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The sharp-eyed young man was known by many as Lucien Lao, the second in line to the Lao Clan.

In truth, the Lao Clan was not one of the Sixth Order Clans of the Core Region. Or rather, just a few hundred years ago, it wasn’t. It’s a long story irrelevant to the matters at hand, but the short of it was that Throne Byrin, after the Lao Clan was pushed into a corner, succeeded in grasping the Throne of a Clan on the verge of becoming a Half-Step Seventh Order Clan… The most powerful Clan of the Core Region – the Ember Clan.

Thanks to his brother, not just the Lao Clan, but he as Throne Byrin’s younger sibling, benefitted greatly. There were countless things he had seen in his young life and he could be considered to be well versed in the matters of the world. But even he couldn’t make heads or tails of the scene before him.

Despite very clearly seeing that Ryu was heavily injured, he still hesitated to take a step forward.

The blade scar was unlike anything he had ever seen. The oppressive aura, the raging qi, the sharpness that made one feel a single misstep would reap their life… Even the oppressive vitality of the Mortal Qi Small Realm was directly suppressed. The various vegetation and plant life that had been cut down showed no signs of growing back in the short term…

At that moment, a violent cough shattered the quiet of the razed forest. Bits of shredded organ and blood flew from Ryu’s lips as he struggled to stand.

Though the half of his face exposed by his half-mask appeared expressionless, his gaze seemed far dimmer.

Every time one broke through a large barrier, they were meant to experience rebirth. In fact, the Spiritual Severing Realm and the Path Extinction Realm were actually two exceptions to this rule. They both not only provided rebirth upon crossed their large barrier, but also provided a rebirth for every step taken through its minor barriers.

As for why the Path Extinction Realm allowed this, it could be explained at a later time. But the reason why the Spiritual Severing Realm gave such benefits was clear and obvious.

During the process of swinging down one’s Qi Blade, a cultivator was meant to communicate with their dantian. The dantian, which housed one’s Spiritual Foundation, was a Small Realm of its own, unique to every martial cultivator.

This communication would allow the Qi Blade to switch its state and shift from one’s current plane of existence, to the plane of existence one’s Spiritual Foundation resided in. This was how a cultivator could avoid bisecting themselves as they severed the connection between their meridians and Spiritual Foundation in order to reform a stronger connection.

Upon completing each Severing, one’s meridians would grow in size. Eventually, after multiple Severings, one’s meridians would begin to increase its connection to one’s dantian, thus allowing it to gain some characteristics of a Small Realm of its own, which would then allow one to store even more energy within their meridians.

This process was beneficial, but also incredibly dangerous. Even the slightest mistake in controlling the Qi Blade’s shift to one’s Dantian Plane could result in irreparable damages. So, the Heavens displayed a bit of mercy in allowing slight mistakes to be healed after each Severing.

Obviously, the issue Ryu faced was clear. He hadn’t experienced rebirth and his injuries hadn’t been healed. There was only one explanation he could think of for this – he had failed!

Sensing the destitute nature of his meridians, completely barren of qi, a bitterness swelled in his heart. A moment later, an anxiousness he couldn’t control overwhelmed him.

The mildest punishment one would face after failing their First Severing was dropping back down to the Lower Qi Refinement Realm. However, there was an even more savage punishment for those who partially succeeded but ultimately failed.

Completing a Severing was only half the process of entering the Spiritual Severing Realm. The other half was re-establishing the connection one severed between their Dantian Plane and their meridians. If one failed to re-establish this connection, one could permanently weaken or even lose the link one had with their dantian!

What did this mean?... It was akin to sending Ryu back to square one. Not square one as in the very first Awakening Realm… square one as in he was once again that boy who failed to awaken his Spiritual Foundation!

In fact, it was even worse than this. Back then, Ryu had at least had a False Spiritual Foundation. But now, he didn’t have one at all?!

A gloomy rage built up in Ryu’s chest. He didn’t blame Ailsa, he only blamed himself. He knew that her path was correct, that her method wasn’t flawed. Of all the ways he had thought of to succeed in severing his Chaotic Silk Meridians, her path was the very best.

But he failed! He had actually failed…

Back then, during those moments, he had felt ecstasy. Reason being he had felt the blade succeed. He precisely controlled his Qi Blade, shifting it from this real plane to his Dantian Plane. He accurately struck the weakest and thinnest part of his Chaotic Silk Meridians, just at the part where they were beginning to shift from tangible to ethereal.

It couldn’t have been more perfect. His Qi Blade sliced through cleanly. The only thing he had remaining to do was grab control of his severing meridian vessel, communicate with his Dantian Plane, and allow a stronger, even sturdier connection to form.

After this Severing was complete, his ability to sense the changes of his Dantian should have increased manifold, he was so looking forward to seeking out the mysteries of a Sky God’s Spiritual Foundation… Yet that was when it happened.

The Essence that had been puppeteered by his [Demonic Strings] lashed out. All the control he had was lost in an instant. Before he could re-establish the connection, the Essence tore itself from his Demonic Strings, forcibly re-entering the real plane and slicing out through his inner organs and even his Diamond Back Ape soft armor…

Not only was he now destitute of qi, but he was also injured to the point even standing seemed impossible. This injury was so severe that the punch he received from Edwin was like child’s play. Before his newly awakened Ice Flame, even injuries caused by Edwin would have no choice to be healed. But Ryu could feel that an injury caused by Essence of the enraged Heavens was far beyond his abilities…

Let alone worrying about his cultivation’s inability to progress from now onward, he might not live for another few hours.

Tears fell uncontrollably from Ailsa’s cheeks. There was so much she wanted to say but couldn’t say at the same time. Saying anything at all would have been useless.

It was then that Lucien fell into a state of uncontrollable laughter.

“To think…” He wiped tears from his eyes. “… A man who haughtily called himself a Throne just days ago would fail to reach even the fourth Realm of cultivation. If others heard about this, maybe all the Thrones of the world would hunt you down for daring to taint their name.”

Once the shock of the blade scar wore off, Lucien couldn’t help but laugh a genuine laughter. It truly was too funny. For the Mortal Planes, the Spiritual Severing Realm was a lofty Realm beyond many of their wildest imaginations, but for the Core Region, such a Realm was merely a steppingstone of the younger generation. For Ryu to fail… It was no wonder why he was laughing.

Of course, it wasn’t just Lucien who found this funny. The other Connecting Heaven Realm geniuses who had rushed over in thoughts of the treasure that formed beneath the tribulation clouds also felt their tenseness relax to a hearty laughter.

“Phew.” Lucien’s eyes sharpened once more. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll hand over the treasure born this region. Do that, then maybe I’ll let you become a slave of mine for the next few months.”

“Hey Lucien.” A gruff Connecting Heaven Realm genius of the Minn Clan called out. “Have you noticed that we can’t sense any cultivation from him anymore? Let alone just failing and returning to the Lower Qi Refinement Realm, it looks like it’s far worse than that.”

Lucien was partially stunned by these words. When he checked to see that second-in-line Heir of the Minn Clan was correct, the amusement in his eyes grew to new levels.

“Since that’s the case, there’s no point in even speaking conditions with him. I don’t need a cripple for a slave, plus this kind of life is what you deserve for daring to provoke my elder brother. Look at his height, then look at yours. Is there even a need to compare?” Lucien sneered with disdain.

“Vygil, you can have any belongings he has on him, but the treasure that formed here is mine.” Lucien said without regard for the Minn Clan’s genius.

“You can’t do as you please here, Lucien. Your big brother is nowhere in sight. You’ll have to rely on yourself.” A genius of the Ofera Clan replied with disdain.

Lucien grinned, completely unperturbed. “If you want to compete with me, feeling free.”

Ryu struggled to his feet. He had responded to the jeering he received at all, he simply didn’t have the heart to.

Half of him wanted to continue lying on the ground. If he was only fighting for himself, maybe that really would have been the choice he made. However, even he himself didn’t realize he had already risen to his knees before he truly registered his own actions.

His intestines threatened to spill outward as he pushed himself up, but he could only hold them in place with his forearm, applying whatever small strength he had left.

Of the eighteen Connecting Heaven Realm geniuses who had entered this Small Realm, three of them were already here. There was no doubt that others were already rushing over at their fastest possible speeds as well.

How he would face them? Ryu didn’t know. Would he survive? Ryu didn’t know. Had his road come to an end so soon…? Even that, the most pressing question in Ryu’s mind, was completely unknown.

“Don’t complain so much. He’s a ‘Throne’ after all. He’s bound to have exploited his Sect out of some good things.”

“Don’t bullshit me. What the hell could I ever want from a trash Fifth Order Sect? Do you think I’m a newborn? Fight me if you’re so confident.”

As he slowly rose from his knees, listening to the three geniuses of the Lao, Minn and Ofera Clans, Ryu felt a little lost.  

The Heavens really were nothing but trash.