It wasn't just Jiao Hui Xin and the other disciples that were caught off guard by Liang Chen's cold voice and statement, the slightly chubby man who had just been tending to his crops was just as shocked and surprised at them. The little Lan Yun was a bit better off, she may be childish but that didn't mean that she was so naive that she didn't understand certain things. She had after all spent a fair amount of time with Yan Ling in a different multiverse, she had definitely been forced to see her fair share of bloodshed.
"Wait wait wait, what are you talking about?! Death, killing, evil, you can't be serious, right?!"
The man spoke up before the disciples could, trembling in his boots as the colour drained from his face. Liang Chen's expression didn't show the slightest hint of joking, the shadow of death flitting about within his golden pupils. The man could tell that he wasn't playing around or messing with him, but that was all the more reason he had to speak up like this, it helped prevent his mind from crumbling under the weight of the truth.
Liang Chen had addressed the disciples and presented their quarry to them, but they couldn't help but hesitate. The man in front of them was just a farmer shaking in his boots, he looked so terrified and harmless that some of them couldn't help but be reminded of their own father. They wanted to follow Liang Chen's path, but this, was this really part of that path?
Liang Chen took in all their expressions, his gaze sweeping over them as he sighed internally. This was along the lines of what he had expected, it was also why he had chosen this man as one of the people to present to the new disciples. Evil wasn't some grand demon so drenched in blood you could see it from beyond the horizon.
Sometimes evil came in the form of a vengeful child, a selfish merchant, or in this case, a wounded farmer. But even if the face changed, did evil cease being evil? Liang Chen didn't think so, it was because it had so many different faces that it was important to deal with evil properly, otherwise, it would fester and spread, much like hatred and wrath did.
"I have been watching, Jungdi, watching and listening. So I can assure you, I'm as serious as you were against Kong Ya."
For nine days Liang Chen had kept watch, his senses spread throughout the entire city thanks to his poison. The life and death, the pleasure and pain, the grief and joy, he had seen it all unfold. As such, every sin, from minor to major, he had seen them all, judged them all with his selfish ideals. The farmer, Jungdi, instantly realized what was going on, but that understanding only made him grind his teeth with a dark expression.
"Kong Ya? You've come to speak up for Kong Ya and seek justice for him? Then what about me? Why didn't you speak up for me when Kong Ya killed my son? Why didn't you seek justice for me?"
It was as if his earlier trembling had all been a lie, rage taking over his body and twisting the veins in his eyes. The rage of a father that had lost his son, of a man whose family had fallen to ruins and left him with nothing but his land. It was the motivation that could be easily understood and sympathized with, as evidenced by the softening expressions of the other disciples. Only Hui Xin looked like she was contemplating, it was just that her ruined eyes made it impossible to see what she was thinking. Liang Chen didn't say anything in response to the man's outburst, allowing him to empty his chest.
"No one else spoke up for me, for Little Huo, no one! So I did it myself, I spoke up, I sought justice! Yes, I killed Kong Ya, I slit open his stomach and watched him die. But don't you dare come here and act like you're righteous when you didn't speak up for my son, you have no right to speak up for Kong Ya! No right!"
The man heaved slightly after he finished saying his piece, he was actually surprised by how much lighter he felt after getting it all out like that. He had bottled it up ever since his son died, and it wasn't like he could go around telling people he had killed Kong Ya, so getting it out like this was the first release he got, other than muttering to himself time and time again. But Liang Chen's gaze remained the same, unmoved by Jungdi's strong emotions.
"Then what about Kong Zhu Sei? Kong Yin? Kong Lie Qing? Kong Tie? Kong Duo Hyung?"
His sentence was an exceedingly simple question, if a bit perplexing, but Jungdi's raging expression cooled down instantly. There was plenty he could say against Liang Chen seeking justice for his murder of Kong Ya. But this? There was nothing that came to mind that he could say about this. Liang Chen slowly started to walk forward, his steps quiet thanks to the moist earth, but to Jungdi each one felt like an earthquake and rumbled like thunder. And his voice? It snuck into his ears like the cold whisper of death, different from all the other types of deaths he had encountered and seen throughout his long life.
"I understand, Jungdi, I actually do. He killed your son and you wanted revenge, you wanted him to suffer as you did. So you took out his oldest daughter, you wanted him to know the pain of losing a child. But the rage, the rage remains all the same, it festers in your stomach like a lump of rotten flesh. So you need to kill him too, need to kill the source of that rage. After all, he killed your son, it should surely be fine to kill him, right? But still it festers, hardens in your stomach and throat, blocks your breath and darkens your vision."
Liang Chen stopped only half a step away from the man, lowering his head slightly so that he could lock eyes with him. He understood rage, he really did, it had driven him for so long, pushed him and prodded him, birthed him from death. So he understood what had driven Jungdi, but understanding did not mean acceptance.
"I didn't get to see it since you were already finishing up when I arrived, but I can guess the rest. You were afraid, weren't you? You had killed their father, their husband, their brother, just like he had killed your son. And you came to get revenge on him, so surely they would do the same, right? They'd slice open your stomach and watch as you bled out, your blood pooling in your lungs. Death is scary, even when it feels like you've lost everything. So you took care of it, you took them all down as quickly as you could. Were they working in the fields? Just barely waking up? Or were they all like Kong Yin, still sleeping in her little bed as you plunged the knife into her chest?"
Liang Chen hadn't just watched impassionately as Jungdi murdered an entire family, by the time his senses reached that particular area the last stroke of the blade was being delivered. Everything he knew he cobbled together from what Jungdi had muttered to himself at day, or screamed to himself at night while he thrashed around due to his nightmares. He also got a few bits and pieces from other people in the city, but that mostly concerned the death of Jungdi's son.
"Your world crumbled, so you took their world from them. There's no one left, the family is gone and they were secluded enough that almost no one interacts with them. No one will speak up for them, no one will seek justice for them. Their final cries, their screams of injustice, it'll all just fade into the wind and be forgotten, just another tragedy in the annals of history, a minor footnote at best."
Just a secluded family who made their living off of hunting the few normal animals that adapted to living in this gravity-enhanced environment, most of the city wouldn't even have heard about them if not for the death of Jungdi's son. The family was gone and there were no friends so who would remember them, who would seek justice for them? Jungdi's body stiffened as Liang Chen's gaze pierced into him, lightning entering his body and seizing up his muscles.
"But I heard them, Jungdi. Their cries and screams. Even if no one else hears them or remembers them, I'll hear them, I'll remember them. And I'll speak up for them, I'll add another line to the footnote that they became, I'll draw in a bit more evil for them."
A child that couldn't defend herself, a crippled man that had lost his leg, an ageing wife picking out some vegetables from the garden, twins setting the table for breakfast. They had lost their voice and there would be no justice for them. But there would be vengeance for them, and sometimes that was all you could ask for. After all, Liang Chen wasn't a god, he couldn't be everywhere at once, lives would slip between his fingers like sand.
"Now. Will one of you do it? Will one of you speak up for the fading voices?"
Liang Chen's gaze turned away from the man and landed on the group of disciples he had brought out. Now they knew the truth, and Hui Xin felt like she had an inkling of what Liang Chen was trying to tell them. Their expressions hardened one by one as they gathered their determination. He looked just like any old farmer you could find wherever, but that didn't mean that sin couldn't lurk within him, that he didn't have the capability for great evil.
Hui Xin was the first one to step up, her black hair trailing behind her while her ruined eyes roamed over the area where Liang Chen stood. She couldn't see the farmer, but she could sense Liang Chen, as if his mere presence altered the air around him in a way that even she could sense. Her expression was solemn and dignified, she would accept those cries of injustice, she would add that extra line to the footnote of their lives.
Liang Chen swiped his interspatial ring and brought out a dagger, holding it out so that Hui Xin could grasp it after a few awkward misses. She held the weapon tightly as she used Liang Chen's outstretched arm to reach the man, the scent of his body helped guide her for the last half step so that she could properly face him. But as she raised her dagger, Liang Chen's hand pushed her arm a tiny bit to the side, his voice reaching her.
"The heart is closer to here. Death comes much quicker if you stab the heart, that is one mercy even most sinners deserver. You have affinity for the law of wind so focus your senses, feel the soft touch of the breeze, the way the small hairs on your body move as the wind pushes them. Trace that wind, follow it out into the world, send your heart and soul out with it, let it show you the outline of the world around you. And when it does, inspect those outlines, they will show you where to swing your weapon, where to place your feet. The world has taken your sight, so allow the world to become your eyes."
As he spoke, Liang Chen used his law of wind to slightly strengthen and slow the wind around them so that Hui Xin could sense it properly, where it flowed and where it stopped, and what that stopping signified. Liang Chen was glad that Yan Ling wasn't here at the moment, she would definitely have laughed at him trying to act like a teacher, it was a role that really didn't suit him.
But thanks to him amplifying the sensation with his own law of wind, Hui Xin felt like she could grasp onto something. It was far from being able to utilize it, but it was the first step of a long journey. She moved her knife slightly, bringing it closer to the extremely faint outline that Liang Chen was helping her see. And with the man completely frozen in place due to the lightning, he could do nothing about it as the dagger sank into his chest and pierced through his heart.
His life came to a swift end, his taut muscles going limp as he fell to the ground. Hui Xin could feel the life fade thanks to the dagger she held, it was as if the man's last breath rumbled through the weapon, transmitting into her body to shake her heart. Her hands shook slightly, but she didn't allow her expression to falter. This was the path she had chosen, she would just have to become accustomed to the sensation of stealing lives.
But at the same time, she couldn't help but wonder. Just how many lives had Liang Chen, their Wolf Lord, taken? His hand was still on her arm thanks to the time he pushed her arm slightly so she could feel that his pulse hadn't changed in the slightest, it was so calm and slow that he may as well be sleeping. How much death had he reaped to become this accustomed to it, how many cries had he accepted?
"Good. Do you understand now? Evil isn't as dark and vicious as we want it to be, sometimes it looks just like the neighbour or a random man walking down the street. So it's important to listen, to watch and learn, to understand the truth. If you don't then you will end up carving regret after regret into your soul."
She could tell that Liang Chen wasn't just talking to her, he was addressing the other disciples at the same time, the other people that had made the same choice as her. He spoke simply and plainly, but Hui Xin couldn't help but feel that it was a bit lonely, a bit hurtful. Did he suspect evil everywhere he looked? Did he scrutinize every person he saw out of paranoia? If so, how many regrets had he carved into his soul to become like that? Was it equal to the death he had reaped, or was it perhaps greater?
There was no answer to her internal question, she didn't understand him well enough to even toy with the idea of a guess. She simply followed as he brought them to another person, a merchant running a small group of stores. And just like with the farmer, he had someone else stand up and steal the life, had someone else bear the cries of those who no one else would speak up for.
And so he continued, bringing them around the city until each and every one of them had gotten their hands dirty, until all of them had hardened their determination. They had seen the many faces of evil and taken them in, they had stained their hands in sin so that they could eradicate sin, they had accepted the path they chose and the consequences it would bring.
And once the last disciple finished dirtying his hands, their duty in this city was over. The horrible rumbling of thunder shook the city as lightning bolts appeared out of empty air, striking down into the city as they broke through any wall in their path. They couldn't see it, but Hui Xin and the others were convinced that there were people at the end of each of those lightning bolts, sinners that they hadn't gotten to see. And they had all met their end at once, the thousands of fading voices had all been heard and accepted.
With one simple move, intended or not, the disciples had realized the difference between them and Liang Chen. They hardened their determination for a single one, and even needed him to seal them down as they acted. But he? He didn't even seem like he had to move, a thought was all it took for thousands to vanish. And they were convinced, beyond any doubt. Lightning fell from a blue sky and punished those who deserved it, reaped the life of those who deserved death. If there was anyone in the universe who could be said to rule and embody heavenly wrath, then surely it was the man who had picked them all up.