Following Krann's departure, Konrad sat crossed legged within his cultivation chamber to refine Soul Expansion Pills and pursue the second layer of the Infernal Soul Devouring Art. In a flash, the daylight made way for the darkened sky and descending night.
Konrad's body bathed in dark fog, and though he made considerable progress, the second layer still eluded him. As the dark fog dispersed, Krann's voice echoed within Konrad's mind.
"Master, the ambush is a success. The entourage slaughtered, the betrothal gifts pocketed, and the third prince maimed. As you commanded, I forced him to swallow the Phantasm Orchid."
The average Holy Knight could reach a speed of one-hundred kilometers per second. Therefore, in a few minutes, Krann's ambush was ready. He picked a spot far from the Prosperous Wind Capital but still within their sphere of influence to await their third prince's passage and carry out his assault.
After several hours of patient lurking, the Prosperous Wind third prince's convoy arrived. What happened afterward was simple enough. The poor man only brought with him one Rising Saint elder, several Semi-Saints and a few dozen Transcendent Knights. How could they resist Krann?
The Rising Saint was beheaded in one blow, and the rest soon followed him to the grave.
"Good. Now, I can make my move. Don't forget to use some of your demonic energies to give him enough strength to return to their capital."
While Adelar's troublemaking abilities gave Konrad murder urges, his thoughts held merit. Only by shattering the equilibrium between the five states could they facilitate the Holy Flame Empire's unification of the continent. And though, granted they possessed paragon spirit blood and followed its rules, the Celestial Church did not care about the secular world's rulers and the state of the countries, for its branches, it was a different matter.
After all, their power relied on the existence of the various states. Should one collapse, its related branch would greatly suffer. Therefore, they always worked in tacit understanding to limit the scope of internal warfare and preserve their respective influence.
To break that balance required a dreadful war backed by a righteous cause.
Konrad closed his eyes, activating the Phantasm Flower within the Prosperous Wind third prince's body.
His maimed form glittered in purple light, and within his soul, a miniature Konrad appeared. That miniature Konrad released vast purple fog that spread throughout the third prince's soul.
A miniature version of the third prince asked, confused and startled by the brutal events and the sudden appearance of this youth within his mind.
"Your new master."
The third prince's eyes widened upon hearing those words. However, purple chains bound him from all side, preventing struggles.
"Wh-what do you want from me? You and I have no enmity! What grievances can my Prosperous Wind Empire possibly have with you for you to harm me so?!"
Konrad's closed eyes opened, his shimmering purple hues striking the third prince with dread.
Anger and indignation flared in the third prince's eyes.
"I just want you to help me trigger a world war."
But before he could let that indignation burst through righteous words, Konrad again startled him.
Konrad said nothing further, first taking control of the third prince's memories, then rewriting them to replace the scene of Krann's ambush by that of masked assassins wielding Earth Kingdom Alliance's state treasures and spells.
In that scene, the Prosperous Wind Empire's Rising Saint elder battled tooth and nails to open a way out for his prince, before self-destructing to force the assassins into retreat. However, in the heat of the fight, he managed to unmask one of the assassins, revealing a well-known Earth Kingdom Alliance elder.
That done, Konrad let Krann follow the third prince on his desperate rush back home.
"Master, I don't understand. What do you hope to accomplish through this?"
"The Prosperous Wind Emperor is a meek man whose only redeeming quality is his profound affection for his relatives. Especially his children, whoever dares harm them, he must kill.
What do you think happens when his third son returns in such a wretched state, carrying with him the news of his ambush and Rising Saint uncle's death at the hands of the Earth Kingdom Alliance?"
Krann replied without delay.
"Right. Moreover, castration is a royal's greatest shame. The Prosperous Wind Emperor could have his church fix this through a Restoration Baptism, but to keep their mouths shut, paying a hefty price is unavoidable.
Maimed son, dead brother, deep humiliation. To say nothing of an emperor, the average man cannot take this slight. Therefore, he will dispatch troops and barrel into the Earth Kingdom Alliance.
Unfortunately, for him, the political situation is complex. The Great Void Emperor's eldest sister turns out to be the Earth Kingdom Alliance King's wife. While their family is known for its heartlessness, that's an internal matter. Letting his sister fall to harm due to the Prosperous Wind Emperor's wrath would be a slap on the Great Void Emperor's face.
Therefore, be it due to their relationship with the Earth Kingdom Alliance, or the safekeeping of their imperial dignity, Great Void cannot let this pass. To say nothing of the face they lost when Nils' gender was revealed and her hand given to Prosperous Wind.
Great Void will join the dance with massive troops, ready to counter and oppress Prosperous Wind. To do so, their troops must cross the Water Kingdom Alliance that separates them from Prosperous Wind."
As Konrad's words carried on, Krann's mind shone with enlightenment.
"If the Water Kingdom Alliance gives them free passage, they must join the war. Otherwise, when it ends, Prosperous Wind will never let them off.
If they don't join, they will still be implicated because Great Void will force its way through. Therefore, regardless of their will, regardless of their choice, they must fight! Thus, leaving my Holy Flame Empire to reap the benefits!"
Konrad's lips curled into a devious smile.
"Great Void has always been our greatest contender in the Holy Continent. What kind of man is Olrich? Once such an opportunity to weaken them presents itself, how could he let not grasp it?
He will first observe and wait, letting the two sides sink deeper into the war before using the principle of avenging his in-laws to launch an attack. With righteousness on his side, the church cannot stop him from dispatching troops.
Hence, allowing him to establish the foundation for my Holy Flame Empire's hegemony. At the same time, he will no longer be able to pay me much attention and entirely focus on this matter's developments. Thus, I can regain most of my lost freedom and carry on with the country's seepage."
Krann's mouth formed an "O" shape, and as he stared at the Prosperous Wind third prince from a distance, as a demon familiar, he couldn't help but envy the fool that was about to trigger a world war for his master's benefit.
Konrad's smile dispersed, and he stood up.
Was Nils getting married to another man a disturbing thought? Certainly.
Was it enough for him to go to such lengths? Absolutely not. If it was just about keeping her home, he could just devise means to impregnate her. What need was there for all this trouble?
In this plan, benefit drove him. And from all he stood to gain, the first profit was how he could soon free Yvonne of Olrich's attention and sneak back to her side.
Although Semi-Saints and above were forbidden to join regular wars, they could serve other purposes such as assassination, infrastructure destruction, and intelligence gathering.
Imperial power being his first priority, Olrich would focus all his resources into controlling the war to his advantage. Where would he find the time to spy on Yvonne whose "poison" was already under his control?
And while he turned his back on the inner court to focus on state affairs, Konrad could silently take over it while giving his most precious plenty of "love."
He crossed his arms beneath his back, letting his thoughts drift. Although her Pure Self remained by his side, the feeling of not being able to hold Yvonne's true self was becoming unbearable. And as for the legions that would perish to divert Olrich's attention?
It was their glory.
But as Konrad anticipated the future events…
*Knock* *Knock* *Knock*
...A knocking sound broke his reverie.
"Your grace, the princess is here, requesting an audience."
Konrad frowned. But as quickly as it came, it dispersed.
"Very well, bring her in."
In any case, it was time to handle that situation for good. Since Nils dared deliver herself, how could he not accept her?
That would be impolite.