With the foundation laid down, it was time for Konrad to carry out his plan. Without further ado, he, under the guise of Grand Inquisitress Margo, stepped out of the dungeons and headed toward the inquisition department's treasure vault.
Right now, his status was directly below the exarchs'. Therefore, no one dared stand in his way. Soon, he reached the treasure vault's doorsteps. The treasure vaults were some of the few places inside the church to be under the surveillance of recording mirrors. Therefore, as soon as he arrived, Konrad's, or rather, "Margo's" presence had been registered.
He pulled out her token. Bright yellow light rose from it and dived into the towering gate, unlocking it. The gate then slowly opened.
"Tss, tss, tss. Holy Flame Church, Holy Flame Church. When you send such a fierce invitation to my doorsteps, of course, as a guest, I must honor you by devouring all I can."
Konrad stepped in, and the door closed at his back.
The treasure vault was organized in various compartments, each holding different items.
From alchemy ingredient and pills to artifacts, all were present. Konrad even saw a chest full of holy crystals. After count, it held about two-hundred thousand.
"Whoever said that hard work is the price of success deserves a good beating. What nonsense is hard work? Clearly, banditry is the most reliable road to a life of wealth and opulence.
Rich. I'm rich!"
Although this was only the reserve, and there was more in circulation, it was already enough for Konrad to establish his own kingdom. Such wealth already surpassed any duke's house and competed with the sovereign princes'!
Konrad wasted no time to swallow all this wealth into his space treasure, then straightforwardly walked out.
Returning to his dungeon cell, he reassumed Anselm Kracht's shape and had his two guards set him back into harsh prisoner conditions.
It was now past midnight, the moon still hung high in the sky, and for the first time in a long while, though his conditions were the poorest since he'd arrived in the Ancient Crystal World, Konrad slept like a baby.
Iliana had not slept for the entire night. At dawn, she was still pacing back and forth within her room, unsure of whether to follow through with the plan or not. Konrad's "Don't disappoint me" had left a profound imprint on her mind, but although she had full confidence in him, she didn't wish to gamble his future on this.
As for her father, she knew there was nothing to fear since at best, the church would again underestimate him and send someone unable to take his life, while at worst, they would wait for after the competition's end to make their move. If only to avoid suspicion. Even then, besides venting petty anger, there was nothing to gain from killing him.
"What to do? What to do? What to do?"
But as she wondered what course of action to take, a knocking sound came from her doorsteps.
"It's time for the ceremony."
The sun had now reared its head, sending its dazzling rays to illuminate the vast blue sky. Yet, it failed to reach Iliana's heart which overflowed with apprehension and saw even the clearest of skies as a dark omen.
Because she'd professed her desire to surrender the quota, the church officials didn't bother teaching her about the various stages of the ceremony. Of course, it was relatively simple. As long as she could walk straight and speak clearly, all would flow nicely.
It was now time to make her choice.
To obey Konrad's will and risk all their necks or submit to a greater force and not only lose the hard-earned quota but also all modicum of respect he held for her. To say nothing of him, though they might not have made a different choice, those children of nobility would once again use the opportunity to jeer, blaming her lack of courage on her human lineage and shaming her house as wantonly as possible.
She pulled in a deep breath, recalling Konrad's previous words.
"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."
Since she'd promised him to defend the quota, then it was time for her to do her part. Taking another breath, Iliana dispelled the negativity within her mind, calmed her anxious eyes, and with a gaze full of resolve, stepped out of her chambers.
Outside, two priestesses awaited, and without a word, they escorted her down the hall, heading toward the altar room where the ceremony would be conducted.
As they moved down the hall, a woman dressed in abbess level cassocks went past them, and furtively sent Iliana a mental message.
"The situation is under control. Master asked me to tell you that you don't have to worry about anything."
If Iliana still held a bit of apprehension, then with that confirmation, all vanished into nothingness. Relaxed, she confidently stepped toward the altar room. Inside, hundreds of individuals were currently seated. From counts to dukes, all belonged to the high nobility and were eager to see the birth of a fledgling saint.
Most didn't come empty-handed, bringing with them many congratulatory gifts they would present after the baptism to build connections while they still could.
Iliana's gaze swept past them. People eager to seek connections in the sunny days and prompt to distance themselves when dark clouds gathered were the type she despised the most.
The seats were cut at the middle by a massive alleyway draped in gold. At the end of it, Iliana currently stood with the two priestesses by her side. She was garbed in an elegant cyan dress matching her mesmerizing, slit emerald eyes, and didn't bother putting on any makeup.
After all, with beauty like hers, such things were both unnecessary and excessive.
She held herself straight, with her eyes staring directly at the altar beneath which a tall flame spirit exarch awaited. The altar was surrounded by four fifteen feet tall pedestals each lighted by bright white flames, and above it floated a pure white orb.
White flames swirled around the orb, brightening the room and dazzling those who dared directly stare at it.
"Iliana Kracht, step forward!"
The priestesses remained still, and Iliana began a slow, steady walk toward the altar under the mixed gazes of the nobility and the clergy.
She stopped right in front of the bishop who lifted his hand above her head. Understanding the sign, she fell on her knees.
"Are you willing to accept the divine lord's grace, to receive his purest baptism and be reborn in his holy flames as a pure, immaculate creature to forever serve his glorious will?"
Not one of the clergymen and women expected a yes. Now, according to plan, she would refuse on account on not being worthy, of such honor and instead beg for the opportunity to join the church as a priestess. And moved by her piety, and humility, they would agree.
"Yes, I am willing!"
…her next words didn't follow the script.