"What if I refuse?"
Olrich asked without a hint of his frustration.
"Then, I will personally execute you. I suppose you know that your toy isn't enough for you to challenge me, right?"
The indifference with which Amalia said those words further startled the onlookers. Witnessing this scene, Konrad felt something amiss.
Either the dowager was a heartless, callous woman that put her own benefit above everything else, or there was terrible enmity between mother and son. Perhaps a bit of both?
"Mother, Do you think I don't have anyone capable of suppressing you? Don't worry. Since I dare come here, I, of course, came prepared.
My daughter will not wed the Great Void Crown Prince. Not in three months, not in three years, never, ever.
If you're dead set on sending her to her doom, then…it is war!"
Olrich declared with a determined gaze that left no room for compromise. The head exarch frowned, while a strange light flashed within Amalia's eyes.
If the church and the imperial family truly went all out, the imperial family was bound to get destroyed. However, the church would experience non-negligible losses. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that it might lose half of its power.
At that time, the Metze and the Voight would without a shred of doubt rebel, perhaps even join hands with the barbarians north to destroy the Holy Flame Church once and for all.
If things indeed reached that stage, only an intervention of the Celestial Church could save them. This was a gamble the head exarch, Gerhard wasn't willing to take.
"Olrich, I admire your fatherly love, but a man of high aspirations should know when to advance and when to retreat. Since what you fear is the Great Void Crown Princess title, these are my offers.
She can marry the seventh prince instead. They are similar in age, and unlike his older brother, he doesn't practice the Supreme Void Art."
There were two reasons for the Great Void Empire's unique tradition. The first was that their ancestors had seen too many instances of mothers of crown princes and emperors seizing power from the shadow and wreaking havoc in the court which made them fearful of such things occurring in their own country.
The second and most important was that Great Void Emperors and Crown Princes practiced the Supreme Void Art, a cultivation method that bred an empty, unfeeling heart. To successfully complete it, they had to sever all emotions to become their "perfect selves."
The mother's execution was used as a stepping stone to cultivating the Supreme Void Art to the pinnacle. If that weren't enough, either more drastic methods would come into play, or the crown prince would lose his life. A new empress would then be selected, and her eldest son would undergo the same training.
For that reason, many empresses and crown princes of the Great Void Empire used sterility medicines to prevent pregnancy. Those caught doing so were summarily executed and replaced.
All this made the Great Void Imperial Family a terrible place to live in where emperors and crown princes were dreaded like the plague by every single one of their relatives.
"Your other option is the Prosperous Wind Empire's third prince. Coincidently, he also ranks third on the list and is of high priority."
Mild and peaceful, the Prosperous Wind Imperial Family was without a shred of doubt the warmest imperial family on the globe. As for their third prince, although he was already more than three hundred years old, he was well-known for his tolerance and gentle heart. If Olrich had to pick a son-in-law for his cherished jewel, it would definitely be him.
However, once she left for the Prosperous Wind Empire, he would never see her again. The thought that across the centuries to come he would never see his daughter's smile again was simply unbearable. Still, it was the best option, and a concession he was willing to make.
For now at least…
"Very well. Then in three months, we will escort her to the Prosperous Wind Empire."
"No need. Knowing him, the third prince will come to fetch her personally. With that settled, how do you plan to pay for the damages sustained today?"
"Heinrich deserved to be damned. As for the rest, feel free to send the bill. I will not be stingy."
Olrich didn't mind letting them squeeze some benefits to let the matter end as it was. In any case, this was only a temporary arrangement. Whether each side would hold up to it was still unknown. All the Saints then vanished from the scene, leaving only the dumbstruck folks that remained.
As for the competition, they'd all put it out of their minds.
"Your Beatitude, why didn't you execute or at the very least capture him?"
Asked one of the charred high exarchs toward Gerhard.
"Several reasons. Firstly, there is still one hidden expert within the imperial family who can contend with me. Although he's been hiding for thousands of years, the day we threaten their very existence, he will emerge. Secondly, we must investigate how Olrich managed to destroy the lock and why his cultivation has been improving at such breakneck speed.
And lastly, while Amalia seemed to be on our side, what she will really do when push comes to shoves is still a matter of debate. When our preparations are sufficient, I will naturally dispose of him."
Among the church's high level, Amalia's loathing of Olrich was well-known. However, at the end of the day, regardless of what he did in the past, he was still her son.
Therefore, Gerhard didn't believe that at the critical juncture, she would choose them over him.
Following the Saints' departure, a strange silence reigned on the scene. A new bishop soon came in to handle the situation. Elmar gave Holger a mental message, after which Holger stepped toward the new bishop and loudly declared.
Without another word, he walked back to Elmar's side, and the three von Jurgen siblings vanished from the scene, leaving only Konrad and the new bishop on the platform.
The two eyed one another for a moment before the bishop shrugged and stepped toward him.
"Well, I guess you're the winner. Congratulations, this century's Holy Flame Baptism quota belongs to you."
At the same time, he sent Konrad a mental message.
"However, I would advise you to forget about using it and surrender it back to us. Do so, and the exarchs promised that you could directly join the church as one of their apprentices and receive vigorous training. We know you don't plan to use it for yourself, so why waste it?
We will also not let you give it up in vain. You will obtain massive cultivation resources and wealth in exchange."
Perhaps to others, the prospect of becoming a Saint's disciple held irresistible appeal, but to Konrad, it was of no interest.
"Thanks, but I decline."
The bishop's eyes grew cold, but with the recent events, he knew he'd have to restrain himself, less others used the opportunity to impeach him.
Today, even a Saint had lost his life. This wasn't worth gambling his for.
"As you wish."