As the capital of one of the Holy Continent's major secular forces, the Central Water City was a bustling place of more than twenty-five million citizens spread across seven thousand square miles.
The hierarchical structure was the same as the Holy Flame Empire's, with humans at the bottom, beast nobles at the middle, and spirits at the top. However, mermaids, or water spirits as some called them, replaced the Holy Flame Empire's Flame Spirits and took a more active role in politics.
For example, the current queen was a mermaid while most of the imperial consorts at least possessed some mermaid blood.
Upon reaching the city's gate, Konrad's eyes showed no emotion.
Two members of the delegation announced their identity and intent from within their seats, then waved their identification tokens through the carriage windows. Having been alerted of the impending visit of the Holy Flame Empire's delegation, the guards were not startled, one sent a message to the royal palace while the other opened the gate to allow the convoy free passage.
Afterward, a man came to lead them through the city.
State emissaries and delegates always had assigned quarters they were meant to rest in during the first day of arrival. However, considering the urgency of the situation and the relationship he was trying to build with the Holy Flame Empire, the king stipulated to have them directly brought to the palace where he had unique quarters prepared.
Konrad briefly swept the populace and architecture, and from his seat, he could see a towering basilica standing in the distance with a glowing blue orb hovering above.
He identified it as the seat of the Water Temple.
The Water Temple was not only weaker than the Holy Flame Church, but it was also completely decentralized. Each of the fifteen kingdoms comprising the Water Kingdom Alliance possessed its own branch of the Water Temple, with each competing for resources.
This infighting had prevented them from asserting dominance over the royal families, who left on their own devices, ended up suppressing them instead. Here, there was no high and head exarch. Each branch answered to its own conclave of exarchs.
Konrad closed the window and returned to meditation.
"The current Water Kingdom Alliance King, Ernst von Gradl is a petty craven. Outwardly gracious but inwardly narrow-minded. If slighted by a weaker force, he will always seek revenge. But when faced with the mighty, he only knows how to bow and scrape. Not even daring to foster rebellious thoughts."
Serpent form Yvonne said through a mental message.
"I know. Browsing through the minds of my servants, I already did my homework on the various secular forces. But it matters not. Brave or craven, since he has the misfortune of facing us, he must grovel."
Were she not in her miniature hekeret cobra form, Yvonne would have nodded in approval. Instead, she just rubbed her head against Konrad's cheek and with a smile, he stroked her flaming scales.
"Your majesty, the Holy Flame Empire's delegation has arrived, and is currently on its way."
The messenger announced to the Water Alliance King, a middle-aged Paragon Spirit Man with a peak-stage Profound Saint cultivation base. Instantaneously, he rose from his throne, excitement shining on his face.
"Quick, quick. Have the second and fourth prince entertain them while we prepare the banquet. This evening, we shall receive them."
Ernst ordered to one of his royal eunuchs, barely able to contain his excitement.
However, before he could depart, he changed his mind.
"No, add the third princess on the list. After all, she's the best at entertaining guests. Though it's a bit improper, we must show the highest degree of goodwill. Nothing can go wrong…yes."
"As you command, your majesty!"
The royal eunuch bowed and excused himself before hurriedly informing the princes and princess of the order.
Their reactions wildly differed.
While the third princess merely gave an approving nod, the second prince flew into a rage.
"How could we possibly have royal princes personally welcome a bunch of delegates?! Where does that put our country's dignity?!
Even if we seek an alliance with the Holy Flame Empire, do we really need to stoop so low? We might as well just surrender our cities and become their vassal!"
While the fourth prince agreed with his elder brother's outrage, he didn't dare voice his opinion.
As the convoy reached the Royal Palace's gates, a large group awaited. Twelve men clad in the Water Kingdom's official robes stood with a paragon spirit trio leading them.
That trio was naturally composed of the von Gradl royalty. The second prince stood in the middle with his younger brother on his right and his sister on the left.
Although his heart concealed grievances and indignity, he let nothing transpire on his face, ready to complete this task as soon as possible then return to cultivation. However, when the convoys' carriages opened, and the leading member appeared, his face contorted into a frown.
Not only him, but his siblings and even the officials couldn't conceal their surprise. At the group's helm was an effeminate looking young man around the age of seventeen clad in regal robes and ornaments.
However, no matter how lavish his clothes and tokens looked, they couldn't mask the fact that he was human!
What was a human boy doing in this gathering?
That "human boy" was Krann in disguise. To have more freedom, Konrad had him maintain the camouflage while he adopted the position of one of the delegates.
Quickly, the second prince examined their group, and when his eyes fell upon Konrad who still had his "cobra" coiling around his torso, furor shone within.
There was not only one, but two humans in this delegation. And clearly, considering their alignment, the one wearing the jeweled crown was the leading member.
What was the meaning of this?
But as he inwardly boiled, he spotted the tenth elder within the crowd, and immediately, his rage subsided.
The second prince bowed toward the tenth von Jurgen elder, and immediately, all those by his followed suit.
As a senior member of house von Jurgen, the tenth elder carried the imperial family's face and dignity. Since he was present, the Holy Flame Empire couldn't be disrespecting them. On the contrary, it was giving them face.
As for those two human youths, the second prince reckoned their presence must have some other purpose.
Alas, he'd never expected that upon hearing those words, the tenth elder would explode in rage.
"Bold! His majesty's ninth son stands before you, but instead of giving him due honor, you're disregarding him to bow to me?
Is this an attempt to insult our sovereign? Or are you possibly looking down on his grace, the imperial Duke?!"
The Water Kingdom Alliance's reception team was startled. Didn't news recently pass that the ninth von Jurgen prince was, in fact, a princess? Why was there suddenly talk of a ninth son?
Their eyes again fell on Krann whose face didn't conceal his rising rage. Immediately, they recalled the rumor of the Holy Flame Emperor adopting a human eunuch boy as his ninth son.
At first, no one took such words seriously, believing that someone was trying to disparage the von Jurgen dynasty.
But now, even a pig could see truth where it lied. Did the Holy Flame Emperor's brain get trampled by a stampede of ten thousand horses?
Still, that was secondary. If the Holy Flame Emperor wanted to turn his house into a joke, it was his problem. Why was he sending that joke into their den?
In the end, who was insulting who?
All the furor the second prince had suppressed erupted in a wild outburst.
"Tenth elder, I gave you due respect as a senior of our race. However, it seems you've been wallowing in degeneration for so long that you don't even remember your paragon spirit dignity!
Allow me to remind you, the laws of the land are clear. In the Holy Continent, humans are slaves. That is an ancestral truth!
Wanting me, a royal prince, to bow to a human eunuch, to bow to a trivial slave, is impossible. Even my royal father cannot tolerate such an insult!
Keep such rubbish in your country!"
He spat, and although they didn't use such words, the officials agreed.
"We're here to build an alliance, not to receive insults. If this is your country's sincerity, I'm afraid these negotiations won't be…"
But before the second prince could finish his words…
A resounding slap thundered, and he spiraled into the air to tumble onto the ground with three of his teeth flying and blood dripping from his lips.
The move was too fast, and none of the Water Kingdom Alliance's people understood what occurred. Even the second prince whose cultivation had reached the mid-stages of the Semi-Holy Knight Rank couldn't determine what just struck him.
His startled eyes rose to see Konrad standing in his previous spot with his cold purple eyes nailing him on the ground.
"You…dare strike me? Within my country, you…dare strike me?"
"What if I dare? What can you do?
Did you think this was a partnership of equals?"
Konrad stretched out his hand, causing a vast telekinetic force to pull the second prince back into his hand. While clutching his neck within, he swept the reception team with his cold purple eyes, causing them to subconsciously take several steps back.
"From the moment you sacrificed a state treasure for the sake of selling your first daughter, our relationship was set. In everything but name, you are vassals.
If you don't even understand that reality, allow me to make it clear, once and for all.
The second von Gradl prince was instigated by treacherous officials to disrespect the Holy Flame Empire's delegation and insult our sovereign.
To protect the relationship between our two countries, we have no choice but to slay them and restore peace.
As Konrad's words echoed, the country officials' eyes widened in fright.
"When did we…"
But they didn't have time to muster a defense. Spurred by Konrad's words, the tenth von Jurgen elder summoned a holy energy sword and beheaded them all on the spot.
Detached from their necks, their heads flew with their blood drenching the fourth prince and third princess that stood dazed before this unexpected scene.
Unceremoniously, Konrad tossed the terror-stricken second prince into the puddle of blood and turned toward his similarly frightened siblings.
"Lead the way. And if you do not wish to suffer the same fate, avoid rubbish."
The brother and sister pair shuddered, and with sweat trickling down their foreheads, they gave the delegation a profound bow.
How was this a youth? Clearly, it was an old Saint-monster in disguise!