking at Daniel with narrowed eyes.

    He, more than anybody else knew that Daniel didn't feel any sort of gratefulness towards the empire.. Knowing his cunning character, he couldn't help but think about the reason why he was giving such a speech.

    While still the center of the attention, Daniel suddenly bowed towards the imperial family, just as deeply and respectfully as a normal subject would. Then, he continued, "It has been my honor to be in your presence, Your Imperial Majesty." after those last few words, he attempted to teleport away.

    Unfortunately, the space around him had already been separated from the outside world.

    The only ones that could feel the spatial blockade being created, were Edmund and the other masters of space within the crowd.

    Daniel could clearly feel who had initiated the spatial blockade. He had felt this mark in the surrounding spatial essence over and over again in the past week. With narrowed eyes, he looked at the black-cloaked man.

    Suddenly, the emperor jumped off the platform and approached Daniel.

    He looked at him up and down, and while slowly stepping towards him, he said with a powerful tone, "You are a very talented cultivator.. With a bright future."

    Daniel stopped fighting the spatial blockade, and put his hands behind his back instead. With the tip of his fingers, he slowly removed his two spatial rings.. Then, he waited for the events to unfold.

    The emperor was less than a meter from him, when his hand started to move towards his shoulder.

    At first, the space that trapped him had expanded to include the emperor.. But it was only after the emperor's hand shattered his feeble spatial art, that Daniel understood that he was in deep trouble.

    Finally, the hand landed on his shoulder.

    It was at that time that Daniel had seen the corners of the emperor's lips rise for a fraction of a second.

    Edmund teleported in the middle of the square the very next moment, but before he could approach Daniel, three martial cultivators in golden armor stopped him from moving closer.

    "What is the meaning of this?" Asked Edmund with a surprised tone.

    The black-cloaked man looked at Edmund and said "You and your family are under arrest for acts of espionage against the empire."

    With a face covered in shock, Edmund asked, "What the hell are you talking about?"

    "He is a spy from another kingdom, or possibly empire.. And you've aided him." Responded the black-cloaked man while pointing at Daniel.

    Three more guards surrounded Emelnie, and two approached Alesia from behind.

    "THAT'S RIDICULOUS!" Suddenly Burst out Emelnie. "What proof do you have that he is a spy? And that we have aided any sort of act of espionage?!"

    The black-cloaked man looked back at her, and said in a clear voice "A map that falls under the imperial rules of secrecy was bought with the use of your family crest. The cartographer claimed that it was purchased by your daughter, for a young man that matches his description."

    Edmund and Emelnie looked at Alesia in shock. She was on the verge of crying.

    Daniel already knew what all of this was about. His secrets had put this innocent family of cultivators in trouble.

    He immediately looked back at the emperor and said "I know what you want.. They are not spies.. Leave them alone."

    Unfortunately, the damage was already done.

    Knowing that the family had purchased a secret map for Daniel, the Saullet family had already been branded as spies by everybody present.

    That had caused his words to fall on deaf ears.

    The guards reunited the family of three in the middle of the square and awaited for orders. Daniel was only about two meters away from them.

    The black-cloaked man removed the limitation around Daniel, since teleporting out of the emperor's grip was impossible to him.

    But teleporting away wasn't Daniel's current objective.

    He looked at Edmund, and whispered a phrase which he covered by noisy wind essence and sent towards him. When the hidden sound of his voice reached Edmund's ears, he immediately understood Daniel's words. He had only said "Enter the ring."

    After Edmund heard Daniel's message, he looked back at him, and noticed that his hands were behind his back.

    With a sudden flick of his thumb, Daniel shot the ring towards the direction of the Saullet family. Edmund immediately increased the gravity around the body of the guards, and as the ring came close to them, he teleported his daughter, his wife, and himself within Daniel's ring.

    The ring kept flying in the air for a few meters, until a fist sized portal opened in its path, and swallowed it whole.

    This scene takes a minute to describe, but it happened in just a split moment. In fact, it had happened so fast that the black-cloaked man didn't even have the time to react, and stop Daniel which was still standing in the middle of the square.

    Daniel felt a hint of relief for at least being able to allow those he had put in danger to escape safely.

    He had put his spatial rings inside his pocket dimension, and thrown the ring that contained the pocket dimension, along with the rest of his group, towards the Saullet family. They now would have to live as fugitives.

    Unfortunately, Daniel wasn't as lucky.
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