"Just because of your fears, you are going to forgo such an opportunity?"
"Don't you know that in danger lies great reward?"
"I didn't peg you for the spineless type."
Verena admonished with a disappointed tone.
However, Konrad was unmoved.
"Your majesty, may I ask you at what age did you become a Saint?"
"At the age of four-hundred."
She replied without blinking.
"Four-hundred…at what age did the emperor achieve sanctification?"
"The Holy Consort?"
Konrad murmured while restraining the abundance of curses within his throat.
"Even the country's number one talent took two centuries to achieve sanctification. That being the case, what makes you think you can help me achieve it in…less than thirty?"
Konrad slowly spoke to prevent himself from flying into rage. Was she openly making fun of him?
When even she took four-hundred years, she had the nerves of claiming she could help him reach that altitude before he turned thirty?
What a joke!
But naturally, Verena was prepared.
"You can't do it with traditional cultivation, but if we combine your talent with an appropriate dual cultivation method, you still have a chance."
"Usually, no matter how gifted, and regardless of their method's level, dual cultivators cannot go beyond the Transcendent Rank. That's because the holy path requires "purity."
Dual Cultivation is fast but mixes the spiritual energies of its practitioners thus creating imperfections and a gradual lack of purity that forever blocks them at the peak of the Transcendent Rank."
"The answer to that is for the partners to practice the same method from the cradle while regularly going through Spiritual Harmony Rituals."
Just like Konrad's Hundred Flowers Scripture, Spiritual Harmony Rituals allowed the participants to establish and perfect a spiritual connection.
"Not many people are willing or able to expend the resources required to train a pair in such a way, but I can. If you now submit to me, I can give you a high-grade Holy Rank Dual Cultivation Method and provide you with the perfect partner. We will waste some time to have you retrain from scratch, but before long, you will return to your current level."
That Holy Rank Dual Cultivation Method was one of Verena's secrets and a gift from a formidable high-ranking member of the Celestial Church. Thus, although she had never used it, she was well aware of its might.
But while this was all very pleasant to the ears, Konrad was unmoved. As a pureblooded incubus, the problems of dual cultivation didn't apply to him.
"That is only the first issue. The second issue is, you obviously want me to play a certain role in your contest with the Holy Consort. A harmful role."
Offering a dual cultivation method meant that she was already aware of him not being a eunuch. At this point, there was no need to pretend otherwise.
"I do not have the boldness required to stand between the Holy Emperor's most beloved women. That is, at best, suicidal."
"And forgive my frankness but although you're still the most favored, the future doesn't seem to be holding anything good for you."
Those last words caused a frown to appear on Verena's face.
"What makes you think I'm the most favored?"
To the outside world, it was common knowledge that Else was the Holy Emperor's favorite consort. Why then was that "eunuch" claiming otherwise.
"Honestly, it's obvious to anyone that dares ponder the question. The Holy Consort's background is not inferior to yours, but it is well known that she surpasses you in terms of beauty. That her cultivation talent is leagues above yours, and that her influence stretches far beyond your reach. That being the case, with the Holy Consort's vast ambitions, why do you still bear the Empress' crown?"
"Because the Dowager is your aunt? No, the Dowager has long since stopped caring about matters of the court. The answer is that your majesty is the Holy Emperor's most beloved. Thus, he's unwilling to demote you."
Konrad confidently analyzed, causing Verena's interest in him to rise.
"Not bad. Wood that can be carved."
She clapped with amusement.
"Since you know that…"
"But that is only for the time being."
Konrad dryly cut.
"No matter how resilient, the tree will ultimately be dislodged by the unrelenting storm. Your majesty is the tree and the Holy Consort the storm.
Ten years? Fifteen years? Six months? Time matters not, if her current rise is not stopped, she's bound to overturn the sky!"
There was one last thing he hadn't said. What was the need to pledge allegiance to someone that would ultimately belong to him?
But instead of getting offended, Verena's smile grew brighter.
"Are you not afraid of your words upsetting me?"
"Your majesty claims I've harmed the sixth prince. Yet, my head still hangs on my shoulders. What is there to be afraid of?"
"Good, you've relaxed."
It was true. Konrad's initial apprehensions had vanished, and he faced her straight and unafraid.
"Your analysis is correct. I've been lying dormant for too long, and things are starting to get out of hands. I do not care about what Else does beyond the walls of the inner court, but within, it is time she learns moderation."
"Although you are not interested in the power I can offer, there must be something you desire."
"What is it? As long as it is something within my ability to grant, I will grant it."
Konrad's first thoughts went to the bountiful cleavage beneath his eyes. But quickly, that thought was set aside.
All things in due time!
However, it was now clear the empress' desire to obtain him was too strong to be brushed off by a simple refusal. And perhaps, too strong a rejection was a surefire road to an early death?
There seemed to be something, a relationship to the Holy Consort that made her target him. Therefore, it was time to bite.
"I do have one dear wish. Iliana Kracht, please return her to her family."
Hearing his request, incomprehension flashed within Verena's eyes.
"Is that all you want? I can give you a lot more than that."
"That is all I want. If your majesty can accomplish that, I do not mind serving you for a year."
Because in one year, I have no doubt that you included, the entire imperial harem shall fall under my absolute control!
If I cannot escape, let's reverse the game and turn the inner court into the fortress and weapon that shall protect my secret and repel my enemies.
Since you women so desperately want to play with me, let's play and see who burns!
"Very well, your wish will be granted. Tonight, Iliana Kracht can return to her family."
"Do you not need the emperor's permission first? After all, isn't he the one that placed her under house arrest?"
Although it was due to Else's intrigues, it was the emperor that promulgated the decree that forced Iliana to enter the inner court.
But Verena's next words caused Konrad to reevaluate her.
"Within the inner court. I am the emperor!"
Beneath that mask of elegance and gentleness hid an overbearing creature waiting for the opportunity to soar.
Perhaps the most ambitious one had yet to show her fangs?
Konrad couldn't help but feel some pity for the Holy Emperor whose most beloved women most likely only had his destruction in mind.
"I wish to escort her back to house Kracht."
"Suit yourself. I will provide you with a special pass to freely go in and out of the imperial palace."
Verena's immediate agreement took Konrad by surprise. But then, he realized it was not carelessness but naked confidence.
She was a Saint. If she didn't want him to escape, within the six thousand square miles of the Holy Flame City, he couldn't escape.
"But I still have one question. Why did you choose me? The answer will not affect my future course of actions, but it will allow me to lower what remains of my guard."
"In all honesty, I was at first merely curious. Very few can receive anything other than disdain from Else. But you actually seem to have…her affection?
That piqued my curiosity and made me wonder what was so special about you. But now I have a different idea. I believe you can help me tame all those unruly consorts and in time, even help me achieve an old dream of mine."
From those words, the masked woman's identity was clear.
As it turned out, the one to whom he owed his life was the Holy Consort. But that didn't make Konrad feel at ease. He wasn't conceited enough to believe such a mighty woman so easily smitten by his appearance. Thus, although he could not find her in his memories, she must have had a profound relationship with the previous Konrad.
That being the case, what if she found out the truth? What would her reaction be? Hopefully, by that time, he would be prepared.
"Damn lesser Konrad you are already dead. Why are you still creating so much trouble for me?
"I promise you that when I get my hands on the bitch that caused you such harm, she will beg for death, yet be unable to obtain it!"
"So just rest in peace!"