With the von Jurgen gone, the show had come to an end. Since the celebration had in an instant turned into mourning, the guests gave their condolences, and one after the other left the Kracht mansion. Soon, beside the Kracht kinsmen, only Hubert remained.
"Thank you, your sovereign highness, for upholding justice."
Wolfgang bowed in reverence. Although within the court, his backer was Sovereign Prince Thorwald Kvass, that was just a situation of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" the Kvass patriarch had been fanning the flames of contradiction between Wolfgang and Else, using him as the vanguard in his clash with the Metze.
Wolfgang had very little respect for him.
For Hubert, it was different. Calling him the spiritual leader of the serpent nobles wouldn't be an exaggeration. Therefore, Wolfgang owed him a great deal of respect.
"Let's discuss in private, shall we?"
Hubert replied, taking Wolfgang by surprise. He didn't expect that the Voight patriarch would still have things to say. However, he couldn't refuse, and carrying the "brokenhearted" Iliana, led Hubert to his study.
"Does your sovereign highness have any instructions?"
Hubert didn't answer, first comfortably installing himself within the main seat, before sizing Wolfgang from bottom to top as if to take the full measure of him.
"You know, I am not one for petty schemes. I dislike those the most. I rather just take what I want and destroy what I dislike. However, I can understand that in your position, you do not have the same options."
Hubert's words took Wolfgang by surprise; however, he quickly recomposed himself.
"I don't understand what your highness mean by…"
But before Wolfgang could finish, Hubert cut him with a wave of his hand.
"No need to pretend any further. Your act was flawless. However, that -heartbroken- daughter of yours betrayed you."
Both Konrad and Wolfgang frowned, realizing they'd been exposed.
Hubert's eyes then moved onto the Iliana shaped Konrad, piercing him with suffocating intensity.
"May I ask how I betrayed him?"
Konrad inquired, not bothering with any additional pretense. Hearing him, Hubert's lips curled into a smile.
"It's simple, really. If Olrich paid you attention, he would have also realized it. You were betrayed by your heart rate."
Konrad's frown deepened, not understanding the flaw.
"It was too steady. From the moment your screams thundered to the moment you became dazed and unmoving, your heart rate remained steady. In other cases that might not have been suspicious, but in this one, I don't think I need to remind you of why that is a problem."
Instantly, Konrad was enlightened. Indeed, while on the outside, he looked like an emotional wreck, inside, he remained calm and collected. Therefore, there had been no significant fluctuations in his heart rate.
Never did he expect that Hubert's hearing was this dreadful.
"The five senses of a Saint are leagues above that of the average cultivator. You don't need to be surprised. From the start, I had my doubts. That is why I paid close attention to you."
Because Wolfgang's words contained many truths, and his heart was initially full of rage and indignation toward the imperial family, his didn't show such flaws.
"That being the case, why did your sovereign highness stand up for us?"
"For three reasons. First, in my more than four thousand years of existence, it is the first time I see someone, not from the church having the nerves to frame the imperial family.
Second, in one way or another, you managed to con my second daughter into helping you. Thus, putting us on the same boat.
Third, and that is probably the most essential part…"
Hubert paused to flash a roguish grin, giving himself the look of an impish thug.
"…I can never miss an opportunity to take Olrich down a peg."
Konrad firmly agreed with the last part.
"That being the case, what does your sovereign highness want from us?"
"First I need to confirm something, are you the true Anselm?"
Even with his Saint eyesight, Hubert couldn't see through Konrad's disguise. However, he believed Wolfgang would never sacrifice his house's number one talent for the sake of breaking a few of the imperial family's legs.
That added to the inconsistencies gleaned till now, convinced him that the real Anselm possessed a rare Transformation Skill allowing to deceive even Saints. Perhaps that was how he swindled everyone.
Konrad knew that if he insisted on keeping his disguise, Hubert couldn't unravel it; however, there were two core issues.
First, he'd been looking for an opportunity to form a business partnership with the Voight patriarch. Without a certain level of trust, that would never happen.
Second, he could fake appearances, but he couldn't fake bloodlines and True Forms. Hubert might not be able to see through his disguise, but he could also not see through his bloodline.
If he asked him to reveal his true form to dispel his doubts, Konrad would reach an impasse.
It was only a moment of hesitation, but that moment was enough for the old monster to see through him.
"That or, the "real" Anselm is the fake one, and the "fake" one the true. From the start, you've been assuming his identity. Which makes me wonder, who are you really?"
Hubert's holy force trapped Konrad from all sides, suppressing any escape attempts.
Wolfgang didn't expect that through a few words and glances, the Voight Patriarch would unravel so many of their ploys.
However, the perpetual smile on his face prevented Wolfgang from knowing whether he was displeased or just amused.
Konrad pulled in a deep breath, dispelling his Transformation Skill to reassume his true appearance.
"Oh? Not bad, not bad at all."
Half-Step into the Transcendent Knight and Priest Ranks at such a young age, I must say that I'm impressed. However…you look…human?"
For such an outstanding human being to appear outside of the Barbarian Continent was at best fishy. Even if talent was there, who would invest the resources into training a human powerhouse within the heart of the Holy Flame Continent?
"I'm but a palace eunuch. The empress saw my potential and decided to vigorously train me as her new pawn. It was in the imperial palace that I made the encounter of Iliana Kracht, due to our deep affections, I decided to lend my hand to house Kracht."
Konrad replied with a polite bow.
"Is that so? Good, very good.
Wolfgang, the main reason why I wanted to meet you was to ask you to officially cut ties with house Kvass and join my banner. Are you willing?"
It was time for the serpent clan to once again become one united block, and under the same banner resist the other forces. House Kracht was one of the few ancient serpent noble houses that didn't secretly pledge allegiance to the Voight. Hubert intended to change that state of things.
"Naturally, I am willing!"
Wolfgang replied following a brief mental exchange with Konrad.
"If there is nothing else, I shall take my leave."
"Your highness, please wait. May I ask you one question?"
"Your sovereign highness' cultivation stands at the empire's summit. Deterring all opponents. However, your sovereign highness rarely makes an appearance, making the common people forget about this fact. Is it possible that your highness never intends to return the land to its true owners?"
Wolfgang's words took Hubert by surprise, he'd not expected the Kracht patriarch to speak such words.
"It's not that I don't want to, but the reality is more complicated than you think. Even if we could unite all the serpent nobles in one block, in terms of Semi-Saints and Saints, we're a step below the imperial family and outpaced by the church.
If a war for supremacy breaks out between the von Jurgen and us, even if the church stands aside, we can never prevail. That von Jurgen old fossil only needs to restrain me, while the Kvass join forces with the von Jurgen for our troops to collapse."
Although their ancestor had formed his own house, the Kvass were after all von Jurgen descendants with a lineage traceable to past emperors.
"Therefore, it is not that your sovereign highness doesn't have the will, but rather, doesn't possess the resources. Am I correct?"
"You are correct."
"That being the case, what if I were to offer your highness a way to quickly breed Semi-Saints and Saints?
A frown appeared on Hubert's face.
"Decades ago, I chanced upon a certain set of Semi-Holy and Holy Elemental Baptism recipes. Should your highness be willing to cooperate with me, we can both profit from their use and let the strength of our houses reach the continent's peak in just a few years."
Hubert's frown deepened. Elemental baptisms were the core treasures of the Celestial Church, and their recipes jealously kept. Only the high-level could take a glance.
The Flame Baptism was only one form of such baptisms and not the most advanced. For Wolfgang to "chance upon" them was, of course, a blatant lie. At the same time, if he said he received the recipe from the Celestial Church Hubert still wouldn't believe him.
Where then did it come from?
"What are your terms?"
"Although I have the recipes, collecting the ingredients is a hurdle. As long as your highness provides a steady batch of ingredients, my house will take care of the refining process and provide you with half the quotas."
Initially, Konrad wished to commercialize the baptisms. However, following an exchange with Wolfgang, he dismissed the idea. Commercializing elemental baptisms was likely to bring the attention of the Celestial Church itself. They couldn't bear the results.
Instead, mass producing the Elemental Baptisms to train top experts in a short amount of time was the right way to go.
Still, with just their manpower, some ingredients were nigh impossible to obtain. Only if a mighty individual such as Hubert was willing to assist them would they stand a chance.
"What if I want to control the recipe and entire process?"
Hubert asked while suppressing Wolfgang with his Holy Force.
"Then, I can only commit suicide and carry the secret to my tomb."
Hubert observed Wolfgang for a moment of palpable tension, before bursting into laughter.
"I really didn't come here in vain. Wolfgang, I, Sovereign Prince Hubert, agree! Let our houses prosper together!"
"Thank you for your assistance."
Hubert's eyes then fell onto Konrad who had faded in the shadows.
"What about him? Do you trust him with this?"
"Your sovereign highness need not worry. This boy is already half house Kracht's Master with his future bound to its rise and fall."
Hubert said nothing else and stood up. But as he walked toward the door, he stopped and following a moment of hesitation, turned back toward Konrad.
"I assume you will soon return to the imperial palace?"
"I depart tomorrow."
Konrad straightforwardly replied.
"Do me a favor, and find an opportunity to give this to my unfilial daughter. In the future, I will repay it tenfold."
Hubert asked while extending a box toward Konrad.
"I trust you know the value of a Sovereign Prince's favor. The content of this box is of no use to anyone besides her. Farewell."
Hubert then vanished in a cloud of darkness, his departure ending the night's events.