The Celestial Faction exarch who took over the direction of the events frowned upon hearing the bishop's report. Soon, however, his frown was replaced by a disdainful snort.
"Then they can't blame us for being ruthless. Receive my order. You will lead a team of three bishops, and six abbots to capture the key members of house Kracht. When their lives hang in the balance, I really want to see how they dare reject submission."
The bishop excused himself and as per the exarch's order, gathered the team to hunt down the Kracht kinsmen. One bishop was dispatched to the Kracht chambers within the church to arrest Zamira, Wulf and the rest.
However, besides Iliana, only the not worth mentioning members of house Kracht remained.
"Not good. They already escaped!"
The bishops put Iliana under house arrest, then rushed toward house Kracht, and when they realized that not even Wolfgang remained, they flew out of the Holy Flame City, using their Semi-Holy sense to track down the runaway pair.
Alongside Wolfgang, Konrad was rushing past the outskirts of the Holy Flame City when the pressure released by three flying forms assailed their backs.
Although the three bishops were still miles away, they were catching up at breakneck speed.
It wouldn't be long before they put their hands on them.
"Resistance is futile. You might as well stop struggling."
One of them said in a mocking tone.
Even without Konrad's mental message, Wolfgang was already ready. He increased his speed to a first step Semi-Holy Knight's limit, soared into the air, and bolted out of sight, leaving Konrad far behind.
Taken by surprise, the three bishops giving chase failed to comprehend why the ninth step Transcendent Knight Wolfgang was suddenly exhibiting a cultivation level that seemed slightly above theirs.
"Damn, we were tricked! Quick, after him!"
But as two of the three were about to accelerate and give their all to corner Wolfgang, their team leader stopped and shifted his attention onto Konrad.
"No need to bother chasing him. At his speed, we may be able to keep him in sight, but we can never catch up to him. If we blindly follow him, by the time he reaches his fief, we will still be at his back. At that time, we're intruding on a landed noble's fief. He can legitimately dispatch his army to face us within his domain and blow things out of proportion.
Let's first bring that kid back and report to the exarch. Hopefully, it will be enough to make the Kracht girl waver."
The Semi-Saint's pressure crashed on Konrad, immobilizing him on the ground.
"What is the meaning of this?"
He roared in a false show of indignity.
The three bishops eyed him with a mixture of scorn and amusement.
"Since you refused our goodwill, we can only use strong methods. Did you really think the likes of house Kracht was qualified to enjoy the fruits of the church's labor?"
For them, although Konrad was an outstanding youth with latent far above theirs, he was, after all too young with a limited background. Unless they found a "towering tree" to rely on, such talents were usually short-lived.
Therefore, they didn't have much hope for him.
"If you never intended to let others have it, why organize a competition for it?"
"The hundred years competition is the will of the Celestial Church. We can't resist it. However, that doesn't mean we can't play with it. Besides the imperial family and the three sovereign princes houses, very few ever managed to snatch a quota from us.
You won't be one of them."
Inwardly, Konrad sneered.
Afterward, they packed him in a space treasure and returned to the church. They then tossed him into a dungeon where an empty cell had been prepared for him. Soon afterward, several priestesses came in to "prepare him for display."
Iliana's door was currently guarded by two church knights to prevent her from escaping.
As if overtaken by worries, she paced back and forth, alone within her room. The door then sprang open, revealing the form of a stunning bishopess whose condescending gaze didn't conceal her sense of superiority.
"Come with me."
She ordered, then as if certain that Iliana could only obey, she turned heels and walked out.
Though appearing hesitant, Iliana still followed her, and as they crossed the church halls, she asked in a trembling voice:
"Where are you taking me?"
To which the bishopess answered:
"You'll know when you're there."
They went down one level, reaching the underground where the church held its prisoners.
The bishopess then led Iliana to the torture chambers where several individuals were currently receiving "great care."
One man was trapped within a brazen bull and getting slowly roasted to death, while another was tied on a large chair whose every corner were filled with spikes. The thousands of spikes dug through his flesh, nailing him at more than a thousand spots and causing his blood to drench the chair in red while scalding heat waves seared him.
Many others were suffering just as terrible fates, and their soul-rending howls filled the room.
Seeing the ghastly spectacle, Iliana teetered, almost falling on her rear.
Her eyes then fell on Konrad who was currently hung upside down with two young women standing by his side, each holding the other end of a saw. Instinctively, she tried to rush toward his side but was held and pushed back by the bishopess.
"There is a saying, that the most terrifying women of the empire gather within the church. That is because we're in charge of the inquisition department. Over the years, we've devised countless ways to make the most honorable of men abjure his parents, frame his children, and plead for the destruction of all he ever cherished if we so wished him to."
"You are…an inquisitress?"
The affirmative reply caused Iliana's already floundering heart to surrender to dread.
In the entirety of the empire, there was no group more dreaded than the inquisition department of the church. It was said that whoever got subjected to their "questioning" would never again be a functional member of society. That department was chiefly composed of women, each trained from infancy to possess a heart of ice.
They could saw a baby in half and feel no remorse. For Konrad to fall into their hands, she couldn't help but feel the situation's gravity to have escaped their control.
However, when she recalled what kind of demon Konrad was, a wave of understanding spread within her mind. Still, with all the variable involved, this was no different from gambling with the devil.