The Holy Flame Church and house Metze had been waging a silent war since the latter's arrival in the Holy Flame Empire. That was no secret.
However, following the exposure of Else's cultivation talent, that war escalated. According to the head exarch's assessment, she had the makings to reach the Crossed Tribulation Saint Rank in a thousand years.
The church was determined to eliminate the source of future trouble, and not allow Else to grow into another Hubert Voight. Unfortunately for them, the Metze were no pushover.
As long as they didn't throw pretense into the gutter to break into all-out war, eliminating them was impossible.
And without a righteous cause, they could only result to silent assassinations and shadow warfare. After all, be it the von Jurgen, the Kvass or the Voight, none would look idle as the church destroyed one of the houses that helped balance the empire.
Else's brother was the first casualty of their strengthened assassination attempts. He was also Olrich's sworn brother.
On his deathbed, Olrich pledged to treat his sister as his own and protect her from harm till his dying breath.
Initially, as his longstanding sworn brother, he was Olrich's choice for "Brotherly Love Extermination," but following his loss, Else took his place.
For that reason, in agreement with her father the Metze sovereign prince, he took her into the palace, with the excuse of making her his Holy Consort and had been caring for her ever since.
She discovered that truth from her savior's lips. The dreadful woman to whom she owed her life.
Now all words of care grated her ears, making her feel like a pig being fattened for slaughter.
And thinking of that dreadful woman, she couldn't help but pity the boy that had to call her "mother."
The dark mist swirling around Konrad thickened, blowing into a pitch-black fog as he comprehended the first layer of the Infernal Soul Devouring Art.
Three hours of silent cultivation passed before his mind shone with enlightenment, and he mastered the first layer.
The pitch-black fog soared toward the middle of his forehead and vanished within, spreading through his mind to merge with his soul. As it spread, Konrad could feel the quality of his soul power rising at breakneck speed. In a flash, it became ten times more potent and ten times more resilient than it was beforehand. With Konrad already possessing an Imperial Avatar, his soul power was extraordinary.
Now, however, it was surpassing the mortal realm's Transcendent Rank limitations. And this was only the first layer. Konrad wondered what level of soul power he would reach by the time he comprehended the third.
Perhaps he could now disable the average first-step Semi-Holy Knight with a casual spiritual attack. Meanwhile, his fourth circle spells could most likely rival others' fifth circle spells.
Seeing such benefits, Konrad was eager to carry on with his comprehension of the art. However, he was stopped by the delivery of Olrich's gifts.
"Your grace, this is this week's quota. His majesty hopes you'll work assiduously."
The leading eunuch said while his subordinates dropped the coffers.
"His majesty doesn't have to worry. I will put ten times the average man's efforts."
Konrad replied before dismissing the delivery team. As they dispersed, Konrad appraised the gifts, and his lips curled into a smile. Those were the best cultivation pills and elixirs one could expect at the True and Grand Priest Ranks.
Although Konrad had no use for them, some of his weaker harem members probably did.
He had the coffers moved to his cultivation chambers and delivered the goods to those that really required them.
Silent cultivation then resumed. Hours passed by in a flash and soon, night descended onto the imperial palace.
"It seems mastering the second layer can't be done overnight. I suppose I shouldn't be greedy."
Konrad interrupted his cultivation and shifted his attention onto a more pressing matter, the second prince, Adelar. Since his performance in the throne room, Konrad firmly believed that if anyone had the nerves to use the emperor's favorite daughter in a scheme, it would be him.
Joke, he only stopped short of calling Olrich an idiot before the core members of the imperial family. What didn't he dare do? Now the question was, did his wits match his guts?
With a wave of his hand, Konrad summoned Krann.
As per usual, Krann dropped onto his knees and hailed in profound reverence.
"I need you to watch over me while I use Soul Projection to take control of someone's body."
"Be at ease, master. I won't let anything disturb you."
Krann pledged. Konrad nodded and closed his eyes. Using his Phantasm Lord abilities, he projected his soul outside his body to explore the imperial palace. In his Soul Form, he stood in an ethereal dimension from where he could see everything on several miles, bypass walls and detect even the carcass of flies crushed beneath carts.
Meanwhile, none could detect him.
In less than three seconds, he located his target, the third prince, Laurens. Laurens lied within his bed, still recovering from the shock induced by Olrich's holy force.
Unbeknown to him, Konrad appeared by his side and slipped into his soul. Laurens saw a strange purple fog spread within his mind and battled it with every bit of his soul power.
But as a Knight, he didn't have much to begin with. To say nothing that now, Konrad's soul power rivaled that of Semi-Holy Priests.
The clash was short-lived, and in a heartbeat Laurens' soul surrendered to Konrad's control. With the body now under his full grasp, Konrad browsed through the memories and saw many of the deals between Laurens and Adelar.
The deeds they'd carried out throughout the years, impressed even him. The scene of Adelar revealing his understanding of the Kracht case and his plot to exterminate house Kracht naturally appeared.
However, even Laurens didn't have a clear understanding of Adelar's true abilities, and some core zones of his soul were cloaked by formidable wards Konrad couldn't break without destroying him.
Something he didn't plan to do at the moment. Meanwhile, he wished to use the opportunity to test Adelar and obtain more information from his lips.
Controlling Laurens' body, Konrad stood up and headed toward Adelar's palace. No one stopped him as he did, and he soon reached the chamber where Adelar rested.