Iliana's face shone with fear, causing the inquisitress' lips to curl into a smile. Turned upside down with his blood flowing to his head, Konrad observed the scene in silence.
The chains suppressed his cultivation but didn't affect his bloodline abilities. Therefore, the situation didn't impact his plans. As long as Iliana played along, the church would soon feed his purse and growing army.
However, he could feel her rising hesitation threatening to foil the plan.
"What is the meaning of this? Just because you can't get us to surrender the quota, you want to torture my close ones to force me to concede?!"
She roared, but her indignation didn't even cause a ripple in the inquisitress' face.
The straightforward answer took Iliana aback.
"Don't look at me like that. At this point, do you really think there is a need for us to put up an act? Let me clearly tell you that you only have two roads ahead of you.
First, tomorrow, under the gaze of the public, you will profess your love for the Divine Flame Lord, and surrender the quota in exchange for the chance to join the church as a priestess. Overwhelmed by your zeal, we will agree and welcome you into our fold. You will instead receive a Semi-Holy Baptism and get vigorously trained.
Second, you refuse, accept the baptism, and let this boy become a lab rat for my new torture devices. By the way, although your father tricked us and managed to return to his fief, a master of the assassination department has already been dispatched and can at any time bring back his head. Therefore, I hope you can make a sensible decision."
If she was already prepared for the first two parts, the knowledge that her father's life was already at the mercy of an assassin made Iliana flounder.
However, Konrad's bloodshot gaze locked on hers, and although he said nothing, the insistence within clearly exclaimed: "do not falter!"
"Oh? It seems you need some more convincing. Bring in the essence devouring bugs."
The three words "essence devouring bugs" triggered a massive reaction, from Iliana who grabbed the inquisitress' shoulders with a pleading, desperate look.
"Essence devouring bugs have been outlawed for centuries. You can't do this!"
With a light tap on her shoulder, the inquisitress sent her flying against the adjacent wall. Her body then slid onto the ground.
"Nonsensical. What the church can and cannot do is not yours to decide. Are you retarded? Kidnapping and blackmail are also forbidden, right? But here you are."
A young priestess brought in an iron cage within which a group of thumb-sized dark-green centipedes crawled in circles.
Seeing those centipedes. Iliana shivered.
"Boy, your lack of reaction makes me think that you are not aware of what those little treasures can do. Allow me to explain. Essence devouring bugs are a rare breed of low-level Monstrous Beasts. Individually, they don't amount to much, even the average Grand Knight can defeat one.
However, they usually form packs, each with dozens of centipedes and can sneak into wounds or vulnerable orifices to lodge themselves in your internal organs. They target the brain, the heart, the lungs, the liver, and gnaw them from the inside. Not only that, but as they eat, they release a violent poison that causes bouts of horrendous pain and shreds you from the inside out.
It is a slow, consuming process that lasts for an entire week. Most go insane from the poison alone, to say nothing of the pain of having your organs slowly devoured from the inside.
When they're done devouring those five organs, they gnaw their way out of your head, chest, and abdomen. Indeed, terrifying creatures."
As she spoke, the inquisitress took the cage from the priestess', hands, and stepped toward Konrad.
Despite the disturbing explanation, Konrad didn't lose his composure. On the contrary, it was Iliana who had lost her cool. Once they were installed within the organs, removing essence devouring bugs without harming the host was nigh impossible, and at least required the help of an experienced Semi-Saint.
Even then, repairing the damage they'd already caused was a daunting task. By the time they released Konrad, his days would be numbered. Since things had reached this point, no matter what Konrad said, she was ready to concede.
But then, for the first time since his arrival within the dungeon, Konrad's voice echoed.
"Don't disappoint me."
The weight of those three words pulled Iliana out of her stupor. She firmly believed that Konrad wasn't the type to forsake his life out of pride. If he was willing to shoulder this, then he must have the means to control the situation.
However, she couldn't show her confidence to the inquisitress and kept her eyes lowered on the ground in a show of submission.
A delighted laugh rose from the inquisitress' lips.
"Hahaha, good. But as insurance, I will still infect him with the bugs. Don't worry, if tomorrow you do your part, I will personally remove them, and leave no lasting damage."
The inquisitress assured then pulled out a dagger to slowly cut open Konrad's lower abdomen and release the dozens of centipedes into the wounds. She could have just shoved them down his throat. However, a born sadist, she couldn't let go of the opportunity to gash his body.
Unfortunately for her, she didn't get the slightest sound from him. The centipede crawled through the wound, infesting Konrad's abdomen. Iliana kept her eyes shut close, unwilling to witness the scene.
As for Konrad, the discomfort caused by having his body infested by dozens of bugs distorted his face.
This was another lesson. If his cultivation had reached the Holy Rank, what need would there be for all those plans and schemes? What need would there be to endure this kind of treatment? He could just flatten the church and be done with it.
Within him, his growing demonic hunger for power reached new heights, suppressing some of the feeble human scruples that remained.
His Transcendent level Stolas Beast Physique kicked into gear, and from within, spread a poison that locked the centipedes within his abdomen, and slowly eroded them.
Naturally, the self-satisfied inquisitress had no knowledge of this.
"I…want to go back."
"Of course, you should prepare for tomorrow. Don't worry, I will take good care of your friend."
With that said, she dispatched two priestesses to bring the shaken Iliana back to her room and remained standing before Konrad, with the two, silent saw holding girls still by his side.
"You are truly muddled-headed. How many people get rejected every day, trying to join the church. But you not only received that opportunity but could have also become an exarch's disciple. Yet, you chose to cling onto meat too large for your throat?
Tss, tss, tss, you can only blame your arrogance. I hate conceited boys like you the most."
She declared while digging her nails through Konrad's wound. His Body Regeneration ability had already kicked into gear, closing the wound around her finger. Seeing this, she beamed.
"Impressive, I've rarely seen such an astounding regeneration ability. Good, very good. You and I will have a lot of fun."
"You're taking the words from my mouth."