Following the Wandering Moon Inn events, Qehreman led the way toward his humble abode. And although Konrad didn't expect it to be anything extravagant, only when he reached the area did he understand how much of an understatement the word "humble" was. Qehreman's steps and a succession of teleportation circles led them to a secluded spot within Tel'Hatra, one most natives were not even aware of: The Slums.
There, closely packed and decrepit houses competed for the title of "least humane dwelling" of the year. With the level of wealth and opulence Tel'Hatra possessed and the grandeur it showcased, few would expect such an area to exist within its bounds.
With but a glance, Konrad spotted several houses on the verge of collapsing, while disease-riddled individuals populated the streets. As they passed, Qehreman tossed what little coin he held toward the most unfortunate of them all.
"With your background, I suppose you've never been exposed to this level of poverty before, right?"
Qehreman inquired as they crossed the streets to head toward his dwellings.
"Indeed, though I've always lived the life of a king, and grew up in rather shabby conditions, poverty of this level, I have never witnessed."
Konrad replied in a straightforward tone, causing Qehreman to release a helpless sigh.
"Of Tel'Hatra's eighty-million citizens, more than five-hundred thousand live here. We are the lowest of the low, the bottom of the social stratum. No one cares for us, and most hope we die faster. It is a miracle to see a cultivator emerge from these parts."
Qehreman explained while shifting toward a dark alley.
"The population here also serves as free labor. When earth mages are not available, we pile blocks and build the roads for a bit of porridge to sustain ourselves, and when our population reaches a certain limit, we're culled back to five-hundred thousand. According to my mother, my father died crushed under a block during a construction project."
With his fists clenched till his nails dug past his flesh, Qehreman stepped into the alley, bringing Konrad's party toward a small isolated house whose deteriorating walls perfectly matched the surroundings.
Pushing open the door, he stepped in and gestured for Konrad's party to follow suit.
"Mother, your unworthy son is back!"
He exclaimed with the light of futile hope shining within his eyes. A silence ensued, after which Qehreman lowered his gaze to heave another sigh before leading Konrad's team toward his mother's chambers.
In the dimly lit room, an ordinary-looking, middle-aged woman without an ounce of cultivation lied on a simple but neatly kept bed. To the onlooker, she might have seemed asleep. However, Else, Zamira and Astarte could hear her exceedingly feeble pulse that slowly headed into silence while Konrad could feel the death essence spreading throughout her body.
"Indeed, it is as I thought."
He muttered with a smile. If before it was mere conjectures, the current condition of Qehreman's mother convinced him that the mother-son pair had stepped into a Death Zone. Where it not for that, within the Ancient Crystal World, she could never come across such a large concentration of death essence.
And with that intel confirmed, Konrad shifted his gaze toward Qehreman who eyed him with a hopeful gaze, clenched teeth and trembling muscle.
"Have no fear, I can definitely save her."
Konrad replied to Qehreman's unspoken question. And hearing this, he immediately relaxed. At last, there was hope.
"Though, I'm afraid I must ask. Are you sure your father died under a block?"
Konrad inquired with a smirk. Taken aback by such an impromptu question, Qehreman scratched his head in confusion.
"I have never met him, so I wouldn't know. But since my mother said so, it must be true."
He replied in a firm, unwavering tone.
For an instant, Konrad considered having Else use Seer's Vision on Qehreman but ultimately decided against it. The reason was simple. If a truly formidable existence hid behind him, then they could alert him or her through that probe and reveal themselves unprepared.
Not investigating further, Konrad stretched out his right hand, aiming it at Qehreman's comatose mother.
"I don't believe it is wise to play with a person whose latent abilities I can't fully assess."
Selene cautioned from within the system. And indeed, she was right. Even Talroth's tricks couldn't escape Selene's eyes. However, Qehreman's secrets could. Within the Three Realms, how many individuals could place themselves above the Southern King of Hell?
The implications were dreadful. Therefore, to avoid variables, Selene believed it best Konrad distance himself from that cheaply gained sworn brother of his.
However, he thought otherwise.
"What you're thinking of, how can I not know? However, in my current condition, diving into a Death Zone is suicidal. I might be immune to Death Essence; my body might possess unparalleled resilience. But what about my soul?"
The question awoke Selene to another issue they faced.
"Right, your soul power is sealed. Right now, your soul is no different from a mortal's. The most casual of spiritual attacks can end your life. Meanwhile, the Death Zone will probably overflow with Ghost Legions."
"Indeed. Legions of lingering souls turned Ravenous Ghosts most definitely await us inside. But since they dare not approach Qehreman, we can use him as our shield to harvest all we need.
Also, we can sow good karma! Who knows, in a near or distant future, it might come in handy."
Konrad explained while pitch-black mist emerged from Qehreman's mother's pores and orifices to dive into his right palm and fuel his body.
"You, sowing good karma? Utterly shameless."
Selene scoffed. And before that eldritch healing scene, Qehreman's turned speechless while his eyes widened in disbelief.
"Is he…taking her death into him?"
He wondered, unable to grasp the process of Konrad's move. But as he witnessed his mother's eyelids tremble, his massive body teemed with joy, and he rushed toward her side.
In a flash, a rosy, healthy glow replaced the pale hue of her skin. Her limbs trembled, and her eyes opened!
The last bit of black mist vanished within Konrad's hand, and he lowered his hands, signifying the treatment's end.
"Mother, your unworthy son greets you! Your unworthy son greets you!"
Qehreman kowtowed before his awakening mother who couldn't comprehend the situation she found herself in. The last thing she recalled was stepping into the Blood Mountain Range. As for what occurred afterward, it was all blurry.
"Brother Qehreman, my promise is fulfilled. I will let you mother and son enjoy this moment of privacy. In the following days, I shall contact you."
Konrad declared and turned heels. Seeing him depart in such haste, Qehreman didn't bother with trifles and kowtowed toward his leaving form, saying only a few words:
"I stand at your service!"
Hearing this, Konrad's smile broadened, and he waved the back of his left hand at the young barbarian.
"I shall hold you up on that."
Shortly afterward, Konrad returned to the inner city alongside his ladies.
Else asked as they stepped back in the inner city.
"The royal palace, of course. It's time we take over this country."
As he spoke, the amiable look on Konrad's face vanished, replaced by wicked, fiendish eyes and a wolfish grin.
"Same old principle, subdue the men, take their women."