The universe belongs to cultivators, the highest form of living beings. And the highest dream of all cultivators is to reach the apex of cultivation, to stand at the very peak of the universe and look down upon creation with a disdainful smile. In the vast universe, there exists a planet called Dragon's Gate. The planet got this name because of the sheer amount of cultivators that had left the planet and eventually ended up becoming powerful, spawning the legend that the planet was like the dragon's gate. One would either leave the planet and become a dragon or stay on the planet and stay a carp.
One of the continents on the Dragon's Gate planet, the Fallen Cloud continent, is split up between five great clans, the Qing clan, the Zhao clan, the Huang clan, the Tian clan, and the Bai clan. In the part of the continent that belonged to the Qing clan, there was a city that housed a branch of the Qing clan, the Green Rivers city. The Green Rivers city, just like the name suggests, is surrounded by several small rivers that flowed with light green water.
The source of all these rivers is a mountain so tall that it pierces the clouds themselves. Besides the rivers that flow down the mountain, there is also a vast forest surrounding the mountain, home to countless Demonic beasts and herbs that can be considered treasures, if one is strong enough to acquire them.
Because the city contained a branch of the Qing clan, there were a lot of visitors that would come to the city, giving it a very diverse look. Some buildings were made out of stone, some out of wood, others again were made out of ice or earth, depending on what element the cultivator that had made them specialized in. The city was usually very lively, but today the entire city was completely silent, most people too scared to even breathe loudly.
At the very center of the city, a large scaffolding had been set up, a massive crowd of people surrounding it and waiting with bated breaths. A short distance behind the scaffolding stood an extravagant green pagoda with nine stories, one could faintly see several people standing at the highest floor of the pagoda, looking at the scaffolding with indifferent and cold gazes.
The crowd surrounding the scaffolding suddenly split apart, opening a path directly to the scaffolding. Four people slowly made their way down the path, there were two men, a woman, and a young boy who looked like he was a little over 10 years old. One of the men and the woman were holding the hands of the young boy, the other man walking a little behind them.
The woman was somewhat tall and had smooth skin, clear blue eyes, cherry red lips, and long black hair that was neatly tied up. The man holding her hand had a rugged figure, features that looked like they were carved from stone, somewhat tanned skin, short brown hair, and deep black eyes. The young boy between them had short black hair, smooth and delicate features and skin, and deep green eyes that were red with tears. The man walking behind them looked a bit older, his skin somewhat wrinkled. He had long brown hair, droopy black eyes, and a full beard.
The group stopped in front of the steps up to the scaffolding, the man and woman letting go of the boy's hands. They kneeled down in front of him, each placing one of their hands on his shoulders. The man took a deep breath, putting on a bright smile and looking at the boy with a loving gaze.
"Chen'er, you must make sure that you listen closely to whatever Uncle Xiang tells you, okay? You must also take good care of that knife we gave you, it will help keep you safe if anything were to ever happen. And don't forget to be diligent in your training, your talent is only average, so you must work harder than anyone else to succeed."
The man, Qing Feng, pat the sheath that hung at the waist of the boy as he spoke. That sheath contained a knife that they had given him only a few days ago, a gift they hoped would keep him safe when he encountered danger. The boy rapidly nodded his head, tears flowing from his eyes. The woman, Qing Lan, reached out with her other hand, wiping away the tears as she spoke to him in a soft voice.
"My son... you mustn't cry, you must stay strong. Tell me, who are you?"
The young boy did his best to hold back his tears, tightly closing his eyes to force the tears back. After a short moment, he opened his eyes again, they were red and moist, but no more tears were running down his face. He swallowed heavily, speaking out in a shaking voice.
"I am Liang Chen."
The lips of Qing Feng and Qing Lan curled into bright smiles when they heard Liang Chen respond. They removed their hands from his shoulders, placing them on his cheeks and pinching them slightly. Qing Lan spoke out again, her eyes glowing with an endlessly gentle light.
"Exactly, you are our little Chen'er. And do you know what that means?"
Liang Chen gave a heavy nod of his head, repeating the words that he had been told several times, the words he had engraved deep into his heart and swore he would never forget.
"It means that no matter how dark things look, there will always be a bright dawn awaiting me."
The couple pinched his cheeks even harder after they heard his reply, their smiles only growing brighter. Qing Lan reached out and ruffled his short hair, her voice starting to tremble slightly as she spoke.
"Exactly. You were our bright dawn, the light that broke our darkness. Everything will be fine, you just have to search for your own bright dawn, one day you will surely find it."
Liang Chen's grew even moister upon hearing their words. He knew that he was not their actual son, which was why he didn't have the Qing name. The couple was unable to have children of their own, so they had already prepared themselves for the fact that they would never have children. But 12 years ago, while traveling, they found a baby tossed away into a distant forest, and they instantly felt a connection. When they found him, the sun was just starting to rise, a bright dawn illuminating the world. That was why they had given him the name Liang Chen, Bright Dawn. The couple stood up, turning towards the older man who had followed them. They both gave him a deep bow, Qing Feng speaking out in a pleading voice.
"Brother Xiang, please take care of him."
The older man's, Qing Xiang eyes were also red and moist. He looked at the couple for a short moment, taking several deep breaths to calm himself. He placed both hands on Liang Chen's shoulders, speaking in a deep voice.
"Don't worry, I will make sure that nothing happens to him."
The couple straightened their backs and sent another bright smile at Liang Chen, they then turned around and ascended the stair to the scaffolding. While the couple was ascending the stairs, three other men were ascending the scaffolding from the other side. There was one old man clad in the green robes of the Qing clan, and two men clad in black robes that covered their entire bodies. Looking at the large axes that the two men carried, it was clear that they were executioners. The couple stopped in front of the three men, and the old man shouted out in a loud voice.
"Qing Feng! Qing Lan! You have colluded with the Bai clan, attempting to bring ruin to the Qing clan. Do you have any last words?!"
The voice of the old man reached everyone who was standing around the scaffolding, causing everyone to tense up slightly. Qing Feng and Qing Lan turned towards the exquisite pagoda, dropping to their knees and placing their foreheads against the ground as they spoke out in a unified voice.
"We thank the Young Master for being merciful enough to spare our son, despite our great sin!"
The couple did not raise their heads after speaking, the two men carrying axes stepping forward and positioning themselves at the side of Qing Feng and Qing Lan. While the two executioners raised their axes, Liang Chen's gaze landed on the top floor of the pagoda. If he squinted his eyes, he felt like he was able to somewhat see the figure of the man who had forced his parents into this situation. Just the thought of seeing him caused Liang Chen's blood to boil slightly. Qing Xiang grabbed onto Liang Chen's chin and forced him to look away from the pagoda, speaking in a hushed voice.
"Don't look at him. Don't let their sacrifice be in vain."
Qing Xiang pulling on Liang Chen's chin caused his eyes to fall onto the scaffolding, just in time to see the two axes descend onto the necks of his parents. A single clean chop, his parents did not utter any sound, their heads simply separated from their necks and rolled a short distance before stopping. Once the deed was done, a cheer erupted from the crowd, especially from the people belonging to the Qing clan. Liang Chen swept the crowd with his eyes, his blood feeling like it was on fire when he saw that almost everyone from the Qing clan was celebrating the death of the 'traitors'.
"Uncle, why are they celebrating? Why are they all so happy? Why is no one defending Father and Mother?"
Liang Chen could not understand it. His parents were innocent people who loved the Qing clan, why would they get together with one of the people from the Bai clan and give birth to a child. The story was complete nonsense, no one would be willing to believe it, it was clearly the Young Master of the Qing clan who was the father of that child. Qing Xiang could only shake his head with a sigh as he started to explain.
"You must understand. To a clan like the Qing clan, nothing is as important as their face. If the news about what the Young Master did were to spread, it would completely ruin the face of the clan. They can't afford this, so they must place the blame on someone else and harshly punish them, only like that can they keep their face."
Qing Xiang was a minor elder within the Qing clan, so he knew more than most people, especially about what the Young Master, Qing Lan Yong, had done. But even without him telling Liang Chen the truth about the incident, it would still be easy for him to learn the truth. After all, there were already rumors and whispers going around. And it was because he knew this that he could not help but shout out.
"But everyone already knows the truth! So why is everyone celebrating!?"
His parents were mostly unremarkable, the only thing special about them was the fact that they had traveled the continent quite a bit. That was also the reason they had been chosen as scapegoats, with the excuse that they probably colluded with the Bai clan while on their travels. They were unremarkable, but they had worked hard for the clan, so why was everyone celebrating their unjust deaths? Qing Xiang could only shake his head once more, Liang Chen was simply too young to understand.
"Not everyone knows the truth, and as long as they do a good enough job with the lie, it will eventually become the truth. That is simply how the cultivation world works, one day I am sure that you will come to understand."
Qing Xiang placed his palm on top of Liang Chen's head, slowly ruffling his hair. But Liang Chen still felt as if his blood was boiling, so he shook his head and shouted out, his voice trembling as his tears threatened to fall again.
"I don't want to understand!"
Would he understand someday? Why would he want to understand something like that? All he understood was that his parents were now dead, killed because the Young Master of the clan was unable to keep it in his pants. Qing Xiang grabbed onto Liang Chen's shoulders, speaking out with a sigh.
"Come, let me take you home, you need to get some rest."
Had it not been for Qing Xiang using his Qi, what every cultivator used to grow stronger or attack, everyone would have heard Liang Chen's words. At that point, there would be no chance for him to avoid disaster. Qing Xiang pulled Liang Chen through the crowd, trying his best to shield Liang Chen from the unfriendly gazes that were thrown at him. Liang Chen was the child of 'traitors' so how could they look at him with anything but hostile eyes?
The place Qing Xiang brought Liang Chen was a small three room house surrounded by a small courtyard that contained a few blooming trees. The sun had risen not too long ago, so the sunlight was shining through the leaves of the trees and casting a beautiful light onto the courtyard. Once they reached the courtyard, Qing Xiang kneeled down in front of Liang Chen, speaking to him in a serious voice.
"I need to return to the clan for a little bit, they are calling together a meeting to figure out what to do with that... thing. I have made sure that food will be delivered here every day, so make sure that you eat properly until I return."
Qing Xiang did not waste any time after he spoke, quickly leaving to meet up with the other elders. He was only a minor elder, so there was no way he could miss this meeting. He also knew that Liang Chen was a sensible person, he would be fine for a few days. Liang Chen was left alone, standing in the courtyard of a house that no longer felt like home to him. He glanced at the sky, and at the brilliant sunlight that was shining down on the city, his tears starting to roll down his face again.
"Father... you lied to me. Why did you lie to me Father? You said that the heavens are just and would strike down anyone who hurt innocent people, it would strike down on the evildoers and kill them. Yet now the both of you have died, but nothing has happened to that Qing Lan Yong."
He used to love the sunlight, especially the light that followed right after the dawn. His parents would often tell him stories about the light that shone down upon the forest when they found him, causing him to vividly imagine it and dream about it. But right now, he resented the warm sunlight that shone down, resented that it looked so joyful on a day like this.
Ling Chen slowly walked towards the door of the house, pushing it open and entering, closing and locking the door behind him. The inside of the house was dim, a thin layer of darkness covering the couches, chairs, tables, and bookshelves that were a part of the room. Tears continued to stream down Liang Chen's face as he stepped towards the center of the room.
"You lied to me Father, the heavens aren't just, they are indifferent and cold. People like us don't matter to the heavens."
Once he reached the center of the room, he opened a small compartment in the floor, pulling out a thick wooden pole and placing it on the floor in front of him. His eyes and face hardened with determination, but tears continued to run down his face. He clenched his fists and started to slowly strike the wooden pole, a jolt of pain running up his arms whenever he hit it.
"If the heavens won't strike down Qing Lan Yong, then I will. One day, Father, Mother. One day I will make sure to get revenge for you."
The house that he lived in, the house that had always been filled with the warmth of his family, was now far colder than it had ever been, chilling him to the bone. The only source of heat he could feel came from the pain in his arms and the boiling of his blood.