For a short instant, Gulistan blinked in surprise. Clearly, she'd not expected such brazen words to pass Konrad's lips.
"You're even more shameless than I last checked. Impressive."
Setting two cups before them, she poured them tea then set the jugs aside to settle in the opposite seat.
"It's a special beverage. Useless for the Pure Self by your side, but very helpful in meridian condensation. Have a taste."
Gulistan explained, her tone having returned to seriousness. After examining the beverage through the system and making sure nothing wrong existed within, Konrad's eyes shifted back toward Gulistan, not sipping it still.
That she could see through the difference between Pure and True Self was no surprise. However, she could also see through his cultivation, an impossible feat for Saint-level experts unless he allowed them to.
And he didn't.
Therefore, Konrad could conclude that Gulistan's cultivation was at the Divine level. But what rank in particular, he couldn't say.
"Can you see through her cultivation?"
He asked the system while they exchanged silent glances.
"Well, this is just a Divine Incarnation. It doesn't really have cultivation of its own and draws power from the main body. Therefore, I can't estimate her true cultivation level. But in any case, she can probably pinch anyone you've met so far between two fingers."
The system replied to Konrad's dismay.
"Afraid the tea is poisoned?"
"Not really, I'm just surprised. You're not exactly an example of motherly love. Are you sure you want to waste such resources on me?"
Konrad's serious tone showed no jest.
Doubting Gulistan's intent was natural. After all, his previous self had gone through untold sufferings in her hands. From getting thrown into a snake pit to being cast out in the city's outskirts to fend for himself, there was no abuse he'd not endured.
Now suddenly she was offering top-level goods? Showing some wariness was inevitable.
Konrad's words drew a sigh from Gulistan's scarlet lips.
"Konrad, between you and I, there are many misunderstandings. Allow me to clear things up."
All playfulness vanished from Gulistan's eyes as she stared into Konrad's.
"Before, you were a useless piece of trash. I mistreated you, hoping to stimulate you, but to no avails.
That being case, your life mattered little. Though getting boned by your father was and will always be the most pleasurable event of my life. I didn't go through the ordeals of nine months of pregnancy to raise a waste."
Yvonne's eyes contorted into a frown. Even in her centuries-long existence, rarely had she ever seen such implacable candor.
"You were not born from two loving parents romping under the sunset. You were born, because I convinced my father to grant me the opportunity to almost deplete the merit quotas of house Serkar while sacrificing thousands of worthy lives for the sake of summoning lord Talroth into this world and obtain his blessing.
I got all I wanted. Therefore, you were an additional price, not a boon. A burden, not a glory."
Yvonne's frown deepened. However, Konrad's indifference remained, as if the words couldn't affect him.
"At first, when his majesty made giving birth to and raising you to godhood the price of his blessings, I thought you would be a double opportunity. On the one hand, I could lay down the foundation for my rapid ascension, and have my house become the mightiest of the Ancient Crystal World, on the other hand, I could raise a lethal weapon to crush the Celestial Church once and for all.
Imagine my disappointment when I realized your demonic and human bloodlines repelled one another. And imagine my frustration when I recalled I must raise you into godhood to fulfill my end of the bargain."
Although she spoke of disappointment and frustration, Gulistan's face never showed any emotion.
"The pressure was not small. Do you know the fundamental difference between Barbarian houses and Holy Continent houses?"
Konrad shook his head. Therefore, Gulistan carried on.
"Besides religion, in the Barbarian Continent, birth order and genders matter not. The heirs and rulers are always the strongest of their generation.
We rule by might!
And House Serkar takes this to another level. At birth, regardless of the parents' background, all children are submitted to a bloodline and talent assessment. Although bloodline is the foundation, only the height of talent really matters.
Children are then given numbers and ranks depending on their talents. Then, matching resources are allocated.
How high do you think your talent was?"
Konrad's lips curled into an amused smile.
"Couldn't have been very high."
Gulistan shook her head.
"Zero. Because your bloodlines repelled one another, we couldn't assess any talent. This made no sense for while the Serkar blood is mighty within this world, it can never hold a candle to lord Talroth's. Later, I realized he purposely lowered the intensity of the blood you inherited from him during the contract to make sure the two bloodlines would fight for dominion.
Thus, making you unable to cultivate. I broke all house rules to give you the best baptisms, hoping to stimulate your demonic blood to take dominion over the human one…but to no avail.
Needless to say, you quickly became our house's shame, the first waste in house Serkar's one-million-years of history. My waste son."
Konrad burst into laughter.
"There is nothing funny about this."
"Sorry…sorry. Please continue…is that why you cast me into the holy continent?"
Gulistan crossed her legs and leaning back, shook her head.
"All hope was not lost. As long as you could awaken your lineage mark, it would help the demonic blood take precedence over the human one. But awakening the lineage mark depends solely on disposition.
Therefore, while my main body worked on our next project, I brought you here to make you experience enough difficulties for you to bring forth the power of your lineage mark. Alas…"
"Alas, my disposition was the worst of my traits. I grew up into a meek, submissive boy that avoided trouble like the plague and had no interest in women.
The lineage mark requiring a passionate and domineering disposition, I could never activate it."
Konrad replied, finishing Gulistan's words.
"Right. Therefore, I quickly lost hope. I was on the verge of selling you to slave traders when Else offered to instead take you into the palace as a eunuch.
I agreed, on the condition that she didn't interfere with your castration process. Otherwise, I'd sell you anyways."
Konrad's smile broadened, while Yvonne's scowl reached the limits of what her face could endure.
"Excuse me? You emphasized that she didn't stop it?"
"Naturally, otherwise wasn't this just a vacation? What could we possibly gain?
Now here you are, finally able to live up to my expectations. We can start working."
Now knowing the crux of the matter, Konrad couldn't help but pity his previous self.
"I'm curious, what would you have done if I died?"
"The contract stipulates that if I can't bring you to godhood, I must pay back with either my life or house Serkar's. I would naturally not destroy my house because of my own failings. Therefore, I would have killed myself."
The straightforward answer brought an approving nod from Konrad who then turned toward Yvonne that sat by his side.
"Beloved, what do you think of your mother-in-law?"
Konrad inquired in a joking tone.
"Worse than the two of us combined."
Yvonne directly replied, and Konrad agreed. All three of them were malevolent existences that could in a heartbeat harm hundreds if it suited their purposes.
However, Gulistan was a step above. In her immovable eyes, Konrad saw only three things, pride, house duty, and ambition. Genuine affection had no place in there.
Worse, if need be, she could be as cruel to herself as she was to others.
"Now that the introductions are out of the way let's discuss how you plan to make me the Ancient Crystal World's first deity."
"Later. First, I need to introduce you to someone."
Gulistan interrupted with a smile then clapped her hands.
*Clap* *Clap* *Clap*
The door didn't budge, and in a golden haze, three figures appeared within the room. The cloaked messenger, the cloaked girl, and Gulistan's nephew.
"Konrad, allow me to do the presentations. On the left is my favorite butler, a Star Connecting Saint Rank expert. You can count on him in all matters."
The Serkar butler dropped onto his knees in a show of deference.
"Greetings, young master!"
"In the middle is one of your cousins Eysan Serkar. He currently holds the rank of seventh inheritor and is my elder brother's third son. Though half your previous Crown Prince's age, his cultivation has already reached the late stage of the Rising Saint Rank and approaches the peak."
"Son of God, greetings."
Eysan said in a "polite bow" and a tone that hardly hid his contempt. Both Konrad and Yvonne could feel the disdain in his words. However, Gulistan acted as if she didn't.
"On the right is Diyana, the consort I prepared for you. She was chosen before your birth and is younger by a few months. Nurtured in the womb and then raised by my main body in the Barbarian Continent to become the most perfect of dual cultivation partners you can find throughout the Ancient Crystal World.
You are free to do with her as you see fit."
Diyana politely bowed toward Konrad but said nothing. Meanwhile, a cold glint flashed within Eysan's eyes.
"Was it not for you previously being unable to cultivate, you should have long since sampled her."
"Oh? But I'm just seventeen. How long ago was I supposed to sample her?"
Konrad asked in renewed amusement.
"Oh, you know…seventeen, fourteen, twelve…as long as you can get it up, who cares?"