Konrad wasn't one to let himself get toyed with by greater power. His last life had left a bitter enough taste for him to let that happen again. Therefore, he chose to use the imperial family to vent his frustration.
Holger was known as a calm, calculating prince that carefully weighed all actions he took. Therefore, including Nils, none understood his extreme outburst.
More than seventy pairs of eyes had now locked upon Bishop Alto who had subconsciously taken a step backward. Trapped between fury and shame. However, no matter how wrong, he could never kneel in front of a junior.
"Bold! In this country, do you really think anyone can make a bishop of the church kneel? I don't even have to kneel in front of your father. To say nothing of you! What are you going to report? Your failures to complete the competition's requirements? How is that our fault?
Clearly, this is the result of your own ineptitude!"
Bishop Alto roared back, supporting himself with the Holy Flame Church's name.
"Rotten imbecile. My forty-five years of existence easily trump your one thousand. Since reason is not enough, let's talk law!
Even if a member of the nobility sins against the church, punishing him is not just up to you. It first requires a trial approved by the imperial court!
But not only have you not sought a trial; all can testify that he committed no sin whatsoever. Therefore, your first crime is the arbitrary murder of a nobleman!
Secondly, we also have the crime of the clergy stepping in the jurisdiction of the imperial court!
Thirdly, you have been shouting in front of all present about how you needed not pay any attention to the emperor. Very well, this is the crime of contempt toward the Holy Emperor!
Fourthly, publicly threatening an imperial prince! A capital crime within the court.
Fifthly, publicly threatening a High Exarch's direct descendant! A capital crime within your church!"
Four of the five are enough for direct execution. The second one when tried will still result in your death to preserve the relationship between the church and the imperial court.
Therefore, you are five times condemned to death! I am not sure you have enough heads for what's about to befall you.
In this country, no one can save you!"
Holger had truly gone mad with rage. In other times, he would have contained his anger and first reported to his elder brother.
However, this useless, rigged competition had almost cost his beloved little sister's life. Even if Konrad didn't pull strings, with the bishop openly berating them, how could he restrain himself?
At first, Bishop Alto was confident in suppressing dissidence with his cultivation level, but only now did he realize that there was no way for intimidation to work and that the other party wasn't in the same league as he was.
If it were just about dealing with a powerful noble, he would have no fear. The problem was that the Dowager, Holger's grandmother, and his great uncle were both High Exarchs of the church, three ranks above him with dozens of people like him serving them.
Right now, like many of the high-ranking members of the church, they were in seclusion. However, if forced out by this matter, his life and his family's would come to a brutal end.
The instructions regarding the competition had been given by a Saint of the church. Therefore, he couldn't resist. Yet, if push came to shove, that Saint would force him to shoulder the blame and leave him no way out.
In a bind, he sought help within the eyes of his colleague who'd remained silent from the start, but there was no help to find.
The man was more astute and chose to let him deal with the whole thing right from the beginning.
Inwardly, Bishop Alto was full of grievances. It was clear someone had purposely covered the news of the real nature of the event to prevent the von Jurgen from becoming aware of it and still send a team.
At first, when he saw their team, he'd sent a message to his superior, but only got one answer.
Therefore he couldn't exclude them.
But as he floundered and racked his brain for solutions, a frustrating noise reached his ears.
*Clap* *Clap* *Clap*
A man clapped while walking into the room.
"Who dares?! What is there to cl-?!"
Bishop Alto began, but when he turned and saw the tall, silver-haired man who'd just walked in, he realized that things had gone from bad to worse.
Besides him, his colleague included, all those present bowed and declared in unison:
"Greetings Crown Prince!"
The Crown Prince stood at around 1.85 meters with short silver hairs sitting on a finely chiseled face. As he stepped in with his perfect gait and radiant smile, the simplest way to describe him was "handsome and refined."
However, the astute could see that within those outwardly gentle eyes hid a terrifying, callous tiger.
"Dispense of ceremony. I just came to welcome back my siblings. Never did I expect that I would come across such a beautiful scene."
Nils forgot her proper and dignified military stance to throw herself toward Elmar. He welcomed her with open arms, and gently pat her head.
As it was well-known that the ninth "prince" was the apple of the crown prince's eyes, none of the gathered individuals found anything strange with that.
"Elder brother, you must seek justice for us! We were conned into participating in this rigged competition where thousands of beasts lurked ready to slaughter us all!
Worse, an Accursed Beast appeared out of nowhere, and almost caused Nils to lose his life!"
Bishop Alto trembled. Why was there suddenly talk of an Accursed Beast? A lie, it had to be a lie!
"Stop twisting truth and falsehood! Unless you went to the fourth level, no Accursed Beast would descend upon you!"
He howled, but undaunted, Holger pointed his finger at those behind him.
"You can ask all those gathered. That's the reason why none of them dared stay in the third level for half a day. A few hours in, an Accursed Stolas Beast came from nowhere and began terrorizing the third level, almost causing Nils to lose his life, and injuring me in the process of escaping!"
"It's the truth! We almost became food for a rampaging Accursed Beast. To say nothing of the demonic beast horde afterward!"
Bishop Alto saw the indignity within all the contestants' eyes and knew his good days were over.
Blunder! An enormous blunder had occurred!
"Nils is this true?"
Elmar asked while still patting Nils' head.
"Yes, elder brother. It was such a close call that I was afraid I'd never see you again!"
Nils complained within Elmar's arms.
"Alright. Elder brother will give you justice."
Elmar set Nils aside and leisurely stepped toward Bishop Alto.
"Remind me, what is the empire's crown prince's status within the church?"
The imperial family and the church possessed an extremely close relationship. So close that the Holy Emperor, the Holy Empress, and the Crown Prince all possessed an equivalent rank within the church. Of course, the higher their cultivation, the better that rank would be.
Bishop Alto teetered, but still, he answered:
"Good. Then as Arch-Bishop of the church and as the crown prince of this empire, on account of your five felonies, I sentence you to death."
With a backhanded slap, Elmar tore Bishop Alto's head from his neck, sending it flying across the room with a massive gush of blood.
He then pulled out a handkerchief to wipe off his hand and turned toward the remaining bishop who dropped onto his knees and kowtowed in fear.
"Your highness, mercy!"
"So your lot still knows that a prince should be referred to as -your highness.-
I thought you'd forgotten."
The contestants were terror-stricken. Although the Crown Prince's cultivation was deep and unfathomable, the sight of a Semi-Saint beheaded in a single slap was hard to accept.
Since when did Semi-Saints turn into cabbage?
"Your highness, Bishop Alto was besotted and for personal gains plotted against the imperial family. He deserved ten thousand deaths! Your highness upheld justice on behalf of the lord and deserve only praise."
That bishop didn't talk a lot, but when he did, his words didn't disappoint. Suddenly, Bishop Alto had become the sole mastermind, and his death solved everything. Was this the script from the start?
"Is that so? For this to become the official version, we will have to see your master's skills.
Now go on, carry on. I'm curious to see how many beasts remain."
Elmar had no interest in the remaining beasts. He just needed an exact number for when he submitted his report to his father the emperor.
Without delay, the bishop dived into the Prism World, and after half an hour, returned with flabbergasted eyes.
"What took you so long?"
As a Semi-Saint, Elmar was well aware that such a task should not have taken more than a few minutes. However, that bishop wasted half an hour of his time.
Was he also courting death?
But to his question, the bishop remained dazed for a few seconds, then his eyes swept the scene, going from a contestant to another as if to find the culprit of a prank played on him.
"Well? Do you need me to repeat myself?"
Elmar's voice echoed within his ears, carrying with it a pressure that brought the bishop back on earth.
"Your highness…it's…empty. The first three levels are all…empty."