Afterward, the two surrendered their artifacts.
"My word is my bond, you can retrieve your whelps."
Konrad declared, then wrapped both Erhardt and the third cult elder's son in a green orb before sending them past the barrier to land before their respective parents. Seeing their half-flayed states, said parents showed various reactions.
The third cult elder and Anatole's wife didn't conceal their profound ire, while Anatole struggled to maintain his composure. But ultimately, he did. After all, Erhardt was alive, and that's what mattered most. As long as the spark of life remained, all physical wounds could be healed.
Without delay, he directed his divine power toward Erhardt's wounds, using a sixth circle restorative spell to mend them at the fastest pace. In a flash, they were all mended, and Erhardt returned to his regular appearance.
The third infernal cult elder did the same, and his son regained consciousness.
Erhardt whispered as his eyes awoke to Anatole's. At the same time, the third elder's son was recovering his consciousness and speaking similar words.
However, Anatole was startled to see Erhardt's eyes going bloodshot, and his lips trembled.
Like balloons, Erhardt and the third elder's son's heads inflated before their parents' eyes and exploded before either of them could react. Their bones, blood, and brain debris splattered their relatives.
And thus, they perished.
Anatole couldn't believe his eyes, and his eyelids trembled. But as he shifted his eyes toward his wife, and saw the same stupor within her hues, he was forced to admit that this was the reality.
In a violent outburst, he spun toward Konrad!
"Dastardly son of a whore! We signed a contract! How could you?!"
Demonic contracts were binding agreements. One couldn't break them without retribution.
"I said I would return them alive and without further damage. I never said I would free them of the poison I've been experimenting on them. That poison reacts to healing force. If you heal them, their heads explode, if you don't…nothing happens."
Konrad leisurely replied, then returned to his human form.
"Therefore, I didn't harm them. You did. Celestial Church Leader, Third Infernal Elder, it was a pleasure doing business with you."
Konrad chortled and turned heels, vanishing to return to his imperial palace. Thus, leaving behind the still dazed experts. Of course, he didn't leave Bayiz behind.
Erhardt's mother howled, while holding on her son's shoulders, then passed out in grief.
"Konrad, I swear not to rest until I feast on your corpse. Regardless of the cost, I…will destroy you!"
Anatole pledged, then carried both his son's corpse and his wife to return to the Celestial Church's headquarters.
Reappearing in the throne room, Konrad's eyes swept Yvonne and Else who looked at him as if staring at a freak. For indeed, with his new bloodline and abilities, "freak" was the only word they could think of when laying eyes on him.
But after this brief moment of stupor, they regained their composure.
"You've made thorny arch-nemeses. Now, it's very likely that the final Holy War will not be between the Celestial Church and the Infernal Cult."
Else began, and hearing her words, Konrad smirked.
"You're right. It will be Celestial Church and Infernal Cult versus our Profane Prince Cult. And after facing such a blow, they will not hesitate to use the Merit Steeles."
Konrad leisurely replied, but at that time, Yvonne raised an issue the other two had almost not considered.
"Not necessarily. You've seen it yourself; the Infernal Cult's top-level troops didn't include the Serkars. There was no violet or golden-blooded human among their forces."
Meanwhile, within the Infernal Cult's headquarters, Berken "faced trial" before Draven, the Infernal Cult's leader whose eyes revealed calm ire. The non-Serkar elders all stood beside him.
"Admit it, you knew. You knew very well the depth of that boy and refused to dispatch your house's experts because you knew they wouldn't survive. Now, the Serkars are the only one to come out unscathed from this confrontation. What a devious plan."
Draven appraised while keeping his chilling gaze locked on Berken. Hearing this, the mourning third elder's eyes went bloodshot.
"Indeed, I knew. How could I not?"
Berken directly replied. His words triggering massive outrage within his peers.
The third elder could no longer restrain himself.
"Berken Serkar, because of your deep cultivation and irreproachable conduct, we've always treated you with profound respect. However, at the critical moment when the cult needed your insight, you chose to backstab it by withholding crucial information!
All…for the sake of shifting the power balance! Today, how many of us have lost relatives? How much of the Infernal Cult's power has been squandered? As the Infernal Cult's great elder, can you face your predecessors? How vile! How despicable! If you don't give us an explanation, no one can save you!"
The third elder roared, his words arousing the suppressed ire of his peers. Still, Berken remained undaunted.
"Explanation? Ok. The Infernal Cult is the Infernal Cult. House Serkar is house Serkar. We are not one and the same. My house's benefits will always trump the Cult's."
Berken straightforwardly replied, his words startling his fellow elders who didn't expect such candor. Only Draven maintained his cool.
"Hahaha! Berken, Berken, you finally show your true colors."
Draven chortled and summoned his mightiest artifact, a blood longsword while releasing the full might of his cultivation. At this juncture, there was no need for falsehood. If Berken didn't die, the Infernal Cult's future was worrying.
But even before Draven's full-strength, Berken's indifference remained.
"True colors? Nonsense. The human lineage is one of the most honorable within the Three Realms. Was it not for the Higher Realm Wills' suppression, how could we be reduced to this state? As a golden-blooded human, why need I stand beneath a trivial construct?
Descendants of modified wastes and false lineages such as yours should prostrate themselves before us. Not the other way around."
Berken declared, and golden light erupted from his body, revealing a cultivation level that filled all the cult elders with fright.
"Divine Ascension…Divine Ascension…How…how could this be?"
Draven stammered, unable to believe his eyes.
"If only on the Ancient Crystal World, it's time for humanity…to regain its glory. Henceforth, I Berken Serkar, claim the position of Infernal Cult Leader."
Berken proclaimed, then threw a casual palm strike.
Slammed by the pressure, Draven flew backward, encasing himself in the opposite wall, his fate unknown.