Konrad clasped his hands around Man-Breaker, his lineage weapon and locked its enormous suppression force on the assailants. His eyes shone with purple light while his body bathed in violet flames. But although the scene was akin to the one that marked Freya's subjugation, this time, Iliana felt neither lust nor enticement.
A crushing force carrying the unconstrained desire to dominate was the only thing at play here. Worse, that purple veined weapon seemed to beat with a will of its own and corrupt Konrad's eyes with its eldritch force.
As for the Arch-Knights, the three at the mid-level could not resist Man-Breaker's horrifying power while the two at the high-level struggled to get back onto their feet with clear dread within their eyes.
"How can this be? What is a pureblooded demon noble doing in the heart of the Holy Flame Empire? Who summoned you?!"
Regardless of their might, lineage weapons were a privilege of the noble houses of the Infernal Realm, and it is was usually impossible for members of such houses to appear within a mortal world without being summoned by powerful cultists.
To say nothing of the Infernal Realm's nobility, even lesser demons needed summoning rituals.
Thus, the knight assumed Konrad had been brought straight from Hell by some barbarian cultist and snuck into the Holy Flame City for a nefarious purpose.
"As if any of that mattered now."
Konrad whirled Man-Breaker into the three suppressed knights, dislodging and shattering their skulls in one deft circular motion, then shot toward the two high-level Arch Knights that had managed to regain their motion abilities.
But although Man-Breaker didn't entirely suppress them, their fighting capabilities had been severely weakened, with their strength somewhere around the first step Arch-Knight Rank. A level Konrad paid little attention to.
The two knights exchanged a glance and saw confidence in each other's gaze. Although the situation had experienced a drastic change, they could see Konrad's energy signature of the fifth step Grand Knight rank. Thus, although they were now stuck with the battle power of first step Arch Knights, they didn't believe they couldn't handle him!
Executing demons was a great merit! Perhaps they could use it to obtain high-level baptisms and have their cultivation soar!
In tandem, they shot toward him, the golden flames coating them burning brighter, and the flaming broadswords they dragged searing the ground below.
Their broadswords came crashing on Konrad in dual cleaves. But he didn't evade, standing still like an unmovable mountain.
Spinning Man-Breaker above his forehead, he deflected the two incoming blows and caused the knights to fall off balance. They somersaulted to get away, but how could he allow them to retreat without a price?
White-purple light erupted from his body, a perfect replica of himself appeared, and the two Konrad shot toward the falling knights.
Two identical hammer blows crashed into the knights' chest, shattered their chest plates, and sent them spiraling into the air with blood spurts.
But Konrad gave them no time to regain their foothold and pursued with his hammer brandished.
"Hateful! How can a Grand Knight possess an attribute? And such a powerful one at that?!"
They could see that Konrad hadn't just created a doppelganger. His light attribute just made him so fast that he seemed to be at two places at the same time. For his cultivation level, that was inconceivable.
Their golden flames kicked into gear, healing their wounds at breakneck speed. The golden flame of the second division could not only be used to destroy; it could also mend physical wounds and increase the body's vitality.
"Oh? Interesting. Let's see how many blows you can repair!"
The two Konrad became four, and each rained hundreds of hammer blows down the still healing knights.
*Crack* *Crack* *Crack*
Their armors collapsed, their bones cracked, and they flew backward with hundreds of overlaying blood red hammer imprints covering their bodies.
The knights howled as they tumbled onto the ground. Again, they exchanged glances, but this time, despair was the only thing they saw in the other's gaze.
"This is not something we can handle! Retreat!"
The four Konrad once again became two, turned into purple beams of light and appeared by the fleeing knights' side.
"Shortening my cuddle time is a cardinal sin."
Two precise hammer blows that shattered his knees crippled the left knight's legs while a descending smash crushed the right one's head.
He didn't even have time to wail before life left him.
As for the left knight, his screams pierced the night sky.
The extra Konrad then vanished in a purple haze.
All this happened in the span of a few breaths and shocked Iliana to the very core of her soul.
"What kind of horrible weapon is that?"
She didn't have a clear knowledge of the infernal hierarchy and didn't understand what a lineage weapon was. However, if the Arch-Knights of the Holy Flame Church considered it enough to brand Konrad as a pureblooded demon, then he indeed was one.
But wasn't he just a half before?
What was going on?
Konrad had yet to pay attention to her thoughts as he stepped closer toward the disabled knight who desperately crawled away from him.
"S-spare me…I can tell you who wants to capture her. This isn't worth my life!"
He pleaded, but Konrad was unfazed.
"I'm sure the ladies you slaughtered wished they could have seen the morrow. Since you didn't grant them that courtesy, why should I give it to you?"
"As for figuring out who is behind this, that is simple."
Konrad slammed Man-Breaker onto the ground, causing a screeching sound to spread within the air and purple flames to dive into the knight's forehead.
His pupils dilated, and he stopped struggling.
"Who wishes to harm Iliana?"
"A joint force between a Semi-Holy Priest of the Holy Flame Church and house Leitner."
The knight flawlessly answered.
Hearing this, Iliana's eyes widened with a mixture of enlightenment and incomprehension.
House Leitner was the maternal family of Alex, her elder half-brother. For them to make a move on her was something she could understand. But what did any of this have to do with a Semi-Saint of the Holy Flame Church?
Could his mother have pulled some strings? But with her status and strength, how could she?
"Where were you supposed to bring her. Is there another ambush lying ahead?"
"House Kracht. We were supposed to bring her to house Kracht to force count Wolfgang to abdicate his lands, assets, and estates to his son, Alex Kracht."
Iliana was horrified while confusion grew within Konrad's eyes.
"Regardless of birth, eunuchs cannot inherit lands. How could an exception be made for him?"
"The Semi-Saint promised house Leitner that he would help restore Alex as a man should this endeavor succeed."
Having found out all he wanted from the knight, Konrad crushed his head and brought all his demonic forces back into his body. Man-Breaker then vanished alongside the purple flames.
In the meantime, Iliana no longer had time to worry about Konrad's increasingly demonic nature and rushed toward her family's mansion.
But he wasn't going to let that suicidal move happen under his watch and pulled her back within his arms with a surge of telekinetic power.
"Let go of me!"
"Don't be irrational. Your father is said to be at the peak of the Transcendent Knight Rank. What help can you be in matters even he cannot solve?"
His words were logical, but logic was not what she wished for at the moment.
"Maybe if I surrender myself, there will be room for negotiation. If I don't, maybe they won't hesitate to kill him before coming for me!"
"I know this sounds stupid to you, but he's my father, I'm not going to hide while knowing full well that my family is in danger!"
But Konrad still didn't let go of her.
"Calmly think for an instant. A man who dares openly go against a saint such as the Holy Consort either possesses enormous hidden strength or terrifying backing. Most likely even a mix of both.
That being the case, how could he fall so easily to a Semi-Saint's schemes? If they were certain of being able to overwhelm his house, why would they need to keep you alive? You are not the only hostage that can be used to pressure him. Your family mansion probably has more than one."
His words caused Iliana to snap out of her erratic behavior. He was right; if she was the apple of her father's eyes, then her mother was his heart. For her, there probably was not much he could not give up.
"Let's first observe the battle fluctuations from a safe distance and assess the situation. If something goes wrong, I can let you throw away your life."
He lied. Should house Kracht show signs of defeat, he would knock her out and leave.
Meanwhile, within a courtyard of the lavish mansion belonging to house Kracht, count Wolfgang was being surrounded by a quintet of ninth step Transcendent Knights and a dozen of fifth step Transcendent Knights led by two people he was all too familiar with: His "son" Alex, and his "brother in law" Viscount Hannes Leitner.
Although house Leitner was of Uradel descent, they had declined and had not managed to produce a count in the last three generations.
Nobility may be hereditary, but the titles were not. Without a cultivation of at least the sixth step Transcendent Knight, one could not become a count.
"Father, you brought this all to yourself! You are cruel and merciless, not only favoring that bastard daughter of yours over me but also making me suffer a fate worse than death! That being the case, don't blame me for not taking the blood we share into account!"
"Today, I will avenge my mother, avenge myself, and pay you back for all those years of misdeeds!"
Alex snarled with a face distorted by hatred. As a child, he had always wished for his father's affection, but though gifted in the use of pen and sword, the only thing he received was a cold, unfeeling stare.
That he could have tolerated, but what he could never swallow, was the sight of his mother choosing to enter priesthood to avoid the humiliation of sharing her husband with a human maid!
And with his father's recent show of cruelty, all love he ever felt was replaced by uncontrollable rancor. His blood craved revenge!
But seeing his outburst, and the gathering meant to corner him, Wolfgang was amused.
"With just this sorry lot? Once a disappointment, always a disappointment. Even in rebellion, you fail to excel."
Viscount Hannes by Alex's side took his attitude as a last show of dignity.
"Wolfgang, although you're one of the mightiest Uradel counts and close to the Semi-Holy Rank, you're still, after all, a ninth step Transcendent Knight. Today we have five like you trained in battle arrays. What can you do?
You might as well be sensible and abdicate your lands, wealth and estates to Alex."
The plan was that once Alex received the assets of house Kracht, he would marry into house Leitner and change his surname to theirs. That way, they could swallow all the Kracht's power and sharply rise.
But as the cold wind blew his long green hairs, Wolfgang burst into derisive laughter.
"My father repaid the lifesaving debt he owed yours by marrying me to your wretched sister. I have fulfilled all my filial duties to him and have nothing more to give you.
But since you dare collude with the worm of the Holy Flame Church to assault my house, all of you can die!"
Three pairs of golden light wings sprang from his back while a battle-ax appeared within his hands.
He swirled the battle-ax in a dazzling arc of light that sent the heads of the fifteen Transcendent Knights flying toward the starry sky in an eruption of blood!
Then he stepped into the air, hovering above the crouching forms of Alex and Hannes who looked at the illusory ring above his head and the six golden wings with horror.
"Incomplete Ring…three pairs of golden wings…T…third step Semi-Saint? How…why? I don't understand."
Alex blurted out with sweat and disbelief twisting his face.
"Why hide such powerful cultivation? What is there to gain? You would now be a margrave, ranking among the highest nobles of the empire with peerless prestige and glory!"
Hannes roared more out of bitterness than anything, realizing that he had been duped.
"I am an Uradel. The nobility of my blood is proven by the deeds and history of my house.
It needs no ornaments such as trivial titles to demonstrate its loftiness.
Only inferior ants such as yourself find delight in such vainglory. Wolfgang's highest honor will always be…the surname Kracht!"
His battle-ax descended upon Hannes, splitting him in half from the top of his head all the way down his groins.
Hannes' blood, gushed forth, drenching the still confused Alex red. He still couldn't understand why the flawless plan had so suddenly turned into such a debacle.
But seeing the clear disdain within his father's green slit eyes, Alex's terror was replaced by a new bout of fury.
"Why look down on me?! Why despise me so?! What's the difference between her and me?! I am your son!"
But to that heartfelt roar of indignation, Wolfgang only replied by crushing him under the pressure of his Semi-Holy force, then further humiliated him with a contemptuous laugh.
"My son? Look at yourself, sprawling insect. How could you ever be qualified to be the son of Wolfgang Kracht?"
"I have never touched your mother. How could you be…my son?"
And in less than five seconds, Alex's world collapsed.