Back in his chambers, Konrad waved his right hand, summoning his two female Paramount Knights who immediately dropped on their knees.
"Master, what can we do for you?"
They asked with deference. Konrad first said nothing, waving his hands to summon a grand golden gate that hovered before the two. At the same time, his Imperial Jade Seal and a golden bow appeared and floated toward the two.
The golden bow was the Heavenly Star Bow Konrad swindled from Anatol's hands, refined and brought to a higher level. Hence, he renamed it as Sun Shooter.
"This gate will lead you to the empress and jade consort. Equipped of those two artifacts, assist them in their tasks."
He ordered without looking back.
Hearing this, the two knight ladies were startled. And with Konrad's symbol of imperial authority standing before them, how could they not? However…
"Master, in your current condition, we can't leave your side!"
…they immediately refused.
But hearing this, Konrad flew into a rage.
"Since when do my imperial commands require your approval? Act with haste!"
He snarled, making the two realize the situation didn't authorize delays. With helpless nods, they stood up and stepped into the gate to reach Yvonne and Verena's side.
In the instant they left, Konrad lowered his eyes onto his open, right palm, then clenched it to the limits of his physical strength. And were it not for his boundless death essence making his body nigh-indestructible, his nails would have dug blood.
"The plan must move faster."
To understand the root of Konrad's sudden change, we need to go back to the moment the serpent tribe's chieftain led Yvonne and Verena toward the Hidden Forest's secret location: The Ancestral Blood Pool.
Standing at the intersection of the five tribes, the Ancestral Blood Pool was a shared treasure among them all, a delicacy they could only worship and stare at, but never utilize. The reason was simple: incompetence.
An ancient treasure predating the founding of the tribes, the Ancestral Blood Pool hailed back to a time when demonic beasts and fiends of various tribes stood in harmony under the banner of one creature: The Tree Sovereign.
TThe Tree Sovereign was the Ancient Crystal World's first cultivator, a nature spirit born from the roots of the World Tree. If paragon, dream, moon, and sun spirits belonged to the True Spirits, then nature spirits were a step above them all.
In the higher realms, they were known as the Great Spirits. A nature spirit could only emerge from nature itself, and their bloodlines never passed down. In the case of mating, the child would inherit one hundred percent of their partners' lineage. For that reason, only a scant few existed within the Three Realms.
The Tree Sovereign was born in ancient times, predating Talroth's birth. Born with astonishing cultivation and a preternatural understanding of all things within heaven and earth, he soon became the leader of all those demonic beasts and fiends, leading them into an era of harmony.
However, because he didn't allow anyone to worship him, trapped under the Mortal Realm's laws, he could never ascend to godhood. In Mortal Realms, when cultivators reached the limit of the Divine Road but failed to master their world's faith, they could take another path, and become Demigods.
In terms of strength, there was no difference between the average Demigod and the average higher realm Minor God devoid of faith power. However, Demigods didn't possess an unlimited lifespan, and could not live for more than one million years.
Moreover, every 129,600 years, they suffered a cosmic tribulation, which ensured they would never enjoy their full lifespan. The average Demigod could not survive the first.
Of course, there were some upsides. The Demigod Rank was a boundless pool. Those at that level could carry on with their cultivation as they pleased, and if one day they rose to the upper realms, they would immediately breakthrough to higher levels, becoming Minor Gods, True Gods, or more, depending on the requirements they fit.
Having survived one cosmic tribulation, the Tree Sovereign was as powerful as a True God. Alas, a True God, he wasn't. And the next cosmic tribulation didn't fail to harvest his life.
Following his death, his five consorts struggled to keep the tribes united. However, their sons one day rose to shatter it all and carve the world among them all, with the Hidden Forest standing as their roots and capital. Following eons of warfare, only five tribes stood above the rest and signed a grand treaty to end strife and return to the serenity of the Hidden Forest…until the Higher Realms' intervention again shattered harmony.
Meanwhile, the Ancestral Blood Pool was the Tree Sovereign's number one legacy. And as the name implied, contained the essence of his blood. Because of his unique lineage, demons, devas, beasts, fiends, and spirits could all partake in that blood.
However, in the millions of years following his death, none managed to survive a sip. To say nothing of the full seven days, seven nights bath Yvonne required to become the Hidden Forest's new master.
Worse, with the Ancestral Blood Pool standing at the intersection of the five tribes, all had access to it.
"The Ancestral Blood Pool lies in open ground. Once you step into it, you're vulnerable to attacks. Moreover, the Zenith Ant elders are well-aware of its existence and might be monitoring it. I heard one attempted to soak in it but was obliterated by the blood."
The serpent chieftain explained after laying down all the details for Yvonne. All Ant dangers aside, the Tree Sovereign's blood was comparable to True God Blood. Even with special formations, to attempt to refine it without at least a peak-stage Divine Ascension cultivation base was nothing short of suicidal.
Although Yvonne's high-grade Divine Physiques and top hekeret bloodline gave her plenty of assurance, the task remained fraught with risk.
Still, she didn't flinch and carried on with neither delay nor reluctance. Controlling the Hidden Forest was of capital importance for the incoming battles. Therefore, even if she had to bet her life on it, Yvonne would never hesitate.
With the serpent chieftain leading them, Yvonne and Verena landed into an idyllic clearing where the gray mist of the Hidden Forest didn't pass. In the center of that clearing, a thirty meters wide blood pool stood, releasing blood-colored gas that soared into the sky.
"Serpent chieftain, you can leave. Verena, you stand as my guardian. Should anything you cannot handle occur, depart with haste."
Yvonne ordered, and though Verena nodded in approval, she thought otherwise.
With a bow, the serpent chieftain excused himself, and left the clearing, leaving behind Verena and Yvonne. Without further disturbance, Yvonne lowered her dress to step into the blood pond.
But with only the first step, scalding heat assailed her foot and spread throughout her leg. Pulling in a deep breath, Yvonne closed her eyes and suppressed the pain to fully immerse herself into the pool.