Chapter 374: Distance, separation.
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For the first time since he entered the room, Wan Yi was starting to feel that she might not truly understand Yao Jun any longer. But that was only to be expected, he had experienced so many things after leaving this universe that it wouldn't have been strange for him to change completely.

That was especially true when it came to what had happened to Yun Yantian, it had formed an entirely new reverse scale, one that Wan Yi had unknowingly prodded. Arthurius had been able to get away quite easily due to the help he had given in the past, and due to the fact that he wasn't really the mastermind, he just took advantage of the situation. But Wan Yi was the one who had planned it all, it had been her idea to use the names as she pleased, so Yao Jun couldn't help but be a bit rougher with her.

Wan Yi drew in a sharp breath, gathering her Qi around the stump to stop the bleeding. She made sure that she wouldn't bleed to death right there at the table and then turned her gaze back onto Yao Jun, lowering her head apologetically.

"...You're quite a lot angrier than I expected. You're right, I'm sorry for using your name while you were gone, it was wrong of me."

She apologized, but she still didn't understand the core of the issue, the reason behind the anger. Yao Jun's expression didn't change, but the light in his eyes turned a bit darker when Wan Yi still refused to answer properly.

"I don't give a damn about my name or reputation, Wan Yi. But when you start using Luo'ers and Yantian's names for your tactics, that's when my patience starts wearing thin. Answer me."

Wan Yi raised her head to lock eyes with Yao Jun, peering into his dark pupils to understand his feelings. She eventually nodded her head, pulling out a piece of cloth from her interspatial ring and covering the stump that remained of her arm.

"This is part of my answer so don't throw a fit about me including it, just keep listening and answer when appropriate. Do you remember why I wanted to become the queen of the Demon race here in the past? It was to put an end to the never-ending war and pointless deaths, the constant discrimination that the two races had for each other. Only through unification and co-existence could we ensure a better future."

This was something Yao Jun already knew, Wan Yi had even been on the path to becoming the Demon race's next ruler. But she made a mistake when she used Yao Jun's name to kill several people, it had been traced back to her and she lost just about everything.

"You've travelled far and wide, you've seen a lot of places and people. Tell me, that discrimination, that constant war and needless death, is it limited to this planet? Is this the only place where people are forced to suffer through these things?"

Perhaps that was the greatest tragedy that occurred to Wan Yi when the seal on the planet was lifted, that they were introduced to the outside world. In the past, at least she could have thought that it was only on this planet that the two races were so diametrically opposed, that it was only here where the clans and sects fought so hard for so many small things.

Her vision had been small, but thanks to that her dream had looked very achievable. But then the seal on the planet was lifted and they got to see the rest of the grander universe, and the same filth was present everywhere. Clans and sects that eradicated each other for the smallest gains, countless people killed just because they happened to be born into a sect or clan that was the enemy of someone else. Her world and vision had grown larger, and her dream followed suit.

"It's not, is it? That other universe you went to, it's the same there, isn't it?"

Wan Yi really didn't need Yao Jun to answer the questions she asked, it was something she had come to understand after experiencing the wider world. If injustice and cruelty were occurring in one place, then it was almost guaranteed to also occur in another place, it seemed to be the nature of living beings to pointlessly struggle for even the smallest profit.

"So tell me, how are we supposed to put an end to all that? The answer to that is the same as the answer was for the two races here, unification and co-existence. But that takes power, because many will resist since they're set on maintaining the old ways. And sometimes, the power found in a name is more important than the actual power of the person wielding the name."

Wan Yi was finally starting to get into the proper reasons, why she needed to spread fear using the names of Yao Jun and the others. And she did indeed have a point, living beings were things that comfortable, and once they did they would fear change, even if it might be for the better. That was especially the case for those that benefited from the status quo.

"It's just that the process of spreading the power of that name isn't the prettiest. In the future, it will become much smoother and require far less work. But since you are so against it, I can promise you that we won't ever use the names of you, Guo Luo, or Yun Yantian ever again, you've returned, and that alone will be enough for you to spread your names."

The start was always the hardest, but once a sufficient amount of fear had been scattered about it would start to spread on its own. One person would spread a rumour or a piece of news, and the ones who heard it would pass it on as well, the piece of information spreading like wildfire before anyone knew it.

Wan Yi also wasn't wrong in her statement, Yao Jun had barely returned and already done something that would spread a thousand times more fear than any of the missions Wan Yi could assign. Yao Jun had listened to Wan Yi's reasoning in silence, but he couldn't resist tilting his head slightly once she finished.

"Unification and co-existence, do you think that's what you're achieving? The state of the city around you, have you seen it? Is that what you're aiming for, is that the coexistence you are dreaming about?"

Yao Jun had seen the state of the city outside, there was no unification or coexistence there. The human race and the demon race lived together, but that alone didn't equate to coexistence, they avoided each other like the plague, and it dragged down the atmosphere of the entire city. Wan Yi turned her gaze to the side, peering out one of the many windows that pointed directly at the city.

"It's not pretty, is it? So many lowered heads, so many people unwilling to meet the eyes of their fellow citizens. But that's only to be expected. After all, how long were the humans and demon race of this planet embroiled in their war? How many mothers and fathers, children and grandparents, how many family members were killed? One kills another and then gets killed in retaliation, and before long, a never-ending spiral of hatred is formed."

Wan Yi had made this city their headquarters so there was no way she would be unaware of what state it was in, she had toured it many times to see how things were going. But she wasn't discouraged by what she saw, because she knew the truth, turning her gaze back onto Yao Jun, her pupils blazing slightly.

"But do you know, Yao Jun, that even in situations like this, there are two types of coexistence that you can aim for? The first is quite simple, you rule over everyone and make them fear you so that they won't dare to fight each other. Eventually, all of those belonging to the old generation will have passed away, leaving behind only the young that don't know about the chain of hatred. They can live together, unfettered by the hatred and discrimination that the previous generations sowed."

It was a rather sloppy method, it relied far too much on people not sharing their history with their future descendants. And once you fail to learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it unknowingly. Wan Yi was evidently quite aware of this, the fire of determination that was burning in her pupils only growing stronger as she explained the second path.

"And the second way is even simpler, you give them a reason to unite. There comes a time where the fear someone feels becomes so great that it eclipses any hatred or discrimination they might feel. They'll band together to fight the source of this fear, they'll put aside any differences so that they can ensure their future. And in doing so, it becomes much easier to bury their past hatred and pave a way to coexistence."

When you pressed down on someone hard enough, they would inevitably band together to resist your pressure and take you down. It wasn't a terrible idea, but Yao Jun could only call it short-sighted. What if they didn't continue working together after it was done? What if they took an entirely different path now that you were no longer able to keep an eye on them? There were too many variables once you actually accomplished it. But Wan Yi wasn't deterred by it, she was determined, it was her lifelong dream after all.

"Do you see? Both of these paths rely on fear, others have to fear you a sufficient amount. Method one or method two, honestly, I don't mind either one. My goal has always been an end to all this pointless segregation and fighting, if I have to become the enemy and die to achieve this then I will gladly dirty my hands and offer up my life."

Wan Yi was more than willing to play the role of the villain if that's what it took, coexistence and unification were never things that had come cleanly after all. Yao Jun felt like shaking his head, because he saw things differently. What sort of unification could possibly be born out of fear? What sort of coexistence could be built on ignorance and fear, or blood and fear? But he didn't voice his thoughts, Wan Yi's gaze sliding to the window again.

"So yes, the state of the city right now isn't great, you can describe it as downright bad. But it's the first step towards true coexistence, things are going according to plan."

Yao Jun followed her gaze and observed the city through the window, it was the middle of the day but he could barely see any movement on the streets. It was still so quiet that it was eerie, it really felt like a city on the brink of death.

"What a shame, it really is."

He couldn't help but shake his head, it really was a shame that he had been wrong. But perhaps he was doomed to be wrong from the start. Wan Yi's gaze slid over to him again, Yao Jun's own gaze landing on her again, a sliver of disappointment in his eyes.

"When I came here, I was hoping that you would have a good reason. I was honestly hoping that you would be able to say something to convince me. But this is it? You smear their names because you need to spread fear to expand Titan's Gate and move closer to your dream of coexistence?"

No matter what was said, Wan Yi was someone he had met when he was still young, someone he had spent a bit of time with, someone he could consider at the very least half a friend. That was another one of the reasons he was harder on her than he was on Arthurius, being betrayed by a friend would always hurt more. And it was exactly because she was someone he could consider at least half a friend that he was hoping she would at least have a good reason to convince him.

"That's it? What do you mean, that's it? Is the reason not satisfactory enough, not grand enough for you?"

Wan Yi couldn't help but be a bit offended by Yao Jun's response. Her reason had quite literally been peace and coexistence for the entire universe, perhaps even beyond. But even so, he didn't consider it a good enough reason? And perhaps the fact that she had that thought alone was enough to show that she didn't really understand Yao Jun.

"It's a reason I don't care about, so how can it be satisfactory? Coexistence, unification? Pointless battles and deaths? I don't care about any of that, Wan Yi. All I have ever wanted is for my family to be safe, for those close to me to be able to live in peace and happiness."

That was the sad truth. Yao Jun's ambitions were pointed at the peak of existence, but his heart was still as small as always. He had grown much stronger, but that didn't mean that his heart had grown stronger. The most important thing to him was still just those close to him, at best he would help some others that happened to be around him, like when he saved Zhuan Yi's kinsmen. But working to improve entire universes and the like? He honestly did not have the heart, the drive, to do so.

"And you are putting those people in danger for the sake of your own dream, you're painting a target on their heads. You may be fine with dying for your dream of unification, but did you ask Luo'er and Yantian if they were willing? Did you ask me? I also don't see Lin Ren here, did you ask him? I was fine with ignoring you using my name once in the past, but I will not allow you to use Luo'er and Yantian's names."

Yao Jun shook his head as he drove the final nails into the coffin. He wouldn't, couldn't, accept Wan Yi's reason and what she was doing, he would resist her if she tried. But the last thing he said caught her attention somewhat, because she instantly understood which event he was talking about.

"...You knew about that?"

She had made sure to be very stealthy about using his name for those kills in the past, she had even made sure that he didn't catch wind of it after she lost her position because of it. And he had never brought it up in the past so she thought that he didn't know, it was actually one of the subliminal reasons she so easily decided on her plan. After all, they were friends, so he would be able to forgive her if she used his name this once, right? Yao Jun nodded his head slightly, there was no reason to hide how he had learned the truth.

"When I last came here to help you deal with the people who had come to investigate why the seal was gone, how many memories do you think I went through? I scoured countless people to make sure that nothing incriminating about this planet could spread, I erased memories and checked who knew what. You were stealthy about it back then, but it was inevitable that at least one of the people I searched knew."

Many of the large clans had gathered on this planet when Yun Yantian and the others broke the seal around it. This was where Yao Jun's parents lived at the time, Guo Luo and the others had also been here, so Yao Jun was quite determined to make sure that no one thought there was anything strange here. So when he went through the memories of everyone that might know anything, he had been extremely thorough.

Wan Yi looked at Yao Jun in silence for a bit, her gaze also touching on Sirius and Zhuan Yi. Neither of them had bothered speaking up so far, Sirius had nothing to say and Zhuan Yi was just curious how a faction that counted Yao Jun amongst its founding members could be this weak. Of the people gathered around the table, not a single one had been a Heavenly Deity, it really was rather disappointing. Wan Yi's gaze eventually returned to Yao Jun, her entire body leaning wearily against her chair as she sighed.

"...Ha~ah, so that's it. There's not much here for me to say, is there? You were never the joking type, so I imagine that I'll lose my head right here if I don't agree to never use Sister Luo and Brother Yantian's names ever again. I'm willing to die for my dream, but I'll have to reach the later stages of it before I can die for it."

He had already taken her arm so she didn't think taking her head would be beyond him. In fact, she had no idea what was beyond him at the moment, she felt like she had no idea who she was looking at, he was entirely foreign to her. If she had known things would end up like this she would have made more of an effort to get closer with Yao Jun in the past, perhaps then she would have understood him enough to make different choices.

Of course, she didn't think that she was wrong, she still believed that her actions were right. And Yao Jun had the feeling that she would keep doing them in the future, she would continue spreading fear to achieve her goal, she would just have to go about it in a different way. Wan Yi rubbed her eyes with her remaining arm, suddenly appearing quite tired as she looked at Yao Jun.

"But that's not the end of it, is it? You've returned to this universe, but you haven't returned to us, have you?"

She could feel it, the distance between them. It wasn't just emotionally, Yao Jun had brought with him those that were actually close to him when he left for the other universe. The distance was also more fundamental, existential. She could feel it, he had stepped onto a higher realm, he was so far above them that they could barely hope to see the soles of his feet. They existed and acted on two entirely different planes, so how could they possibly walk alongside each other? And sure enough, Yao Jun shook his head.

"No. Once I leave here, I plan on cutting all ties with Titan's Gate, and with you. I ignored it once, but that was as far as my patience could go, you crossed my bottom line. I will find Yang Long because I need to have a talk with him, and then there are several other things I need to check out here, but once I'm done with all that I'll be returning to the other universe."

Yao Jun didn't have many ties with Titan's Gate, and now that Wan Yi had crossed his bottom line, he really didn't see a need to remain and help them. And he certainly wasn't planning on staying here for long, he would find Yang Long and Lin Ren to tell them about Yun Yantian's demise, both of them were quite close to him after all.

After that he would look for some Supreme Law fragments, or possibly even God Gates, to see what would happen if he gave them to his miniature universe. And finally, he would exact his revenge on the Merged Heaven clan and the others since he was already here. And once that was taken care of, all that remained was to find a way to return to the major universe so that he could return to Little Gray and the others. But he already had some hints on that front, so he wasn't too worried about it.

He cast one last look at the now one-armed Wan Yi, she looked tired, but her eyes showed that she was already thinking about how to change her plan now that she had lost some pieces. He pulled back his gaze and turned around to calmly walk away, stopping in the doorway to give a final warning.

"But. Should I ever hear that anyone else is using the names of Yun Yantian, Yang Yuhuan, or Guo Luo, then I will return. And at that point, losing an arm will be the least of your worries."

Wan Yi's eyebrow twitched slightly when Yao Jun added another name to the list of names she couldn't use, but she had no way to refuse so she simply had to accept it. He didn't say anything else after that and departed the room, he was done here, it was time to move on. But what none of them knew was that what he intended to be just a quick exploration and revenge exaction would evolve into so much more.

 

And just like that, the arc/book that I worried would only have like 20 or so chapters ended up getting double that, turns out you need quite a few chapters to set up things, especially when so many events are going to happen. But this does mark the end of this book/arc. Our boy lost it all and then used it to claw his way onto a higher stage, the caterpillar has surrounded himself in his coccoon, now he just needs to emerge and reach his true form. Do look forward to that in the next arc/book Demon God's Nine Stars.

 

But before that, you know the drill, time for another story to get the spotlight. Now as for which story/stories this will be, why don't i keep that a secret for now ;)

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