The gap between these stages of advancement is HUGE! people are trying to scale Lindon and the gang and it seems people think sage/Herald are closer to monarchs than they actually are.
The 8 man empire are the equivalent of one monarch. That's not because any 8 sacred artists at the level of sage/Herald (S/H) are the equivalent of a monarch, they need the help of special magic space armor to combine their significance to reach that level. This fact alone means that without the magic space armor, that I would take over 8 S/H to rival one monarch. The way the story talks about the 8 man empire I would guess it would take many more that 8 S/H to rival a monarch.
Unfortunately I have no idea how to estimate exactly how few S/H it would take to match a monarch.
That being said, the fact that Lindon and Yerin could push back against Malice, with the help of Mercy, is huge. To say Lindon is just a Sage with the raw power of a Herald is a joke. Our boy could spank any Herald or sage level sacred artist low dif.
My view of Yerin in this fight is that she’s roughly the equivalent of a normal Herald. She has some unique advantages, but so do many Heralds.
Fury, for instance, could have beaten her.
But she’s at the level of being able to participate in this fight while Lindon puts the lion’s share (tiger’s share?) of the pressure on.
That’s my general thought process, anyway.
Let me take a few minutes to address the 8ME.
A group of 4 Sages and 4 Heralds all fighting a Monarch together could win. And probably would, all other factors being equal.
The disadvantage is that none of them could 1v1 the Monarch, so they’re prone to getting picked off and defeated separately. Are you going to stand there and fight eight guys? No, you run and pick your moment later.
The advantage of the 8ME is that they don’t need to be together to combine powers. And that they can fuse their power to perform Monarch-level feats, which Sages and Heralds can’t normally do.
How does a Monarch beat a Sage? Engage them physically or in a straight-up power fight. How do they beat a Herald? Keep throwing workings at them they can’t match and make them waste willpower and concentration shutting them down.
An 8ME member can draw on the power of the others to remove those weaknesses at will.
How would you defeat the 8ME? Force them to spread out. They have a finite pool of power to draw on, so if three of them (for instance) need to draw on Monarch-level power at once, what does that leave for the rest?
Problem is, no faction has two Monarchs. So let’s say Reigan Shen wanted to take them down. He engages Larian in combat, and he assigns or hires a Sage or Herald for each of the other seven.
How does that actually play out?
They don’t pump Larian up to Monarch-level. She flees and runs and hides and does anything she can to survive with only her own power, and they pump whoever has the weakest opponent.
Suddenly, the person facing down a single Sage has Monarch-level power. The enemy is crushed. Then they move on to the next-weakest enemy, and so on.
Larian might die. Maybe she couldn’t hang on either.
But it’s still WAY faster and easier for the 8ME to pass power between each other than it is for Shen to travel through the Way to face the other members. So, in all likelihood, they become the Six-Man Army but all their non-Monarch opponents are dead.
Then they replace the lost two members and now they’re gunning for Shen.
And that’s the story of why the 8ME still exists.