Zhuo Fan was listening to Yun Xuanji’s every word.
“People’s fates are ingrained in the world. Although choices are innumerable, anything hardly throws the world out of balance. My belief was firm in this truth and with my ancestor’s eyes, I was able to point out a safer path for the people. But eight years ago, something happened that collapsed my faith.”
Zhuo Fan curled an eyebrow. Seeing Yun Xuanji gasping, he muttered, “High Priest, restrain your grief. Who hasn’t been disappointed in the world?”
“Ha-ha-ha, you think I fell in despair because everything I knew had been turned upside down?” Yun Xuanji sighed, “Perhaps, but I was more surprised than anything. I used to think every life is bound to the world’s laws. The more I saw, the duller the world became. That is why the Yun clan has always lived in tranquility and never engaged in power play. But that moment opened my eyes, that not everything was set in stone. Heaven and earth are keeping us prisoners while still presenting us with a way out. All that is left is for us to find it…”
Clueless to high heavens, Zhuo Fan scratched his nose, cursing the old man, [What the hell had the old coot been smoking?]
Yun Xuanji laughed in reply to his thoughts, “Steward Zhuo doesn’t look too keen to delve into the mysteries of fate. Then I shall speak plainly. Eight years ago, you killed You Guiqi in Blue Expanse City. Your act defied fate. His destiny was fraught with dangers but it was not meant to be cut so short.”
Zhuo Fan’s heart seized. Eight years ago was his first turning point in Tianyu, the one that made him (in)famous. All the fate defying that came after this event went way over his head.
[You mean to tell me fate includes killing? What am I supposed to do? Wait for the auspicious day when I want to kill someone since it wasn’t in the stars for him to die earlier?]
That only meant this Parish ought to change jobs, scrying for an assassin’s target’s due date. Or no matter what the killer tries before the due time, all attempts would be for naught.
Yun Xuanji knew his thoughts before they had even formed, “Each man’s fate is linked with the world, just like the starry sky. And every one of them touched one another through unseen rules and intricate interactions. Since everyone has their own will, they all take different walks in life. But the path to death never even existed for You Guiqi at that point in time. It only appeared twenty years later, in a time of great national unrest.
“The news of his death shocked me to the core. I turned to the sky at once and found a dead person still alive. Along with him, the strings of fate were now entangled and he had escaped the ties that bind. Every single action of his changed the fates of everyone he met. The strong become weak, and the weak turn strong. Like a Demon Archon incarnate, he literally flips the world upside down!”
“Uh, High Priest, you don’t mean me when you mention Demon Archon, right?” Zhuo Fan pointed at his nose, blinking his big puppy eyes.
Yun Xuanji smiled, “What do you think? Ha-ha-ha, you know better than anyone. Just how many people’s fate has taken a sudden and unconceivable turn on your path?
“Luo clan, a washed-up third-rate clan is experiencing a complete rebirth, as the head of the Eight Noble Houses. If not because of you killing You Guiqi, Blue Expanse City’s Xue clan would’ve never served under Sword Marquise Abode; their third miss’ life would’ve run its sordid course. Drifting Flowers Edifices was destined to be Regent Estate’s first victim in their house unification plan, greatly bolstering their power, all leading up to a huge civil war. All it took was one particular man, you, and Drifting Flowers Edifices made a comeback from the brink of death, Regent Estate’s plans were thwarted, and on and on it goes. Need I say more?”
“Uhm, all of this sounds like fate’s plan to me. Maybe I’m just Regent Estate’s nemesis, the one to turn all of it around!” Zhuo Fan stuck out his nose as he spoke with sophistry.
Yun Xuanji nodded with a smile, “Perhaps, but my eyes still fail to see any trace of fate around you. As if you are walking between two worlds, having long since shed the shackles of destiny.”
Heart tense, Zhuo Fan may speak tough but he was already starting to believe it on the mushy inside.
Although he was allergic to this bullshit called fate, this old coot was right about one thing. He truly was walking between worlds, that of the living and the dead.
An Ethereal Stage losing his body could live on by possessing others with his soul. But that was no true rebirth, since he didn’t die to begin with.
While Demonic Emperor Zhuo Yifan had his soul pulverized, annihilated. Luo clan’s servant, Zhuo Fan, of meager cultivation, was also struck down.
Yet through the mysteries of the Nine Serenities Secret Records, life was born anew from these two strangers housing one body, a life walking the thin line between the living and the dead yet above the laws of this world.
Separated, they were dead, but together they were at least half-alive!
“Steward Zhuo, I don’t know how you did it, but please believe me. Your very existence changes everyone’s fate as they know it.”
Yun Xuanji paused for effect, then continued in a heavier tone, “I intended to keep this matter hidden, but in exchange for your trust, I will tell you a secret. The one you killed, Huangpu Qingtian, had all the qualities and fate to be a ruler. He had a high chance of becoming the new emperor.”
Zhuo Fan could hardly believe his ears.
He was always of the belief that Huangpu Qingtian’s rants about providence this, providence that, were just that, rants – and a heavy dose of narcissistic tendencies. But now, even the High Priest vouched for him, making it all the more crazy.
Yun Xuanji sighed, “I had seen into Huangpu Qingtian’s fate and a single glance told me that he had the disposition of an earth dragon, a prime candidate to be a king on this earth. But fate is a forked path, where there is death, there will always be life, and where there was life, death wasn’t far behind either. At the time, I spoke of three tribulations he had to pass to achieve his destiny.
“First was heaven. With the king’s advent, the dragon soul shall return. Huangpu Qingtian earned its recognition in his childhood for a reason. This tribulation, he passed.”
Zhuo Fan nodded.
Dragon Vein Soul was a savage being, with not even a Radiant Stage expert capable of subduing it. Yet Huangpu Qingtian, a pipsqueak, did it, complementing each other and training the Earth Dragon Claw. [It’s gotta be fate. There’s no other explanation.]
“The second tribulation was of father and son. Estate Lord Huangpu Tianyuan is a decisive and stalwart person. If Huangpu Qingtian wanted to do anything, he had to seize power, to steal his father’s seat. This ultimately broke the ties of father and son beyond repair. All he had to do was to be a savage himself, throw away his clan and steal his position. This would’ve brought him one step closer to being an emperor.”
[Humph, the punk was savage alright, just look at his rotten attitude…]
Zhuo Fan scoffed inside, [It’s obvious that this tribulation was a walk in the park compared to the first.]
“The final tribulation, the most crucial one, was sin! Huangpu Qingtian is a tyrant in character and actions. With everyone considered dirt, his sins weigh heavy on his shoulders. If he would’ve gone soul searching, reassessing the worth of a person, he would’ve been a prime candidate to become the next emperor. Twenty years later, Regent Estate would be at his beck and call. At the peak of his power, the clash with the imperial family would be nothing more than a skirmish to him. And four decades later, he’d become the ruler of Tianyu and establish his own dynasty!”
“Uhm, that seems highly improbable. With that guy’s obnoxious attitude, the thought of self reflection would’ve never crossed his mind. Looking people right in the eye instead of his nostrils would already be a huge improvement. There’s no way he would’ve passed the third tribulation.” Zhuo Fan dissed his words, “But now the Regent Estate can no longer vie for power and has nothing to do with me anymore!”
Yun Xuanji shook his head, “People always change. As I understand, the recent years have been too peaceful. If Huangpu Qingtian had lived, he may very well be able to overcome this tribulation. A pity he stumbled upon you, a man outside fate, and his future was cut short. A grave loss…”
Yun Xuanji sighed, while Zhuo Fan scratched his nose, “High Priest, for you to tell me so much, there has to be a reason. Why?”
“For the good of the people!”
Yun Xuanji stood up, giving the flabbergasted Zhuo Fan a deep bow, “I have deep knowledge of fate and it’s inviolable nature. Even if forced to change, it will only make a detour. Slowly but surely returning back on track. Hence I am filled with pain seeing the people suffer yet powerless to help them. Now that I see that Steward Zhuo has the power to change all that, I dearly wish, Steward Zhuo will keep the fighting to a minimum, for the sake of the people…”
“Fine, I get it!”
Zhuo Fan waved him off before he went on, “High Priest, I took you for an intelligent man, but now I see that you’re quite senile. One second you call me the Demon Archon incarnate, and the next moment you ask the same Demon Archon to save the world?”
Yun Xuanji held his gaze, “You ‘were’ a Demon Archon…”
“Still will!” Zhuo Fan’s tone was firm.
Yun Xuanji sighed, “You have escaped fate, so why insist on walking the old path? I do not know who you are, but looking at your past exploits that got you here, they’re not at all the actions of an ignorant child, but those of an expert reborn. Going from there, a reborn expert must’ve faced true death once. But have you ever taken a moment to consider that this rebirth – and having escaped fate – is all about rediscovering yourself?”
Zhuo Fan shook from head to toe.
Not only had he guessed Zhuo Fan’s origins but the heart of this old demonic cultivator.
In less than ten years, unlike his past life which was focused solely on cultivating in the Sacred Domain, he had met countless people, gotten in touch with all kinds of feelings he never knew existed that had given him a whole new look on life.
These were all events he had never experienced before.
Maybe this life was heaven’s way of elevating his state of mind through countless events for the next time he became a Demon Emperor!
That truth freed him of worry and brought peace. His death as Demonic Emperor may very well be a blessing in disguise.
“What’s in it for me?” Zhuo Fan was back to showing his trademark evil smile. He may have accepted Yun Xuanji’s proposal, but on the inside he was still rotten…