As Konrad left the Research Department, Selene's voice echoed within his mind.
"What are you planning to do?"
She asked in a puzzled tone. Having spent years, in Ancient Crystal World time, but decades, in truth, by Konrad's side, Selene knew better than anyone that he didn't tolerate self-weakness. Strength was his throne. There was no way he would accept a situation of only being able to rely on others for long.
Moreover, his reaction within Amalia's research lab seemed to hint at some new development.
"In the current Ancient Crystal World, we face two enemies, the three-hundred devas, and the zenith ants. Among the devas, Aakash, Nehal and Dasra are the strongest, with Dasra being the mightiest of them all.
However, he was gruesomely mangled by me. Even with his powerful vitality, to recover from those wounds will take a substantial amount of time. Meanwhile, they don't know of my real situation. Therefore, even when he recovers, they will not rashly step back in the Holy Continent. On that front, we're safe.
However, the zenith ants are another story. While the elder-level and below are easy to deter, no one knows the full depth of the leaders. Judging by the elders' strength, the Ant Queens are at least Aakash-level, perhaps even stronger.
Meanwhile, the Ant Goddess is the primary beneficiary of the World Tree's vitality. I hypothesize that even if she can't step into godhood due to the Mortal Realm's laws, her battle-power must have long-since reached that level. Perhaps even Dasra is not her match.
That being the case, we're in a very passive situation. Once the Queens and Goddess emerge from the world tree, with our current strength, we're doomed to destruction. I cannot sit and wait for death.
I must master it, breed a new, invincible force, and turn this feeble body into an unparalleled weapon. To that end, I will have to take some drastic measures, and become crueler."
Hearing this, Selene was startled. It was already no exaggeration to say Konrad easily ranked among the most ferocious creatures of the universe. Perhaps, even of the multiverse.
Having refined the death essence of more than sixty million, what could he possibly do…to become "crueler?"
But like the others, she would have to wait to find out.
"Don't forget the ninth level of the main quest. Although you got a tremendous amount of time, the requirements are not simple. Among the hosts I've been with, ninety-nine percent failed at this level."
"I naturally won't."
If with his resources and accomplishments, the eighth level of the main quest didn't require much effort, the ninth was a massive pitfall.
All conditions were reasonable…except for one:
Five-thousand Divine Rank harem members.
That night, after dealing with Amalia's "rewards." Konrad slept like an ordinary mortal. Though, due to the three leaves linking him to the World Tree's Withering, that night was anything but peaceful.
At dawn, he rose, bringing alongside him two Paramount Knights and ten Quasi-Paramount Knights to meet with Else, Astarte, and Zamira who already awaited him in the throne room.
"Say farewell to the capital, we won't be back for some time."
Konrad started with a smile while stepping toward them.
"On this trip, we will disguise as slave traders. Zamira's tribeswomen will remain within a space treasure until we're ready to settle them."
He declared with a beckoning gesture, motioning for them to follow. And so, they did.
After exiting the palace, they turned into light beams to shoot toward the Holy Continent's border. As Konrad was now deprived of cultivation, he naturally didn't have flight ability. One of his two Paramount Knight ladies had to serve as both car and driver to bring him alongside them.
Once they reached the border, he summoned a carriage he prepared beforehand, alongside a convoy of "beast noble slaves," then sat within the large carriage. Else, Zamira and Astarte took their seats within, while the twelve Hidden Moon Pavilion experts vanished in the shadows to follow the carriage in silence.
They then departed, crossing the northern border to step into the Barbarian Continent's Northern Kingdom, or Northern Khanate as the locals referred it to.
Konrad was startled to see that it didn't even take three hours of driving before they met their first bandit raid. One hour afterward, they met another, and another, and again another.
In less than twenty-four hours, they'd come across eight bandit attacks of various scales. As the ninth approached, and the concealed Hidden Moon Pavilion experts again beheaded the offenders, Konrad could no longer hold back.
"What kind of nonsense is this? Are there any laws in this land? Although this is nothing more than outer territory and we stand close to border tribes, isn't this…a tad bit too ridiculous?"
He asked while resting his head on Else's lap and his legs on Astarte's.
However, Zamira shook her head.
"In the Barbarian Continent, banditry is perfectly legal. Bandits are not executed for the act, but for getting caught. Moreover, there are cases where even getting caught will yield no consequence."
Zamira replied, and hearing this, Konrad arched his eyebrows.
"The Barbarian Continent's denizens only know one truth: might. Anything else is irrelevant. Birth order, gender, humanity, neither of those matter. As you probably know, barbarians rule by might. Most khans do not inherit their thrones but seize it by butchering their predecessor. For the same reason, family values are not as profound as within the Holy Continent.
Moreover, just like strong men can have several women, strong women can have several men too."
Else pursued while stroking Konrad's hairs.
Having spent a tremendous amount of time fighting and killing within the Barbarian Continent, Astarte wasn't startled. And recalling all the differences between the Barbarian and Holy Continents, she couldn't help but sigh.
"Although the notion of -tribes- hints at a primitive organization, it would be a mistake to believe the Barbarian Continent wholly rural. Only the provincial and border tribes adopt such a setting. Deeper, are affluent towns, cities, metropolises, and megalopolises, just like within the Holy Continent.
And within those cities, tribes refer to themselves as clans, with the royal clan standing above all. However, lawlessness still reigns. Or rather, an ordered form of lawlessness is present. On top of taxes, merchants must pay a monthly protection tithe to the state if they wish to obtain its protection. In fact, anyone that doesn't pay protection tithes is not entitled to state protection and can be bullied at will.
Those with state protection are easily recognizable by the state emblem they wear. Attacking them is attacking the state. Not many are bold enough to risk the consequences. But for those who can neither afford the emblem nor protect themselves, life is usually tragic. I've seen many get slain in broad daylight, with no one paying them heed."
Astarte continued, her words causing Konrad to blink in disbelief.
"I knew the barbarian continent tumultuous, but not to this extent. How did such a crazed civilization survive one-hundred-thousand years?"
He couldn't help but ask.
"You need to remember that above it all, the Infernal Cult and its branches unite the land in faith. Meanwhile, the Serkars rule everything from the shadows. The entirety of the Barbarian Continent's secular world, from the economy to the military, is Serkar ruled.
All the large merchant houses and trading companies belong to house Serkar in a way or another. In fact, the four royal clans and the khans are Serkar descendants. On Serkar standards, their ancestors couldn't cut it in the main house and were expelled to serve in the secular world.
Of course, if any of the clansmen shows enough talent, he can return to the main house to receive more resources and better training. The main requirement is to awaken a purple bloodline."
Else clarified, and as her words ended, they reached a border tribe which overflowed with resounding bluster.