The imperial palace's inner court, a more prominent domain than many small cities, hosting the largest gathering of beauties across the Holy Flame Empire. Returning to this female paradise, it would be a lie to say Konrad wasn't feeling some delight. However, it wasn't time to lose sight of the priorities.
The current quest was still clear within his mind. He'd have to not only invest in developing a black market, conquer a noble imperial consort, but also obtain the full support of two of the most influent women in the palace. Those were the steps he'd yet to complete, and also the hardest.
"What do you even mean by full support?"
"A point where they can set their priorities aside to ensure your success."
"Aren't you making things too difficult for me?"
"The path to becoming a Harem God is fraught with dangers. Suck it up."
Following the "enlightening" exchange, Konrad carried on toward the empress' palace. It wasn't that she was the first person he wanted to see. However, if upon returning to the palace, he didn't first report to her, nothing good awaited.
Thanks to the teleportation circles on the way, that outrageously long distance was drastically shortened, and in a matter of a few minutes, Konrad reached the empress' palace where several eunuchs stood guard.
He was currently dressed in his head eunuch clothes, restraining his aura and cultivation base to avoid standing out.
Still, with his current physique and stature, not standing out was a challenging task. Thankfully, the large red eunuch hat concealed most of his face.
"What purpose do you have here?"
Although Konrad became one of the empress' head eunuchs before his departure, not many were familiar with his face. Therefore, the guards didn't recognize him.
However, as soon as he presented his token, their attitude underwent a one-hundred-eighty-degree change.
"Greetings sir, the empress had already prepared us for your arrival. This way, please."
The eunuch on the left said and motioned for Konrad to step inside. Although he also was a head eunuch, with the empress' token in Konrad's hand, he could only lower his stance.
Without delay, he opened the door, leading Konrad in, and moving past the courtyard and corridors to bring him to the hall where Verena awaited.
Before they could even announce themselves, Verena's voice echoed.
"Konrad, you can come in."
Konrad didn't stand on ceremonies, pushing open the door and walking in. As it closed behind him, he raised his head to glance at the empress who was having her legs and shoulders massaged by several attendants.
"You're all dismissed."
The attendants by Verena's side curtsied and excused themselves, leaving only the empress and Konrad within the room.
Verena laid on a sofa with her arm bent on a cushion while her cheek rested within her palm.
"Konrad, long time no see."
"Greetings, your majesty."
Konrad bowed in greetings.
"Tss, tss, tss. No need to stand on false pretense. You and I both know that you don't have an ounce of respect for imperial power."
Verena teased while standing up and letting her gaze trail all over Konrad's body. With a flick of her palm, his red eunuch hat flew and tumbled onto the ground, and as his face was finally fully exposed, she arched her brow in surprise.
"Such an extreme change. You've completely turned into a lethal weapon."
Her neutral tone prevented anyone from knowing if she were giving praises, raising her guard, or using sarcasm.
However, aware of his body's changes, Konrad leaned on the first option.
"Thank you, your majesty, for your praises."
"Don't thank me so soon. We've yet to discuss your -little- outside deeds. I must say that you got the biggest balls I've seen in centuries."
Verena began while rising from the sofa and stepping toward Konrad.
"Has your majesty seen many balls in the last centuries?"
Verena wasn't offended, circling Konrad like first-class merchandise.
"Not only did you disguise yourself as a Kracht boy to join the Holy Flame Baptism contest and snatch the quota for Iliana Kracht, but you even went as far as defying the church's will to cling onto the quota, then faking your own death to frame the crown prince, Olrich's most favored son."
That the empress could reconstruct the events wasn't hard to understand. Unlike others, Else and she knew early on that the real Anselm had been replaced by Konrad.
"You are confident, gutsy, afraid of nothing, and dare do anything. If you want something, you'll take it. And no one should think of snatching it from you. Even when facing greater power, you'd rather fight with all you got than surrender to oppression. But more importantly, you're smart enough to pull off the most ludicrous of plans.
At least, you've been until now."
Verena stopped behind Konrad, her face leaning past his right shoulder. She held his waist within her left arm while holding his chin within her right fingers, and letting her full breasts press his back.
"Konrad, I like you even more."
She whispered within his ear in a warm sultry breath that would have caused most men to lose themselves.
However, Konrad was first, a lust demon. He remained stoic, his steady heartrate not experiencing the slight fluctuation toward the empress' "hands-on" flirtation.
"What does your majesty mean by this?"
"What do you think? What if I say I want to eat you whole? To let my tongue trail all across your body and devour you whole?"
Though Konrad had not expected the empress to be this forward, he still didn't lose his composure.
"If you dare offer yourself. Why would I not dare accept you?"
"You're even worse than I expected. Good, very good."
Verena freed Konrad of her grasp, taking a seat by a nearby table and bringing a still warm cup of tea to her.
From that tea, Konrad felt a very peculiar scent that made his entire body feel ill at ease. However, he couldn't identify the content.
"Let's discuss proper business. I will give you three days to enjoy your return. Three days during which you will have trivial tasks such as serving me tea and massaging me when I so demand then can enjoy the rest of your time cultivating and diddling whoever you want to diddle.
Meanwhile, I will prepare a position for you within Noble Imperial Consort Yvonne Voight's palace. I want you to use all the tricks in your book to pull her away from Else's camp.
The method is inconsequential. Your deadline is the annual banquet between the ladies of the inner court. Meaning, three months."
Konrad lifted his gaze from the tea, returning his attention onto the empress whose words took him by surprise.
Yvonne Voight again? And here he was wondering how he could seamlessly get access to her palace.
"Why is your majesty so worried about their alliance? After all, although the noble imperial consort is at the peak of the Semi-Holy Rank, and the daughter of Hubert Voight, from what I've seen their relationship is at best strained. How much support is he willing to provide her with for the matters of the inner court?
I don't believe a peak level Semi-Saint is enough to break the balance within the inner court and threaten your majesty's power."
Konrad spoke with reason. For all those years, the reason why Verena never cared about Else's moves was that regardless of how many people she could swindle to her side, none of them posed her any threat and there had been more than one Semi-Saint.
Now, however, she seemed genuinely troubled.
"I suppose that since I'm asking you to bring her to me, I should inform you of who you will be dealing with."
Verena set the teacup aside and lifted her gaze to meet Konrad's.
"True, nowadays, the world only knows her as a ninth step Semi-Saint and Hubert Voight's eldest daughter. However, three centuries ago, the Ancient Crystal World didn't know more exceptional talent.
She began cultivating at the age of three. Reached the Transcendent Rank in the martial and spiritual paths at the age of fifteen, the Semi-Holy Rank at twenty, the Holy Rank at fifty. At the age of one hundred, she ranked third among the empire's Ten Great Hegemons, unparalleled in history.
The leader of the Celestial Church personally visited the Holy Flame Empire to take her as his disciple, but was rejected."
As she spoke, Verena's eyes shone with profound admiration. However, that admiration soon turned into scorn.
"But all that earthshaking cultivation talent didn't change the fact that ultimately, she was nothing more than a muddle-headed fool.
Discarding the multitude of outstanding men willing to grovel at her feet, she chose Olrich, became his princess consort, gave him the empire, and let him destroy her life, and future."