Yao Jun looked down at the headless corpse, an aggrieved and dissatisfied expression still lingering on the severed head. But Yao Jun's expression barely changed, a stream of cold Qi seeping out from his legs and sealing the body in a layer of ice. Now that Wyrmheart was dead, all the blood she had absorbed was starting to leak out, but it was a good cultivation resource so Yao Jun wasn't willing to let it just go to waste like this.
He also tossed the head into his interspatial ring, but he was saving it for reasons other than cultivation. His gaze then swept the surroundings, the battle had devastated a good part of the city, just counting the people that had died as collateral damage would probably take several hours, assuming that you could even find what remained of most of the corpses.
Looking at the carnage caused by the battle, Yao Jun almost heaved a sigh of relief that Guo Luo and Yao Xuelian weren't with him right now. Guo Luo disliked such senseless death, even if the casualties had no ties with them whatsoever, so she would surely be saddened by all the loss.
As for Yao Xuelian, she was a bit of a special case in that department. She was Yao Jun's treasure, a gemstone he wanted to protect from everything dark the world had to offer. To say that he had spoiled her would be an understatement, especially when it came to teaching her about the truth of the cultivation world. The few times he killed people while she was present, he had hidden it perfectly so that she didn't notice it. She had so little experience with death that Yao Jun had no idea how she would react if she had to see something like this, especially when it involved her 'kind and spoiling' father.
But luckily, he didn't have to think of a way to explain these things to her, but perhaps that would be preferable to not even being able to see her. Yao Jun shook his head and discarded the thoughts, now was not the time to think about such things, it would be better to focus on the present rather than the what if's. He sensed Zhuan Yi and Sirius approaching them, turning his gaze towards them just as Zhuan Yi whistled approvingly.
"That was a clever trick, not even I managed to notice any signs of it, or the fact that you had a plan in place for that matter. So, when was it that you decided that it would be smartest to aim for a plan like that?"
She had seen the battle from start to finish, and as she herself was a Sovereign God, she was able to notice what others might. And because of that, she was completely certain that Yao Jun would have been able to win the battle even if he hadn't used the trick with the law of lightning. It would have taken a bit more time and effort, but he would have been able to crush Wyrmheart head-on, and that would definitely be quite an honour, a moment of unparalleled glory.
"From the very start. The moment she descended from the ship, I had already decided to focus on the trick."
Yao Jun didn't know what sort of expectations Zhuan Yi had towards him, he simply gave a light shake of his head and checked his wounds while he responded. Wyrmheart was a Godking after all, it was inevitable that he would receive some damage from the attacks she landed. But the damage was lighter than he had expected, it seemed like the burst of power he gained from drawing upon the threads of faith was a fair bit more beneficial than he originally expected.
He brought out Wyrmheart's interspatial ring after he finished checking his wounds, scouring the contents so that he could note down anything that might be useful or important. But he noticed that Zhuan Yi looked at him a bit strangely, her thoughts apparent within her pupils. Yao Jun understood the basis of the thoughts, but he simply shook his head once more.
"I can't afford to lose, Zhuan Yi. The moment I lose, everything is over. So yes, I probably could have beaten Wyrmheart in a frontal confrontation, but what if she had other things up her sleeves? What if one of her allies was nearby and could arrive at any moment? I can't afford to lose, so I must be prepared for anything, and I must win as fast as possible, no matter what."
Zhuan Yi was a Demonic beast, and although she was as intelligent as any human, there were still subtle differences in how a man and a Demonic beast though. That was especially the case when it came to a Demonic beast like Zhuan Yi, who had limited interaction with other people despite her high cultivation level. It didn't matter to Yao Jun whether he won in a frontal confrontation or by relying on tricks, all that mattered was that he won, that he would be the one that could continue moving forward.
Zhuan Yi's brows scrunched up slightly, it definitely wasn't a thought process she had a lot of experience with, a desire to win no matter what you had to do. But Yao Jun had no desire or reason to explain it further, people would always be different, think differently, you would just wither away if you tried to make everyone understand your actions.
He sent Sirius a slight nod, the wind around him picking up and lifting him into the air. Yao Jun headed directly for the dragon-shaped ship that Wyrmheart had arrived in, Sirius immediately following him while Zhuan Yi lagged a bit behind since she hadn't understood the signal.
Yao Jun landed on the head of the ship, his gaze piercing through the eye-shaped windows. He could see that the ones inside the ship were currently panicking, but that was only to be expected, he had just slain their lord after all. But he didn't really care about their thoughts or panic, raising his glaive high and then bringing it down in a swift slash.
The head of the ship was cut open, creating an entrance into the room hidden inside the head. The people present within the room only panicked even further due to this, but Yao Jun simply waved his hand and tossed Wyrmheart's head at them. The head produced a few dull thuds as it bounced on the floor, Yao Jun's cold voice freezing the panicking people where they stood.
"Take that back to your clan. Tell them this for me, 'That's one, I wonder how many more are to come."
He simply turned around after finishing the errand, no longer paying any attention to the ship as he flew over to Arthurius' sail-less galleon. Arthurius was already present on the deck of the ship, having taken refuge there once Yao Jun's battle started. Zhao Shen was also present, but he was far from as composed as Arthurius.
His legs had given out beneath him long ago, he could do nothing but sit there and stare dumbly at Yao Jun, his lower lip trembling ceaselessly. This was the man he had been impersonating? This beast was the source of the name he had tossed around so freely during his missions? The matriarch actually dared to abuse the name of someone like this. During the battle, he had only shown energy equivalent to a late-stage Earthly deity, yet an exalted Godking had lost her life in his hands, he had even threatened her entire clan.
As he looked at Yao Jun, who landed on the deck of the ship with such a calm atmosphere that it didn't look like he had just been in a violent battle, Zhao Shen was enlightened. The being standing in front of him was no man, but he couldn't be called a beast either, nor was he a demon.
What was a deity, what sort of existence was a god? It was simple, a god was an existence beyond human understanding, an entity that could not be understood or explained. They were beings that made the impossible possible, they would just have to wave their hand and they would accomplish things you couldn't even dream about doing. That was what was standing in front of him now, it wasn't Yao Jun or anything like that, it was the Nine Heavens Demon God.
Arthurius was no less shocked than Zhao Shen, but instead of fear he simply felt amazement. He still remembered when he likened Yao Jun to an eagle in the past, sending him away from the World Tree clan so that he could spread his wings freely. To cultivators like them, it really couldn't be said that many years had passed since then. But even so, Yao Jun had returned not as an eagle, he had descended as a mighty dragon.
Arthurius waved his hand dismissively at the servants aboard the ship, they feared Yao Jun but still worried that he might attack Arthurius so they had all gathered behind him. They stepped back when he waved his hand, giving Arthurius enough space to calmly sit down into a kneeling position. He opened his mouth to talk, but a sharp wind interrupted him just as he got out the first word, the sharp end of a glaive arriving in front of his face.
"The reason. Nothing more."
Arthurius raised his gaze slightly, locking eyes with Yao Jun. His appearance had changed slightly since last time, but the most notable change Arthurius discovered now that he got a proper look was the light in Yao Jun's eyes. In the past, it was a gaze filled with fear and longing for freedom, it only seemed to see what was directly in front of it.
But now, even though it was still filled with a shade of fear, it was as if it had stopped looking to the front. It was as if his gaze was constantly raised skyward, locked on to a peak so distant that Arthurius couldn't even begin to sense it. Whatever small desires Yao Jun had bore in the past, it seemed as if they had all been replaced with true ambition, an insatiable desire.
If that was the case, then Arthurius could somewhat understand the change he had gone through, understand how the eagle had become a dragon. But right now, that dragon had its talons pointed directly at his face, so Arthurius had to give him a satisfactory answer. But he knew that it wasn't possible, and he did not wish to lie, so he gave Yao Jun the truth.
"There is no satisfying reason. We learned that the leader of Titan's Gate was a companion of yours a while after you left, or at least a while after when we assume you left. The other clans had suffered disastrous losses during the battle on Godpiercer planet, but the fact that they were all allied with each other still made them very dangerous threats. So while we didn't share the same goal as Wan Yi, her methods were exactly what we needed to lighten our load while also slowing down the recuperation of the other clans. As a result, we allied ourselves with them and provided them with information and people so that they could carry out their missions, you can see it as us using them as mercenaries."
As little as Yao Jun might know it, he had already become a symbol of fear in this universe, especially to the other clans. As long as he was around, they would have to be very stealthy about their gatherings, lest he finds them and eradicates more of their disciples. Thanks to this need to be much more low-key than usual, it was inevitable that the speed at which they absorbed and trained new recruits suffered.
But when news that Yao Jun had already vanished started to spread, what need was there for the other clans to remain low-key? They could start openly recruiting new disciples and holding training exercises to make up for their previous loss. The World Tree clan could not afford this, but they alone were not enough to stop everything, so they had to rely on what they could.
Did Arthurius regret his choice? No, he couldn't say that he did. Would he do it again given the chance, even if he knew that things would end up like this? Most definitely, because there was no telling if his clan may have suffered a disastrous attack or even become eradicated in the time Yao Jun was gone if he hadn't. Fear was a useful tool, it kept your enemies in check, especially if said fear was coupled with uncertainty. But even so, he knew that this was an answer that wouldn't satisfy Yao Jun, so he lowered his head until his forehead touched the deck of the ship.
"I was the one in charge of deciding these things, I never even told our clan's Godkings about it. Leylan and the others also didn't have anything to do with it, I didn't even tell them about the alliance until two years after it started. The blame lies solely with me, so if you really must sever some heads, please, for the sake of our past relationship, let my head be the only one that you sever."
Arthurius' plea was heartfelt and entirely serious, everything he did he did for his clan, so that it could prosper and survive. So if him leaving behind his head here meant that his clan could escape the wrath of this demon god, then he would gladly make the cuts himself. But the sensation of a glaive slicing through his neck didn't reach him, the only thing that met him was silence. He raised his head somewhat cautiously, once again locking eyes with Yao Jun.
The gaze he met was cold and calm, but it was more akin to the natural expression that Yao Jun had than the cold fury he had displayed earlier. The silence was maintained for a short while, Zhuan Yi moving her gaze between the two somewhat curiously. But in the end, the silence was broken when Yao Jun drew his glaive back, snapping it in half and holstering it behind his back.
"You're in luck, I accept your reason. And on behalf of the past help and information you and your clan gave me, I will forgive you this once. But only this once, do I make myself clear?"
Rather than say he accepted the reason, it may be better to say that Yao Jun understood the reason. After all, he was the type of person who would do anything to ensure the safety and happiness of his family. So in truth, had it not been for the past help that the World Tree clan had given Yao Jun and his family, Arthurius would likely have lost his head right here.
But his forgiveness had its limits, and he wasn't the type of person to give others multiple chances. And Arthurius understood the undertones of Yao Jun's words, if he heard a single thing about the World Tree clan continuing to help Titan's Gate with these actions, then he really would lose his head, and maybe his entire clan as well.