Just like he said, Adelar was now unscrupulous, convinced that for whatever purpose he served, Olrich didn't dare severely harm him, yet. Even if he could retrace Konrad's death to him afterward, Adelar was convinced that "loving father" would swallow his anger.
However, before they could lead their fellow assailants to sever Konrad's neck, the masked Semi-Saints felt a gush of wind graze their cheeks. At first, they thought nothing of it, but when Konrad vanished from their sight, and a warm fluid splattered them from behind, their faces contorted into frowns. They turned heels, fast enough to witness the scene of their eleven comrades' heads soaring into the air, their necks torn by bare hands.
Still, there was no sight of Konrad, only another breeze. Again, they turned, and he was back where he stood. The only difference being his hands painted with their comrades' blood.
The five Semi-Holy Knights were startled.
Initially, they believed Konrad overestimated his abilities. But now, they realized they were the careless ones.
Still, since things had reached this point, they could only fight.
Each brandished their energy weapons and shot toward Konrad. His Miraculous Transcendence swirled around him in the form of rainbow-colored light. Before the quintet could reach him, the rainbow-colored transcendence spread toward them, enfeebling them at breakneck speed.
"What kind of transcendent force is this?"
Although they each possessed more than one-thousand years of cultivation, they'd never heard of Miraculous Transcendence.
To them, even Absolute Transcendence was a legend, impossible to achieve. Quickly, they realized their Semi-Holy Force had been thoroughly suppressed by Konrad's transcendence, leaving them unable to exert even ten percent of their power.
*BAM* *BAM* *BAM* *BAM* *BAM*
Konrad's arm jerked forward in a casual palm strike, and simultaneously, the five fifth step Semi-Holy Knights flew back, their chests caving under clear palm imprints.
Blood gushed from their mouths as they crashed onto the floor. The Semi-Holy force field they used to nullify noise vanished. Therefore, Konrad replaced it with a force field of his own.
The group leader was flabbergasted, unable to believe his eyes.
"The gap of an entire rank, the gap of the Transcendent and Semi-Holy Rank stands between us. How…how can you be this strong?"
This was not only horrifying but made no sense. With just the power of transcendence and meridians, that boy could effortlessly cross an entire rank to butcher his foes. Then didn't that mean that as long as he went all-out, even high-level Semi-Saints would be forced into retreat?
How did such a monster suddenly appear within the palace?
What was the source of his strength?
Konrad ignored them, black fog swirling around him and spreading to the invisible souls of the eleven deceased Transcendent Knights.
In a flash, he refined them all, causing his soul power to expend at wild speed.
"If you can't back up your words, it is arrogance. If you can, it is merely confidence. I've yet to meet anyone that makes me feel arrogant.
Your pathetic lot, will certainly not be the first."
Konrad sneered and raised his hands, causing massive telekinetic power to trap and lift the bodies of the five Semi-Holy Knights.
With a grasping motion, they flew toward him. The same black fog extended from his fingers to infiltrate their souls and refine it as they breathed.
"As for why I'm this strong? Blame it on fate."
The five men's ghastly roars hammered Nils' ears. The situation had already evolved into something she couldn't comprehend.
As the refinement ended, Konrad's soul power reached shocking levels. Although those were knights and not priests, the intensity of their soul was magnified by their high cultivation base, allowing Konrad to successively complete three transformations and reach the eighth step of the Transcendent Priest Rank.
He then let their lifeless bodies drop onto the ground and turned toward the two imperial eunuchs whose lives hanged by a thread.
Two Phantasm Orchids appeared within his hands then dived into the two men's mouths. Mouths Konrad forced open through telekinetic power.
The orchids were pushed down their throats, and as they reached their stomachs, purple light burst from within to heal their wounds.
Witnessing this scene, Nils was baffled. What was the need to first maim, then heal the same people?
Of course, she didn't realize that as soon as the orchids lodged themselves within them, those eunuchs became Konrad's slaves.
He then turned toward the sixteen corpses covering the ground, gathering them all before Nils.
"Remove their masks and tell me who they are."
Konrad's voice and Nils' own curiosity drove her toward the corpses whose masks she removed one after the other.
Each face shocked her to the core of her soul.
And by the time she reached the last one, she couldn't stand on her feet and dropped onto the ground.
"The imperial guard…high-ranking members of the imperial guard…every single one of them…how could this be?"
She clearly remembered the words "his highness." Not "his majesty," "his highness." What highness could possibly command the imperial guard's high-ranking officials?
Even Elmar at his peak didn't have that clout.
"Others can't, but your second brother can."
Konrad replied to Nils' unspoken question as if reading her mind.
"Adelar? Impossible. With what does he bribe them? Can serving a Semi-Saint prince compare to being the emperor's guard?"
"What if their minds are no longer their own?"
Nils vigorously shook her head.
"That's not possible. Even the strongest paragon spirit in the country cannot take over the mind of others. Spiritual mist alone doesn't have that skill.
To say nothing of Adelar being a half-blood. And even if he could somehow develop such a dreadful skill, how could he do it beneath father's gaze? Why would father watch as his trusted officials became his son's?"
Nils denied Konrad's words.
He waved his hand, causing a conflagration to burn the sixteen corpses to ashes.
"What if he doesn't care? What if it doesn't matter? What if regardless of what he did, Adelar could never escape his palm?"
Konrad forced Nils back onto her feet and clasped her head within his strong palms.
"What are you doing…you're hurting me."
"To awake you, I must hurt you."
Having one of the "chosen ones" before him, it was time for Konrad to test his theory.
Vast purple fog erupted from him and snuck into Nils' mind, diving into her soul to allow him free passage.
Nils roared, veins beating on her temples as Konrad barreled into the hidden barriers within her soul.
Within Nils' soul, a miniature Konrad stood on purple fog to analyze her inner self through and through.
But he couldn't find anything.
"Could it be that I'm wrong? No, that's not possible. Somewhere here lies the answer to my fears. If I can't find it, then it means someone turned truth into falsehood, and reality into a dream."
The miniature Konrad stretched out his arms, causing his Phantasm Lord energies to spread within Nils' soul.
Konrad raised his palms, and the grey world of Nils' soul shattered, crushed like broken glasses. Behind it, an identical world reappeared.
Nils howled and fainted within Konrad's hands.
But at the same time, a miniature version of her appeared by his side to witness her inner soul world.
But before Nils could say anything, Konrad pulled her by the hand, to head deeper into her soul world. At the lowest level, a dreadful sight awaited.
Witnessing it, Nils' eyes were overwhelmed by horror.
A twenty meters long, dormant grey worm slept at the root of Nils' soul.
"I naturally don't need to explain what this is to you. This is a pureblooded paragon spirit's most horrible ability. Not many can master it and those who do never reveal it…
…because by decree of the Celestial Church, its use is forbidden.
I guess because it destroys the church's -holy face.-
The Soul Worm."
Soul Worms were nigh impossible to detect and planted themselves within the root of an individual's soul. To remove them without ruining the soul required otherworldly skills.
At first dormant, once activated, the soul worm would paralyze its host and take possession of their soul to transform them into lifeless puppets for its master to do with as he saw fit. If the master wanted the host to endure the pain of ten thousand deaths, they would.
In a distant age, the Celestial Church's pureblooded paragon spirits used soul worms to enforce the obedience of the masses. However, the inevitable result was that many saw them as no different from the infernal cult and flocked to the demon god's banner to save themselves.
Therefore, they banned its use.
Even in her wildest dreams, Nils had never expected that such a thing would appear within her mind.
And yet, here it was.
"Stupid question. Don't ask what you already know. Who is close enough and powerful enough to do this before you could ever be aware of it?
You know better than I do. Not only you, but I suspect your eldest brother, your second brother, the empress and the holy consort are all under the threat of a soul worm."
Konrad's words echoed in Nils' mind with the figure of the man that had doted on her for eighteen years.
And in less than five seconds, her world collapsed.