Even with that simple half-step Konrad's strength sharply rose. Today if he met the same Accursed Stolas Beast, he could obliterate it with one finger. Moreover, and Although he lacked an accurate way to judge his current strength, he firmly believed that mid-stage Transcendent level experts and below would crumble in a single blow.
As for those high-level Transcendent Rank experts, only after fighting one would he know where he currently stood.
Konrad's eyes opened to the sight of Iliana silently standing by his side.
"You seem a bit…different."
She muttered while observing the aura fluctuating around him.
"Your aura is more…overbearing."
Konrad restrained the pressure within his God Meridian and stood up.
"As for you, you look…concerned."
There was indeed a hint of concern within Iliana's eyes, and regardless of how hard she tried to suppress it, she couldn't.
"Actually, it is nothing much. I just have misgivings."
She paused, pulling in a deep breath to recompose her thoughts.
"I know it's just to deceive the imperial family. I know it's with you, but at the end of the day, the name "Konrad" will not be on the contract. We are not truly getting married. Said coarsely, this wedding is nothing but a sham.
And that bothers me."
The opportunity had finally knocked on the door. Konrad prevented his lips from curling into a victorious smile, maintaining a calm, understanding gaze on Iliana.
Although she'd vanquished her prejudices against demonkind, Konrad didn't believe that she would willingly sign a contract with him. At least not before some more time.
However, with her current mood and mindset, bringing her into the fold wasn't entirely impossible.
"I understand how you feel, but there is nothing we can do about it. This is the only way to protect you from the imperial family's grasp.
I wish there were a way for us to have a genuine exchange of vows but unless…no, never mind."
Konrad stopped, mustering the all the acting skills he'd cultivated to present a face of genuine dismay.
Feeling that he was holding back words, Iliana pursued.
"Unless what? Finish what you were about to say!"
"We could do this in the way of demons, and sign a Partnership of Equals, to forever be bound to one another. You will become a true member of my household, and we shall share mind and blood. To my knowledge, there is no truer pledge.
Iliana urged, barely able to maintain her composure.
"You will have to abandon the human part of you and become half-demoness."
That was the critical part. And clearly, Konrad's worries proved right as Iliana floundered, taking a step back.
Not minding his demonic blood was one thing, discarding the human lineage she received from her mother for it was another. While Zamira would never hesitate was she given the chance, Iliana was after all, not from the Barbarian Continent.
She didn't possess their mindset.
But at the same time, she didn't wish to hurt Konrad's feelings with her refusal. Sensing that, Konrad intervened.
"You don't need to feel concerned about me. This is a lifelong choice that can never be reversed. I'm not so petty as to take offense if you refuse or coerce you into accepting. Do it only if you want to."
Hearing him, Iliana softened, taking some time to examine the question. Using her mother as a shield for refusal quickly proved senseless. As a former barbarian chieftain, if they exchanged places, the Kracht Matron would never hesitate.
Now the question was if she was willing to abandon that part of herself to forever be bound to Konrad in the most absolute of pledges. A marriage contract could be broken at any time, but if their lifespans allowed it, theirs could endure an eternity.
What was there to hesitate about? The more Iliana thought, the more it seemed reasonable, and the more eager she became for the contract.
After a few minutes of inner struggles and pacing back and forth, she stopped right in front of Konrad with her determined gaze staring into his.
"Very well, let's do it!"
As soon as those words left her lips, Konrad could no longer restrain his smile.
"Good. Very good."
Without further ado, Konrad cut his lips, causing blood to trail down his chin and paint his mouth in red.
He then waved his hands and conjured five purple pentagrams that floated around the two of them.
"Iliana Kracht, step forward."
Destroying her last bits of hesitation, Iliana took another step toward him, her forehead almost brushing his lips.
"Are you willing in all conscience to abandon your humanity for my demonic blood?"
"Are you willing in all conscience to forsake your lineage and ancestry for the right to join my household?"
"I am willing."
"To forever brand your soul with the mark of my lineage?"
"I am willing!"
"Then I, Konrad of the house of Talroth, welcome you to the fold of demonkind as my chosen kin and bind myself to you in spirit and blood!"
Massive purple light exploded from the pentagrams and enshrouded the two of them while Konrad took Iliana within his arms and kissed her with his blood-stained lips. Parts of his demonic essence flew past his mouth, snuck into hers and mixed with her bloodline, turning her from a half-lamia, half-human into a half-lamia, a half-succubus.
However, now that Konrad's bloodline level had reached the Dream-Weaver rank, the potency of Iliana's half-succubus blood was higher than average and would continue to grow alongside his.
Iliana wrapped her arms around Konrad's back, holding him tight against her while her body underwent changes. Outwardly, there wasn't much difference. However, her already exquisite beauty now possessed a kind of demonic charm with a faint orchid fragrance swirling around her form.
This, combined with her lamia attributes only made her look more alluring. Men of low cultivation and weak will would quickly get subdued by her. At the same time, Konrad obtained her talent, while she also inherited parts of his.
Konrad's lips parted from hers, and their gazes intertwined.
"Now, beautiful, you and I are officially partners. The duration is...eternity."