Eastern Divine Region, Eternal Heaven God Realm, at the bottom of the Eternal Heaven Tower.
The entire place was a sea of gray. There were only a few dim pinpricks of light coming from the profound jade set in the area.
It was not just limited to light. Everything in this place was isolated from the outside world, including sound and even aura.
This was the most important place amongst important places in the Eternal Heaven God Realm. If one did not obtain personal permission from the Eternal Heaven God Emperor, they would not be able to step inside, no matter who they were. However, at this moment, layer after layer of the barriers were being peeled back.
Zhou Qingchen quietly sat in the center of this dim, dark space. This was the two hundred and twenty-ninth day he had spent here.
He could remember the time he had spent here all too clearly. Because every single day he had spent in this place felt far longer than any other period of his thousand year lifespan.
In the past, whenever he had started a closed-door training session that lasted several years, he had been able to pass the time in quiet meditation. However, these few short months had made him realize just how dreadfully slow the flow of time could be.
A sound rang in the air, and he saw that the great door that had been sealed for a long time was being slowly and carefully pushed open. The soft sound that had rung in the air at first had now also completely dissipated.
As the door was pushed wide, a ray of light shone into the area. It was not too bright, yet it caused Zhou Qingchen to unconsciously raise his hand and shield his face.
After being confined to this dark place for so long, he clearly longed for the light. Yet such a faint ray seemed so glaring to him.
Because, the current him had become a devil.
“Royal Father.” Zhou Qingchen stood up and made a formal bow.
Zhou Xuzi slowly walked inside. In just the span of a few short months, he seemed to have aged yet again. However, that mild and gentle smile still remained on his face. “Qingchen, how’ve you been lately?”
Zhou Qingchen replied, “Reporting to Royal Father. During the last half a month, the darkness profound energy within my body has not been agitated at all and this child has been a lot calmer as well.”
“That’s good then.” Zhou Xuzi smiled as he nodded his head. “The situation is far better than I had imagined. This also means that our ancestor has been protecting you from the shadows, so you need to believe that there will definitely be a day when this darkness energy will be purged from your body.”
This time, Zhou Qingchen did not give the same reply as he always had. Instead, he suddenly said, “Royal Father, this child has constantly been thinking over things during this period of time and I suddenly thought of something… that I perhaps should not even be thinking of and I don’t know if I should even ask Royal Father about it.”
“Heh heh, there’s no need to hold anything back. Feel free to ask me anything,” Zhou Xuzi replied. He was the real reason for everything that had befallen Zhou Qingchen. Due to the pain in his heart and the deep guilt he felt toward him, he was far warmer to Zhou Qingchen than he ever had been.
“This child wants to ask…” Zhou Qingchen still hesitated even after he had started to speak. But upon seeing his father’s warm and gentle gaze, he finally managed to ask the question. “Is darkness profound energy truly so unforgivable and impermissible?”
“Oh?” Zhou Xuzi started to frown, but he still kept a warm smile on his face as he replied, “Darkness profound energy is a symbol of negative energy. If darkness profound energy disappears from this world, it will also mean there will no longer be any sinful powers existing in this world. This is especially true for those of us who have inherited the legacy of the gods, exterminating all of the darkness profound energy in the universe is a duty that has been passed down from generation to generation. A duty so ingrained that nothing need be said about it.”
“Why did you suddenly ask such a question?”
Ever since Zhou Qingchen had started cultivating the profound way, he had heard Zhou Xuzi and many other people say these exact words to him countless times. In the past, he had never once doubted them. Because to him, it had simply been common sense, just like how water and fire could not mix.
As he looked into his father’s eyes, he finally verbalized the truest doubt that had formed in his heart. “The devils who possess darkness profound energy will have their humanity eradicated by it. They will become cruel, bloodthirsty, and violent. They will not hesitate to do anything, commit any crime for their own gain… Darkness profound energy is a heresy in this universe and as profound practitioners of the God Realm, we must do our very best to destroy it, no matter whether it exists in the form of devil people, devil beasts, or devil spirits.”
“Ever since I’ve become a devil, I’ve always been terrified that my humanity would be slowly eroded by the darkness profound energy within me, that I’d become a heartless and inhumane monster.”
Zhou Xuzi, “...”
He lifted both of his hands and as profound energy circulated within his body, a layer of black energy slowly appeared over his palms. His fingers did not tremble and his eyes and voice remained calm. “It’s already been more than seven months and the darkness profound energy in my body has been rioting less and less frequently. My body has already completely adapted to its existence and compared to what it was like initially, I have now become a true devil person.”
“But…” he slowly closed his eyes, “why is it that I am not degenerating into some kind of beast? My sense of rationality, my sense of right and wrong still clearly remain. The things that I have never been willing to do in the past, the things that I could never bring myself to do in the past, that hasn’t changed one bit. I still don’t want to do those things, I still can’t do those things.”
“The only negative change that I have truly noticed is that my mood will become violent and aggressive whenever my darkness profound energy starts to riot…”
He raised his hands even higher as the darkness profound energy covering them grew even more dense. “Royal Father, could it be that darkness profound energy isn’t that dreadful? Could it be that what we’ve always known about darkness profound energy, about devils… has been mistaken from the very start?”
That furious rebuke robbed Zhou Xuzi’s face of all of its warmth. As the universe’s most upright god emperor, the god emperor who lived to destroy all darkness and sin, he was not able to believe or accept such words. And they had actually come from his own son, the son he had personally chosen as the successor to the throne of the Eternal Heaven God Realm.
What sort of disgraceful behavior was this!?
Zhou Xuzi, who very rarely lost his temper, was about to slap his son, his eyes flaring in anger… But the moment he saw the dark energy in Zhou Qingchen’s palm, his eyes trembled and he forcefully suppressed the rage that had welled up inside of him. Instead, he stretched out a palm and instantly dispersed the darkness energy that Zhou Qingchen had released.
“Qingchen, how could you say such a thing?” Zhou Xuzi forcefully maintained his calm expression, but his voice still trembled as he said those words. “Darkness energy is a heresy that should not exist in this world! It has ever been that way! It is the teachings of our ancestors! The way of heaven!”
As Zhou Xuzi rebuked him, the normally respectful and obedient Zhou Qingchen suddenly retreated a single step. When he started to speak again, his voice had grown far graver. “If darkness is truly a sin that cannot be tolerated, then why… why did the Heaven Smiting Devil Emperor sacrifice herself and all of her kinsmen in order to save the world!?”
“Why did the Heavenly Slaughter Star God, the one who controlled the Evil Infant's Wheel of Myriad Tribulations, expose herself to the possibility of being trapped and annihilated by making an appearance at the Wall of Primal Chaos? Why did she help to seal it?”
“Why did Yun Che, who clearly possessed darkness profound energy, face the Heaven Smiting Devil Emperor all by himself in order to save this world…”
The long sleeve of his robe flew in the air as he slapped Zhou Qingchen so hard that he sent him flying. Zhou Xuzi’s hair and beard stood on end as his entire body shook. “Qingchen, do you… do you even know what you are saying!? You’ve already gone mad! The darkness profound energy has already started to devour your reason, erode your very nature! Wake up!”
“Ke… keh, keh.” Zhou Qingchen leaned against a wall as he slowly stood up. He used a finger to wipe away the blood trickling from the corner of his lips and bent his head down low. He started to speak slowly, “A person whose mind isn’t clear will only rant and rave like a lunatic. He will speak complete nonsense and gibberish. However, what this child has just described are things that both Royal Father and I have personally witnessed, personally experienced…”
“I thought I told you to shut up!!”
All of Zhou Xuzi’s blood rushed to his head as the profound jade beneath his feet exploded into fine powder and flew everywhere.
Zhou Qingchen’s long hair had fallen into disarray and his breathing was violent and heavy. He slowly knelt to the ground, his head deeply bowed. “This child has spoken rashly and offended you with his words… I beg Royal Father for his forgiveness.”
However, to Zhou Qingchen, these last two hundred and twenty-nine days, the darkest days of his life, had also become the period in which his mind was most clear.
It was only after having darkness within him that he truly came to understand it.
Perhaps, this was truly the most cruel aspect of Yun Che’s first act of revenge against the Eternal Heaven.
He had not only destroyed the body of their successor, but also obliterated his long-held beliefs and convictions.
Blood slowly dripped from the corner of Zhou Qingchen’s lips, and every drop that splashed against the ground stabbed at Zhou Xuzi’s heart. All of his rage soon transformed into a piercing pain. He let out a long sigh and slowly strode forward. As he tapped a finger in the air, profound light dimly flashed and the red mark on Zhou Qingchen’s face started to fade.
“Qingchen,” he slowly said, “don’t you worry, I’ve already found a way to help you recover. No matter what, no matter what price I have to pay, I’ll definitely see it through.”
“This is something that I, your father, swear to you, my most important son.”
“This child… believes Royal Father,” Zhou Qingchen replied softly. However, his head still remained bowed under his dishevelled hair and he did not raise it up to look at him.
Zhou Xuzi turned around and left the room. His footsteps did not make a single sound, but he felt as if they were as heavy as a mountain.
As he walked through the layers of barriers, Zhou Xuzi did not leave the Eternal Heaven Tower. Instead, he went to the lowest floor of the tower, the most secret place in the Eternal Heaven God Realm.
That was where the Eternal Heaven Pearl lay.
It was just that his footsteps were erratic. At times, they were heavy and plodding, and at other times, they were light and quick.
“The teachings of our ancestors… the will of the Eternal Heaven… something I’ve pursued all of my life… something I’ve devoted half of my life to… How could it be wrong, how could it be wrong…” he mumbled over and over again.
During this period of time, he had come to consult the spirit of the Eternal Heaven Pearl in hopes that he could find a way to save Zhou Qingchen amongst its ancient memories. But he received the same reply every single time, and it was that “if Yun Che could forcibly inject it into his body, then he will also be able to purge it from his body… and that is the only possible way.”
Just as he wanted to step into the forbidden area where the Eternal Heaven Pearl lay, a sound transmission suddenly rang in his mind.
This sound transmission caused him to come to a sudden halt. His body violently trembled as he spun on his heel and swiftly flew out of the tower.
When he left the Eternal Heaven Tower, Honorable Tai Yu was already waiting for him in the main hall. Zhou Xuzi landed in front of him and spoke in a grave voice, “Tai Yu, is what you’re saying true!?”
“I am absolutely sure.” Honorable Tai Yu slowly raised his head. Given his position, if he was not absolutely sure, even if he could say it with ninety-nine percent certainty, he still would not use those four words.
“Do you have any details?” Zhou Xuzi said.
Honorable Tai Yu shook his head, “It’s hard to find any details. Yun Che has indeed fallen into the hands of the Soul Stealing Realm’s Devil Queen and the Yama Realm has even tried to get him from them before.”
“The Yama Realm?” Zhou Xuzi gave a slight frown.
“Mn.” Honorable Tai Yu said, “Even though Yun Che possesses darkness profound energy, he is still viewed as someone from the Eastern Divine Region by the people of the Northern Divine Region. Due to the ancient grudges and enmity that exists between both realms, they would naturally view him as a heresy to be snuffed out once they discovered his identity.”
“It is also possible that the king realms of the Northern Divine Region have heard about his Heretic God inheritance and the Sky Poison Pearl. Yun Che definitely won’t have a good time in the Northern Divine Region once his identity has been exposed.”
“The reason he even appeared in the God Realm of Absolute Beginning in the first place was probably because his identity had been exposed. He fled to the God Realm of Absolute Beginning to hide from the people trying to hunt him down, but after he harmed Qingchen and exposed his whereabouts, he was forced to flee back to the Northern Divine Region once more.”
“Also, before he fell into the Devil Queen’s hands, it seems like he had already deeply offended her. As for the Yama Realm, it seems like he killed one of their important personages. Given the circumstances at hand, it seems like Yun Che is still surrounded by enemies, even though he’s grown bizarrely strong.”
No one would be surprised by this news if they heard it. No matter whether it was due to Yun Che’s identity or the secrets that he possessed.
Zhou Xuzi fell into his thoughts for a brief moment before saying, “Approximately when did this occur?”
“It should be about a month ago,” Honorable Tai Yu replied. After that, he frowned and said, “The Devil Queen clearly made an agreement with us at first. However, after she obtained him, she did not do anything for an entire month. It might very well be that she has no intention of using Yun Che to broker a ‘deal’ after she captured him. After all, how could she let go of the secrets that Yun Che possesses!?”
“No,” Zhou Xuzi replied as he slowly shook his head. “A secret, in the end, is still a secret. It cannot be seen or perceived. However, the bargaining chip I’ve laid on the table is one that she cannot resist. What’s more, my only condition is for her to force Yun Che to expel the darkness in Zhou Qingchen’s body and I’ve sworn that I won’t suddenly try to kill him or take him back to the Eastern Divine Region… So she has even less reason to refuse.”
“She must have been confident that I would receive this news sooner or later. She is waiting for me to contact her first.”
Honorable Tai Yu gave a soft sigh. He knew that even if Zhou Xuzi was completely put on the back foot, he would still definitely bend to her demands.
“The queen of those devils is cunning and rapacious. The more anxious I seem, the higher a price she will demand… However, Qingchen can’t afford to wait. The darkness has already started to eat away at his mind. He’s slowly being transformed by it, day by day. If we wait too long, I fear that he might reach the point of no return. Ai.” Zhou Xuzi looked completely exhausted. “However, the good thing is that she truly managed to capture Yun Che.”
Honorable Tai Yu looked at Zhou Xuzi before saying, “However, it looks like my lord does not seem to be too worried about this deal.”
Zhou Xuzi stared into the space in front of him as he slowly said, “That bargaining chip is something that is impossible for her to reject. In fact, it is impossible… for anyone to reject.”
Honorable Tai Yu’s brow deeply furrowed as he asked, “My lord, what bargaining chip are you going to use exactly?”
But the moment those words left his mouth, he suddenly thought of something and his expression immediately changed. He stuttered in alarm, “Could it… Could it be…”
Zhou Xuzi closed his eyes, but he did not say anything else.
A look of shock froze on Honorable Tai Yu’s face and it took a long time for him to regain his composure. He let out a long and drawn-out sigh before he said, “My lord has devoted half of his life to the Eternal Heaven and the world. You are finally living for yourself just this once.”
Zhou Xuzi slowly said, “After this matter is over, I will no longer be the Eternal Heaven’s emperor so Qingchen will have to pay back this debt himself.”
“Tai Yu… thank you for those words,” he said in a heartfelt voice. Even though Honorable Tai Yu had just said those short few words, they had greatly comforted his heart and soul.
Honorable Tai Yu chuckled as he shook his head. “There’s no need for such words between us brothers. There’s just one thing I’m worried about. That Devil Queen is not only supremely cunning, her soul power is also dreadful and bizarre. We already experienced it once. You must be careful.”
“Don’t worry,” Zhou Xuzi said. “If I did not make thorough preparations first, how would I dare to step inside the borders of the Northern Region. Before this happens, the most important matter is how I can hide my actions and cover my tracks… Tai Yu, I’ll have to leave that part to you.”
“Do not worry my lord.”
Tai Yu left after he withdrew his sound isolation barrier. As far as he could recall, this was the first time Zhou Xuzi had truly acted selfishly since he had become emperor.
And perhaps only Zhou Qingchen could make him behave in such a manner.Previous Chapter Next Chapter