"Just like that, it's over?"
"How could it not be over?"
The new bishop had announced the end of the competition and proclaimed Konrad the victor. Thus, giving house Kracht the Holy Flame Baptism quota, and causing some of the spectators to feel a sense of loss for not getting to see the last battle.
Although the confrontation between Saints was awe-inspiring, it was by far too dangerous for the likes of them to enjoy. With a single mistake, the entire city could be razed. Such battles only produced fear and no appreciation.
Compared to them, the competition between the younger generation was much more appealing.
The twelve dukes exchanged glances that shared the same confusion.
"His majesty made another breakthrough. Cultivation becomes harsher in the later stages. The higher your realm, the more difficulties you experience in making progress. So why is that his speed has only been increasing since he reached sainthood?"
Of the twelve dukes, the majority were either of Olrich's generation or from the one preceding him. Only two were younger. Therefore, they had a clear understanding of his life before ascending to the throne.
Of the seven princes of the previous generation, Olrich ranked third and was far from being the most outstanding. Compared to other families, he was, of course, an exceptional talent. But when compared to his two elder brothers, he fell far short.
However, in a shocking blood-storm, he took the crown as the first Semi-Saint emperor in history, and since then, his cultivation had been improving by leaps and bounds. If someone said there wasn't trickery involved, they wouldn't believe it.
Konrad returned to the Kracht kinsmen's side to prepare for the upcoming baptism. According to the church officials, the baptism would take place on the following day. However, Konrad still felt that precautions were necessary to avoid getting taken by surprise.
After all, the church may not be willing to force them in public, but what they would do in the shadows was totally unknown. Especially now that they'd lost an exarch and most likely needed to promote a new talent.
As they returned to their chambers, he kept Zamira, Daphne, Iliana, and even Wulf by his side, then laid bare his concerns.
"Life is more important than glory. If they already threatened you, why didn't you just give it up?!"
Iliana yelled at Konrad. Her concerns weren't without merit, although the holy emperor could challenge the church, that was because his own cultivation was terrifying, while he also wielded the Holy Flame Seal and the imperial family's forces. Even then, he still had to make concessions.
No one doubted that if a war between the two parties truly erupted, the imperial family would get the short end of the stick. In front of such a terrifying enemy, was there a need to act headstrong? If they didn't back off, who knew what method the church would resort to?
"We did not come so far to go back empty-handed. Don't worry, since I dare reject them, I, of course, have countermeasures planned.
Since they've already announced that the baptism would take place in the main altar room tomorrow morning, regardless of what they do, they will have to act in the following hours.
They will avoid any obvious move like murder. At worst, they will choose kidnapping and blackmail.
Whether we can make use of the quota, will depend on your nerves, and of how much you can endure.
Daphne, Zamira, Wulf, Wolfgang, and I, any key member of house Kracht whose presence isn't necessary tomorrow will most likely get abducted. We will get tortured, and using our lives as threats, they will ask you to publicly reject the baptism."
Hearing this, Iliana and Daphne's eyes almost popped out of their sockets, while Wulf and Zamira's held a mixture of understanding and concern. Not necessarily for themselves, but for the other people involved.
"The more reason why we should give it up! I'm not going to stand there and watch you all suffer just for the opportunity of reaching the Holy Rank!"
Iliana exclaimed, but Konrad dismissed her with a wave of his hand.
"Daphne, Wulf, and Zamira, will vanish tonight, leaving Wolfgang and I the only worthy targets. Wolfgang will rush back to his fief and trigger their pursuit. They still don't know his real cultivation level; therefore, they will only send low-level bishops after him. With his third step Semi-Saint cultivation, in half a day, he should be able to rush back to his fief. At that time, they will be forced to back off.
I will also try to escape. However, mine is meant to fail. When they capture me and bring me back to the church, you will receive an ultimatum. Asking you to publicly renounce your quota for the opportunity to join the church as a priestess.
You must not flinch.
Because of all the eyes staring at the baptism, and the imperial court looking for opportunities to cause trouble, they won't dare touch you. The best way for you to help me is to not waver."
Iliana vigorously shook her head.
"This is not worth it. Why be so stubborn? I will go reject it now."
"I forbid it."
Konrad calm, but authoritative order nailed Iliana onto the ground.
"I didn't come here to get bullied into submission by a bunch of men and women in cassocks. Succumbing to coercion is something I don't know how to do. If they dare touch me, I naturally have my ways to make them pay a bitter price."
The domineering force echoing from his words forced the four to let go of their apprehension. His stern face then softened, and he adopted a gentle tone.
"Don't worry, I'm not masochistic. I have my ways. Also, since you're my woman, I naturally must make plans for you."
Iliana drew in a deep breath, dispelling the apprehension within her heart and reassuming a firm, unyielding stance.
"Very well, let's defend this quota!"
The other three nodded in firm approval. Konrad retrieved his space bag from Iliana and hid Daphne, Zamira, and Wulf inside. He then hid the space bag into the space talisman and transformed it into a grain which he hid between his molars.
He then sent a mental message to Wolfgang, alerting him of the events, before rushing out of the church to run back to house Kracht at full speed.
There, Wolfgang was waiting.
"Let's go. At first, you will stay at my speed. When they give chase, you will unleash a large enough part of your third step Semi-Holy Knight cultivation to escape them and leave me behind. Remember, don't kill anyone of them. Otherwise, even after the baptism, they will not let you off."
"Understood, but why are you trying to get captured?"
It was entirely possible for Wolfgang to carry Konrad to escape alongside him. Konrad knew that very well but still wanted to get left behind. Therefore, Wolfgang inferred that he genuinely wanted to get captured.
To his inquiry, Konrad smiled.
"Naturally, it's to make them bleed from inside."
Wolfgang couldn't understand how the tiny Konrad could deal a blow to the giant church from the inside. However, recalling his demonic origin and extraordinary means, he asked nothing more.
And together, they sprinted out of the Holy Flame City!