Yao Shen’s consciousness began to fade, but he did not cycle his cultivation in an attempt to resist it. No, he had expected this. A Soul Emperor was one who had full command over his soul. Each soul only received ten chances to reach Soul Emperor or ten full life cycles, before the soul is irreparably shattered. With every life cycle, the potential for ascension irrevocably diminished by a slight margin.
Thus, it was not a surprise to Yao Shen that he was only on his second cycle of reincarnation. As the memories started flooding back though, Yao Shen, who was in a dream-like state, felt chills crawl up his spine, feeling shock that could not be described by mere words alone.
He dreamt… of a world.
And at that moment, Yao Shen realized that the world he lived in was not his own. He was an otherworldly existence, a soul that had managed to sneak past the heavenly web guarding the planet of Eliria. An anomaly, an aberration, that snuck into the cycle of reincarnation.
Yao Shen felt like kneeling over and vomiting, his hands trembling in the astral state he found himself. A shadowed silhouette floating in the vast expanse of space, a concept he did not even know existed up until a few seconds ago.
He dreamt of a world… of mortals.
A world where the Heavenly Dao did not exist. A world where mortals were the weakest existence on their planet, yet managed to subdue all animal and plant life as they called it, weaker versions of spiritual plants and beasts, but even then, deadly enough to subdue mortals with ease.
A world that destroyed his conceptions, his understanding, and ironically, his very world view. Mortals were supposed to be weak, hapless existences that served cultivators. He had never thought of them like that, but most cultivators did. Yet these were same mortals were capable of using a Dao that required not murder and bloodshed, but understanding and rational thinking, to make the impossible, possible.
As a Soul Emperor, he could level an entire town, or even a large city or sect by himself alone. But the weapons these mortals had developed were potent enough to level their entire planet, leaving not even ash behind.
But with these powerful weapons…. Instead of waging war, they brokered peace. On this world, Earth, Yao Shen was not a warrior. He was… just a person. A merchant, or rather a businessman, that worked for a ‘company’. He had a wife, that he deeply cherished, two children that he would grow to adore, and a peaceful life where he contributed to the community he lived in before dying a natural death.
“Weak,” was what Yao Shen should have been thinking. The mortal version of him was clearly soft, easily trusting, and naïve. He did not train his body or learn martial arts to defend himself and his family. However, despite waiting and waiting, no attack came. His sect or rather 'office' brothers and sisters did not betray him. No assassins were sent to his house to eliminate him, and no one coveted his position enough to try and destroy him.
“Weak,” was what Yao Shen should have thought, so why then, for the second time in his entire lifetime, was he crying?
How many people had he killed to climb to the position of Patriarch? How many cultivators had he eliminated, to protect his so-called ‘face’, the reputation that he prided so much? He had done so in order to progress his cultivation much as any other cultivator would, without a second of hesitation. What had he received in return? More power. More resources. More territory.
All logical spoils of conquest.
Why then, did it hurt so much? All the wealth, resources, and power beyond imagination for the Azlak Plains could be his with the flick of his finger, so why did he feel that he was.... happier in his previous life, as a normal, hapless mortal?
He had brought shame to the people of Earth, for they would no doubt see his present self as a monster. The will of a Soul Emperor, however, is not to be underestimated. To others, it might be a tribulation, but for Yao Shen, who had climbed up all the way up from an ordinary, talentless cultivator to Patriarch, it would take a lot more than that to break him.
However, his paradigm had shifted, and try as he might- Pandora's Box could not be sealed. Another term from his old world that he’d used without thinking, simply because it came to his mind. He remembered the time when he was at the peak of his arrogance, he struck down a disciple of a rival sect for rudely gesturing at him while talking with his fellow sectmates.
He had defended his prestige, just like his sect had taught him to. At that point, when he stared at those shocked eyes, he felt nothing but arrogance and pride. Now, he only felt disgust and revulsion. Perhaps a weaker man would not be able to live with these terrible sins. But every world should be viewed with its own paradigm- his actions were wrong and terrible, resembling those of his early ancestors on Earth, those he had read about in 'history books'.
That did not justify his sins, but the cultivator’s of Eliria simply accepted his actions as the norm.
His death would serve no purpose, but to reinstate another despot like him, perhaps even more cruel.
His Dao Heart was shaken by these revelations, but it would not shatter. But even if he discounted the morality aspect of the moment, there was a question that had to be considered.
Was Eliria’s approach the correct one? Why then, did their food taste like rotten meat compared to the styles of cuisine he’d sampled on Earth? Why then were the only sources of entertainment they had access to tournaments, duels, and other competitions after competitions, much like their forefathers had? Why then were all cultivators mindless zombies, spending year after year, decade after decade, to become stronger, and then using that power to kill instead of build?
The answer was simple.
They were wrong, and their approach was flawed because they didn't know better.
“So be it,” Yao Shen muttered, and the illusion around him shattered, his Dao Heart reborn with a crystalline clear determination. He became the Sect Leader, not only out of a desire to repay the Sect and the efforts of his late teacher, but to transform his sect into a behemoth, one whose reputation was so hallowed that their name would even be known to foreign continents, so fearsome that nobody would dare to raise a hand on his disciples unless they were out to temper themselves.
Now, his determination was reborn anew, and this time there was no doubt in his heart. For this was the only correct path.
And he would start by renaming his sect. It was time to cause a storm in this bloodthirsty world, and this time his weapon would not be murder, but something even more potent — civilization.
It was time for the Modern Sect to make its debut.