Liang Chen's vigilance rose sharply as he looked at the man that was seated there so calmly. He couldn't feel much power within his aura, but his senses were warning him of extreme danger, the man who looked at him with such comforting warmth was definitely beyond dangerous. Yumao picked up on the subtle change in Liang Chen's state, his feathers bristling as he prepared himself.
"There's no need to become so vigilant, I won't do anything to you. If anything I would appreciate it if we could talk, I would like to understand the thoughts and personality of Jieshu's successor. Although I do understand that vigilance, it's a good way to survive. But please, have a seat."
The man also seemed to notice Liang Chen's change, maintaining his slight smile as he gave a light wave of his hand. A table appeared in front of him, a pillow materializing on the opposite side of the table. The doors creaked shut behind Liang Chen at the same time, they sounded as if they moved slowly but actually shut tight in less than a second.
Liang Chen's pupils shrank instantly, his spear sweeping out backwards as he unleashed his strongest move, Fourth Step Pierces the Sparrow. He augmented the move with his law of void, but while he tore a gash into the door, the opening was filled instantly, as if it had never been there to begin with.
"Quick and decisive, you didn't even show any hint of what you were going to do. You must have battled a lot to achieve that, most people unconsciously show faint traces of their intentions when they move. You were also able to instantly bring out the force of the void, that's good, it shows that you have the confidence to control it."
The man didn't sound too surprised by Liang Chen's attempt to break out, actually sighing somewhat appreciatively. But Liang Chen's mind chilled at the man's words, he had been able to pinpoint the law of the void instantly, and he didn't seem the least bit surprised by it. Liang Chen glanced at the door, how pristine the repaired section was despite having been hit by the law of the void.
"You've made preparations, huh? Really don't have any plans on letting me leave."
"I wouldn't say that I've made preparations, you and I just so happen to cancel each other out so it all boils down to the difference in power."
The man shook his hand dismissively the moment Liang Chen opened his mouth, as if he wanted to make it exceedingly clear that he hadn't made a single plan for Liang Chen's arrival. He gestured towards the pillow on the opposite side of the table again, bringing out a porcelain kettle and filling it with warm water and what looked like rose leaves.
"Please, have a seat. It will just be a talk, nothing more, I swear that I won't even mobilize any Qi or the like. Just the fact that you've arrived here means that my hiding spot has already been sniffed out, the odds of me being able to keep it hidden are now so slim that I should be leaving immediately. But I would still like to talk, to learn. So please, won't you indulge me?"
Liang Chen took his gaze away from the door and turned it towards the man, who was calmly stirring the contents of the kettle with a wooden spoon. His mind started to move as he went over his options, it was clear that breaking out was no longer an option so he would have to approach things a bit differently.
He placed his hand on Yumao's head and ruffled his feathers softly, the winged serpent understanding his intentions and shrinking down to an appropriate size where he could comfortably rest on Liang Chen's head. He then walked over to the pillow, the tip of his spear still dragging along the floor as he sat down.
"Thank you for indulging me. Most people know me as the Sky-Covering Eagle, but you can call me Tian Shen, what may I call you?"
The man poured the contents of the kettle into two cups as he spoke, pushing one towards Liang Chen while keeping the other for himself. But Liang Chen didn't accept the cup, his eyes narrowing sharply as he finally understood why the aura of the man felt somewhat familiar.
"Liang Chen is good enough. But tell me, what is your relationship with the Sky-Piercing Sparrow? And please, don't try to say that there is no relation."
The part of the aura that felt familiar bore a heavy resemblance to the aura of the Sky-Piercing Sparrow, who had already tried to kill Liang Chen multiple times. The names were also far too similar for it to be just a coincidence, there had to be a connection between them. And the man, Tian Shen, didn't deny it, sipping the transparent pink tea while nodding his head.
"It seems you've already met my youngest son. But the look in your eyes tells me that it wasn't under favourable circumstances. I'm sorry for any trouble he may have caused, Little Niao has always been a bit...extreme in his desire to show off his helpfulness."
Tian Shen lowered his head slightly as he apologized for his son, Tian Niao. But that act just looked laughable in Liang Chen's eyes, the things Tian Niao had done couldn't just be excused so simply.
"Extreme? Sending people off to commit suicide attacks, sacrificing innocent sects for a chance to kill someone else, throwing away legion after legion of subordinates, are those things that can just be excused by calling them a bit extreme? Are the innocent lives lost so light that a mere lowering of the head can give them peace? Don't make me laugh."
Liang Chen had memorized everything Tian Niao had done, the eradication of the innocent Sword Dancer's sect that he had made Liang Chen commit was one of the regrets carved into his soul. But Tian Shen simply shook his head lightly in the face of Liang Chen's sharp words, the smile on his face growing a touch softer.
"Such anger for lives you perceive to be innocent, for lives that have no connection with you. You have a good heart, a crimson red one that bleeds for more than just yourself. I'm glad that Jieshu's successor is willing to burn for others. But take care that you do not burn yourself out, who will fight for those you bleed for when all that remains of you is ash?"
Tian Shen completely side-stepped the subject Liang Chen had brought up, clearly not desiring to talk about his own son. But Liang Chen still noticed the peculiarity in what he said, the slight hint that pointed towards what Tian Shen's own personality was like. He turned his gaze to the side slightly, his sight landing on the thousands of screens that hovered next to them, each showing different cities, some in ruins, some in flames, some tranquil and calm.
"Are you curious about them? They're cities we've sent people to so that we can extend them our hand, places we have asked if they want to come to our side ahead of time. Sadly, the ones that have accepted are in the minority so far. But that's fine, they'll join us in time, we'll become family sooner or later."
Tian Shen followed Liang Chen's gaze, speaking quietly and somewhat mournfully about the cities depicted in the screens. Liang Chen's gaze hardened slightly when he saw the sheer number of cities that were currently in turmoil, the number of deaths taking place in front of him was something he failed to count. He had a slight guess as to what this meant, but the answer Tian Shen gave him was less than stellar.
"Since you're gathering allies, can I take it as a sign that you're preparing to go to war?"
"Not preparing to, we are already at war. This is just a final attempt to bring these children into our fold ahead of time. But you don't need to worry about that, this war is not one you can interfere in, even if you are Jieshu's successor."
Liang Chen's expression sank slightly at the revelation. If this was just their final attempt at bringing in more allies then he couldn't even begin to guess how brutal the actual battles were. But at the same time, he also understood that Tian Shen spoke the truth, he was currently too weak to interfere in a war like this. He could see people far stronger than him fighting inside some of the projections, this was a war that had left the scope of what he was capable of.
He tempered his mind slightly, not allowing his emotions to dictate how he moved. He pulled his gaze away from the screens and directed it towards Tian Shen again, moving the conversation in a different direction.
"Who is this Jieshu?"
Tian Shen had used the name three times already so it clearly held quite the significance to him. But Liang Chen had no idea who this person was, or why he would be their successor, so he steered the direction towards it since it seemed like Tian Shen wanted to talk about it. And sure enough, Tian Shen reacted pleasantly once Liang Chen brought it up.
"Oh, forgive me, you're the first non-Voidborn Successor so I forgot that you don't have access to the Voidborn's archives. Hmm, where to start that story...? How about we just take it from the top?"
Tian Shen rubbed his chin slightly as he mulled it over, seemingly going through his memories as he searched for the appropriate place to start the story. And the place he chose to start the story was so far removed from anything Liang Chen had expected that it had never even crossed his mind.
"Back at the dawn of time, before recorded history, even before this Sphere of Existence was made, there existed only three beings. Qiyuan, Jieshu, and Wending. The Origin, The End, and The Harmony. Well, nowadays they're more known as Existence, The Void, and Balance, the three Ascended Laws that birthed, controlled, and ended all. One created all of existence, one brought all of existence to its rightful end, and the final one made sure that neither of the two others created or destroyed more than they should. Together the three birthed the world as we know it, the first universe."
Liang Chen had previously heard that there were three Sphere's of Existence, the one who was likely the Void King had slipped it quite casually when they spoke. But this was the first he ever heard about how the very first Sphere of Existence was born, and only the second time he heard about the two other Ascended Laws. Tian Shen's eyes glazed over slightly as he talked, a murky light flitting through his pupils.
"The universe they made birthed humans and beasts, animals and insects. Life flourished and life ended, forming a constant cycle that fed the world and helped it grow. One universe became two and then four, more and more born with the passage of time. That was how the first Sphere of Existence was made, with the careful touch of three ascended beings."
In essence, it wasn't too far removed from the realm of possibility. Ning Hao, the Bloodwind Emperor, had once told Liang Chen that he helped nurture and grow the first minor universe of the multiverse they lived in. This could be seen as something quite similar, only on a scale so much larger it was almost laughable, a garden greater than any other.
"But you know how living beings are, always aiming for greater heights, always striving for the peak beyond the sky. And after innumerable years, one human managed to reach that peak. He grasped the law of Existence, he pulled himself onto the same level as Qiyuan herself. But he wasn't content with sharing the peak with her, he wanted to stand there alone. But Qiyuan had the backing of Jieshu and Wending so he stood no chance of dethroning her, meaning he could only move on to a different path."
Liang Chen had gotten his law of the Void through complete coincidence, it had been nothing more than countless coincidences stacked onto each other. He had no idea what it took to actually grasp that law on your own, so he couldn't actually understand how arduous it was to grasp one of the Ascended Laws by your own merit.
"He left the Sphere he was born in and used his law of Existence to tear open an entirely new space away from the first Sphere, forming an entirely new Sphere of Existence where he could reign supreme. That was the birth of the second Sphere, and the start of the downfall."
This too fell in line with what Liang Chen had heard before, that there was one massive natural Sphere of Existence and two smaller man-made ones. But what followed would be a history that Liang Chen had never gotten to hear about.
"You see, Qiyuan didn't need to think about that Sphere, it had its own Existence to watch over it. But what about Void and Harmony? That Sphere had neither, it would birth and birth until it exploded, unchecked and cancerous growth."
It was quite simple actually, if something grew without end, what would happen when that growth reached the limits of the container? Will the container expand or will it continue to grow by breaking open the container? Or in the worst case, would it just keep growing without managing either, smothering everything within the container?
"Wending and Jieshu had their duties, their very existence was to preserve Balance and The End. So they did what they felt they had to, Wending split himself in two and sent a part of himself into the second Sphere so that he could keep an eye on both, it was relatively easy for him since he was Balance. But Jieshu had it harder, all Spheres were connected to the same Void, the same end. And he was alone, the sole ruler of that Void, so he had to handle both. It simply became too much for him, he was forced to split himself up, birthing the first Voidborn so that he could fulfil his duty."
The Void was nothingness, it existed everywhere and nowhere. There wasn't a single place that wasn't connected to it, and thus it was only natural that the one who ruled the Void had to rule all of it and take care of all of it. But how were you supposed to rule something so large that it left your grasp?
"But as the Sphere grew larger and larger, it became increasingly hard for the first Voidborn and Jieshu to complete their duty, they needed more hands. So they split themselves up again, tearing away at themselves and birthing more Voidborn. Each new one was weaker than the last so they constantly needed to make more to keep up with the already straining pace of growth. And then, then the second human holding Existence was born."
The more Jieshu tore away from himself, the less he had to give to the new Voidborn, that was why each subsequent Voidborn was weaker than the last. But even so, he kept on tearing, kept on shrinking so that he could fulfil his duty.
"But just like with the first one, he could not share the throne with another king, so he left to carve out his own slice of land. And thus, this third Sphere of Existence was born. Wending was forced to tear away another piece of himself and toss it into this Sphere, but in his attempt to maintain balance in the Spheres, he failed to maintain balance in himself. He fell apart and lost himself, now nothing more than a mindless force that moves about and acts on instinct, on rare occasions birthing a single Stasis Born to aid him in what he believes to be his duty."