A deathly silence fell upon the scene. Elmar included, all stared at the bishop. But even with those dozens of pairs of eyes locked upon him with confusion, he maintained his dazed, flabbergasted look.
"Empty? What do you mean by empty?"
A blinking Elmar asked, thinking that he misunderstood the statement.
"Empty…as in nothing left. Not a single beast across the three levels. They all vanished…thousands of beasts…all gone…without a trace…aargh!"
The bishop wailed. This wasn't the plan. Capturing demonic beasts en masse, even those of the lowest ranks was a challenging task because it required diving deep into the Barbarian Continent.
Even for the church, that was no small trouble, and usually, teams of Semi-Saints were dispatched to handle the poaching. Centuries ago, that bishop had been a member of the team tasked with poaching the beasts that currently composed the Prism World's forest.
Although reproduction allowed for the forest's self-sustenance, many of the Monstrous Beasts were still those creatures personally brought by his hands.
But now, Accursed Beasts aside, nothing remained!
All his hard work gone without an explanation!
How could he accept this? But that was only secondary. Those beasts were never meant for extermination. That was only a tactic used to force the contestants into either failure or surrender. No one expected them to succeed.
As for potential deaths, their group estimated that only those of viscount level houses were weak enough to lose their lives. Therefore, the deaths would be irrelevant.
The real purpose of those beasts was to fuel the development of the church's Anti Barbarian Totem weapons. But now, they were all gone!
"How is that possible?"
Elmar asked with the kind of puzzlement he had not felt in decades. As a matter of fact, in his more than two hundred years of existence, he couldn't recall coming across such an odd matter.
Could thousands of beasts disappear without a trace? Who would believe that?
However, the clear dismay within the bishop's eyes showed that this was no joke.
"I don't know! You ask me, but who am I supposed to ask to?"
The bishop almost cried, not knowing what else to say. He also wanted to know what was going on.
His neck was at stake!
Both Elmar and the bishop turned toward the contestants, their Semi-Saint eyesight seeking answers within them. However, the only things they saw were blank stares and rising astonishment.
Clearly, they also knew nothing.
However, a scant few had an idea. Both Koloman and Holger inferred that the only variable capable of producing such a result was Konrad. As a demon, only he was equipped with the tools to possibly subdue the beasts. How he hid them, however, they couldn't comprehend. After all, the church had made sure none of them stepped into the Prism World with space treasures.
Instinctively, they were about to turn inquisitive gazes toward him when his chilling voice boomed within their minds.
"Don't look at me! Keep staring at the bishop."
The order stopped them dead in their tracks, forcing them to maintain blank stares on the bishop.
As for Konrad, he feigned the same confusion as all the others. Neither Elmar nor the bishop could find anything wrong with the contestants. However, there had to be something. Someone among them had to be guilty. Someone capable of taming those beasts and bring them away in a space treasure.
But all their cultivation levels were clear to their eyes. Therefore, unless someone powerful enough to deceive them was present, their guess made no sense.
"The only possible explanation is that among them, a barbarian Saint gifted in camouflage and space control is hiding. However, this makes even less sense. Why would that kind of powerhouse only poach the beasts beneath the Accursed Rank? He should have emptied it all."
"The matter is strange, but unless all the people present are captured, not much can be gained from it."
"What to do?"
"I need to report this matter to His Eminence, ask for punishment and listen to his instructions."
The bishop was about to excuse himself and leave the room when Elmar's voice echoed.
"Outstanding. Then let's carry on."
All trace of the initial stupor had vanished from his face. The only remaining thing being clear satisfaction.
The bishop was once again struck by confusion. Obviously, what he should now do was to cancel the competition, keep all the contestants under house arrest, and report to the higher-ups. What did Elmar mean by -carry on-?
"Your Highness, what do you mean by that? I must submit a report to my superiors and wait for orders."
Elmar turned toward the bishop with a calm, but chilling gaze.
"What do I mean? What do you mean?! Obviously, those contestants succeeded in the impossible task given to them, and we should normally carry on to the competition's next part."
Those words took the dozens of people by surprise, and they all exchanged odd glances.
They'd succeeded? Why were they not aware of that?
Hearing Elmar's words, Konrad inwardly gave him ten thousand praises.
"Outstanding! An outstanding man!"
The bishop didn't know what was going on anymore.
"Your highness what do you mean by that? There is clearly no way those contestants could h-…"
But before he could finish his words, he stopped, terrified by what he was about to admit.
"Oh? What? Were you about to say that there was no way for them to succeed? That the church purposely gave them an impossible task and caused the vain death of nobles?
Is that what you were about to say?"
Elmar inquired with a radiant smile that only brought coldness to the bishop's heart.
"O-of course not but…"
"But what? Earlier you claimed bishop Alto was the sole mastermind. However, you clearly expected to find thousands of demonic beasts inside. Meaning that you knew very well what you were throwing them into. Therefore, this should be a reasonable competition with high chances of success. Right?"
Sweat trickled on the bishop's forehead as he realized his mistake.
"Very well. The requirement from what I've been told was for them to clear the first two levels. And now the first two levels are cleared, aren't they?"
"Yes, they are."
"That being the case, they completed their task. What do you want to investigate when you should be discussing the competition's next stage?"
All the contestants awoke and cast elated gazes toward the crown prince.
"His Highness is right! Regardless of the method, we've fulfilled the requirement."
"Right, didn't you say that we would make the count after checking the two levels' condition? They are cleared. It's time for you to count and select the contenders for the next stage!"
The bishop wanted to cry but had no tears. If this weren't stopped, he would be forced to carry on with the competition.
However, the Holy Flame Baptism quota had already been reserved for someone else? How could he let this carry-on? His head would roll!
"Your highness there are many questionable parts we need to investigate."
Elmar's smile remained, but vast Semi-Holy force erupted from his body and oppressed the bishop who dropped onto his knees.
"Are you trying to argue semantics to prevent those valorous contestants from obtaining the fruit of their labor? Is it possible that you're trying to rig the competition and prevent any one of them from obtaining the quota? Was that your plan all along?"
Each word carried with it immense pressure that assaulted the bishop's bones.
"Good. That being the case, what are you waiting for?"
The pressure vanished, and the inwardly wailing bishop stood up to collect the granted space treasures and check every contestant's points. Elmar stood by his side to wait for the result.
Due to the sudden beast horde, the contest didn't carry on for more than a day. Therefore, the results weren't that outstanding. However, as he examined Konrad's bag, the bishop frowned.
"Twenty Monstrous Beasts? Twelve of the low-level, eight of the mid-level? How could this be?"
He clearly remembered that before the competition, Konrad's cultivation was of the sixth step Grand Knight and Priest Ranks. However now, it had shot up to the second step Arch-Knight and Priest Ranks. The only reasonable explanation was that he had been storing his spiritual energy for a massive breakthrough during the competition.
In his long existence, the bishop had seen many such occurrences. Therefore, he didn't take it to heart. However, the kill count was a bit too high considering his cultivation level. And with their strength, his three other teammates couldn't help him achieve it.
"This means that he can fight above his level. However, without a high-tier cultivation method, powerful bloodline, and physique, that is impossible. When did house Kracht breed such a talent?"
The bishop was impressed, but ultimately didn't think much of it. After all, across all those centuries, he had seen many talents. Especially since he personally witnessed the most exceptional talent in the history of the Holy Flame Empire in battle, nothing could surprise him.
In front of her, Konrad's deeds were not worth mentioning.
"Unfortunately, there is no way for him to defeat Holger…alas."
If house Kracht won the quota, he was confident in his ability to force them into backing down. However, if the von Jurgen did, his life was over.
But at the very least, he found great delight in announcing the results.
Number three, Nils von Jurgen: 900 points.
Number two, Holger von Jurgen: 1500 points.
Number one…hehe…Anselm Kracht: 4400 points."
The last words didn't sit well within Elmar's ears and caused all to wonder if they'd heard wrong.