Once Olrich was out of sight, Konrad's gaze fell back onto Verena.
"Care to explain what just happened?"
"I was taken by surprise. I didn't know Olrich intended to recruit new talents from the inner court eunuchs. With your background, the examination could only end in your death. Therefore, I add to come up with this plan to exempt you from it."
Verena sighed and shook her head. Konrad already inferred Verena merely intended to hide him in plain sight. However, why did things turn out the way they did?
"This I can understand, but why adopted son?"
"If you ask me, who do I ask?
My best guess is that he takes you as an easily swayed boy of low background. He hopes that through this unprecedented move, he can ensure your loyalty for a lifetime. Although he doesn't fear this level of talent, it's always best to make sure the plant you foster blossoms into something that solely suits your needs.
If across the next decades and centuries, you live the life of a von Jurgen scion. Though you might not have been born in the imperial family, it will become your home and roots. The first seventeen years of your life will instead turn into a distant, unpalatable memory."
Verena's reply pulled a sigh out of Konrad. This sudden change heralded frustrating days. With the means at his disposal and his growing abilities, he had no need for such status. Be it to access the women of the inner court, or to scheme against its leading characters, all were things he could already accomplish with relative ease.
But with this new status, he would get shoved into the light, with countless pairs of eyes on him. How could he still come and go freely?
-The enemy is exposed, unable to trace my moves, whereas I am concealed and grasp all his. -
This was the precept Konrad had been following until now. Adelar also did the same. But now the two of them were about to leave the shadows.
But this was only the first problem. The second one was much more dreadful.
"Main Quest, Level 5 Objectives:
1: Conquer forty beauties of the Grand Rank.
2: Obtain a disposable income of one-hundred million purple crystals.
3: Take full control of three mid-level noble houses (or higher).
4: Conquer a Noble Imperial Consort.
5: Obtain the full support of two mighty figures (or more) within the inner court.
6: Establish a black market both in the inner court and the Holy Flame City.
7: Achieve all these without letting "Konrad's" name spread within the Holy Flame City."
The seventh part was about to get wrecked.
"Forget about the Holy Flame City. If only for a moment, my name will soon travel the Holy Continent! I need to finish this quest before Olrich announces the news."
Konrad resolved. Fortunately, with the help of the Semi-Saint inquisitress he'd dispatched to assist him, Wolfgang had already conquered house Henlein. Thus, only the sixth requirement remained.
With a deep breath, Konrad regained his calm.
"My empress, I have work to do and won't be able to play with you any further."
With those words, Konrad turned heels, ready to leave Verena's palace.
"Be careful of what you do by Olrich's side. He's as insane as he is cunning and devious. Underestimate him, and you will definitely suffer."
Konrad nodded and left for his quarters.
There, he had the two eunuchs Ralph and Alan give him a detailed report of the ongoing black-market activities.
"Hans has been doing well with the initial setup. However, we are meeting resistance from some old eunuchs of the auction department."
The auction department had always been in charge of the inner court's commerce. Hans himself came from there. How could they look on as someone took over their monopoly of the inner court's market?
Therefore, they'd been vigorously battling Hans in the establishment of this new force. Going as far as manipulating auctions and lowering the prices of many shops to impossible levels to prevent Hans' sales.
If it were before, Konrad would rather use time and methods to slowly deal with them. But now, time was of the essence.
"That is not an issue. All the opposing head eunuchs of the auction department will die by tonight. Meanwhile, how is the refinement of the Drops of Heaven going?"
The simplicity with which Konrad sentenced his competitors to death made the two eunuchs tremble. But since they'd boarded that ship of benefit, they would never look back.
Moreover, they had absolute faith that all Konrad did possessed the backing of the harem's mighty figures. That being the case, within the inner court, whoever offended him was doomed to destruction.
He was the true eunuch lord of the inner court.
"The first batch is complete. Hans will launch the first sales tonight."
"Good. This drug is imperative in laying down our foundation and taking over the inner court's wealth and souls. No mistake is tolerated."
"Drops of Heaven" were Arch Rank pills that drastically boosted the cultivation speed of those beneath the Arch Rank, and even helped those at the True Rank and below break through a few levels.
Better yet, they produced a soul-consuming euphoria that allowed the consumer to see all his dreams fulfilled in mirages. And following the mirages, the mind's alertness increased by several folds while productivity skyrocketed.
Alas, they also produced dreadful addiction. Take one today, and you couldn't resist gulping another tomorrow.
While consuming them, there was no problem whatsoever. But once the consumer stopped, the chest ached, the mind burned, and the nights were full of horrid nightmares. Konrad obtained the recipe from the system and dispatched two copies. One to Hans, and the other to Wolfgang.
Wolfgang was naturally faster and had already begun selling them through their Black-Market Chamber of Commerce, building a loyal "fanbase." However, he faced other difficulties.
When all the difficulties were removed, and their black-markets firmly established, the quest would be completed.
Konrad closed his eyes, contacting Wolfgang who was currently facing a dilemma.
"Father-in-law, how are the sales going?"
A deep sigh escaped Wolfgang's lips as Konrad's words echoed within his mind.
"Huh, boss. The situation went from bad to worse. As you know, there is already an established black-market within the city's undergrounds. At first, I believed that although they would prove a challenge, they couldn't resist us for long.
Only now do I realize how wrong I am. Their backer is from the palace and their foundation profound."
Konrad's face contorted into a frown.
"Do you have any idea on who that might be?"
"Yesterday, I snuck into their headquarters to glean information. Imagine my surprise when I saw their leader entertaining the third prince like a servant would his master."
"Laurens von Jurgen? Impossible. Where does that trivial prince get the funds?"
It wasn't that Konrad looked down on the third prince. There was just nothing to look up to. His cultivation was at the peak of the Transcendent Knight Rank. And his resources shallow. Calling him an idle prince wasn't an exaggeration.
Where did the likes of him get the means to control the Holy Flame City's black market? Either the world had severely underestimated him, or there was someone else at his back.
"I also don't think him to be the true leader. However, only a high-ranking member of house von Jurgen could use a prince as front for his operations. Besides the emperor himself, who can it be? The eldest prince? The second prince? Some hidden elder?"
Konrad's mind revolved around the thought, but he couldn't come up with a solid conclusion.
"That person should be the one that attempted to send you to your doom through Nils. Therefore, it can neither be Olrich nor Elmar. I will personally handle Laurens and find out who hides behind him."
"Is the black-market leader male or female?"
"Mid-level Semi-Saint female."
"Then that's simpler. No need to destroy. I will dispatch my familiar to help you take control of them. By tomorrow we must have the black-market in our hands."
Konrad gave the two eunuchs a set of bells that allowed them to mentally contact him from a distance as long as he possessed their counterparts on him.
He then dismissed them and summoned both Krann and Margo.
They hailed in tandem.
"Krann, I have a few odd jobs for you. First, you will swallow all the head eunuchs of the auction department that oppose our black-market establishment. Then, you will use your powers to dominate the mind of the Holy Flame City Black-Market leader, bring her to our side, and have her speed up the spread of our products.
The addiction must spread fast so that we can use the Drops of Heaven to control all the commoners and low-level nobles in the Holy Flame City. As for you Margo…"
Konrad condensed a Phantasm Orchid which floated into Margo's hands.
"Return to house Kriegel and convince your nephew, the Kriegel Duke, to swallow this flower through any means possible. Once he does, I will be able to take control of his mind and take over house Kriegel by proxy.
Krann will help you leave the palace without getting detected."
Margo nodded. Then, alongside Krann, she vanished from Konrad's sight.
Konrad stepped into his cultivation chambers within the space mansion and sat cross-legged to cultivate.
It was time to unlock the third and final layer of the Hundred Flowers Scripture and obtain its nature attribute.
As he rotated the Hundred Flowers Scripture, rose petals danced around him, alongside dazzling light and crackling lightning.
The rose petals then turned into purple vines that spread across the rooms while peach blossoms appeared by his side.
The final layer of the Hundred Flowers Scripture was now his. Konrad didn't stand up, staying in meditation to familiarize himself with those new abilities while solidifying his foundation.
Five days of closed-door cultivation carried on in such a way. But on the outside, only twelve hours passed. As the fifth day reached its end, Konrad's eyes opened, and at the same time, a succession of voices echoed within his mind.
"Boss, following the sudden disappearance of its leaders, the auction department has not only surrendered but decided to vigorously promote our efforts. The Drops of Heaven were a resounding success. Hundreds of inner court eunuchs and maids have already fallen prey to them, swindled by the promises of fast cultivation improvement.
Hans estimated that in the following week, thousands will fall."
"Boss, your man's methods are truly extraordinary. The black-market leader just knocked on my doorsteps to offer her allegiance and services. Henceforth, the Holy Flame City's undergrounds shall be ours. She'll also facilitate the sales of the Drops of Heaven within the low nobility."
"Master, I used the lives of my nephew's children to coerce him into swallowing the flower. The task is completed."
Konrad's lips curled into a devilish smile.
"Good, you've all done well. There will be plentiful rewards."
At that time, the system's voice sprang within Konrad's ears.
"Host! Congratulations on completing the fifth quest. Reward time!"