Today, the Holy Flame Church was full of bluster. Hundreds of nobles flooded its halls, eager for the competition to start. Many had already taken their seats in the arena, awaiting the competitors' entrance.
Meanwhile, said competitors were completing their last arrangements.
"Take those two Saint-Origin Pills."
Elmar ordered while extending two golden pills to Nils and Holger.
Holger looked at them with confusion while Nils appeared slightly detached.
"Elder brother, is that really necessary? This is…such a waste."
Even for the imperial family, Saint-Origin Pills were in short supply. Their worth didn't fully exert itself before the Transcendent and Semi-Holy Rank. Beneath those ranks, using them was a waste.
Arch-Knights and Priests could not absorb even one-tenth of the pill's power. For Elmar to pull out two required considerable resources. Thus, Holger really couldn't bear using them at his current level.
"Better be safe than sorry. I ran a background check on your opponent and failed to find anything of interest. But the less we find, the more suspicious he is. With house Kracht's resources, they absolutely cannot train such a talent. I suspect a Saint behind the scenes.
Who knows what resources he has at his disposal? We must not act sloppily. Don't worry, I will help you two refine the pills and minimize the losses. What you cannot digest, you can store and use in the future.
Other benefits aside, the sheer holy power should be enough for a breakthrough. In any case, those pills belong to you."
Holger said nothing more. However, he was inwardly full of apprehension. The more assurance he had in victory, the more uneasy he felt.
His life was in Konrad's hands. How dared he defeat him? However, if he showed flaws, Elmar would definitely spot them and cause more trouble. Even if he didn't want to, he had to try his hardest!
Meanwhile, Nils maintained an absentminded look. Spotting the abnormal behavior, Elmar frowned.
"Nils' what's wrong with you?"
She instantly replied and shifted her attention back to him.
"According to you, what level can I reach after taking this pill? And how much more powerful will my physique be?"
Elmar's frown deepened. Although dedicated to cultivation, Nils usually didn't pay much attention to her battle power. If anything, her immersion in cultivation was more of a tactic to avoid loneliness.
"At least two levels. As for your physique, you only have a one percent chance of unlocking a holy constitution. However, I can guarantee your flesh will at least reach the Transcendent Rank.
Beneath the Transcendent Rank, nothing will be able to injure you."
Most physiques were innate and improved with the cultivation. People born with special physiques far beyond their levels were few and far between. And with time, unless nurtured by powerful pills and elixirs, cultivation would always catch up to the physique level.
Elmar for example currently possessed a Holy Physique. However, with the imperial family's resources, he could not bring it to the next level. Unless he grasped new opportunities, his cultivation would one day catch up to it.
"That should be good enough. Elder brother, please help me refine it."
Meanwhile, house Kracht was getting anxious.
"He's in a trance? Now of all times?
What should we do?"
Daphne complained while standing outside Konrad's chambers. The competition was starting in one hour, and the contestants were all expected to gather at least half an hour beforehand. However, Zamira was now telling them that Konrad had entered a cultivation trance?
How could she not get worried?
"Perhaps that's for the best. We're already treading on thin ice. Offending the imperial family for this quota is not worth it."
Iliana secretly heaved a sigh of relief. However, Zamira was of another mind.
"Let's check the situation."
Following Zamira's lead, the three Kracht women stepped in. What awaited them was the sight of Konrad sitting cross-legged with his eyes closed.
Purple light swirled around him while rose petals appeared and fluttered by his side.
"He's been like this for ten hours already. At this rate, he will really miss the next round."
Although annoyed, there was nothing Zamira could do besides watching and hoping that the trance would soon come to an end. If they missed the second round like this, why did they bother attending in the first place?
However, as worry began filling her face, a strange phenomenon occurred.
Violet sparks glittered around Konrad's form while berserk, purple lightning burst from his body. Carrying with them energy waves that almost sent Daphne and Iliana spiraling into the air. Fortunately for them, Zamira was there to deflect the lightning's effects.
Crackling sounds thundered within the air as the purple lightning rose and drew dozens of arcs around Konrad's form. The terrifying power emanating from within it caused even Zamira to feel some apprehension.
"What kind of cultivation does he practice for his attributes to be so overbearing?"
It wasn't the first time this question sprang within her mind. Konrad's light attribute was already strange enough, but this lightning one seemed even more dreadful. If his light attribute seemed to emphasize speed and flexibility, this lightning one was all about destruction.
Konrad's eyes opened with purple lightning rotating around his irises.
"No need to get worried. Wait for me outside, we will soon set out."
That said, he once again closed his eyes. Zamira didn't dare delay and carried the two still dazed girls outside.
"The Hundred Flowers Scripture contains three attributes. Light, Lightning, and Nature.
The first gives you unparalleled speed, the second unparalleled strength, and the last unparalleled resilience. Now that you've unlocked the lightning attribute, combined with your bloodline level, I dare say that even without your lineage weapon, you can fight across an entire rank."
"So what? As I reach higher ranks, those advantages will shrink. If I don't improve, by the time I reach the Semi-Holy Rank, how many levels will I be able to skip?
What about the Holy Rank? The Divine Rank? Ultimately, those advantages are just more pronounced in the lower ranks. Among those Divine Rank powerhouses, who wasn't the titan of an era?"
Konrad replied, not letting the Flame Mark inflate his head.
"That may be true, but in this world, how many Divine Children are they? As long as you don't slack off, your future is not comparable to theirs. Even the meridians you will unlock in the Transcendent Rank are not what they can aspire to."
Konrad said nothing more and dispelled the phenomenon surrounding him.
His mind then drifted to several locations.
"Freya, how did your task go?"
"I've managed to deplete a third of house Schoner's wealth, a total of sixty-five million purple crystals, and shift it to bank accounts solely on my name. Whenever master wishes, I can put them under your name.
Right now, I'm hiding within the inner court, in the holy consort's palace."
"Well done, you will soon have your reward."
"Wolfgang, how are you handling your task?"
"Boss, thanks to the vulnerability left by your arrangements, house Schoner has already fallen in our hands. As for house Henlein, it's a bit more difficult. I should get it done in half a month."
Konrad shut the connection and stood up.
"Then it's time to settle things here."
He then stepped out of his chambers and alongside the Kracht women, headed toward the arena.
The bishop handling the competition was currently kneeling in front of a middle-aged man dressed in a long white cassock bearing the church's emblem.
"Your eminence, how should we proceed?"
That man was an exarch of the church, and therefore, a Saint. He was also the mastermind behind the first round's events.
"Man proposes, heaven disposes. Now that things have come to this, we can only proceed with the second round. A pity…
However, it's inconsequential. The leaders of the Celestial Faction have already given their consent. Even if the von Jurgen win, we can still make them give up the quota. We will just have to pay some prices."
The Holy Flame Church wasn't a united group. It was divided into two factions. The Imperial Faction that served the interest of the Holy Flame Empire, and the Celestial Faction composed of members directly appointed by the Celestial Church. Naturally, they served its interests.
Although the Imperial Faction tried its best to counterbalance the outsiders, the difference in power was too large, and often, they had to bend the knee.
This time would be no different.
Full of bluster, the arena's seats were currently filled by thousands of nobles, ranging from imperial knights to viscounts. As for counts and above, they occupied more honorable VIP seats enclosed above the stadium, from which they could see everything that occurred below.
The twelve dukes each possessed their own luxury booths. However, they chose to gather in a single one to observe the competition together.
They were all high-level Semi-Saints with the youngest being more than seven-hundred years old, while the oldest approached the twelve-hundreds.
Therefore, their interest in the competition was minimal. However, it was an event organized by the church, with invitations sent to their doorsteps. They had to show up.
"Old man Slesinger, wasn't your son among the contestants. Why is it that I'm not seeing him today?"
The one who'd spoken was the youngest of the twelve dukes, the Kringel duke. He was also the most unbridled and paid little attention to decorum. His bearing was more like a mobster than a noble's. He was also quite fond of taking pleasure in others' misfortune.
Having heard of Koloman offending the crown prince, how could he not tease that old fogey?
"My son was injured and is recuperating at home. He cannot participate."
The Slesinger duke casually replied and paid him no more attention.
"Is that so?"
Meanwhile, the twenty-nine remaining contestants had all gathered to listen to the second round's rules.
"You will get split into four groups. Since you're now twenty-nine, we will have three of seven and one of eight. The last man standing of each group will advance to the next stage.
Now, you can come to pick your group numbers."
One after the others the contestants drew their numbers, and soon enough the four groups were established. As fate would have it, Konrad, Holger, and Nils all ended up in different groups.