Yao Shen roared defiantly towards the heavens— his protective formations long shattered, precious soul armor disintegrated to nothingness, regal robes tattered beyond repair— blood gushing out from the holes, drenching the originally azure robes a crimson red.

The heavens rumbled loudly in response, the intention behind its gesture clear— he was not qualified to become a Soul Emperor. His nascent soul was of average quality, his Dao a mishmash of concepts cobbled together to barely form a coherent Domain. Yao Shen was not a talented cultivator, his spiritual roots too impure, his heritage too muddled, his cultivating speed too average. The Sect had never expected him to cross foundation establishment.

A hundred years later, he was the patriarch: A bonafide, Peak-Stage Nascent Soul Cultivator— one of merely four in the Azlak Plains. And now, he would become a Soul Emperor.

“I am not qualified,” Yao Shen roared, spitting out a mouthful of red blood immediately after. “For two hundred years, those are the words I have heard countless times— from my fellow core disciples, from the sect elders, and even from the only man I have revered in this lifetime, my late master!”

A wave of weakness washed over him, followed by another fit of hacking coughs, but he remained standing.

“But when have I let that stop me?” Yao Shen asked as he broke out into a bloodied, sly grin.

The heavens thunderously rumbled, and bolts of thick blue lightning transformed into a brilliant, bright red that spoke of tremendous, terrifying power— the power to destroy everything it touched, to reduce it to nothingness.

“Oh, mighty heavenly Dao! Whether I live or die, bear witness to the synthesis of a lifetime of cultivation!” Yao Shen roared, and the landscape around him began to change. The dried patch of land was replaced by a dazzling golden wheat field, rays of sunlight tearing past the tribulation clouds and landing upon the fields. Transparent silhouettes of faceless farmers dressed in grey clothing manifested around Yao Shen, manually harvesting the wheat by hand— they were not cultivators, but mere mortals. At the center of the wheat field, a small, dainty wooden house rested, adding to the scenic, natural beauty of the rustic landscape.

This was his domain— his will imposing order over the natural law, reshaping the world in his image. This was a law that could not be defied, only broken.

Yao Shen walked forward calmly, and plucked a stalk of wheat from the fertile farmland, walking over and depositing it in a basket fastened on one of the illusory farmer’s backs.

The red lightning could not bear the affront to it any longer, and it viciously crashed down on him the next instant— with an intent to obliterate Yao Shen and his puny domain that dared tarnish heaven’s prestige.

Yao Shen ignored the lightning strike, focusing his attention entirely on harvesting stalks of wheat.

The red lightning paused mid-air, simply hovering in the air as if frozen. Yao Shen had done nothing, heavenly Dao in itself had chosen to withhold the tribulation.

“The mortal farmer takes months to accomplish what a cultivator can do in a day. He is denied Qi by the heavens, deemed unworthy for reasons beyond the understanding of man— mortal and cultivator alike. A cultivator’s fate is determined at birth— his bloodline, spiritual roots, and talent determine how far he will go on the path of ascension. The mortal farmer and the impure cultivator may be different in many ways, but they are united in one truth,” Yao Shen deposited three stalks of wheat into another farmer’s basket.

“The heavens may have taken much from them both,” Yao Shen looked at the skies, his gaze serene as the clouds, “But it cannot take the human heart.”

The red lightning crashed down the next instant, but Yao Shen just laughed heartily, despite his near-fatal injuries. It headed right for him, smiting him down the next instant— Yao Shen’s body burst into flames before scattering into nothingness, the process almost instant.

“Both the mortal farmer and the impure cultivator,” Yao Shen continued, as the silhouette of a nearby farmer morphed into a spitting image of himself, before gaining a solid form, “Are united in their perseverance, their determination, their will— to prove the mighty heavens wrong!” Yao Shen roared mightily and was met with another red lightning strike blasting him to smithereens.

“You can kill me as many times as you wish,” Yao Shen mockingly gazed at the heavens, another farmer morphing into his spitting image, “But what you are fighting against is not me, but the will of countless mortals and cultivators alike— their defiant spirits! Kill one, and another will take his place. Kill a thousand, and ten thousand more will rebel! Tell me, do you dare!?” Yao Shen screamed towards the heavens, a glint of madness shining in his eyes.

The phantoms around Yao Shen all looked towards the skies along with him, and soon where there were originally ten phantoms, there were a hundred. They all morphed into the likeness of Yao Shen, staring at the heavens with the same expression in their eyes.

“Do you dare!?”

“Do you dare!?”

“Do you dare!?”

Do you dare!?” A hundred voices all screamed in unison, resulting in a cry of defiance far more powerful than any war cry. This was a display of the true power of the Human Dao, one of the Esoteric Daos— those that could not be sought after, only experienced.

The red lightning receded, turning back into a light blue color, and the next moment the clouds dissipated. An ancient hymn resounded in the surroundings, and golden scriptures in the sacred text circled around Yao Shen. Above him, a phantom image of a radiant wheat field with farmers milling about manifested, a projection so large that it could be viewed from thousands of kilometers away. A wave of golden light crashed down from the heavens, but this time Yao Shen made no attempt to resist— his severe wounds were healed instantly, and Qi rushed towards him from all directions, ripples felt across the Azlak Plains as the entire region’s Qi was monopolized by one man alone, if only for an instant.

The process of ascension began.



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About the author

Daoist Enigma

  • Atlanta, GA
  • Wordsmith


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