Silence reigned among the spectators who weren't given enough time to react to the scene before them. Although Holger's victory was a given, no one expected him to make use of a Saint-Origin Pill to increase his cultivation and strengthen his physique. Was there still any point to this competition?
They might as well directly proclaim him the victor!
However, shortly afterward, among the younger females of the lesser nobility, a commotion rose.
"Kyyya! So cool!"
"Holger, Holger, Holger!!!"
In an instant, Holger's performance turned him into the idol of the airheaded lasses filling many of the stadium's seats.
As for the contestants lying in a pool of their own blood, aside from their relatives, no one paid them any mind. A priest team dragged them off the stage, bringing them to the healing center.
"I didn't expect the imperial family to be this extravagant. Granting a Saint-Origin Pill to an Arch-Knight junior? Isn't that a tad bit too…excessive?"
Heinrich commented in the Saints' booth. However, neither Verena nor Else paid him attention.
"This must be Elmar's doing. But I wonder, is Holger the only one?"
Verena's eyes moved toward Nils, and following a brief assessment, she frowned.
"I'm afraid Konrad no longer has any shot at victory."
She told Else in a mental message.
"Oh? What do you say about a bet, then?"
"Why are you still that confident in him?"
The tables had changed. If Konrad had accepted their gifts, Verena wouldn't be that pessimistic about him. Now, however, victory could only elude him.
Her eyes then fell upon Konrad for a new analysis that soon left her dumbfounded.
"I can no longer see through his disguise. Not only that, but even the nature of his physique eludes me. How can this be?"
"Are you accepting the bet or not?"
"Group C, on the stage!"
Nils' group went on the stage. Just like the first group, it was well balanced, with a few first step Arch Knights while the rest were at the second step. Nils, however, was the oddball as she was supposedly at the ninth step Grand Knight and Priest Ranks.
Still, if she unleashed her True Spirit form, it would become a whole other matter.
Konrad felt something different from today's Nils and used his Origin Sight to analyze her body.
What he saw caused his eyes to widen in amazement.
"Having a good background is truly the foundation of success."
On the stage, Nils' eyes swept through those surrounding her, and disappointment flashed within her gaze.
On the bishop's order, the battle began. The two first step Arch-Knight formed a team to contend with the rest. Besides them, no one joined hands, and for an instant, no contestant made a move. All paid close attention to the rest, hoping to spot flaws, and unwilling to leave openings for others to exploit.
"What a bore."
Nils whispered, but her words didn't escape the other six who took it as a direct provocation.
"Well, if you're that annoyed, perhaps we can dispatch you first, and return to our -boring- fight."
"Well said, we shouldn't let an imperial prince remain unentertained. That would truly be a dereliction of duty!"
Without scruples, the six banded together to surround Nils. Their spiritual energy gushed forth, and weapons drawn, they shot toward her.
Immaculate light burst from her and enshrouded her body as she summoned her energy weapon. All could now clearly see that her cultivation had risen to the third step Arch Knight and Arch Priest Ranks.
This was clearly holy quintessence. For Holger to receive a Saint-Origin Pill was already strange enough, but for Nils to obtain the same treatment at the peak of the Grand Rank?
However, they didn't have time to complain.
Nils drove her sword in a frontal thrust, elemental wind force erupted from its tip and turned into dozens of wind blades that hacked at her assailants' defenses.
They howled as their blood soared from their torn flesh, and just like the previous group, limply fell onto the ground.
"Group C…victor: Nils…von Jurgen."
Even the bishop couldn't believe his eyes. Since when did Saint Origin Pills become cabbage casually thrown to babies?
The initially promising fight had turned into unilateral slaughter. The spectators no longer knew what to say.
"Well, I suppose the final will be von Jurgen vs von Jurgen."
Heinrich concluded upon seeing Nils' performance. Group A's victor would fight group B's, and group C's group D's.
Therefore, unless someone could topple the von Jurgen siblings, the final would be a showdown within the imperial family.
"It's too early to say. Why don't we have a bet?"
Verana's voice seized Heinrich's attention, and he shifted his eyes toward her.
"I believe you're well aware that betting is forbidden within the church."
"Oh, don't be such a bore. It's not betting, it's…divining the future. If you guess right, it proves you're blessed by the Divine Lord. If you fail, maybe you should give up the cassock."
Heinrich pulled in a deep breath to suppress the anger within his belly.
"In any case, rules are meant to bind the feeble. Does an exarch also need to worry about church rules for a simple wager? I believed your position stronger than that."
"Fine. What are the stakes?"
Verena's lips curled into an enchanting smile.
"A hundred holy crystals."
Holy crystals contained pure, holy energy and were often used by Saints to cultivate. Some Semi-Saints from hegemonic families such as the three sovereign prince houses and the von Jurgen also had access to them.
A holy crystal was worth one million purple crystals. However, even if one possessed the money, buying them was nigh impossible.
As she went down the stage, Nils' eyes fell upon Konrad. However, seeing that his never glanced toward her, she turned her gaze away from him and walked back toward Holger's side.
The defeated contestants were quickly brought off the platform.
"Group D, on the stage!"
With the previous round's winner within it, group D was initially one of the most eye-catching. However, with the von Jurgen siblings' performance, many had lost interest in it.
"Well, at least we won't get sent flying in one blow."
"That Kracht boy cannot pull off the von Jurgens' tricks. The True Form of Nature Serpents is also not that tyrannical. Once we join hands, he cannot resist."
"Isn't that what the ones before us thought? I'm no longer that confident…"
"Fool! The situation is different! We can definitely put up a fight and avoid public disgrace."
"Should we use our True Forms?"
The six stepped onto the stage like a well-trained battalion that'd been through life and death together. Clearly, they were ready to battle for their dignity, and avoid the sorrowful fate of the "one move execution."
Following them, Konrad stepped onto the stage.
They made no attempt to hide their intentions, forming one line opposite to him.
The bishop's voice echoed, and the six assumed their True Forms.
A golden-eyed lion, a devouring serpent, a twin-headed snake, and three other towering monsters appeared before Konrad who observed them with great interest.
Thousands of eyes locked on the platform with rapt attention. Many were curious about how Konrad would handle them if he could handle them. Could he live up to his number one title, or reveal his previous performance to be nothing more than a fluke?
Headed by the golden-eyed lion, the six beasts pounced onto Konrad with their massive bodies hissing against the wind.
A single smacking sound thundered, echoing within the ears of the thousands of spectators.
The six massive figures flew off the platform, crashed against the invisible magical barrier protecting the public, and dropped onto the ground, unconscious.
There was no holy quintessence, no outlandish display. From beginning to end, Konrad stood in the same spot with his arms crossed beneath his back.
And as leisurely as he'd arrived, Konrad stepped off the stage.